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Baseball: Grad student, catcher gets one more chance

Fran Tolan | Thursday, March 1, 2007

When he graduated from Missouri State in 2006, Matt Weglarz thought he might have played his last varsity baseball game. But after coming to Notre Dame as an MBA student in the fall, Weglarz was asked by Irish coach Dave Schrage to join the team as a backup catcher and has since taken on a much larger role.

“[Schrage] called me in and said he might need another bat in the lineup,” Weglarz said.

The Kansas City native was granted an extra year of NCAA eligibility due to a foot injury that wiped out his 2003 freshman season, one that saw the Bears earn a trip to the College World Series. Though he came to Notre Dame understanding he would probably be a role player for the Irish, he jumped at the chance to play another season.

Now, Weglarz is anything but a backup. When senior Sean Gaston, who started at catcher the past two seasons, was lost for the season due to shoulder surgery, Weglarz became a key to Notre Dame’s season plans.

“After Sean got hurt, I knew I was really one of the only ones who had caught,” Weglarz said.

First-year coach Schrage had seen the all-Missouri Valley Conference catcher play numerous times as the skipper of conference rival Evansville.

“[I knew Schrage] just through playing against him,” Weglarz said.

Despite the team’s 2-4 start, the graduate student has been a bright spot thus far. Last Saturday against No. 12 TCU, Weglarz stroked three doubles in Notre Dame’s 4-1 victory.

“It felt good to finally get some hits,” said Weglarz, who was 0-for-9 in his first three games with the Irish. “It was really good to win a game. That’s the biggest thing.”

The veteran catcher has also handled a pitching staff that has posted a 3.07 season ERA with a .250 opponent batting average.

“It’s been good to work with [the pitchers], just learning what they want to do in certain situations, what pitches they’re comfortable with,” Weglarz said of his battery mates. “They’ve kept us in a lot of games.”

After the Irish allowed just one stolen base in three games last weekend, Schrage said he was impressed by his team’s ability to limit opponents’ running games.

“That was one of our goals going in, so that was a real positive that I saw,” Schrage said.

Keeping runners static on the base paths begins with the catcher, and Weglarz is beginning to again feel comfortable in the role of starting backstop.

“Coming in, I felt like a mix between a freshman and a senior,” Weglarz said. “But it’s been a lot of fun.”

The catcher also expressed confidence that he and his teammates will turn around their early-season troubles at the plate.

“The hitting’s going to come,” he said. “It always does.”