Feb. 28, 2002
Homestead Challenge – (March 1-3)
The 8th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team (1-2) returns to the road for four games at the Homestead Challenge, facing Duquesne on Friday, March 1 (7:00 p.m.), followed by a pair of games on Saturday the 2nd vs. Fairfield (2:00 p.m, moved up from earlier 2:30 start) and Florida International (7:00 p.m.) … the Irish will close the weekend vs. Sacred Heart in a noon Sunday game on the 3rd … all the ND games will be played at the Homestead Sports Complex’s main stadium … three of the four opponents (all but FIU) will be opening their seasons vs. the Irish.
RADIO COVERAGE: South Bend’s ESPN Radio 1620 AM (WDND) and its sister station WHLY 1580 AM are slated to broadcast Notre Dame’s entire 56-game schedule in 2002 (plus all postseason action) … a real-audio link to internet broadcasts of the games may be accessed at www.und.com while real-time stats for home games – including updated play-by-play – likewise can be accessed at und.com … any baseball games that conflict with ND hockey or women’s basketball broadcasts on WDND 1620 typically will be shifted to WHLY 1580 (including this weekend’s night games versus Duquesne and FIU).
INJURY UPDATE – Two Notre Dame position players will not play in Homestead while another could be used as a DH and a fourth is questionable to return to the lineup … junior LF Brian Stavisky (a preseason 1st team All-American) and senior 3B/C Andrew Bushey (coming off a BIG EAST Conference player-of-the-week performance) both are out with sprained shoulders, suffered at last week’s UNO Classic … Stavisky is out 3-4 weeks (could return for the first BIG EAST series at UConn) while Bushey is out 1-2 weeks, with a possible return next week during the Texas trip … freshman SS Matt Macri remains sidelined with an elbow strain but could be used soon as a DH (his projected return to the field is early April) … sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann missed most of the UNO Classic with a quad pull but could return to action this weekend, as could ND’s 2001 closer, junior RHP Matt Laird (arm strain) … senior C Paul O’Toole was relegated to 3B duty in last week’s games vs. UNO and SIU, due to a sore left thumb (he could return behind the plate this week … just three games into the season, only two ND players have started every game at the same position: senior Steve Stanley (who owns 191 straight starts in CF) and sophomore 1B Joe Thaman … sophomore Javier Sanchez (2B) and freshman Matt Edwards (SS) filled in at the middle-infield positions last week (Sanchez also could start at 3B if O’Toole catches) while seniors Matt Bok and Matt Strickroth are likely options to replace Stavisky in the outfield
ND QUICK NOTES – Notre Dame’s 1-2 showing at last week’s New Orleans Classic (7-6 vs. Missouri, 7-8 vs. UNO, 2-6 vs. Southern Illinois) marked the first tiime since 1998 that the Irish had a losing record at a regular-season tournament (spanning 11 events) … 2-out hitting proved to be a key in last week’s action (ND hit .156 with two outs, the opponents .361) … Florida is the third-most represented state on the ND roster (3), led by senior DH Ken Meyer (Fort Myers/Bishop Verot HS), sophomore IF Javier Sanchez (Miami/Columbus HS) and freshman RHP Chris Niesel (Plantation/Aquinas) … Niesel had an impressive debut vs. SIU (5 IP, 5 H, R, 10 Ks, see p. 2), as did his classmate Grant Johnson in picking up the relief win over Missouri (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, K, 12 groundouts, recorded 15 outs in final 16 batters faced) … the Irish rallied from a 5-1 deficit to beat Missouri … the 10-inning win over the Tigers pushed ND’s recent extra-inning success to 11-1-1 in the last 13 extra-inning games (dating back to 1997), including a 5-1-1 record in the 2001 season (highlighted by wins over Mississippi State, Fresno State, Rutgers and then UCSB in the NCAAs) – with the lone loss in that stretch coming vs. FIU in the 2001 NCAAs (7-6, in 10) … ND was one out away from opening 2-0 before UNO smacked two singles and won the game on Gabe Trevizo’s home run (the Irish had ralled to the lead with three runs in the 9th) … the loss spoiled Andrew Bushey’s 5-for-5 day, including his 6th career home run and first since 2000 (he also homered at UNO in 1999) … ND has seen 10 of its last 16 losses come by one run … Brian Staviksy’s triple vs. UNO made him the 10th ND player to post 10-plus triples in his career … among those players, only Ryan Topham (34, 1993-95) and Alec Porzel (37, 1998-2001) have totaled more home runs than Stavisky’s 24 … SIU’S Sal Frisella broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run home run in the 7th, as ND faced the challenge of playing without four of its position starters, including the 2-3-4 batter in the lineup and Bushey … both teams stranded 11 baserunners, with the Salukis holding a 13-6 edge in hits.
NIESEL MAKES HISTORY: Chris Niesel’s impressive debut vs. Southern Illinois was noteworthy in several respects:
- His 10 strikeouts equaled the second-most ever by an ND freshman and are the most by an Irish freshman in his first start … LHP Don Wolfe posted 12 Ks in a 10-0 win over Butler on April 20, 1975, while RHP David Sinnes had 10 Ks in a nine-inning win at Xavier on April 16, 1990 (2-0).
- Niesel also became the first Notre Dame freshman pitcher to start an opening-week game Christian Parker’s gem that beat Pepperdine (14-5) at the 1995 Anaheim Classic (Parker started for the New York Yankees in the opening week of the 2001 season and currently is on the Yankees 40-man spring training roster).
- Just two previous Notre Dame pitchers have posted a double-digit strikeout game in February, with Alex Shilliday totaling 10 Ks in a 6-1 win over Evansville on Feb. 27, 1998 (8 IP, at the Diamond Classic) while Danny Tamayo had 10 Ks last season in the 7-4 win over Sam Houston State at the Alamo Invitational (Feb. 25, 6 IP).
SERIES NOTES: Notre Dame has won all eight previous games vs. Duquesne, with five of those games coming in 1993 as Midwestern Collegiate Conference rivals … ND has faced Duquesne three times in the Paul Mainiera era, including 11-1, 16-1 wins in 1995 (ND’s final MCC season) and a 5-1 win at the 2000 Kennel Clubs Classic in Jacksonville … Fairfield is slated to become the 274th all-time opponent in ND baseball history (spanning 110 seasons) while the 1911 ND baseball squad won a 10-1 game vs. Sacred Heart, in the only game of that series (FIU series below).
FAMILIAR FOE: The ND-FIU rivalry picked up steam last season in the NCAA South Bend Regional, with the Panthers winning the crucial second game (7-6, in 10) before Peter Ogilvie’s complete game vs. the Panthers (5-2) forced a final game, won 5-4 by FIU … FIU holds a 5-1 edge in the young seres, including a 1-14, 2-3, 0-12 home series in 1999 (launching ND on its current 188-game scoring streak) … check back to und.com later in the week for updated notes on the FIU matchup.
THE REMATCH: The ND-FIU game will mark the fifth consecutive season that the Irish have faced a team that ended ND’s previous season, with the Irish winning each of those previous four rematches (9-4 vs. Villanova in 1998, 10-1 at Rutgers in 1999, 5-4 vs. Michigan in 2000 and 7-5 at Mississippi State in 2001).
FRIEND OR FOE?: ND senior 3B/C Andrew Bushey and senior RHPs Matt Buchmeier and Drew Duff were teammates of Duquesne’s Dan Schwartzbauer and the Dukes’ ace RHP Jim Popp on the Hays (Kan.) Larks team during the summer of 2000 (that team reached the title game of the National Baseball Congress World Series) … Popp helped the Larks return to the NBC title game in 2001, with ND junior RHP J.P. Gagne and sophomore 1B Joe Thaman also members of that ’01 Larks team.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Duquesne – The Dukes will open their 2001 season vs. ND, with ace RHP Jim Popp (3-4, 4.55, 37 Ks) the likely starter .. Duquesne returned 20 of 27 letterwinners from its 2001 team that went 21-30 (IF Adam Brooks hit .273 with 44 RBI, 8 HR)
Fairfield – The Stags also open with the Irish, after going 17-28 in 2001 (20 of 27 letterwinners return) … Pablo Tamayo, brother of former ND pitcher Danny Tamayo, is one of the leaders of the Fairfield pitching staff … the Stags return three solid hitters in senior OF Jon Novalis (.380, 5 HR, 26 RBI), senior 1B Ryan Bittner (.364, 2 HR, 31 RBI) and senior C Sean Easton (.353, 3 HR, 23 RBI).
Florida International – The Panthers head into the ND game with a 9-3 record, losing to Central Florida (5-4) and dropping games in Homestead to Miami (6-2) and Lipscomb (8-6, in 14) … FIU owns wins over UCF (5-4), Miami (7-1), Florida A&M (9-6, 21-2, 17-5) and at Bethune-Cookman (14-5), plus a 9-2 win over Kansas State in Homestead … FIU is batting .339 with 14 home runs and 18 stolen bases, plus a .944 fielding pct. (28 E), a 2.23 team ERA, a .228 opp. batting avg. and 118 Ks in 113 IP … JC transfer and senior IF Alex Ansoleaga is batting .419 (8 RBI, 7 BB, 2 2B), followed by sophomore C Tommy Duenas (.389, 9 RBI, 2 HR, 3 2B) and senior 1B Brad Eldred (.381, 11 RBI, 4 HR, 4 2B, 7 BB) … check back to und.com on Friday for more on FIU.
Sacred Heart – The Pioneers also will open 2002 vs. the Irish, after going 22-23 in 2001 (their second Division I season) … Sacred Heart returned 15 of 20 letterwinners, led by speedy senior OF Matt Lemanczyk (.392, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 40 SB).
IN THE POLLS: Notre Dame heads to Homestead ranked as high as 8th in the nation (in the Baseball America poll, after ranking 5th in the preseason) … the Irish also currently rank 19th in the USA Today coaches poll (13th preseason) and 24th in the Collegiate Baseball magazine poll (19th).
TOURNAMENT TOUGH: Notre Dame is 55-20-1 (.730) in regular-season tournaments during the Paul Mainieri era (1995- ), including a 1998 win over Florida St., wins in 2000 over Wake Forest, Georgia and Illinois (2) and the 2001 season’s wins over Mississippi State (2), Fresno State and Illinois … the Irish head to Homestead with a record of 20-5-1 in their previous 26 regular-season tournament games, dating back to a 9-7 loss to Minnesota on March 4, 2000 … prior to last week’s UNO Classic (1-2),ND has not had a losing record in its previous 11 regular-season tournaments (33-6-1 in those events), since a 1-2 showing at the ACC Disney Blast early in 1998 … the current 20-5-1 stretch in regular-season tournaments includes wins over Georgia, Illinois (3), Mississippi State (2), Florida Atlantic and Fresno State … ND has played in 22 previous regular-season tournaments during the Mainieri era, posting an even record in 16 of them and splitting its games in two others, with only four losing records (also 1-2 at the 1995 Anaheim Classic, 0-3 at the 1997 Long Beach State Classic and 1-2 at the 1998 ACC Disney Blast).
FAR & WIDE: Notre Dame’s 2002 roster includes 35 players from 21different home states/provinces … the top 10 position players and top three starting pitchers hail from eight different states, including five from Ohio and two from Florida, plus one each from Iowa, Pennsylvania, Washington, Missouri, Illinois and Minnesota.
ROAD TRIPPERS: Notre Dame will be playing its first 22 games away from home, in seven different cities: New Orleans, Homestead, Fla., Round Rock and San Antonio, Texas, Storrs, Conn., Morgantown, W.Va., and Washington, D.C. … the Irish then will spend virtually all of April (18 of 22 games) in the friendly confines of Eck Stadium, including the first 14 games of the month (before an April 20-21 series at Seton Hall, plus the April 30 game vs. Michigan in Grand Rapids) … ND’s 12 regular-season games in the month of May will include eight at home, plus a May 11-12 road series vs. Villanova and the May 14 game at Purdue … all told, the Irish will play 26 of their final 34 games at Eck Stadium.
RECORD RUN: Senior CF Steve Stanley is on pace to set several Notre Dame career records, including the top all-time marks for hits, stolen bases and runs scored … Stanley needs two hits to tie former IF J.J. Brock (’98) for 4th in ND history and one run to tie former teammate Alec Porzel (’01) for 7th on that ND career list.
PAYBACKS: Notre Dame posted a 21-3 record during the 2001 season when facing a team that the Irish had lost to in the previous campaign (2000), with those 2001 payback games coming versus Mississippi State (2-0), Pittsburgh (2-0), Rutgers (4-0), West Virginia (2-0) , Villanova (3-0), St. John’s (3-0), UConn (2-1), BC (2-1) and Wisconsin-Milwaukee (12-4 win in the NCAAs), plus a 7-6 loss to Western Michigan (the only other teams that beat ND in the 46-18 season of 2000 were Ohio State, Minnesota, North Florida and Northwestern) … the Irish will have the chance to avenge 12 of their 13 losses from the record-setting 2001 season, with that first payback coming versus the host team at the New Orleans Classic (UNO held off ND, 7-6, at the 2001 Mississippi State Classic, before beating ND last week, 8-7) … Virginia Tech (4) and Florida International (2) combined to post nearly half of ND’s 2001 losses, with the Irish having a shot at revenge vs. FIU at the Homestead Challenge on March 2 (FIU beat ND in the 2001 NCAAs, 7-6 and 5-4) … Virginia Tech will visit Eck Stadium for a rare Friday-night doubleheader on April 12 (ND lost a DH last season in Blacksburg, 3-2 and 9-8, while the Hokies posted two wins over the Irish at the 2001 BIG EAST Tournament (4-3, 5-2) … ND also will have the change to avenge its only other two BIG EAST losses of the 2001 season (19-12 vs. UConn, 7-6 at BC) and also will be looking to return the favor vs. Midwestern rivals Ball State (4-3) Valparaiso (4-2) and Western Michigan (7-6) … the only other team that beat ND in 2001 was South Florida.
THE SHIFT: Notre Dame’s probable 2002 lineup includes several position switches, with junior Brian Stavisky shifting from RF to LF (flipping with classmate Kris Billmaier) while seniors Paul O’Toole and Andrew Bushey are slated to split time behind the plate (where O’Toole made 128 starts from 1999-2001) and at third base, where Bushey owns 148 career starts … sophomore Javier Sanchez also has developed into a solid backup option at 1B, after playing mostly at 3B and in the middle infield during previous seasons.
WHO’S BACK, WHO’S GONE?: Notre Dame returned many of the key elements from its landmark 2001 season (49-13-1), including the top five hitters, nine of the top 10 position players and 16 total letterwinners … the top losses include starting SS Alec Porzel and the squad’s top starting pitchers, four-year All-American Aaron Heilman and fellow first team all-BIG EAST performer Danny Tamayo … the veteran core includes five senior and two juniors among the top nine returning position players … the ND returning offensive players combined for 91% of the team’s stolen bases in 2001, plus 86% of the walks, 85% of the hits, 82% of the RBI and 81% of the home runs … the returning Irish pitchers totaled 26 of ND’s 49 wins last season while logging 49% of the innings, 30 of 63 starts, 43% of the Ks and all eight saves.
HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI: Eighth-year ND head coach Paul Mainieri owns a 636-406-1 (.610) record in 19 previous college seasons … in addition to his 304-127-1 (.705) mark at ND, Mainieri’s teams were 180-121 in six seasons at St. Thomas (Fla.) and 152-158 in six seasons at Air Force … his 304 wins rank 3rd all-time at ND, behind Pat Murphy (318, ’88-’94) and Jake Kline (558, ’34-’75) … Mainieri has seen 27 of his Irish players go on to pro baseball (19 via the draft), with RHP Christian Parker being the first to reach the Majors (he earned a spot as the N.Y. Yankees No. 5 starter and made his debut vs. Toronto on April 6 at Yankees Stadium-with Mainieri and others from ND watching on) … 15 of hid players at St. Thomas went on to pro ball, including three – Joe Klink, Dane Johnson and Dan Rohrmeier – who have played in the major leagues … Mainieri and his father Demie are the only known father-son combo in college baseball history to top 500 wins … Demie won 1,018 in 30 years at Miami-Dade North CC.
MAINIERI’S MILESTONES: Paul Mainieri – who posted his 300th career victory at Notre Dame in the second game of the DH sweep at Boston College on May 12, 2001 – fittingly reached the 500-win milestone in ND’s Feb. 27, 1999, win at his former school New Orleans (14-11) before reaching his 600th win during the 2002 season in memorable fashion: on St. Patrick’s Day in the 7-6 win over Portland in the title game of Fresno State’s Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic (the Irish wore special green jerseys) … Mainieri experienced two noteworthy homecomings in ’99, making his third return with the Irish to UNO (where he played) and his third return as the ND coach to his hometown of Miami … Mainieri coached his 800th career game on Feb. 20, 1998, at the University of Miami, after a Feb. 15 game at UNO was rained out … he notched his 499th career win in the ’99 season opener vs. James Madison, in Miami at Fla. International (Feb. 19) … Mainieri picked up his 200th win at ND in the 7-6 win over Oakland on April 30 ,1999 … he coached his 900th college game in the opener at Georgetown on May 8, 1999, and his 1,000th last season vs. Hillsdale College (March 29, 2001).
PENCIL HIM IN, OR USE PEN: Senior Steve Stanley has started all 191 games of his ND career (all in CF) while logging all but 14 innings in CF his three seasons … the familiar #2 has patrolled CF in 99.14% of the innings (1,620 of 1,634) – including all but two of 513 as a freshman (his classmate Paul O’Toole played the final two innings in a 20-10 loss at Northwestern on April 6, 1999) … Stanley then played in CF for the final 267.2 innings of ’99 and the first 497 of 2000-a span of 764.2 consecutive innings in CF – before being replaced by current senior Ben Cooke for the final five innings of the 8-1 NCAA loss at Mississippi St. (the Irish fell into an early 7-0 hole and Stanley reluctantly left the game due to illness) … in 2001, he patrolled center in all but seven of 547.2 innings – with Mike Naumann inserted into CF for the final inning vs. Texas-Pan American (a 14-9 win) while John Heintz played the position for the final four innings vs. Hillsdale (a 9-2 win) and for the final two innings of the 15-3 win over Seton Hall.
MLB CONNECTIONS: Several Notre Dame graduates currently serve as top executives in Major League Baseball: Oakland A’s president Mike Crowley (’85), Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Joe Garagiola, Jr. (’72), L.A. Dodgers V.P. of External Affairs Tommy Hawkins (’59), Tampa Bay Devil Rays GM John McHale (’71), Tampa Bay owner and CEO Vince Naimoli (’59) and MLB Director of Special Events Brian O’Gara (’89) … Hawkins was a star basketball player for the Irish before playing in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers before serving as a broadcaster in the L.A. area.
ALL-TIME OPPONENTS: Notre Dame has faced 273 different opponents entering its 110th year of varsity baseball … James Madison, Florida International, Missouri and Oakland were first-time opponents in 1999, followed by North Florida and Akron in 2000 and six more first-time opponents in 2001 (Florida Atlantic, New Mexico, Pacific, Sam Houston State, South Florida and UC Santa Barbara) … the Irish could add two more first-time opponents to that list in 2002: Fairfield and Arkansas-Little Rock … Notre Dame’s most common all-time opponents include: Northwestern (130 games), Michigan State (125), Western Michigan (122), Wisconsin (118), Purdue (114) and Michigan (114) … noteworthy teams ND has yet to face include Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
TOP PROSPECTS: Notre Dame junior LF Brian Stavisky is listed 25th on Baseball America’s annual list of top pro prospects in college baseball … Stavisky is the 8th position player and 2nd OF on the list, behind Stanford’s Jason Cooper (12) … ND was the only school with multiple outfielders on BA’s list of the top 100 college prospects, with senior CF Steve Stanley listed 80th (he’s the 34th position player and 14th OF on the list) … only seven teams had more than two players listed among the top 80 on that list … Notre Dame (7) also joined Stanford (10) as the schools with the most players among Baseball America’s list of the nation’s top-40 prospects by college class: Stanley (9th among seniors), C/3B Paul O’Toole (31st among seniors), Stavisky (25th among juniors), 2B Steve Sollmann (37th among sophomores), SS Matt Macri (2nd among freshmen) and freshman RHPs Chris Niesel (11th) and Martin Vergara (15th).
SCORING STREAKS: Notre Dame heads to Homestead riding the school record for consecutive games with at least one run scored (188) … the Irish scored in the final 58 games of 1999 and in every game of 2000 (64) and 2001 (63), for a 185-game streak that stretches back to a 12-0 loss at Florida International on Feb. 21, 1999 … the previous record 133-game scoring streak began with the first game of the Paul Mainieri era, a 10-6 loss to Texas at the Anaheim Classic, on Feb. 24, 1995 (the Irish were shut out by Auburn, 8-0, in the 1994 NCAA East Regional at Clemson) … the previous record streak ended vs. another Texas team, 2-0 vs. Texas Pan-American in a seven-inning game on March 10, 1997 (at Wolff Stadium in San Antonio) … ND has scored in 98.8 pct. of its games in the Mainieri era (426 of 431), with other shutouts at Seton Hall (16-0, 3/22/97), vs. St. John’s (3-0, 5/9/98) and vs. Rutgers in the BIG EAST Tournament (12-0, 5/16/98) … prior to the Mainieri era, the longest ND scoring streaks were: 121-games (April 23, 1930-May 26, 1937) and 103-games (May 25, 1907-May 17, 1912).
FALL SIGNEES: Notre Dame signed six high school seniors to national letters of intent in the 2001 early fall period: catcher Cody Rizzo (Temecula, Calif.), shortstop Greg Lopez (Upper Arlington, Ohio), outfielders Craig Cooper (Plainview, N.Y.) and Brennan Grogan (Tequesta, Fla.), righthanded pitcher Ryan Doherty (Toms River, N.J.) and third baseman Matt Bransfield (Englewood, Colo.), who also could pitch for the Irish … Cooper, Doherty and Grogan have been listed among Team One Baseball’s top 200 high school prospects while Cooper, Doherty and Rizzo are ranked among Baseball America’s list of the nation’s top prospects … Grogan and Cooper are accomplished outfielders who should add speed to the Irish lineup while Lopez has been rated as the best infield prospect to come out of the talent-rich state of Ohio in five years (according to The Buckeye Scout) … Rizzo is a talented all-around catcher who could make the biggest contributions as a freshman while Bransfield’s versatility as a third baseman and pitcher could prove valuable to the 2002 squad … Doherty provides an added dimension to the class, due to his 7-1, 235-pound frame that produced plenty of interest from Division I basketball programs.
TOP ASSISTANT: Notre Dame’s Brian O’Connor was named the Division I national assistant baseball coach of the year for the 2001 season, as selected by the American Baseball Coaches Association and Baseball America magazine … O’Connor-who also recently was promoted to associate head coach of the Irish-spent the previous seven seasons as Notre Dame’s primary assistant coach while overseeing the Irish pitching staff and coordinating the program’s highly-successful recruiting effort … O’ Connor, who pitched on Creighton’s 1991 College World Series team, has tutored 13 eventual professional baseball pitchers, including 10 Major-League draft picks (two of them 1st-rounders) … Notre Dame is one of just four schools since 1998 to produce two pitchers who have been drafted in the first round – Brad Lidge in 1998 and Aaron Heilman in 2001 – with only Notre Dame and Baylor having the same pitching coach during that span (Baylor head coach Steve Smith coaches the Bears pitching staff).
ROAD WARRIORS: Notre Dame was 24-5-1 away from home in the 2001 regular season (21-4 at Eck Stadium) … ND’s 14-3 record on the opponent’s field nearly was 17-0 (with two late-inning losses at Virginia Tech, 3-2 and 9-8, and another at BC, 7-6).
TRAVEL: Notre Dame’s schedule regularly takes the baseball team to top-notch facilities and noteworthy cities. In Paul Mainieri’s eight seasons, the Irish have visited: Fullerton and Long Beach, Calif., Seattle, Wash. (Kingdome), San Antonio, Texas, four Florida cities (Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville and St. Petersburg), Atlanta, Ga., New Orleans, Boston, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Minneapolis, Minn. (Metrodome).
SUMMER STARS: Several Notre Dame players had noteworthy 2001 summer performances, following a 2000 summer season that saw three ND players (Steve Stanley, Paul O’Toole and Brian Stavisky) start in the Cape Cod League All-Star game while three others – Matt Buchmeier, Drew Duff and Andrew Bushey – helped the Hays Larks reach the title game of the National Baseball Congress World Series (held in Wichita, Kan.) … Stanley was named by Baseball America as a 2001 summer All-American, after earning Great Lakes League MVP honors as a member of the Delaware (Ohio) Cows (.442 batting average, 23 stolen bases) .. Stavisky again was an all-star with Hyannis in the summer of 2001, as was Irish 2B Steve Sollmann with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox … righthander J.P. Gagne (11-1, 1.70 ERA, 65 Ks/15 BB in 80 IP) and first baseman Joe Thaman continued ND’s tradition with the Hays Larks, helping lead the Larks back to the NBC World Series championship game during the 2001 summer season.
FRESHMAN FOCUS: Notre Dame’s current freshman class was ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America … here are some facts about Notre Dame’s 2002 freshman contingent:
Top Prospects – Shortstop Matt Macri was listed in Baseball America’s 2002 college preview as the No. 2 prospect among all current college freshmen, behind Vanderbilt LHP Jeremy Sowers … freshman RHPs Chris Niesel (11th) and Martin Vergara (17th) also were on BA’s freshman prospect list, with Notre Dame joining USC (3) as the only schools with more than two freshmen in the top 20 of that list … Macri also has been forecasted by BA as the No. 4 overall prospect for the 2003 Major League draft (he will be sophomore-eligible because his 21st birthday falls in late May of 2003).
Draft Picks – Five Notre Dame freshmen were selected in the 2001 Major League draft, with most falling in the draft due to their strong commitment to attend Notre Dame … most notably, RHP Grant Johnson was not drafted but was rated as a 2nd-rounder by BA prior to the draft … the freshmen drafted as preps included RHPs John Axford (7th round, Seattle) and Vergara (15th, Cleveland), Macri (17th, Minnesota, was rated a 1st rounder) and RHPs Tyler Jones (30th, Atlanta) and Niesel (46th, Chicago Cubs, was expected to be drafted as high as the third round), who also was one of five pitchers nationwide named by BA as a first team All-American (Macri, Vergara and Johnson all were named Gatorade player of the year for their respective states).
National Teams – Three freshmen recently were top players on junior national teams … Macri was one of two members of the 2000 U.S. Junior National Team that was named to the all-tournament team at the 2000 Junior Pan Am Games in Sonora, Mexico, after hitting .353 with seven RBI in nine games as a member of that bronze-medal team (9 BB, 3B, 2B, 5 SB, 12 R) … Johnson helped the 2001 U.S. team post a best-ever silver-medal finish at the 2001 Pan-Am Games in Cuba, winning both of his outings versus Panama (10-1, 2 H) and Columbia (17-1, unearned run. 2 H) … Axford actually crossed paths with Johnson during the summer of 2001 in Joplin, Mo., when he won a game versus the U.S. as a member of Canada’s Youth National Team (he also saved a game vs. a professional rookie-level team in Florida and posted a 1-1 record while competing with Team Canada in the Dominican Republic, vs. teams from the Dominican Summer League).
Multi-Sport Stars – Three freshmen – Macri (Iowa player-of-the-year and state champs), Vergara (all-state in New Jersey) and C Jay Molina (all-conference in Illinois) – each were accomplished high school quarterbacks while Johnson was one of the top players on the Lyons Township High School basketball team that made an impressive run to the quarterfinal round of the 2001 Illinois state tournament.
Bloodlines – Thirteen Notre Dame players – nine of them freshmen – have parents who were college athletes … three have fathers who played college baseball: LHP Scott Bickford’s father Mark (Salisbury St.), IF/OF Matt Edwards’ father Norm (catcher at Stetson) and Niesel’s father Rudy (Spring Hill), while Johnson’s father Gary played football and basketball at Kansas … not to be outdone are the mothers of Macri (Audrey Macri, cheerleading, Wartburg) and C Mike Milligan (Tish Kierl Milligan, basketball/volleyball/tennis, Marymount) … Macri’s father Mike also played football at Simpson College while Doug Jones (father of Tyler) played golf at Stephen F. Austin, freshman IF Geoff Milsom’s father Jeff was on the rowing team at the University of Pennsylvania and OF/C Brent Weiss’s father Paul was an All-American lacrosse player at Johns Hopkins … two of the freshmen also have brothers who have played college baseball: Jones’ brother David at Texas Wesleyan and Molina’s brother Anthony at Evansville, while OF George Howard’s sister Jennifer is a softball player at Arkansas-Pine Bluff … Jones joined sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann as the only current ND players with a parent and a sibling who have played college sports.
Big Shadows – Notre Dame’s 2002 roster includes some big bodies, with the freshman class more than doing its share, led by RHPs Johnson (6-6, 220), Axford (6-5, 175) and Jones (6-4, 205) and LHP Bickford (6-4, 160).