Notre Dame baseball's Niko Kavadas leads in home runs, RBIs
The Notre Dame baseball team is ranked sixth in the nation with local standout Niko Kavadas, leading the way. ABC57's Allison Hayes spoke with Kavadas about the Penn High School grad's journey to Notre Dame, his success with the Irish and the comparisons to MLB greats.
Notre Dame Captain Niko Kavadas grew up in Granger just a few miles from Notre Dame’s campus. For as long as he can remember he's been blasting homeruns and dreaming of playing baseball for the Irish.
"I remember growing up watching guys like Jeff Samardzija and being just absolutely amazed by what they were able to do on the field and it's such a cool place that I grew up tailgating on Saturdays out in the parking lots and I really dreamed of going to Notre Dame, so to make that happen has been a dream come true," Kavadas said.
Kavadas was a force to be reckoned with at Penn High School.
He hit .357 his senior year and led the team with a .598 slugging percentage to go with 4 homeruns and 30 runs batted in.
He helped the Kingsmen win a state championship and a runner-up finish his sophomore and senior years.
"We had a band of guys who had played together since we were 7 years old, playing travel ball. Playing 50, 60, 70 games a year together and the ultimate goal for that group of people was to win a state championship, so to see that come to fruition was really, really cool," Kavadas said.
Kavadas recruited himself to Notre Dame.
After attending a hitting camp he talked assistant coaches into coming out to watch him play, but the rest is not history it’s just another part of his journey.
Now Kavadas not only leads the Irish in homeruns and runs batted in, he is also one of the best in the ACC. At one point he led the nation in homeruns per game this season.
“He’s got tremendous physical strength and talent Allison. It’s a unique skill set at any level of the sport. The ability to drive balls out from the left field line, left center field, center, right-center, right field line. At any moment, he’s got that capability and that’s very rare. A dangerous combination of talent, focus, intensity, presence," Coach Link Jarrett said.
As powerful as Kavadas has been at bat, it’s the moves Coach Jarrett made with his players in the field that is making the biggest impact- including moving Kavadas from third to first base.
The season before Jarrett arrived the Irish were ranked 203rd in fielding percentage.
In April, the Irish were the best in college baseball at .990.
Coach Jarrett believes the move to first base is not only best for the team but gives Kavadas his best chance in the big leagues as well.
Kavadas has been compared to Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox future Hall of Famer "Big Papi" David Ortiz.
“I think his ticket still is to continue to evolve and progress as a first baseman and be a top 5-round pick," Kavada said.
When and by whom his name is called during the Major League Baseball draft is definitely on his mind, but he’d like to make history with the Irish first.
"We want to win the ACC, that's goal number one. But it all boils down to Omaha. When we're in Loftus and in our indoor, out in the cold in the middle of fall, grinding through a four hour practice, it's Omaha that's on our minds. That's what keeps us motivated, so we're not going to back down from any challenges," Kavadas said.
In the meantime, he’s going to keep doing what he does best.
The Irish are ranked 6th in the nation and hope to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.