Lawler Pleased with Progress

The Irish baseball team will have a new look in 2007. Many of last year's starters have graduated and moved on, and their departure has left a lot of opportunity for current Irish players and for the new Irish coaching staff. We recently caught up with new hitting coach Scott Lawler to talk some hitting and to get his thoughts on the talent on hand for 2007.

The 2006 Irish was not a group known for power. That squad saw just 33 balls leave the ballpark last season and 22 of those homers were hit by players who are now graduated from Notre Dame.

Irish hitting coach Scott Lawler looks at his roster and knows this team won't be breaking any home run records this season, but he does see a group that should be very effective at the plate.

"We have a number of guys who are tough outs," Lawler said. "If you have a lineup full of guys who are tough outs, you're going to win a lot of ball games. Jeremy Barnes has some power, but is a very tough out. Ross Brezovsky has played very well in the past. He can hit the double in the gap, and surprise you and hit a couple of balls out. Brett Lilley, he's a guy you never want to face because he's either going to get hit by a pitch, he's putting the ball in the gap, he's stealing a base. We have a lot of guys like that. I don't want to forget Danny Dressman. He's another guy who can do that.

"We also have Mike Dury, who has shown a lot of promise this year. He's really starting to swing the bat well. We also have a transfer, Matt Weglarz, who can take the ball out of the park. We won't win many games with the three-run homer, but I really think we're going to be tough at the plate."

Lawler's time is probably better spent on trying to get his hitters to be as efficient at the plate as they can be. We asked the first-year Irish hitting coach how he's approached his first season with this Irish squad while at the plate.

"We're not trying to change a lot," he said "The few things we have worked on in the fall is taking your hands to the ball and making sure you stay balanced. One of the biggest things is just making sure you're ready for the pitch to come and pitch recognition. We're going to be working on that some more before they go home for Christmas.

"When we go through the fall I'm evaluating who's timing is on, who's is off. Who's not taking their hands to the ball. Who's got a long swing. These are just some of things you try to tinker. If a guy is hitting, sometimes the best way to be a hitting coach is to just leave the guy alone and let him swing the bat.

"The kid that doesn't think too much, and this is where I come into play, is probably the one who will have the most success when it comes to hitting. It's when you have the guy go 0-for-3 a couple of times, they'll want to change everything and it's just a matter of not thinking and believing in themselves."

The Irish also have some talented freshmen who could crack the lineup this fall. So far Hebron, Conn. infielder A.J. Pollock appears to be the guy who's made the biggest splash early in his freshman season.

"We have some very talented freshmen who are going to play a lot over their careers," Lawler said. "Some of them have seen quality pitching, but they haven't seen guys who through in the low 90s with an 80 mile-per-hour slider every single day."

"He's going to be an outstanding hitter here, whether it's this year or throughout his whole career at Notre Dame," Lawler said of Pollock. "The one thing that I think that stands out about A.J. is he's such a great athlete. He has a chance to steal some bases for us. He has a chance to be a great infielder. He has a chance to swing the bat with some homerun power. He's probably our fastest runner. I think his total athleticism takes over and that can make a freshman grow a little faster than another. We expect some big things from A.J. in the future.

"Another guy who's really standing it out Billy Boockford in the outfield. He's doing a great job. Andrew Scheid, one of our pitchers, coach Clinkscales has made just a few adjustments with him and he's really been polished. Michael Wright and Ryan Smith, they've looked good. I can talk this way about all the freshmen. They've all been doing an outstanding job right now."

While the Irish won't have a lot of power in 2007, expect some of it to show in the near future. Lawler is also charge of Notre Dame's recruiting effort and the results look outstanding so far. The Irish currently sit at eight verbal commitments for this class and should easily land in the top 20 when rankings come out early next year.

"We have some pretty lofty goals for ourselves," Lawler said of Notre Dame's recruiting effort. "We inherited a great bunch of kids, but we some holes we want to fix. We inherited a big class coming in, but we might jump up to more than eight in our recruiting class. If we do that we'll have two large classes that can grow together. And frankly, some of these kids are too good to say no to."

Lawler also admitted that Irish head coach Dave Schrage has a fondness for the long ball, so expect to see some players with some pop in their bats to wear an Irish uniform in the near future.

"There's going to be a lot of similarities," Lawler said when asked if Irish fans can expect Shrage to build his team much like former Irish coach Paul Mainieri did with pitching and defense. "I think it will be a little different.

"One of the things about coach Shrage's success at Northen Iowa, Northern Illinois and Evansville is he's always had a couple of boppers in the middle of the lineup. Coach Shrage, as much as he'll say pitching and defense are important to win, and it is, he firmly believes that and goes hard after it in recruiting, but in the back of his mind, coach Shrage is the ultimate hitting guy. When it comes to recruiting, he always says we need to get some guys who can leave the ballpark with the bat. I think in the future you'll see more guys who can do that, and we'll also really try to develop some of that with the guys we have here currently." Top Stories