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Baseball: Sharpey loses starting job to freshman – yet

Kosuke Fukudome | Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Editor’s Note: This article is a part of The Observer’s April Fools Special Section and is not meant to be taken seriously.

For the second straight season, junior Eric Sharpey has been beaten out by a freshman.

Sharpey, who was passed over for the starting quarterback job in favor of all-world recruit El Jimador Paulson last fall, will not be in the lineup at first base for tonight’s game against Western Michigan at Frank Eck Stadium, coach Agro Crag said.

Instead, freshman Timmy Tauson will start for the Irish.

“I think Tauson gives us the best chance to win,” Crag said.

Tauson, who hit .432 and hit 103 home runs over four years at Westlake High School outside Los Angeles, was the No. 1 high school player in the country last year. The Eagles never lost a game with him in the lineup.

He was expected by many to turn pro after being drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays out of high school, but, in a highly publicized announcement at the College Baseball Hall of Fame, he decided to come to Notre Dame.

“I was really impressed by the combination of athletics and academics,” Tauson said.

Crag said that Tauson would have started “from the very beginning” if not for a bone spur in his throwing elbow that required surgery over Christmas break.

“He was the No. 1 coming out of fall baseball,” Crag said. “But when he got hurt, we had to pursue other options.”

For the first few games of the season, with Tauson hurt, Crag decided to start base-stealing expert Demetri Smith.

“We were hoping to surprise Liberty, Iowa, and Albany by playing small ball,” Crag, who usually prefers power hitters, said.

But the Irish mustered just two runs against the Flames, and Smith made six errors as Notre Dame allowed 14 and 12 runs against the Hawkeyes and Great Danes. Crag pulled him and inserted Sharpey.

Frustrated, Smith transferred to Cincinatti.

“I thought when he left, that it was my chance to show what I could do,” Sharpey said.

For a time, it was. Sharpey started every game for the next few months and hit six home runs. But Crag said he wasn’t satisfied.

“He took way too long to swing,” Crag said. “He took too many looking strikeouts.”

So starting tonight, Tauson will be the starter at first.

“He’s finally healthy,” Crag said. “He’s not banged up anymore. We’re very excited to see what he can do.”

Note:

-Crag said that outfielder Silver Trait, who saved Notre Dame’s 11-10 win over Maine March 4 with several diving catches, will not play regularly until he learns to catch balls that are somewhere other than over his head.

“As you saw, he’s great at going back,” Crag said. “But we’re not satisfied with his ability to come in or move to his right or left.”