Notre Dame, IN (UHND) – Notre Dame completed the first of 15 spring practices on Wednesday, but for a trio of Notre Dame players, baseball commitments will cause them to miss a number of practices on the football field. Evan Sharpley, Golden Tate, and Eric Maust have all been solid contributors to the Notre Dame baseball team this year and Charlie Weis has said he’s not about to keep them off the diamond if they are making regular contributions to Irish wins.
“I’m not going to hurt the baseball team, and take them off the baseball field if it makes a difference with us winning and losing,” Weis said at his initial spring press conference Wednesday.
“Coach Schrage and I have been in steady contact with this,” Weis added. “We know that there are days where they are definitely going to be in football, and there’s days they are definitely going to be in baseball with baseball taking the upper hand until we get that April 10 time frame.”
That April 10th time frame Weis speaks of is right at the beginning of a stretch where the Irish baseball team will have back to back road trips to Villanova and then West Virginia. If any of the three are not regular players on the baseball team at that time, they won’t be making the trip and will be practicing with the football team.
The way all three are playing right now, it would appear that at least two – Sharpley and Maust – will be making the chance with the third – Tate –also having a very good chance of joining them.
Sharpley is the reigning Big East Player of the Week after an offensive explosion last week. Sharpley belted three home runs and nine RBIs in a three game series with Georgetown last weekend. He started two of the three games hitting 3 for 5 in each and adding a six RBI effort in the first game. His six RBI outpouring is tied for the second most RBI in a single game in Notre Dame history.
For the season, Sharpley is either leading the team or tied for the lead in batting average (.439), home runs (5), RBI (17), doubles (6), and slugging percentage (.951). I think it’s safe to assume he will be traveling with the team for both April road trips.
Eric Maust, meanwhile, is quietly leading the team in earned run average with a 1.93 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. He was also named to the Big East Honor Roll last week and walked just 5 batters compared to 20 strikeouts. He’s started two out of his six appearances, and has a record of 1-0. His 4:1 stikeout to walk ratio is also tops amongst the Irish pitching staff.
Of the three, Tate is the most likely to be practicing football while the Irish travel to Philadelphia to face Villanova. He’s started nine games thus far but is hitting .275 and has struck out 10 times compared to walking just twice. He is one of the top four outfielders on the team, but will need to be in the top 3 to make the trip according to Weis. “Come April 10, if he’s (Tate) not in the top 3 outfielders, he won’t be on that trip to Villanova and he’ll be over here and see how it goes,” Weis told the media.
Missing the trip wouldn’t exactly be a bad thing for Tate from a football standpoint. He has more to gain from practicing with the football team than either Maust or Sharpley. Maust has the top punting spot pretty much nailed down and Sharpley does not have much of a chance to surpass Jimmy Clausen as the #1 quarterback. Tate, however, could benefit greatly from each of the 15 football practices as he continues to develop as a wide receiver.
After playing primarily at running back in high school, Tate struggled with the transition to college wide receiver and was mainly relegated to go routes which makes spring practice a very important time for him as far as his development as a receiver goes. With an influx of talent coming in at wide receiver this summer in the form of freshmen Michael Floyd, Deion Walker, and John Goodman, Tate could really use every opportunity he can get to climb the depth charts at wide out for the Irish.
With the departure of Tom Zbikowski, Tate will also have the opportunity to compete or the starting job at punt returner. His speed and open field skills he developed as a running back in high school should translate well in the punt return game, but without the reps in the spring, he could fall well behind the likes of David Grimes, Gary Gray, and Armando Allen.
“Does it help him (Tate) not being here every day? No. It doesn’t help him not being here every day but it’s a unique situation,” said Weis of his promising sophomore to be wide receiver. For at least the immediate future though, Tate will be splitting his time between baseball and football and Weis is supportive of that. “There are not that many athletes out here that are capable of doing that so I’m just going to roll with the punches on this one,” he said.
Until that April 10th deadline, Weis outlined the trio’s schedules stating, “Right now they will be here next Monday and Wednesday for practice. They will be there the following Monday and Wednesday for practice.”