Greg Lopez.

Academic All-American Greg Lopez Leads Record-Setting Semester In The Classroom For Irish Baseball Program

June 2, 2006

The 2006 Notre Dame baseball team has compiled some impressive accomplishments on the field (45-15-1 record), in the community (recipient of the ND athletic department’s award for excellence in volunteer service by a varsity team) – and now in the classroom, as Greg Lopez’s selection to the prestigious Academic All-America team comes on the heels of the 32 players combining for a 3.28 team GPA in the 2006 spring semester (the best semester GPA in the 12-year tenure of head coach Paul Mainieri). Lopez’s honor marks the 10th time this decade (since 2000) that a Notre Dame baseball player has received Academic All-America recognition, with Lopez (Upper Arlington, Ohio) becoming the program’s first shortstop to receive the honor.

(Note: additional photos will be added to this release later, time permitting.)

The ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America teams are selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America, with Lopez earning third-team recognition among the Division I baseball selections for 2006. Two other members of the senior class, lefthander Tom Thornton (Middleboro, Mass.) and leftfielder Matt Bransfield (Englewood, Colo.), had joined Lopez on the Academic All-America ballot after each was named a first-team selection for the Academic All-District V team.

Lopez already has been accepted to medical school and graduated last week with a 3.39 cumulative grade-point average, as a double major in pre-professional studies and anthropology. The second-year team captain has made just 10 errors in 54 games played this season while totaling 37 RBI and batting .371 with runners in scoring position, hitting primarily from the 8th spot in the lineup.

Thornton and Lopez both currently are under consideration for another prestigious honor, the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. Thornton – who graduated with a 3.58 cumulative GPA as a double major in anthropology and film-television-and-theater – is 7-2 with just 5 walks in 79 innings pitched this season. His 52 career starts rank as the third-most ever by a Notre Dame pitcher. Bransfield (3.40 cumulative GPA, as a sociology major) ranks as one of Notre Dame’s top run producers in 2006, with 43 RBI, 6 home runs and 18 doubles.

Thornton and another current member of the senior class (leftfielder/DH Steve Andres) earlier had been Academic All-District V honorees as sophomores in 2004.

ND STUDENT-ATHLETES NOW HAVE COMBINED FOR EIGHT AAA HONORS IN ’05-’06 – Eight Notre Dame student-athletes now have earned Academic All-America honors in 2005-06 for their respective sports … those honorees include four seniors who received 1st-team honors – women’s soccer goalkeeper Erika Bohn and midfielder Annie Schefter, plus basketball point guards Chris Quinn and Megan Duffy – and three who have been named to the 2nd team: senior soccer midfielder John Stephens, senior volleyball middle blocker Lauren Brewster and junior softball outfielder Stephanie Brown … Notre Dame student-athletes have combined for 166 all-time Academic All-America honors, the second-most from any school.

DIAMOND DOUBLE – Greg Lopez and Stephanie Brown’s honors make Notre Dame one of five schools in 2006 with both a baseball and softball Academic All-American … the others to pull of that double are Baylor, Nebraska, Southern Mississippi and Maine.

ND BASEBALL ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICA HISTORY – The Notre Dame baseball program now has seen 17 different players combine for 23 Academic All-America awards (since 1977) … in addition to Greg Lopez eight other infielders have combined to receive the elite honor 10 times: Dave Bartish (1st team in ’80), third basemen James Dee (1st team in ’84) and Rich Vanthournot (2nd team in ’86), first baseman Joe Binkiewicz (1st team in ’91-’92), utility infielders Cory Mee (1st team in ’92) and Jeff Perconte (1st team in 2000), third baseman Andrew Bushey (2nd team in ’02) and second baseman Steve Sollmann (2nd team in ’03, 3rd team in ’04).

LOPEZ ROUNDS OUT ACADEMIC ELITE FANTASY TEAM – The addition of Greg Lopez at shortstop gives the Notre Dame baseball program an Academic All-America “dream team” – with one possible lineup including catcher Tim Pollock (1st team in ’77), an infield comprised of 1B Joe Binkiewicz, 2B Steve Sollmann, Lopez at SS and 3B Andrew Bushey, and an outfield of two-time recipients Dan Peltier (3rd team in ’88, 2nd team in ’89), John Loughran (1st team in ’86, 2nd team in ’87) and Brian Stavisky (3rd team in ’01 and ’02) … righthander Erik Madsen (3rd team, in ’88) and LHP Mark Clementz (2nd team in ’84) would serve as the starting pitchers on this academically-gifted fantasy team, with lefthander Mike Naumann (1st team in ’01) coming in for middle relief while J.P. Gagne (3rd team in ’03) would be the closer.

DECADE DOMINANCE – The Irish baseball program earlier this decade produced an unmatched four-year run of multiple Academic All-Americans that began in 2000 with infielder Jeff Perconte (1st team) and LHP Mike Naumann (3rd team), followed by Naumann (1st team) and OF Brian Stavisky (3rd team) in ’01 and then Stavisky (3rd team) and 3B Andrew Bushey (2nd team) in ’02, followed 2B Steve Sollmann (2nd team) and closer J.P. Gagne (3rd team) in ’03 … Sollmann then was a 1st-teamer in 2004, with Greg Lopez becoming the program’s 10th honoree this decade.

MAKING A FINALS STAND – Notre Dame did not play its best ball of the season during the weekend prior to finals (1-2 home series vs. Louisville) or in the games right after final exams (1-2 series at Seton Hall, loss to Michigan) but the Irish enter the NCAAs having won seven of their past eight games now that the challenges of academia are behind them … the 2006 semester grades are in and the results are very impressive, with the 3.28 team GPA representing the best semester GPA during Paul Mainieri’s 12 years as the head coach of the Notre Dame baseball program … the semester included 24 of the 32 players posting a semester GPA of 3.0 or higher, led by 16 with a GPA of 3.4-plus and six who topped the 3.6 mark … the Irish earlier had posted a 3.17 team GPA during the 2005 fall semester.

SUPER SENIORS – The eight-member senior class combined for a 3.48 semester GPA, with each member of the class at 3.0 or higher for the 2006 spring term … the seniors graduated with a combined cumulative GPA of 3.22 while extending the program’s perfect graduation mark during the Paul Mainieri era (71-of-71 players who have completed their four years of eligibility) … LHP Tom Thornton finished with a 3.87 semester GPA while graduating with a 3.58 cumulative GPA as a double major in anthropology and film-television-and-theater … SS Greg Lopez turned in a 3.58 semester GPA to graduate with a 3.40 as a double major in pre-professional studies and anthropology … LF Matt Bransfield also closed strong (3.78), graduating with a 3.40 as a sociology major … 1B Craig Cooper finished with a 3.83 semester GPA (for a 3.26 cumulative GPA, as a political science major) while infielder Eddie Smith posted a 3.67 (graduating with a 3.64, as a Spanish major) … the other three members of the senior class – LF/DH Steve Andres (3.00; finance), CF Alex Nettey (3.08; management information systems) and RF/C Cody Rizzo (3.00; sociology and international peace studies – also each topped the 3.0 mark for the 2006 spring term.

SIBLING RIVALRY? – Sophomore 3B Brett Lilley joined junior catcher Sean Gaston as the other two Notre Dame players (in addition to the three mentioned above) who were nominated for Academic All-District honors … Lilley turned in a 4.0 GPA in the 2006 spring semester and will enter his junior year with a 3.74 GPA, as an accounting major … his sister Tricia Lilley was a third-team selection to the softball Academic All-America team, carrying a 3.75 GPA as a fifth-year shortstop and business management major.

TEAMING WITH SCHOLARS – In addition to those listed above, other 2006 semester GPAs of note included junior C Sean Gaston (3.40 semester, 3.37 cumulative; political science and history), junior LHP/1B Mike Dury (3.67; economics and computer applications), freshman DH/IF Jeremy Barnes (3.47), sophomore LHP Wade Korpi (3.47; anthropology) and freshman closer Kyle Weiland (3.47) … Barnes and Weiland, like all ND freshmen, are enrolled in the First Year of Studies … the 24 players who turned in a GPA of 3.0-plus in the 2006 spring semester included eight seniors, six juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen … in addition to Gaston and Dury, the other juniors who posted a 3.0-plus in the spring ’06 term included RHPs Jeff Manship (3.30; economics), Jeff Samardzija (3.02; marketing) and Dan Kapala (3.50; economics), plus OF Danny Dressman (3.08; history and computer applications) … the five sophomores included Brett Lilley (see note above), Korpi, 2B Ross Brezovsky (3.13; economics), RHP Joey Williamson (3.06; political science and computer applications) and C Chris Soriano (3.36; pre-professional studies) … the freshmen who turned in 3.0s included Barnes, Weiland, RHP David Phelps (3.50), 1B Evan Sharpley (3.53) and C Mike Many (3.53).

TWO-WAY TALENTS – The players listed above include the 2006 BIG EAST player of the year (Cooper), four 2006 second team all-BIG EAST selections (Lilley, Lopez, Barnes and Weiland) and 2006 third team all-BIG EAST performer Bransfield (Thornton was second team all-BIG EAST in 2005).

REGIONAL ROUNDUP – The NCAA Lexington Regional includes two other players who just were named Academic All-Americans (in addition to ND’s Greg Lopez) … College of Charleston senior OF Phillip Coker was named the Academic All-American of the Year for Division I baseball (3.93 cumulative GPA, as a bio-chemistry major) … Kentucky sophomore OF Collin Cowgill was named 2nd team Academic All-America (3.92 cumulative GPA, as a communications major).

Updated bio. capsules of Lopez, Thornton and Bransfield follow below:

Greg Lopez (Sr., SS; Upper Arlington, Ohio) – Graduated with a 3.40 cumulative GPA as a double major in pre-professional studies and anthropology (3.58 in ’06 spring semester) … third-year starting shortstop and four-year monogram winner who earned third team Academic All-America honors from CoSIDA before graduating with a 3.39 cumulative grade-point average, as a double major in pre-professional studies and anthropology … second-year team captain who has made just 10 errors in 54 games played this season while totaling 37 RBI and batting .371 with runners in scoring position, hitting primarily from the 8th spot in the lineup … owns nearly a 4-to-1 ratio of RBI to errors, an impressive number for a player at the field’s most difficult defensive position … currently owns one of the top fielding percentages (.958) of any Notre Dame shortstop in the 12-year Paul Mainieri era … has posted 45 error-free games while making multiple Es just once all season (2) … rates as team’s 2nd-best top batter with runners in scoring position (.371) … leads 2006 team with 56 games started, also 3rd in games played (56), 4th in sac. bunts (7) and 5th in hits (60) and RBI (career-best 37) while batting in the 8-hole … his other ’06 season stats include 31 runs scored, 9 doubles, a triple, 9 walks and 5 times hit-by-pitch … has totaled 15 of his RBI with 2-outs (3rd-most on team), also ranking 4th on team in multi-RBI games (10) and 5th in batting vs. LHPs (.359) … has lowered his strikeout total from 44 in 2005 to just 16 in ’06 … ranks as team’s 2nd-best hitter at home this season (.390) … also had 2nd-best batting avg. on team during 23-game win streak (.440, 20 RBI, just 4 Ks and 4 Es) … ranked as team’s 4th-best hitter in April (.380) and in BIG EAST regular-season games (.347) … his career stats include ranking 2nd in ND history with 32 sacrifice bunts, plus 5th in fielding assists (.573), 7tht in HBPs (34), 8th in games played (228), 10th in starts (215) and 11th in at-bats (736) … his other career stats include 216 hits, 31 doubles and 131 RBI … second-year team captain who helped 2006 team rise as high as #8 in the national rankings … also has played lead role as Notre Dame has compiled one of the best four-year records in all of college baseball during his career (179-69-2, from ’03-’06) … earned 3rd team all-BIG EAST honors in 2004 while receiving baseball team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award … already has been accepted to medical school … an invited participant in the ND athletics Academic Honors faculty mentoring program … also member of the Presidential Committee on Diversity, the Student-Athlete Advisory Council and the athletic department’s Leadership Institute … one of five ND student-athletes who received the 2006 Arthur Ashe Award, recognizing students of color who exemplify the all-around standards set by the tennis great … his extensive community service work has included the following: La Casa de Amistad Christmas for Hispanic youth; Shoe Box Drive for homeless youth; Swing for Shoes drive for children in need; Adopt-a-Family for Christmas; Logan Center mentor for adults with Downs Syndrome; drug and alcohol prevention speaker to elementary-age youth; Buddy Walk for children with Downs Syndrome; the athletic department’s annual Christmas party for local youth with cancer; four-year participant in the Christmas for Pediatric Ward; coordinator of the pediatric ward Adopt-A-Kid; and reading program for children in South Bend.

Tom Thornton (Sr., LHP; Middleboro, Mass.) – Graduated with a 3.58 cumulative GPA as a double major in anthropology and film-television-and-theater (3.87 in ’06 spring semester) … joined former women’s basketball player Ruth Riley (’01) as the only Notre Dame student-athletes ever to receive the athletic departments Byron Kanaley Award (recognizing those who are exemplary as students and leaders) and the Chris Zorich Award (recognizing community service excellence) … baseball program’s 13th recipient of the Kanaley Award (third of the Mainieri era) and first to receive the Zorich Award … has served as a co-captain for the 2006 baseball team, a rare leadership role for the pitcher position … his final semester GPAs included 3.73, 3.81, 3.73, 3.75 and 3.87 … currently serves as one of team’s top weekend starters, ranking 3rd on the staff in wins (7-1; 5th-best among BIG EAST Conference pitchers), innings pitched (78.1) and starts (13), plus 4th in strikeouts (57), with a 3.68 ERA (9th in the BIG EAST), just 5 walks, no wild pitches and only 2 home runs allowed while helping the team rise as high as No. 8 in the national polls … his other 2006 stats include 86 hits allowed, a .285 opp. batting avg. in 14 total appearances … his low rate of walks (0.57 per 9 IP) and lofty K-to-walk ratio (11.4) in 2006 both rank 2nd in the ND record book … no other pitcher in the BIG EAST has totaled fewer than 16 walks this season while only three BIG EAST “regular” pitchers (1 IP per team game) have surrendered 0-1 HRs … for his career, he owns a 3.72 ERA in 61 appearances while 2nd in Notre Dame history with a low 1.70 career walk avg. (per 9 IP), plus 3rd in starts (52), 5th in innings (328.2), 7th in wins (27-11) and 11th in strikeouts (203) … his other career stats include 350 hits allowed (.278 opp. avg.), just 62 walks, 9 wild pitches and a 3.27 K-to-walk ratio … has helped Notre Dame compile one of the best four-year records in all of college baseball during his career (179-69-2, from ’03-’06) and named BIG EAST pitcher of the week five times in his career, 2nd-most in the 22-year history of BIG EAST baseball (behind former ND ace Aaron Heilman’s 10) … those honors came after outings such as an opening-week win at #20 USC in ’04 (6 IP, UER, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 Ks), a shutdown effort vs. a potent Texas Tech team later that season (3 BB, HB, 7 Ks; 8-1) and this season’s five-hit solo shutout of Southern Illinois (2 Ks, 0 BB; 4-0) … his all-BIG EAST junior season saw him become the only pitcher in the Mainieri era to throw three straight 9-inning complete games before finishing 13th among the league’s pitchers with a 2.83 ERA in ’05 BIG EAST games … was a proven big-game pitcher in ’04, finishing atop the BIG EAST charts for wins (9-2) while ranking 2nd with 99.2 innings and 5th in Ks (77) … his top games that season included a rare 9-inning shutout at West Virginia; (6 H, 2 BB; 4-0) and a career-best 12 Ks in an NCAA elimination game versus Kent State (3 H, 2 BB; 7-1) … tabbed by the NDWorks magazine as a “senior we will miss” … currently under consideration for a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship … has been a consistent and eager participant in community service work throughout his career as a Notre Dame student-athlete … took on a personal project in 2005-06 by serving as a weekly mentor to students at South Bend’s Veritos Academy … also has been a leading participant in the baseball’s teams many service activities, including: the Buddy Walk for children with Downs Syndrome; adopting an area family for Christmas, through the Salvation Army; participating in the South Bend Reads program and the D.A.R.E. drugs and alcohol education program; and the athletic department’s annual Christmas party for patients from Memorial Hospital’s hematology/oncology ward … also was an invited participant in the athletic department’s Academic Honors faculty mentoring program.

Matt Bransfield (Sr., LF/DH; Englewood, Colo.) – Graduated with a 3.40 cumulative GPA as a sociology major (3.78 in ’06 spring semester) … earned 3rd team all-BIG EAST honors for the 2006 season … ranks 2nd on team, behind All-American Craig Cooper, in batting avg. (.353), slugging pct. (.525), home runs (6), doubles (18), hits (67) and total bases (105) while his 43 RBI are 2nd on the team behind Jeremy Barnes (49) … also tied for 5th on team in games played (55) … leads team in 2-out RBI (18) and batting vs. LHPs (.403), also 3rd on team in batting with runners on (.351), 4th in 2-out batting (.315) and 5th in batting with runners in scoring position (.354) … his other 2006 stats include34 runs scored, a triple, 16 walks and 3 times hit-by-pitch … ND’s 2nd-best batter on the road this season (.325) and vs. non-conference opponents (.347) … hit .382 in the month of April (3rd-best on team) …has posted career-best totals this season in batting avg. (.335), hits (67) and doubles (18) … his career stats with the Irish include a .318 batting avg. in 179 games (153 starts), a .494 slugging pct. (18 HR, 4 3B, 39 2B), 105 runs, 51 walks and 22 times hit-by-pitch … has helped Notre Dame compile one of the best four-year records in all of college baseball during his career (179-69-2, from ’03-’06) … as a sophomore, he led the Irish with 12 home runs and 58 RBI while finishing as the BIG EAST’s RBI leader in league play (30) … received the ND baseball team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award for 2006.