Sophomore Duo Provides Lift

The Notre Dame baseball team is enjoying a successful season. Currently at 36-9-1 and ranked eighth in the nation, the Irish are getting contributions from just about everywhere. Two sophomores, pitcher Wade Korpi and second baseman Ross Brezovsky, have been key cogs in the winning machine. Both say no matter what age a player is, this team is built upon solid leadership.

"The main thing we've tried to deal with this year is holding everybody accountable for their actions," Brezovsky said. "We have freshmen who are stepping into leadership roles. That's been another key factor for us. It doesn't matter what grade you're in. Everyone is a leader."

"We're all leaders," Korpi said. "We all lead in different ways. I'm more of leading by example and not one of the more vocals guys on the staff."

Korpi's silent style has allowed him to flourish in the Notre Dame rotation. The sophomore left hander leads the staff with a 1.53 ERA, good for tops in the Big East conference. Korpi has a 5-1 record to go along with it. The biggest thing has been his ability to strike out opposing hitters. Korpi has struck out 74 batters in just 59 innings pitched. He correlates this success to developing another out pitch in his arsenal.

"Part of it is probably me developing my change up over the summer," Korpi said. "It's been a real big pitch for me. I've always had it but this summer, I focused on throwing it more. It wasn't a big pitch for me last year because I couldn't throw it for strikes. Now, I can throw it in any count."

Brezovsky has made his fair share of contributions. The sophomore second baseman is hitting .307 with 30 RBI's and 26 runs scored in 38 games played. He's also come up clutch in situations this season. Brezovsky's home run in the seventh inning was the difference in Notre Dame beating Ball State 6-4 back on April 5th. A few weeks later, his triple against Rutgers in the ninth inning tied the game up and one batter later, Alex Nettey ended the contest with a deep homer over the left field wall. According to Brezovsky, it's all part of the makeup of this team.

"This group of guys don't panic when we start to lose in a game," Brezovsky said. "We know we can comeback against any team. The main thing is having confidence in one another to get the job done. The other thing is that we've been coming back in these late innings because we've been focused and confident."

It wasn't all so easy at first. The transition period from high school senior to college freshman doesn't always come naturally. Last year, Korpi was 4-3 with a 5.47 ERA in 18 appearances. This was due to a combination of factors along with adjusting to the next level of play. For Korpi, the higher competition was a major reason for his early struggles.

"The hardest part was making the mental mind switch to the different level," Korpi said. "The hitters are more disciplined on the college level. You have to focus on throwing strikes and getting ahead. In high school, I could nibble around the plate and umpires would call it. Hitters would swing at bad pitches and help me out. In college, they're disciplined so I had to focus on getting ahead and extending the plate."

From head coach Paul Mainieri's perspective, the difference from year one to year two is what he expected.

"When me and Terry Rooney recruited him, that's what we saw," Mainieri said of Korpi this year. "Last year as a freshman, that was an aberration. His control wasn't good. He didn't have the bite on the breaking ball. There were a lot of things that needed improvement. But most importantly, he was out of shape. When we went away to college, he didn't know how to take care of himself.

"Finally, he saw the light. This summer, when he was away playing summer ball, he took care of himself, he was more responsibly and was in much better physical condition. His focus and dedication has been right on. Now, to see him pitching well and having success, it's a wonderful thing."

Brezovsky had a little bit better success as a freshman. He hit .261 with 20 RBI's and 35 runs scored. The major problem was his strikeout rate. Brezovsky wiffed 42 times in 188 at-bats, a rate of once every 4.48 plate appearance. The adjustment period for him took some getting use to.

"When I first came in, you have to deal with the speed of the game," Brezovsky said. "You're not used to it. The difference with me from last year to this year is the overall knowledge of the game and concentrating and focusing more. I'm trying to get the job done in key situations and focus on them a little more. That's been the key for me lately."

"Ross did a good job for us as a freshman," Mainieri said. "This year, he's done an outstanding job. He's hitting in the clutch for us, winning big games for us, he loves to play and he's real passionate. After a year of experience as a freshman and having some inconstancies, he's become a lot more consistent player. He's relaxed when he's out there. He's struck out a lot less than last year and put a lot more balls in play. He's been a vital part of our success."

As the season winds down, these two and the Notre Dame team have some unfinished business. The Big East regular and tournament titles are still prizes to obtain. After that, it's a likely NCAA Tournament bid with a possible home hosting date.

"We'll probably have a lot more fans in the stands," Korpi said. "It'll be an intense atmosphere. You have to go in and win games. It's not where you can go in and take it lax. If you lose, it puts you in a bad situation to keep moving on." Top Stories