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Irish Prepare to Take the Diamond

Jan 21, 2013, 10:35 AM EST

(photo by J. Meric/Big East Conference) (photo by J. Meric/Big East Conference)

The weather in South Bend may be freezing, but the Irish baseball team already has the sunshine of Florida on its mind. The Irish open up regular season play in less than a month against Florida Gulf Coast in Sarasota, FL on Feb. 16. In head coach Mik Aoki’s third season at Notre Dame, expectations are at an all-time high.

“Anything short of winning the BIG EAST Championship is a disappointment to us,” junior 1B Trey Mancini said. “The past two years we have been working on turning the program around, and I think we’ve got a team that can do a lot of big things this year.”

Senior INF Frank DeSico has been greatly impressed by the team’s commitment to offseason training.

“We’ve had guys, underclassmen especially, who have been holding themselves accountable for making all of the morning lifts and runs,” DeSico said. “It’s just been a different year. You can tell that we’re setting a new precedent and things are heading in the right direction.”

DeSico, who was named a captain for this season, remains humble in his new position of leadership.

“I don’t view my role on the team as any different,” the captain said. “The way I see it, it’s just a title, and I just have to keep going out there and doing the little things, trying to set an example for the younger guys, and helping to turn the page to a new era of Irish baseball.”

Mancini, who was named to the preseason all-BIG EAST team, also remains focused on the goals of the team over any personal accolades.

“It’s a nice honor, but I never really think about it or let it go to my head,” Mancini said. “It’s all about how our team does.”

The team’s schedule is loaded with big-time matchups this season, including seven games against teams that advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals or College World Series.

The Irish Baseball Classic will be played from March 1-3 at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary, N.C. A week later, the Irish will participate in the Dodgertown Classic from March 8-10, which features a matchup with 2012 College World Series participant UCLA, as well as a game against 2012 Super Regional qualifier Oklahoma at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif. The Irish begin a difficult BIG EAST slate at home at Frank Eck Stadium with a series against Seton Hall from March 22-24.

Despite all of the excitement surrounding a schedule full of elite opponents and exciting games to come in the next few months, the Irish remain focused on the task at hand.

“It’s kind of a cliché, but we just take it one game at a time, and the big game for us is the first one, which is against Florida Gulf Coast, “ Mancini said. “That’s the big one that we have circled now and we will always be focused on the next one.”

Expectations are high for the Irish, who were picked to finish third in the BIG EAST in the conference’s preseason poll. Yet, the captain understands that the Irish need to back up that ranking with their play this season.

“As Coach Aoki said a few days ago, ‘it doesn’t matter what’s on paper’,” DeSico said. “All that matters is how we perform when February 16th comes around.

“We have to get after it and keep working hard. We haven’t been put under any pressure yet, so it will be interesting to see how the younger guys and upperclassmen handle the adversity. I’m just excited to get out there, especially as a senior. I’m looking forward to leaving it all out on the field.”

With DeSico and Mancini setting the tone for the team, baseball fans can expect big things from the Irish this season.

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