June 11, 2007
Notre Dame third baseman A.J. Pollock recently has been named a 2007 Freshman All-America by both Collegiate Baseball magazine and PingBaseball.com. Pollock’s standout 2007 season saw him become just the fourth freshman ever to lead the Notre Dame baseball team in season batting average, with his .372 mark ranking as the third-best ever by a Notre Dame freshman and the best since Scott Sollmann hit .404 in his 1994 rookie season. Pollock earlier collected third team all-BIG EAST honors and currently ranks fourth on the league batting charts, trailing only a pair of senior outfielders and Rutgers junior shortstop Todd Frazier (the 2007 BIG EAST player of the year).
Pollock’s all-around skills in 2007 includes speed on the bases and effective bunting ability.
Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) and University of Louisville All-America centerfielder Boomer Whiting are the only players in the 12-team BIG EAST to total 70-plus hits (73), 30-plus walks (32), double-digit stolen bases (11) and 10 or more sacrifice bunts (10) this season. The two-hole hitter finished first (10) or second (8) on the 2007 Notre Dame team in 18 different statistical categories – including team-best totals in batting avg., walks, stolen bases, total bases (93), hits (73, tied with Brett Lilley) and multiple-hit games (26) while ranking second on the team in slugging pct. (.474), on-base pct. (.464), runs (39) and sac. bunts. Situationally, Pollock led the 2007 Irish with an eye-popping .509 batting avg. versus lefthanded pitchers while also owning team-best batting marks with runners on base (.422) and in scoring position (.406; 34 points above his overall batting avg.). His .308 batting with 2-outs was second-best on the team and he also tied for the team-high in 2-out RBI ( 11) while Pollock’s +17 plate-discipline ratio (32 walks + 3 hit-by-pitch – 18 strikeouts) trailed only Lilley among the 2007 Notre Dame players (Lilley’s +30 PDR in ’07 ranks 8th-best in ND single-season history and he is +84 overall in three seasons with the Irish).
Notre Dame baseball players now have combined for 20 Freshman All-America seasons, dating back to 1990. The Irish have featured at least one Freshman All-American in 10 of the past 11 seasons (all but 2003), including six others in the current decade: outfielder Brian Stavisky (2000), second baseman Steve Sollmann (’01), righthanded pitchers Grant Johnson (’02), Jeff Samardzija (’03) and Kyle Weiland (’06), and infielder Brett Lilley (’05). Collegiate Baseball names just one extended Freshman All-America team (Pollock was one of 10 third baseman on the CB list) while PingBaseball named Freshman All-Americans with first-, second- and third-team designations (plus honorable mention). Hofstra’s Matt Prokopowicz was the first-team third baseman on the PingBaseball Freshman All-America team while Pollock and Florida State’s Jason Stidham were the second-team rookies at the hot corner.
Notre Dame’s 19 previous Freshman All-Americans include eight who were named to the more selective Baseball America teams (which are TBA, as is the Rivals.com Freshman All-America team. Those who have been named BA first team Freshman All-Americans include the likes of infielder Brant Ust (’97), RHP Aaron Heilman and Stavisky, plus RHP David Sinnes (’90) and the second base duo of Greg Layson (’91) and Sollmann (’01). Johnson and outfielder Paul Failla (’92) – who later converted to shortstop – were named second team Freshman All-Americans by Baseball America.
Notre Dame first-year head coach Dave Schrage saw Pollock go hitless in back-to-back games just once during the final three months of the regular season.
Pollock is just the third leftside infielder from Notre Dame ever to be named a Freshman All-American, joining Ust and Lilley in that distinction. Ust split time in 1997 at second base, shortstop and third in 1997 while Lilley opened the 2005 season at second before making a midseason shift to third. Pollock made 47 of his 52 starts at third base, along with five early-season starts at first base (March 3-12), while also batting 45 times in the 2-hole, plus handful of starts as the #3 (2), #6 (3) and #7 (2) batter.
In addition to the rankings listed above, Pollock finished second on the 2007 team in OPS (.938 on-base plus slugging), batting vs. RHPs (.322) and percentage of runners advanced (61%), third in home runs (3), triples (2) and multi-RBI games (8), fourth in RBI (28) and fifth in doubles (7), HBPs (3) and leadoff on-base pct. (.333). He compiled a .904 fielding percentage that includes 19 errors in 54 games played (52 starts) – with his improved defense including no errors over the final 10 games.
Pollock ranks among the BIG EAST top-10 in four overall categories – batting (4th; .372), on-base (7th; .464), walks (9th; 32) and sac. bunts (10th; 10) – and finished fourth among BIG EAST players in league batting average (.386; 39-for-101), plus third in hits (39) and sixth in on-base pct. (.457) during conference action (his other stats in BIG EAST games included 17 R, 14 RBI, HR, 3B, 7 2B, 13 BB, HBP, 11 Ks, 4 SAC, 4-6 SB). He joined Louisville lefthanded pitcher Justin Marks and St. John’s outfielder Brian Kemp as the only freshmen to receive 2007 all-BIG EAST honors. Pollock is the 10th Notre Dame freshman ever to receive all-BIG EAST honors, with others including Lilley, Weiland and current sophomore 2B Jeremy Barnes.
The BIG EAST recognized 41 total players with all-conference honors in 2007 and Notre Dame – with Lilley (SS) and Pollock (3B) – was the only team in the conference that featured both of its leftside infielders on the all-BIG EAST teams. Lilley (.371) and Pollock also finished 2007 as one of the top hitting duos in the entire BIG EAST, with Rutgers being the only other team to feature multiple players who hit above .370 (senior RF Dave Williams at .412 and Frazier at .377). Louisville senior LF Isaiah Howes (.392, prior to the College World Series) is the only other BIG EAST player with a higher 2007 season batting average than Pollock.
Pollock overcame his early defensive struggles at the hot corner to finish strong defensively, with no errors in the final 10 games of the season.
Lilley (.355, in ’05) fittingly joins Pollock among the four freshmen ever to lead Notre Dame in batting average, with Eric Danapilis (.429, in 1990) being the only other one to do so since the early 1970s (when Pete Schmidt hit a team-best .367 as a 1971 ND freshman). Danapilis and Scott Sollmann (.404, in ’94) are the only Notre Dame freshmen ever to hit a at a higher clip than Pollock (Ust also hit .372 as a freshman, in ’97).
Pollock was especially strong at the start of games in 2007, batting a team-best .484 in the first inning (15-for-31, 8 R, 2 RBI, 2 2B, 8 BB, K, 7 SAC) and a team-leading .500 in the third (15-for-30, 10 R, 4 RBI, HR, 3B, 2 2B, 5 BB, 2 SAC, GDP). He steadily improved throughout his rookie season, batting .308 in February/March, .328 in April and a team-best .400 in May. Pollock hit 110 points higher at home (.426) than in all road games (.316) during the 2007 season, with his Eck Stadium stats including 24 runs scored, 17 RBI and 16 walks in 26 games (43-for-101, 2 HR, 3B, 5 2B, 2 HBP, 11 Ks, 4 SAC, 5-6 SB, 10 Es).
The 2007 season opener versus Prairie View A&M (in San Antonio) saw Pollock hit Notre Dame’s first home run of the season and then add a single in his second at-bat, but that solid start was followed by a five-game hitless slump (0-for-13) that dropped Pollock’s season batting avg. to .133. He ended the slump in a big way by batting 3-for-4 (RBI, 3 R, BB) to help spark the 17-6 win over 7th-ranked Nebraska (at Stetson). Pollock then added several solid games during the Spring Break swing through Florida, batting 3-for-4 vs. Duquesne (3 RBI, 2 R, SAC, SF) and 4-for-9 in a pair of wins over Dayton (2 RBI, 3 R, BB, 2 SB) to suddenly enter the home opener with a .360 season batting avg.
Pollock’s second game at Eck Stadium saw him become the fifth Notre Dame freshman ever to post a five-hit game, after batting 5-for-6 vs. Western Michigan (2 RBI, 2 R, solo HR) to surge atop the team batting charts at .390. Lilley (’05, vs. Cincinnati; 5-for-5) and current senior catcher Sean Gaston (’04, vs. Minnesota; 5-for-6) also have turned in five-hit games as freshman, with the others including CF Scott Sollmann (’94, vs. Purdue; 5-for-6) and 1B Joe Binkiewicz (’89, vs. Dayton; 5-for-5).
Pollock found himself involved in several key rallies during the 2007 season.
Despite the early five-game hitting slump, Pollock did not go hitless in back-to-back games for the next month before going without a hit in the first two games at Cincinnati (April 5-6). He then hit safely in the final game of that series and went the next 26 games (spanning nearly seven weeks) without back-to-back hitless games, a stretch that ended at the BIG EAST Tournament in late May.
After a slow .242 start in BIG EAST regular-season play (4-for-13 in South Florida series, 2-for-7 at Pittsburgh and 2-for-13 at Cincinnati), Pollock sizzled over the final six series – batting a combined .456 (31-for-68) in that 18-game span of league games, vs. Georgetown (5-for-12, RBI, 2 R, 2B, BB, SAC), West Virginia (6-for-11, 6 RBI, 5 R, HR, 2 2B, 4 BB, SB), Rutgers (5-for-12, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 2B, BB, SB), Seton Hall (6-for-12, 4 R, BB, SB), Louisville (3-for-8, RBI, 3 BB) and Connecticut (6-for-13, 2 RBI, 3 R, 3B, 2 2B). He amazingly had no doubles in the first 31 games of the season but collected seven two-baggers over the final 25 games, a stretch that also featured his season-best, nine-game hit streak from April 28-May 12.
Pollock’s strong series against WVU, plus midweek games vs. Toledo and Purdue, earned him a spot on the BIG EAST weekly honor roll in the third week of April (8-for-19, 6 RBI, 7 R, HR, 2 2B, SB). He played a key role in Notre Dame rallying from a 5-0 deficit to edge Toledo (8-7; 2-for-4, 2 R, BB) and added an impressive all-around offensive effort in the game-2 win over the Mountaineers (3-for-3, season-high 6 RBI, 3 R, 3-run HR, 2B, season-high 3 BB).
The series win at league leader Rutgers featured timely play from Pollock in the 15-3 opener (2-for-5, 2 RBI, R, 2B, SAC) and the thrilling 6-4 comeback finale (2-for-3, R, 2B, BB, SB). He added a 3-for-4 day in the game-2 win over SHU (2 R, SB) and closed the season vs. UConn with two of his eight three-hit games during the season (plus the 5-hit game vs. WMU), including the 5-4 win that clinched a spot in the BIG EAST Tournament (3-for-4, RBI, 2 R, 3B) and his first game of the season with two doubles (in regular-season finale; 3-for-5, RBI, R).
Pollock again should be a focal part of the Notre Dame offense in 2008.
In addition to Prokopowicz, Pollock and Stidham, the other third basemen on the PingBaseball Freshman All-America team include third-teamers Conor Powers (Mississippi State) and Steve Parker (BYU) and four honorable mention: Louisville’s Chris Dominguez, Jacksonville’s Chuck Opachich, Baylor’s Raynor Campbell and Nebraska’s DJ Belfonte (who, like Dominguez, was a 2007 opponent of the Irish). The Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-Americans at the hot corner included Pollock, Prokopociwz, Stidham, Parker and Campbell, plus James Madison’s Matt Browning, Rice’s Diego Seastrunk, Navy’s Drew Lydon, Utah Valley State’s Jace Brinkerhoff, and Southeastern Missouri’s Nick Harris.
The CB Freshman All-Americans included five players from 2007 ND opponents: Louisville’s Marks, Purdue pitchers Matt Bischoff and Tony Sedmeyer, Stetson 2B Casey Frawley, and Central Michigan DH Billy Anderson (plus St. John’s OF Kemp; ND and SJU did not face each other in ’07). Other players from ’07 ND opponents on the PB Freshman All-America teams included: first-teamers Marks and Bischoff, Illinois Chicago pitcher Steve Crnkovich (2nd team), Coastal Carolina pitcher Nick McNulty (2nd), Prairie View OF Myrio Richard (3rd), Stetson OF Justin Dechert (3rd), Harvard OF Max Pearlman (3rd) and honorable-mention picks from IPFW (2B Mark Carden), CMU (Anderson) and Purdue (pitcher Tony Dedlmeyer) – plus the SJU outfield duo of Kemp (2nd team) and Miguel Valcarel (3rd).
See the following links for the complete Freshman All-America teams (TBA from Baseball America and Rivals):