College baseball: Ex-Salpointe pitcher expects to be drafted

2013-05-23T00:00:00Z College baseball: Ex-Salpointe pitcher expects to be draftedDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Dan Slania will hear his name called during the Major League Baseball draft early next month. Shortly after, he will likely begin his trek through professional baseball.

Considering that just 3 1/2 years ago, the former Salpointe Catholic standout was more concerned with throwing and catching a football than a baseball, it's a bit of a surprise.

"At Salpointe, I considered myself a football player and didn't have too many options for baseball," said Slania this week, who played both sports for the Lancers.

But in the middle of a 9-1 senior season in 2009 for football coach Dennis Bene, Notre Dame contacted Slania about pitching.

The Fighting Irish were intrigued by his then 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound frame and ability to throw hard.

Notre Dame felt once he was only focusing on baseball, his true talent would start to show.

So Slania went on a recruiting trip to South Bend, Ind., took in an Irish football game and decided to pull the trigger.

He had a standout senior season for the Lancers, going 11-3 with a 2.11 ERA and headed to Notre Dame, ready to give baseball his full attention.

The move to Notre Dame has worked out perfectly for Slania. After two solid seasons to start his career, the former Lancer has become a full-on star this year -his junior season.

As Notre Dame's closer, Slania, now 6-5 and 275, has a 1.04 ERA and 12 saves in 22 appearances. He's given up just six earned runs and 38 hits in 52 innings. Earlier this month, he was ranked as the 151st best prospect in this year's draft by Baseball America.

"It's no surprise he's having the success he's having," Bene said. "I always figured his future would be in baseball because he threw so well.

"I just remember how great of an athlete he was at his size and what a great teammate he was."

He's done it all at Notre Dame this season. He was named second-team All-Big East this week and last month was put on the watch list for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year award.

His most eye-popping performance of the season came earlier this month when he pitched nine innings in relief in a 19-inning marathon of a game against South Florida. He gave up two runs and six hits and threw 140 pitches.

"It really wasn't that bad," Slania said. "I just kept throwing and throwing. It was like when I was playing at Salpointe. It was obviously a little more than I was used to this season, but it was fun."

Slania and the Irish (32-23) are currently in Clearwater, Fla., for the Big East tournament. They are on the bubble for the NCAA tournament and need a strong showing this week in Florida to secure a bid.

They started off right Wednesday with a 5-0 win over Seton Hall. Slania didn't pitch.

If the Irish don't get in, Slania's college career will likely end this week. Though he still has one year of eligibility remaining, it will be tough for the former Salpointe hurler to turn down the professional team that selects him in next month's draft.

"It has always been my dream to play professional baseball," Slania said. "It really has. It seems like there's quite a bit of interest from teams. It's exciting, but I'm trying to focus on Notre Dame as much as possible right now and getting some wins in the conference tournament."

He's an intriguing prospect, not just because of his dominant numbers, but also his large frame and four-pitch mix as a closer. Slania throws a fastball, changeup, slider and curveball.

"He's a great kid with a great family," Bene said. "He deserves all this."

The Dan Slania profile

Height/weight: 6-5/275

School: Notre Dame

Position: Relief pitcher

Statistics: 3-1, 1.04 ERA, 12 saves, 52 innings, 41 strikeouts

Connection to Tucson: 2010 graduate of Salpointe Catholic, where he starred in football and baseball.

What's next: Expected to be a fourth- to sixth-round draft pick in next month's MLB draft.

Something you didn't know: Played quarterback and tight end for the Lancers as a senior. He converted three fourth-downs on QB sneaks on the final drive in the 2009 season finale against Sunnyside - a 10-7 win.

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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