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Baseball Collides With Cardinal In College World Series

June 12, 2002

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One year after claiming the first No. 1 ranking in the program’s history en route to the program’s most wins (49-13-1), the 2002 Notre Dame baseball team has fashioned its own memorable season with a 49-16 record and the program’s first trip to the College World Series in 45 years (the 1957 team had been the only ND squad ever to play in the CWS) … the Irish – who have gone 40-6 since a 9-10 start – advanced from the NCAA South Bend Regional by posting wins over Ohio State (8-6), South Alabama (25-1) and OSU again (9-6) before winning the best-of-3 Super Regional at top-ranked Florida State (10-4, 5-12, 3-1) … sixth-ranked ND opens CWS play at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium, vs. No. 5 Stanford (Saturday at 12:30 CDT) … the game will be shown live on CBS, with freshman RHP Grant Johnson (See below) drawing the start for the Irish while Stanford (45-16) will counter with junior RHP and first-round draft pick Jeremy Guthrie … the winner will play the winner of the Texas-Rice game on Monday night (7:00), with the losers of both games meeting at 2:30 on Monday … the eight-team double-elimination tournament essentially is comprised of two four-team brackets, with the winners meeting in the national title game on Sat., June 22 … all games will be telecast live by either ESPN, ESPN2 or CBS … South Bend’s WDND 1620 AM will have the radio play-by-play (also available via, as are real-time stats) … ND’s probable starter for Monday’s game is freshman RHP Chris Niesel … ND associate head coach Brian O’Connor is a native of Council Bluffs, Iowa (just outside Omaha) and was a pitcher on Creighton’s 1991 CWS team … 8th-year Irish head coach Paul Mainieri’s father Demie Mainieri coached Miami Dade North Community College to the 1964 national title, plus runner-up finishes in ’66, ’71 and ’74 (third in ’67) … Johnson (1-hitter vs. south Alabama) and sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann (13-for-16) were named national players of the week by Collegiate Baseball, after their stellar efforts in the South Bend Regional (CB also named Johnson to its Freshman All-America team) … four ND players were selected in the Major League Draft: senior CF Steve Stanley (2nd round, 67th overall pick to Oakland A’s), junior LF Brian Stavisky (6th rd, Oakland), senior 3B/C Andrew Bushey (15th rd, Colorado Rockies) and senior C Paul O’Toole (21st rd, Chicago Cubs) … Bushey (2nd team) and Stavisky (3rd) also just were named to the Verizon/CoSIDA Academic All-America? team (two ND players have been so honored each of the past three years).

After minimal early-season run support, Johnson has pushed his record to 9-4 by winning his last seven decisions, including a relief stint vs. Michigan … he has lowered his ERA to 3.29 (good for 6th in the BIG EAST) … Johnson’s first eight starts saw the Irish average just 4.1 runs in those games … the run support for Johnson improved in his last six starts (10.7 rpg), with his first seven starts including three games where the Irish scored just 2-3 runs … ND’s balanced pitching staff includes four different pitchers who have started Game 1 of a weekend series or tournament, led by Johnson (9, including vs. Stanford) and classmate John Axford (5), plus juniors Peter Ogilvie (2) and J.P. Gagne (1) … Johnson’s dominant innings prior to the NCAAs were the 2nd-5th (1.86 ERA, 48 Ks, 18 BB in those innings) … those numbers are even more noteworthy when considering his stats from the 1st (6.55, 16 Ks/6 BB) and 6th innings (8.22, .429, 2 Ks, 4 BB) … his only hit and run allowed vs. USA came in the first.

Opening Game Starter –
Grant Johnson, Fr., RHP (relief vs. Missouri, St. John’s, BSU, Michigan)
(17 GP/13 GS, 3.29, 9-4, 95.2 IP, 87 H, 84 K/42 BB, .246 opp. avg., 5 HB, 6 WP, 97 GO, 93 FO)

vs. Missouri, at UNO (2/22; 7-6 in 10) win, 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, K
vs. Florida International, in Homestead (3/2; 4-13) 5.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R/2 ER, BB, 7 K
vs. TCU, in Round Rock (3/8; 3-7) loss, 8.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, BB, HB, 8 K
vs. Southern Illinois, in San Antonio (3/14; 5-3) win, 8 IP, 5 H, UER, 6 K

at Connecticut (3/23; 3-4) loss, 5 IP, 4 H, 4 R/3 ER, 5 BB, 7 K
at West Virginia (3/28; 2-4) loss, 4.1 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 5 K
St. John’s (4/6; 3-4) 3 IP, 3 BB, K
Pittsburgh (4/11; 5-7) loss, 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 BB, 9 K

Ball State (4/16; 10-1) 2.0 IP, H, BB, K
at Seton Hall (4/21; 4-2) win, 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K, 2 WP
vs. Michigan (4/30; 7-4) win, 3.0 IP, H, 2 BB, 2 K
Rutgers (5/4; 7-2) win, 6.0 IP, 5 H, UER, 4 BB, 5 K

vs. Villanova, in Philadelphia (5/11; 7-8) 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K, WP, HB
Boston College (5/17; 8-2) win, 6.0 IP, 4 H, R, 2 BB, 6 K, WP, HB
vs. Rutgers, BET (5/23; 8-4) win, 7.0 IP, 9 H, 2 R/ER, 2 BB, 7 K, WP
vs. South Alabama, NCAAs (6/1; 25-1) win, 9.0 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, BB, 8 K, 2 HB
at Florida State, NCAAs (6/7; 10-4) win, 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 6 BB, 2 K, HB

Situationally: 38.0% leadoff batters reached; .271 opp. batting with 2 outs,.226 with runners on
Nine-Inning Averages: 8.2 hits, 4.0 walks, 7.9 strikeouts, 9.1 groundouts, 39.0 batters faced

Series Notes:
The only previous ND-Stanford baseball matchup came early in the 1991 season, with the Cardinal posting a 7-3 win over the Irish in a game played at the Metrodome in Minneapolis (on March 29, 1991) … ND and Texas have split six previous games, including a 10-6 Longhorns win at the 1995 Anaheim Classic (the first game of the Paul Mainieri era at ND) … ND and Rice have yet to meet in baseball (see note below) … ND’s series records vs. teams in the other CWS bracket include 4-6 vs. Georgia Tech (4-12 and 4-9 losses at GT to open 1996 season), 10-1 vs. Nebraska (the last ND win being a 5-3 game at the 1995 Irish Baseball Classic, in San Antonio), 1-0 vs. Clemson (8-1 win at Clemson, in the 1994 NCAA East Regional) and 1-1 vs. South Carolina (1-5, 11-2 at Miami for the 1992 NCAA Atlantic Regional).

Rice has the chance to become the 277th different baseball opponent in the 110-year history of Notre Dame baseball, with Fairfield, Sacred Heart and Arkansas-Little Rock joining that list earlier this season … other teams that have faced ND for the first time in recent years include James Madison, Florida International, Missouri and Oakland (all in 1999), North Florida and Akron (both in 2000) and 2001 opponents Florida Atlantic, New Mexico, Pacific, Sam Houston State, South Florida and UC Santa Barbara … in addition to Rice, the most noteworthy opponents that ND has yet to face include Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

Notre Dame’s 1957 College World Series team held its first-ever reunion last fall – with the events taking place back on campus during the weekend of the Michigan State football game … for many of the team members, it marked the first time they had seen one another since the 1957 CWS … as things turned out, the ’57 team’s reunion proved to a be a good omen for the Notre Dame baseball program – which is making its first return to Omaha since that 1957 season … the reunion activities also coincided with ND’s annual alumni baseball game (held prior to the ND-MSU football game) and the 1957 players had a chance to socialize with the current Irish squad during an informal dinner at Eck Stadium … key players from the 1957 team were selected for a videotape interview session that documented the ’57 team … all of the starting position players were on hand for the reunion aside from outfielder Gene Duffy, who passed away shortly after his graduation in 1959.

Longtime South Bend Tribune reporter and ND baseball beat writer Forrest “Woody” Miller is on the verge of having the unique perspective of covering both of Notre Dame’s trips to the College World Series … Miller was just getting settled in at The Tribune in 1957 when the Irish won the NCAA District Four playoff and advanced to Omaha for the CWS.

Eighth-year Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri owns a 685-419-1 (.620) record in 20 college seasons … in addition to his 353-140-1 (.716) mark in eight seasons at ND, Mainieri’s teams were 180-121 in six seasons at St. Thomas (Fla.) and 152-158 in six seasons at Air Force … Mainieri’s ND teams have combined for a 121-41(.747) record in regular-season BIG EAST games, making the Irish skipper the winningest coach in BIG EAST history (based on winning pct.).

It was a long and winding road, but the sixth-ranked Notre Dame baseball team has ended up in the College World Series and the NCAA “final eight” – ultimately living up to its billing as the nation’s No. 5-ranked team in the Baseball America preseason poll (ND was 13th in the USA Today/ESPN preseason coaches poll and 19th in the Collegiate Baseball poll) … the eight CWS teams all were in the top-14 of the BA preseason poll: Stanford (1), Clemson (2), ND (5), Nebraska (8), Texas (9), Rice (11), Georgia Tech (13) and South Carolina (14) … others in the BA preseason top 10 included Miami (3), USC (4), Florida State (6), LSU (7) and Tulane (10).

When Notre Dame junior LF Brian Stavisky was plunked with a pitch early in the March 28th doubleheader at West Virginia, the Irish season was teetering on the edge of uncertainty … with sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann still hampered by his nagging quad pull, ND dropped that first game at WVU to fall below .500 (9-10, including 0-4 in the BIG EAST) … moments later, the Mountaineers jumped out to a 5-0 first-inning lead in the nightcap and ND looked like it was headed to another tough defeat … senior RHP Drew Duff held the fort in the 2nd-5th innings (3 H, UER, 2 BB, 3 K) before freshman Martin Vergara (3 IP, win, 2 H, BB) and senior Matt Buchmeier closed out the rally (10-6, in 10 innings) – with the Irish going 40-6 since that key win … senior CF Steve Stanley (3-for-6, 3 RBI, 2 R) and senior C Paul O’Toole (3-run HR) led the offense in the comeback and sophomore SS Javier Sanchez had the go-ahead hit in the 10th.

Notre Dame’s stats during the 9-10 start and the ensuing 40-6 run include some stark contrasts:

  • ND hit .283 in the first 19 games but .342 in the last 46, with the biggest jumps coming from sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann (.182 in team’s first 19 games, .407 in last 46), junior RF Kris Billmaier (.203, .358) and junior SS Javier Sanchez (.234, .308).
  • The makeshift lineup had led to 40 errors (.946 fielding pct.) and 36 unearned runs in the first 19 games, compared to just 58 Es (.966) and 28 UERs in the last 46.
  • A lack of clutch hitting saw ND batting just .264 with runners in scoring position for the first 19 games (.374 in the last 46).

Several ND players have cranked up their production in the NCAAs (see box at right), led by the entire starting outfield of senior CF Steve Stanley (.438), junior RF Kris Billmaier (.544) and junior LF Brian Stavisky (.403), plus sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann (.521) and senior C Paul O’Toole (.370) … the three outfielders have combined for a .455 career batting average in the NCAAs (95-for-209, in 51 games played) … O’Toole was named to the 1999, 2000 and ’02 all-Regional teams, as was Billmaier in 1999 and ’02, Stanley and Stavisky in ’01 and ’02, and Sollmann in ’02 (MVP) … senior 3B Andrew Bushey and senior RHP Peter Ogilvie also were all-Regional picks in 2001 (as was freshman RHP Grant Johnson in ’02).

Sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann (.714, 20-for-28) and junior LF Kris Billmaier (.615, 16-for-26) have combined for just 18 outs in six NCAA Tournament games this season while leading the way for an Irish offense that is hitting .424 (101-for-238) with 60 runs scored in the NCAAs … more impressively, ND is batting 58 points higher (.482) with runners in scoring position during the NCAAs, again led by Sollmann (10-for-10) and Billmaier (6-for-10) … Sollmann also has a sacrifice fly in the NCAAs (in the third Super Regional game at FSU, 3-1) while five of Billmaier’s eight RBI in the NCAAs have come with two outs … Sollmann’s other 2002 NCAA stats include a 1.000 slugging pct. (HR, 2 3B, 2B), 11 RBI, 14 runs, one walk, one hit-by-pitch, no strikeouts, a stolen base, a sac. bunt and just one error in 29 fielding chances … Billmaier has an .808 NCAA slugging pct. (3B, 3 2B), plus eight RBI, five runs, one K and one error … Sollmann has reached on all four of his leadoff plate appearances in the NCAAs (Billmaier on 5-of-7).

Steve Stanley posted his fifth four-hit game of the 2002 season vs. South Alabama, going 4-for-5 (the rest of the team has totaled nine games with four-plus hits) … Stanley’s 121 career multi-hit games (37 in 2002, including 3-for-5 in Game 2 at FSU) include one five-hit game, 12 with four hits and 30 three-hit games (43 with 3-plus) …his 114 hits this season are one shy of Dan Peltier’s ND record (115, in 1989).

Senior 3B Andrew Bushey’s six home runs in 2002 are more than he hit in the previous three season combined (5) while senior C Paul O’Toole’s 11 are three above his previous career-best total for HRs in a season (8, in 1999 and 2000).

Senior C Paul O’Toole now has homered in all four NCAA Regionals he’s played in during his ND career (including all three games of the 1999 South Bend Regional) – with six total home runs in NCAA Regional play.

ND’s team batting average jumped from .314 to .321 after the 32-for-56 display vs. South Alabama in the 25-1 NCAA Regional win, with the current season avg. of 10.89 hits per game ranking 3rd in team history (the ’97 team averaged 11.35 and the ’58 team 10.92).

Notre Dame posted 15-plus hits in its first five NCAA Tournament games but the key factor proved to be batting with runners in scoring position … in its four NCAA wins, the Irish hit .516 with runners in scoring position – compared to “just” .347 in the 12-5 loss to FSU (5-for-14).

After coming up short in several conference and NCAA Tournaments during the past few years, the Notre Dame baseball program finally broke through to the point of experiencing three consecutive postgame celebrations – after winning the BIG EAST Tournament, the NCAA South Bend Regional and the Super Regional series at Florida State.

Two of the top three career leaders in NCAA Division I hits will be playing in the College World Series, as Clemson SS Khalil Greene owns 397 career hits while Notre Dame CF Steve Stanley has amassed 380 (edging ahead of former Cal State Fullerton star John Fishel for third) … former Wichita State mainstay Phil Stephenson (418; ’79-’82) is the NCAA’s all-time Division I hits leader.

Junior LF Brian Stavisky now has six career home runs in the NCAAs, all during the last two seasons (in nine games) … Stavisky opened the 2001 NCAAs with a home run vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (12-4) before playing a key role in the 11-10, 10-inning elimination game vs. UC Santa Barbara (with an early two-run shot and the go-ahead solo blast in the 10th) … he then hit a two-run blast in the final 5-4 loss to Florida International, his fourth HR of the 2001 South Bend Regional … Stavisky hit one of ND’s five home runs in the 25-1 Regional win over South Alabama, before launching his two-run shot to open the scoring in the Super Regional vs. FSU (in the first inning of Game 1).

Notre Dame has totaled 10 home runs in 10 2002 postseason games (including the BIG EAST Tournament), with junior LF Brian Stavisky and senior DH Matt Bok each hitting two, plus one each from Steve Sollmann, Javier Sanchez, Andrew Bushey, Paul O’Toole, Kris Billmaier and Brent Weiss … the Irish totaled 43 home runs during the 2002 regular season (in 55 games).

The Irish are 44-9 in games started by sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann, compared to just 5-7 in games when he was out of the starting lineup (due to a quad pull).

Notre Dame freshman RHPs Grant Johnson, John Axford and Chris Niesel combined for three impressive outings at Florida State (Axford did so in relief, in Game 2 while Johnson and Niesel posted the wins) … the three combined for a 2.89 ERA during the Super Regional, with 12 strikeouts, 13 walks and 16 hits allowed in 18.2 innings.

Notre Dame junior LF Brian Stavisky has been particularly effective this season in the 13 previous games started by freshman RHP Grant Johnson … in fact, Stavisky is batting .526 with a 1.053 slugging pct. While playing in 11 of the 13 games started by Johnson (20-for-38, 16 RBI/1.5 RBI per gm, 4 HR, 3 3B, 2 2B, 40 TB) … by comparison, he is hitting just .373 (53-for-142) in his other 34 games played, with .570 slugging in those “non-Johnson” games (4 HR, 2 3B, 12 2B, 81 TB, 38 RBI/1.1 RBI per gm) … Stavisky ironically had a similar team-leading level of success in the 2001 games started by top pitcher and All-American Aaron Heilman (who, like Johnson, wore No. 22).

Notre Dame’s veteran lineup – led by the program’s first senior class ever to advance to four NCAA Regionals – now has combined for 131 career starts in NCAA Tournament games, with 204 hits, 108 RBI and 16 home runs.

Grant Johnson – who already owned the ND freshman records for strikeouts (now 84) and innings pitched (now 95.2) – tied another Irish freshman record vs. FSU by posting his ninth win of the 2002 season, matching the victory total by David Sinnes in his freshman season (9-2, in 1990) … Johnson now is 9-4, with wins in each of his last seven decisions.

Freshman RHP Grant Johnson’s outing in the opener at FSU saw him serve up a home run for the first time in his last 47 innings and for just the fourth time this season (he now has logged 95.2 innings).

Grant Johnson hit T.J. Touchstone with his first pitch of the NCAA South Bend Regional game vs. South Alabama and then served up a double from Eric Smallwood – but the 6-foot-6, 220-pounder faced just one batter over the minimum the rest of the way (27 outs in 28 batters) … Johnson set down nine straight batters after Smallwood’s double, before plunking Jansen Rayborn to start the fourth … he then retired seven in a row prior to walking Smallwood in the sixth – followed by a double-play ball and three 1-2-3 innings to end the game (for 30 total batters faced).

Johnson’s 97-pitch masterpiece included 64 strikes, with one hit, one walk, two hit batters and eight Ks … his other 19 outs included five infield popups and five outs via groundballs … the outing dropped Johnson’s ERA to 3.11 (now 3.29), good for third among ND pitchers with 25-plus innings.

Johnson’s last eight outings include a 7-0 record and 2.64 ERA in 47.2 innings, with 39 Ks, 21 walks and 39 hits allowed in that nine-outing stretch.

Johnson became the first ND freshman to post a nine-inning complete game since RHP Dan Stavisky – cousin of current Irish leftfielder Brian Stavisky – registered a 12-3 win at Indiana on March 28, 1995 (8 H, BB, 9 Ks).

RHP David Sinnes was the last ND pitcher to log a 9-inning 1-hitter, doing so in a 6-0 win over Evansville in the second game of a doubleheader on April 24, 1993 (31 batters faced, 5 Ks, BB, HB, batter reached on error) …. Brian Piotrowicz tossed ND’s last no-hitter, in a 7-inning game vs. Ball State in ’88 … ND’s last 9-inning no-hitter came in 1949, when Bob Nemes, Dick Smullen and Tony Lipton each logged three innings in a 12-0 win over Pensacola (Mike Mandjiak is the last ND pitcher to toss a solo 9-inning no-hitter, a 5-0 game vs. the University of Chicago in 1938).

Notre Dame halted FSU’s 25-game winning streak, an Atlantic Coast Conference record and one of the longest winning streaks in Division I baseball history … ending noteworthy winning streaks has become a tradition for ND athletic teams, led by the following:

  • Nov. 17, 1957 – Dick Lynch’s TD provides the only scoring as the ND football team wins at 2nd-ranked Oklahoma, 7-0, ending the Sooners’ 47-game winning streak (still the NCAA record)
  • Jan. 19, 1974 – Dwight Clay’s jumper from the corner provides the winning points in the closing seconds as the ND men’s basketball team halts UCLA’s 88-game winning streak (still the NCAA record) in a 71-70 thriller
  • Oct. 2, 1994 – The Notre Dame women’s soccer team plays to a 0-0 tie versus perennial power North Carolina in a game played in St. Louis, stopping UNC’s 92-game winning streak (still the NCAA record) … one year later, the Irish women’s soccer team claims the national title (with wins over UNC and Portland in the College Cup semifinals and final)
  • Jan. 15, 2001 – The Notre Dame women’s basketball team stuns BIG EAST Conference rival Connecticut, 92-76, in a midseason game at the Joyce Center – halting UConn’s 30-game win streak and vaulting ND on to the national title.
  • June 7, 2002 – The ND baseball team ends top-ranked Florida State’s 25-game winning streak with a 10-4 win at Howser Stadium, in the first game of an NCAA Super Regional series.

Notre Dame has defeated the nation’s top-ranked team twice previously in NCAA Tournament action, winning 6-3 at Miami in the 1992 Atlantic Regional before posting an 8-1 win at Clemson in the 1994 East Regional … the Irish also have posted a pair of regular-season wins over Miami when the ‘Canes were ranked No. 2 in the nation: 2-1 at UM on March 27, 1992, and 1-0 at ND’s Eck Stadium on May 12, 1999 (the Irish were one strike from the no-hitter, with Miami suffering its first shutout loss in 248 games).

ND has posted 49 wins for the second consecutive season, tying the team record for wins … in fact, ND’s 40-6 record in its last 46 games leaves the Irish (49-16) with virtually the same record it posted in the landmark 2001 season (49-13-1).

The Irish batters rapped out 32 hits in the 25-1 NCAA Regional win over South Alabama, one shy of tying the NCAA tournament record for hits while blowing away the tournament record for total bases (with 59), including a season-high five home runs, plus three triples and six doubles … ND collected 13 hits in its first 18 at-bats – and nearly had two more hits in that stretch if not for 2B Josh Touchstone’s leaping stab of a scorching linedrive off the bat of Brian Stavisky and close play at first on Steve Stanley’s sacrifice bunt … the Irish had pushed their hit total to 17 by the top of the third inning, before South Alabama even had made one trip through its lineup … ND had posted two of its top-six hit totals of the season in the South Bend Regional (15 vs. OSU), before an 18-hit barrage in Game 2 of the Super Regional at Florida State … only one of ND’s 25 runs vs. USA was unearned … all nine starters had multiple hits, including six with three-plus (led by Steve Sollmann’s 6-for-7, Paul O’Toole’s 5-for-5 and Steve Stanley’s 4-for-5).

The slew of offensive records in ND’s 25-1 NCAA Tournament win over South Alabama on June 1 makes that game rank as one of the more unique in Notre Dame and NCAA tournament history – but the game had an added dimension to make it stand alone in the 56-year history of the NCAA Baseball Championship: the pitching performance by Irish freshman RHP Grant Johnson (Burr Ridge, Ill.) … Johnson faced only 30 batters while allowing one hit and one walk (plus two hit batters), becoming just the 13th pitcher ever to post a no-hitter or one-hitter in the NCAAs (just the fourth such pitching gem since ’81) … the one-hitter – coupled with sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann’s record-setting day (6-for-7, 7 RBI, 6 R) – made the game particularly unique due to the combination of NCAA rarities both on the mound and at the plate (Johnson and Sollmann were named national players of the week by Collegiate Baseball magazine) … no previous team in NCAA tournament history had produced a no-hitter/one-hitter and a player with six hits (or five-plus runs) during the same game … in fact, Oklahoma is the only school that can lay claim to players who are included – at some point – in both the pitching and offensive categories listed above (with a one-hitter in 1974 and a five-run player in 1986).

Notre Dame’s four-run first inning (its fourth-biggest first inning of ’02) vs. South Alabama chased sophomore RHP Clark Girardeau – the 2001 Sun Belt Conference freshman of the year – from the game after just 25 pitches … the Irish then tacked on two runs in the second and six more in the third for an early 12-1 lead … ND leads its opponents in scoring in every inning, including a 64-45 edge in the first inning.

When junior RF Kris Billmaier tripled and doubled in his first two at-bats vs. South Alabama – good for a 5-for-5 start in the Regional and a 20-for-40 career in the NCAAs – he appeared destined to be the player of the game … but his efforts were among several that were overshadowed by the avalanche of record-setting performances … here’s a rundown of the game’s highlights:

  • Sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann (Cincinnati, Ohio) became the first player ever to score six runs in an NCAA Tournament game while also tying Notre Dame records for hits (6-for-7, also tied NCAA Tournament record), RBI (7) and runs in a game … his 13 total bases included rare back-to-back RBI triples (tying the record for triples in an NCAA Tournament game) and a three-run home run.
  • Senior catcher Paul O’Toole – who collected the only four-hit game of his career earlier this season vs. Pittsburgh – hit 5-for-5 vs. the Jaguars, with two doubles and a home run … it marked just the second time that Notre Dame teammates have posted five-plus hits in the same game – and the first in 99 years, since Ed Ruelbach, Anton Stephan and Roy Gage each had five hits in a 24-0 win over Hillsdale on April 23, 1903.
  • The 32 hits are the highest in recorded Notre Dame history and came one shy of the NCAA Tournament record set by Rice in its 1999 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee (27-1).
  • The 25 runs rank sixth in ND’s 110-year history and are the most since a 28-7 win over Northwestern in 1982 … the ND program’s 3,174 all-time games have seen just one larger margin of victory: a 34-7 win over Indiana in 1900 … the 25 runs are the highest total by the Irish in an NCAA game (ND took a 23-3 decision vs. Colorado State in the 1957 College World Series).
  • The 59 total bases broke the NCAA tournament record (51) set by Tulane during a 16-6 win over Eastern Kentucky in 1986.
  • Johnson became the first ND pitcher to throw a nine-inning one-hitter since 1993 (ND’s last no-hitter came in ’88 ) while the last 21 years of NCAA Tournament baseball have seen just one no-hitter and two other one-hitters (more below).

And on any other day, these items from the South Alabama game might have grabbed the headlines:

  • Senior CF Steve Stanley (4-for-5, 4 R) moved into a tie for fourth place on the NCAA Division I career hits list (with 373, now 380) while claiming yet another ND career record, with 250 runs scored (besting Pat Pesavento’s 246, from 1986-89).
  • Junior SS Javier Sanchez continued to produce from the 8th spot in the lineup, batting 2-for-6 while extending his hitting streak to 12 games (one shy of matching Stanley’s earlier 13-game streak for the longest by an ND player in 2002) … Sanchez hit 18-for-42 (.427) in the 12-game streak.
  • Junior RF Kris Billmaier improved his career batting average in the NCAAs to .476 (20-for-42, in 12 games; now .544), more than 200 points higher than his career average (.275) in his 135 other games with the Irish.
  • Sophomore 1B Joe Thaman continued his lateseason surge from the No. 9 spot, batting 3-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored … Thaman had hit .414 in his last 10 games at Eck Stadium (12-for-29), after the USA gamet.
  • The Irish combined to hit .522 in the opening game versus Ohio State (15-for-34) and Saturday vs. USA (32-for-56) – just one week removed from a dismal .208 team batting average at the BIG EAST Tournament … Sollmann hit 9-for-11 in the first two games of the Regional, with 16 total bases (a 1.455 slugging pct.)
  • Grant Johnson’s eight strikeouts gave him 82 for the season (now 84), besting the ND freshman record (78, in 1998) set by eventual four-year All-American Aaron Heilman … Johnson’s sixth straight winning decision pushed his record to 8-4 (now 9-4), just one shy of the ND mark for wins by a freshman.
  • The team’s three most veteran players – Stanley, O’Toole and senior third baseman Andrew Bushey – bounced back from a 1-for-12 combined showing vs. OSU to hit 12-for-15 vs. USA (8 RBI, 7 extra-base hits).
  • Bushey (3-for-5, 3 RBI) halted his 0-for-15 postseason by stroking a three-run homer in the first inning while O’Toole’s five-hit day nearly matched his total from 16 previous games in the month of May (8-for-41, .195).
  • Freshman reserve player Brent Weiss smacked a double and his second grand-slam home run of the season, giving him four extra-base hits (also a triple) and just two singles after starting the season 0-for-21 in spot at-bats.

Sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann’s early-season quad injury contributed to his slow start (he was hitting .205 in late March) but he went on to hit .368 in April while his 23-for-45 streak in the 2002 postseason has pushed his season average to .370 (up from .314 prior to the NCAAs).

Former Notre Dame player Jim Morris hit 10-for-14 at the 1957 College World Series to set the still-standing CWS record for batting avg. (.714).

Notre Dame (16th in ’00, 5th in ’01, 9th in ’02 at 3.55) joins Texas and Rice as the nation’s only teams ranked in the top 20 for team ERA each of the past three years … the top eight currently (pre NCAAs) included Texas (2.80), Rice (2.86), Wichita St. (2.94), Houston (3.07), Marist (3.11), Oral Roberts (3.14), Ill.-Chicago (3.31) and Coastal Carolina (3.34).

Freshman RHP and Florida native Chris Niesel (Plantation/Aquinas HS) – who tossed the clinching win at FSU – missed five weeks due to a bout with mononucleosis (April 8-May 11) before three solid relief efforts, strong starts in the BIG EAST Tournament vs. Virginia Tech (his first start in seven weeks) and another solid start vs. Ohio State in the South Bend Regional (he was the winner in the 9-6 clincher; 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 94 pitches) and the clinching 3-1 win at FSU (8 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 5 Ks) … Niesel steadily has regained his stamina while returning to his early-season form, when he was one of the top three pitchers in the ND starting rotation.

Chris Niesel closed the 10-6 win over BC in the final regular-season series to pick up his second save in as many weeks, facing just seven batters over the final two innings (H, K) … Niesel then had five solid innings as the starter in the BIG EAST Tournament rally vs. Virginia Tech (5 IP, 6 H, R, 5 K), followed by the clinching NCAA Regional and Super-Reginal wins … since returning from a five-week bout with mononucleosis, Niesel has allowed just four runs in 24 innings (dropping his ERA to 3.43), with 20 Ks, four walk and 19 hits allowed … Niesel owns a solid K-to-walk ratio (55/16) – with Danny Tamayo’s impressive 6.24 last season (106/17) ranking second, not even close to the 12.14 ratio (85/7) posted by LHP Tom Price in 1994 (in 127.2 IP).

Chris Niesel’s 4-0 season record (in 10 starts) could have several more early-season wins, as he left with leads vs. Southern Illinois (2-1, lose 6-2), Arkansas-Little Rock (5-1, with ND scoring twice in 9th to win 7-5), Connecticut (8-3, lose 9-8) and St. John’s (2-1, with ND scoring three in 7th for 5-2 win) … Niesel was one of five pitchers in the nation who were named by Baseball America as a 2001 first team All-American.

Chris Niesel became the first ND freshman ever to post double-digit strikeouts in his debut, doing so vs. Southern Illinois at the New Orleans Classic (Feb. 24) … Niesel left that game with a 2-1 lead (ND lost 6-2) while racking up 10 Ks in five innings of work (5 H, 0 BB) … he then posted nine Ks and one walk the next week vs. Fairfield (at Homestead, Fla.), yielding 19 Ks and just one walk in his first 12 innings of work … Niesel (55/16) owns a solid 3.4 season K-to-walk ratio.

Two regular members of Notre Dame’s starting unit played minimal roles in the 2001 BIG EAST Tournament due to injury – but returned to Commerce Bank Ballpark three weeks ago and responded with several big plays … current junior RF Kris Billmaier (the starting LF in 2001) did not play in the 2001 BET due to a nagging back injury but returned the next week for the NCAA South Bend Regional (batting 7-for-16 with 4 RBI, 3 2B, 4 BB and 2 HBP) … Billmaier also played sparingly in the 2000 BET (1-for-3), as a reserve player (although he went on to start in LF and earn NCAA All-Regional honors the next week at Mississippi State) … 2B Steve Sollmann – the 2001 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year – played in the just the opening game of the ’01 BET, when he was hit with a 9th-inning pitch from Virginia Tech’s Chip Runyon … Sollmann stunningly returned from the wrist injury in time for the 2001 NCAAs … Billmaier played a key role in the 8-4 BET win over Virginia Tech (2-run HR, 2-run 1B) while Sollmann singled and scored the 10th-inning run that beat Rutgers in the title game (3-2).

Notre Dame’s 12 active pitchers include just six who had pitched in the NCAAs prior to 2002 while just three had pitched in the BIG EAST Tournament prior to the 2002 BET (when freshmen Grant Johnson, Chris Niesel and John Axford all started, as did junior Peter Ogilvie in his first BET appearance) … junior RHP J.P. Gagne owned most of those pre-2002 BET innings (12.1) … senior RHP Matt Buchmeier and junior RHP Brandon Viloria also had made short relief appearances in the conference tournament … the Irish staff also includes junior RHPs Ryan Kalita and Matt Laird, plus five freshmen: RHPs Axford, Johnson, Niesel and Martin Vergara and LHP Scott Bickford.

Despite repeated success during the BIG EAST regular season, the ND baseball team had yet to solve the BIG EAST Tournament – until the title-winning performance three weeks ago … ND’s first three trips to the tournament each resulted in the Irish being beaten twice by the same team (West Virginia in ’96, Villanova in ’97, Rutgers in ’98) … ND then opened the ’99 tournament with a win over WVU before dropping games to Seton Hall and Providence – and the same team handed ND both of its losses at the 2000 (Boston College) and 2001 (Virginia Tech) tournaments.

ND has finished near the top of the BIG EAST regular-season standings or in the postseason tournament during each of its seven seasons in the conference … in 1996, the Irish played their way into the tournament on the last weekend before extending West Virginia to a winner-take-all title game … in ’97, ND posted the best winning pct. in the conference but lost twice to upstart Villanova in the postseason … the ’98 Irish finished second to Rutgers in both the regular-season standings and the title game … in ’99, ND became the first BIG EAST team ever to win more than 18 conference games (20-5) en route to the regular-season title before finishing 18-7 and tied for second in 2000 (ND went 1-2 in the ’99 and 2000 BETs), followed by first-place finishes in 2001 (22-4) and ’02 (18-8).

The Irish have qualified for all seven BIG EAST baseball championships since beginning BIG EAST play in 1996, earning the top seed in 1997, 1999 and 2001 … 2002 marked just the third time in the 18-year history of the BIG EAST baseball championship – and the first since 1992 – that a team had repeated as the top seed (also Seton Hall in ’89 and ’90 and St. John’s in ’91 and ’92).

ND owns 14 straight seasons with 40-plus wins, including 49 in 2001 and ’02, 48 in ’89 and ’92, 46 in ’90, ’93, ’94 and ’00, 45 wins in ’91 and 44 in ’95 … ND’s active streak of seasons with 40-plus wins ranks 4th in Division I, behind: Florida State (25; 60-14 in ’02), Wichita State (25; 47-17) and Clemson (16; 52-15).

2002 marked the seventh time that an ND baseball team has reached 41 wins in the regular season but only two previous ND squads (44-10, ’90; 45-9 in ’01) headed into the postseason with more than 41 wins … the four previous ND teams that finished the regular season with 41 Ws were ’89, ’91, ’92 and ’00 … the 2001 Irish set the team record for regular-season wins (45) with a pair of victories at Boston College.

Freshman RHP Grant Johnson’s one-hitter vs. South Alabama ranks among ND’s best pitching performances in the program’s 68 all-time NCAA games … since 1989, nine ND pitches have logged complete games in the NCAAs – with the previous low hit total in those games being Danny Tamayo’s three-hitter in the 7-0 win at Mississippi State in 2000 (with the Irish facing elimination, in the midst of more than 10,000 raucous fans) … Tamayo took a no-hitter into the 7th inning of that game, with his 105-pitch gem including just 30 batters faced, one walk, one K, a double-play ball and eight other groundouts … other noteworthy complete-game efforts by ND pitchers in the NCAAs (since ’89) include Tim Kraus in the 8-1 win at Clemson in 1994 (5 H, 2 BB, 2 K, 3 HB, 2 DPs) – while Chuck Symeon’s shutout win over Texas in the 1957 College World Series (9-0; 5 H, 5 BB, 7 Ks, 3 DPs) likewise takes its place alongside the above outings.

LUCKY #13:
Johnson is one of four pitchers to toss a no-hitter or one-hitter in the last 21 years of the NCAA Tournament (13 have done so in the tourney’s 56-year history) … Florida’s John Burke threw a no-hitter vs. Furman in 1991 (2-0) while Georgia Tech’s Kris Wilson (5-0 vs. Tenn. Tech, ’97) and Texas A&M’s Chance Caple (6-0 vs. Monmouth, ’99) posted one-hitters in NCAA action … the other three pitchers who have thrown a no-hitter in an NCAA game are Penn State’s Bob Fenton (3-0 vs. Rider, 1963), Air Force’s Jim Hogarty (5-0 vs. Idaho, ’67) and Miami of Ohio’s Jack Kucek (3-0 vs. Cincinnati, ’74) … the other six who have tossed a one-hitter include California’s Nino Barnise (3-1 vs. Denver, ’47), Ithaca’s Walter Judd (5-0 vs. Lafayette, ’55), Mississippi’s Cecil Buford (3-2 vs. Tenn. Tech, ’56), Trinity’s Mike Bacsik (6-0 vs. Arkansas, ’73), Oklahoma’s Stan Meek (6-2 vs. Tulsa, ’74) and Yale’s Ron Darling (1-0 loss to St. John’s in ’81, with Darling logging 11 one-hit innings).

The ND players with whom sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann now shares records include former middle-infield partner Alec Porzel (6-for-6 vs. Pittsburgh in 2000), turn-of-the-century player Bobby Lynch (who scored six runs in the 34-7 win over Indiana in 1900) and six others who had 7-RBI games (including current senior 3B Andrew Bushey, 17 days earlier vs. Detroit) … Sollmann hit 6-for-7 with 7 RBI and 6 runs scored in the 25-1 win over South Alabama.

In addition to setting the record for runs in an NCAA tournament game, Steve Sollmann now shares the record for hits in an NCAA Tournament game with six others: Jimmy Barragan (Oklahoma State vs. Richmond, 1986), Brian Bark (N.C. State vs. Florida, ’88), Burke Masters (Mississippi State vs. Florida State, ’90), Joe Dillon (Texas Tech vs. USC, ’96), Brian Cox (Florida State vs. Oklahoma, ’98) and Will Ford (Rice vs. UWM, ’99… Barragan and Ford were among the 17 players who previously had shared the NCAA Tournament record for runs in a game (5).

ND is ranked 14th in the nation for ERA (3.55) and joins Texas and Rice as the only teams in the top-20 for ERA each of the past three seasons (ND was 16th in ’00, 5th in 01) … senior CF Steve Stanley became the first BIG EAST player ever to repeat as the league’s player of the year … senior C Paul O’Toole and junior LF Brian Stavisky and sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann were named 2nd team all-BIG EAST (senior 3B Andrew Bushey and senior DH Matt Bok were 3rd team) … freshman SS Matt Macri (elbow surgery) and Matt Edwards (broken leg) both were lost for the year near the midseason point while several other ND starters were slowed by early-season injuries (Stavisky was sidelined by a pair of injuries that held him out for a pair of nine-game stretches).

Senior CF Steve Stanley (.442) and junior LF Brian Stavisky (.406) are bidding to become the third pair of ND teammates ever to hit above .400 in the same season (and the first to do so in eight years) … another outfield duo did it in 1993, when LF Edwin Hartwell set the still-standing ND record (.447) while CF Eric Danapilis was hitting .438 (they dueled atop the NCAA charts for much of ’93) … one season later, IF Robbie Kent and CF Scott Sollmann both hit .402 in ’94.

Notre Dame’s recent surge in offensive efficiency has included quality execution, with the team’s 64 total sacrifice bunts (an ND record) more than double the total posted by the 2001 ND team (28) … senior 3B Andrew Bushey – whose 17 total sacrifices in 2002 are an ND record – has executed 10 sac. bunts (more than doubling his entire total of just four SACs in his first three seasons combined) … junior RF Kris Billmaier (11, with two squeeze bunts) also has a high sac-bunt total, after totaling none as a freshman and just two in 2001 – while sophomore 1B Joe Thaman now owns the team sac. bunt lead, with 13 (he had three in ’01), including three in the South Bend Regional … senior CF Steve Stanley and sophomore SS Javier Sanchez each have chipped in eight sac. bunts to the record-setting total.

Two current members of the Arizona Diamondbacks had a rooting interest in last week’s ND-South Alabama game, as third baseman Craig Counsell (’92) was a four-year starter with the Irish while outfielder Luis Gonzalez was a star player with the Jaguars … the two made a friendly wager on the outcome of the ND-USA game and Gonzalez was the loser … as a result, Gonzalez must wear a Notre Dame baseball hat and t-shirt around New York City throughout the Diamondbacks’ trip to the Big Apple this week (for a series vs. the Yankees).

Notre Dame boasts one of the nation’s top defensive tandems on the infield corners, with sophomore 1B Joe Thaman and 3B Andrew Bushey both living up their reputations as the BIG EAST’s top defensive players at their respective positions (per Baseball America’s college preview issue).

Notre Dame is one of nine schools to serve as a Regional host team three-plus times since the NCAA field expanded to 64 teams in 1999 (Florida State, Stanford and LSU are the only teams to be a host all four years) … the others included fellow 2002 hosts USC, Rice, Clemson and South Carolina (plus Miami, which was a host team from 1999-2001) … the Irish are in the midst of their 17th all-time trip to the NCAAs, including four straight and five in the eight-year Paul Mainieri era.

Notre Dame’s eight-member senior class – DH Matt Bok, 3B Andrew Bushey, C Paul O’Toole and CF Steve Stanley, plus DH Ken Meyer, OF Matt Strickroth and RHPs Matt Buchmeier and Drew Duff – has helped ND compile a four-year record of 187-65-1 (.741) from 1999-2002 … that ranks as the fourth-best four-year winning pct. in the last 87 seasons of Notre Dame baseball, trailing only the four-year runs posted concurrently by the classes of 1993 (.758/185-59, from ’90-’93), 1992 (.750/187-62-1) and 1994 (.746/185-63) … the class of 2002 also has joined the class of 1992 as the ND classes with the most total wins (187) … the class of ’92 was led by current Arizona Diamondbacks 3B and two-time World Series champion Craig Counsell, plus IF Cory Mee, 1B Joe Binkiewicz and CF Dan Bautch.

Here’s a rundown of the impressive statistics racked up by the senior class during their combined college careers:

  • 1,283 games played, with 1,020 starts
  • a .317 combined batting avg. (1,170-3,697)
  • 601 RBI and 812 runs scored
  • 68 home runs, 41 triples and 222 doubles
  • 395 walks, 190 stolen bases and 61 sacrifice bunts
  • the two pitchers have combined for a 17-7 record, 10 saves, 256.1 innings, 205 strikeouts and just 96 walks

Notre Dame’s trio of fourth-year starters – CF Steve Stanley, 3B Andrew Bushey and C Paul O’Toole – are the only ND classmates ever to start 200-plus games (Stanley 253, O’Toole 226 and Bushey 219) … their combined career numbers include 709 games played, 698 starts, 856 hits in 2,363 at-bats (.362), 416 RBI and 571 runs scored, 44 home runs, 26 triples and 150 doubles, 58 more walks (294) than strikeouts (236), 176 stolen bases and 57 sacrifice bunts.

ND’s string of errorless play in the 2002 NCAAs ended in the first inning of the FSU loss, when two errors helped the Seminoles amass their quick 8-0 lead … senior 3B Andrew Bushey then made just ND’s third error of the 2002 NCAAs but immediately redeemed himself by staring a 5-4-3 double play.

Senior DH Matt Bok (Akron, Ohio) has delivered in clutch fashion several times in recent weeks, including home runs in both NCAA Regional games vs. Ohio State (the first as a pinch hitter, with both coming vs. RHP Nate Smith):

  • His seventh-inning single broke a 2-2 tie in the series finale versus St. John’s and led to a three-run inning in that 5-2 win (April 7).
  • Two days later, he poked a single into left field to plate Javier Sanchez with the game-winning run as the Irish rallied for a 5-4 win over Western Michigan.
  • His most vivid play came in the seven-inning opener versus Virginia Tech (April 12), when he led off the bottom of the 11th with a triple to the rightfield wall before scoring for the tense 2-1 win.
  • Bok’s hit vs. Arizona State (April 26) came earlier in the game (5th) than the above three but had the added drama of a tie score, two outs and a 1-2 count. Bok came through on a 1-2 pitch, drilling the two-run single into right for the 6-4 lead (ND won 9-4)
  • He then provided the go-ahead single for a 4-3 lead in the 6th inning of the 7-4 win over Michigan (April 30, in Grand Rapids).
  • In the BIG EAST Tournament, Bok’s 2-run double pushed ND ahead of Virginia Tech in the 8th inning of the pivotal second game (an 8-4 win). His 6th-inning RBI double then forged a 2-2 tie in the title game vs. Rutgers (3-2 in 10 innings).

Junior RHP Ryan Kalita, had a unique memento from the 3-2, 10-inning win over Rutgers that clinched the BIG EAST Tournament title … Kalita had entered the game in the 5th inning of that game and proceeded to toss seven shutout innings, allowing six hits and three walks (six Ks) … what made that performance all the more remarkable was that Kalita took a linedrive off the right side of his forehead (off the bat of RU hitting ace Val Majewski), with the ball glancing off Kalita’s glove before thumping off his skull … after being examined by the medical staff on hand (and monitored throughout the game), Kalita returned to the mound to continue the biggest outing of his career … a couple hours later, as the Irish celebrated their first BIG EAST title on the field at Commerce Bank Ballpark, Kalita still was sporting the major welt – a fitting souvenir to his gutsy outing that wrapped up an NCAA bid for the Irish.

Ryan Kalita also turned in a clutch effort as the starter in ND’s key 2-1 win over Virginia Tech, on April 12 … that 7-inning game extended to 10 innings, with the Irish outlasting the Hokies ace LHP (and eventual 1st-round draft pick) Joe Saunders … Kalit2a logged the first six innings, allowing an unearned run on six hits and one walk, with five strikeouts … ND then won in the 10th, after Matt Bok’s pinch-hit triple and Joe Thaman’s single back to the mound … that win essentially helped ND claim the BIG EAST’s No. 1 seed, after the Irish and Hokies both finished 18-8 in league play – with ND going on to sweep the doubleheader for the tiebreaker.

Three Chicago-area natives have emerged among Notre Dame’s top-five starting pitchers in the 2002 season: junior RHPs Peter Ogilvie (Buffalo Grove/Stevenson HS) and Ryan Kalita (Oak Park/OP-River Forest HS) and freshman RHP Grant Johnson … that Windy City trio has combined for a 21-8 record and 3.72 ERA, with 176 strikeouts, 80 walks and 214 hits allowed in 210.1 innings … some of the top players in the eight-year Paul Mainieri era have hailed from Chicagoland, including IF/C Mike Amrhein (OPRF HS), CF Randall Brooks (Hazelcrest/Hillcrest HS), C Bob Lisanti (Chicago/Fenwick HS) and SS Alec Porzel (Lisle/Naperville North HS) – plus pitchers Tim Kalita (Ryan’s brother) and Darin Schmalz (Barrington HS).

Notre Dame’s impressive home record during the 2002 season (26-3, .897) ranks as the third-best home winning pct. in the program’s history (min. 15 home games) … the 1997 squad went 25-2 at Eck Stadium while the 1980 team won 19 of its 20 home games at Jake Kline Field … ND’s all-time home record in 110 seasons is 1,062-330 (.763), well above the program’s overall winning pct. of .623.

In the 11 games prior to the Rutgers loss, Notre Dame totaled 19 more runs (93) than runners left on base (74), batting .439 with runners in scoring position during that 11-game span (an impressive 125 points higher than the team’s .314 overall batting in those games) … in fact, the Irish hit just .247 during those 11 games in “non-RBI” at-bats, before cranking it up nearly 200 points higher with runners in scoring position … ND then hit 0-for-4 with RBI opportunities in the loss to Rutgers (1-for-10 in all ABs with runners on) … ND owns nearly a 1-to-1 ratio of runs scored/LOB (481/501; 0.96), compared to just an 0.57 ratio for the opponents (280/496) – with the Irish also owning a huge edge in season batting with runners in scoring position (.342-.222).

The 15-4 win over Toledo on April 17 saw Notre Dame post nearly a 4-to-1 ratio of runs scored versus runners left on base (4) … prior to the Toledo game, ND had been batting just .307 with runners in scoring position (below the .310 overall avg. at that time) – but since the 6-for-12 effort with RBI’s opp’s vs. Toledo, the Irish have hit .386 with runners in scoring position in their last 30 games (compared to .334 overall in that stretch).

Junior LF Brian Stavisky’s return from his second nine-game layoff led to stability in a Notre Dame lineup that was all over the map in the first half of the season … the Irish are 32-5 since Stavisky’s return (April 9 vs. Western Michigan), with four players – Stavisky, senior CF Steve Stanley, sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann and senior 3B Andrew Bushey – starting all 37 games in that span while sophomore SS Javier Sanchez has started 36 of the last 37 games and three others have made 35 starts in that span: junior RF Kris Billmaier, sophomore 1B Joe Thaman and senior C Paul O’Toole … senior DH Matt Bok has started 29 of the last 37 games to complete the stable lineup during the second half of the season … the batting order likewise has gained some consistency, with Stanley, Sollmann and Stavisky occupying the top three spots, followed by Bushey, O’Toole and Billmaier, with Bok, Sanchez and Thaman typically in the final three spots.

Notre Dame’s regular-season victory total (41) ended up just four shy of the landmark 2001 season, which featured 18 complete games and just eight saves during the regular-season slate … the Irish (49-16) now head to Omaha with the same number of wins from the record-setting 2001 campaign (49-13-1) … the young 2002 staff took a different path to 40-plus wins, with junior RHP Peter Ogilvie accounting for the team’s only complete games in the regular season (3) while the bullpen set the team record for saves in a season (now 18, besting the 15 from 1999 and 2000) … eight different pitchers have posted saves in 2002, led by junior J.P. Gagne (6), senior Matt Buchmeier and junior Brandon Viloria (both with 3) and freshman Chris Niesel (2) … senior Drew Duff, junior Matt Laird and freshmen Scott Bickford and Tyler Jones also have chipped in saves to the record-setting total.

Another impressive season trend by the ND pitching staff has been the low home-run total by the opposing batters (26), comparable to the 22 HRs allowed by the 2001 staff … the current low total of opponent HRs is all the more noteworthy when considering that the 2000 staff served up 33 and the ’99 pitchers were touched for 55 HRs (prior to the bat restrictions) … four regulars – freshmen John Axford and Martin Vergara, junior Brandon Viloria and senior Drew Duff – have yielded just one HR this season while juniors Peter Ogilvie and Ryan Kalita have been touched for just two HRs.

Four ND freshman pitchers are slated to pitch in the Cape Cod League this summer, including Saturday’s probable starter Grant Johnson (unless he is named to the USA National Team) … Johnson is slated to join the Brewster Whitecaps, which have featured current ND senior CF Steve Stanley and senior C Paul O’Toole in recent years … fellow freshman RHPs Chris Niesel and Martin Vergara will spend the 2002 summer with the Falmouth Commodores while their classmate John Axford is set to follow current junior LF Brian Stavisky on the Hyannis Mets … sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann also is slated to return to the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox.

Notre Dame’s five starters from Ohio each earned all-BIG EAST honors for the second consecutive season, with senior CF Steve Stanley (Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington) repeating as player of the year while senior C Paul O’Toole (Cleveland suburb of Lakewood) again was a 2nd-team pick and senior DH Matt Bok (Akron) repeated as a 3rd-teamer … senior 3B Andrew Bushey (Youngstown suburb of Boardman) also was named to the 3rd team (he was a 1st-teamer in ’01) and sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann (Cincinnati) was named to the 2nd team, after being a 1st-team pick and BIG EAST rookie of the year in ’01 … ND’s Ohio connection also includes third-year assistant coach Dusty Lepper (a Findlay native and University of Toledo graduate) and senior manager Katie Furman (Akron), who served as valedictorian at the Saint Mary’s College graduation ceremonies (she had a 3.98 cumulative GPA as a management/marketing double major).

Freshman RHP Grant Johnson has posted the highest strikeout total ever by a ND freshman, with his 84 Ks ranking ahead of the freshman record set by Aaron Heilman in 1998 (78) … David Sinnes posted 77 Ks as a freshman in 1990 while Tom Price’s rookie season included 69 Ks … Johnson (9-4) became the seventh ND freshman ever to post 7-plus wins in his rookie season, with that group led by the 1990 tandem of Sinnes (9-2) and fellow RHP Pat Leahy (8-1), plus seven-game winners Price (7-2), Dan Stavisky (7-1 in ’96), Heilman (7-3, mostly in relief) and J.P. Gagne (7-1 in ’00) … Johnson’s 95.2 innings pitched rank first all-time among ND freshmen, ahead of Leahy (83.0) and Price (81.1).

One of the game-by-game goals of the ND baseball team is to make “two great defensive plays” but the Irish went well beyond those expectations in the season-ending sweep of Boston College … ND made no errors in the three games vs. BC while totaling four double plays and 14 “defensive gems,” with sophomore 1B Joe Thaman accounting for seven of the stellar plays … one of the more noteworthy fielding plays came from junior LF Brian Stavisky, who threw a strike to senior C Paul O’Toole to complete a key double play in the first game.

The 11-0 loss to Rutgers on May 5 halted Notre Dame’s school record for consecutive games with at least one run scored (230) … the Irish scored in the final 57 games of 1999 and in every game of 2000 (64) and ’01 (63), plus the first 46 of ’02, for a streak that stretched back to a 12-0 loss at Florida International on Feb. 21, 1999 (the fourth career game for the current senior class) … 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) … that 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 (490 of 496), 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 (April 23, 1930-May 26, 1937) and 103 games (May 25, 1907-May 17, 1912).

Freshman RHP John Axford often has bailed out his high walk total and leadoff on-base pct. by serving up a team-high 18 double plays (the rest of the staff has 46) … all but one of Axford’s double plays have come via the groundball (plus a P4-2), including six 4-6-3s, four 6-4-3s and four 5-4-3s (plus a 4-3, 1-6-3 and 5-3) … the ND defense has turned multiple DPs in seven of Axford’s outings, including four in one game at Seton Hall (plus two DPs in games vs. New Orleans, Creighton, Southern Illinois, Arizona State and Rutgers).

Notre Dame’s other pitchers with the most double plays include junior RHPs Peter Ogilvie (11) and J.P. Gagne (7) and freshman RHP Grant Johnson (8), plus six from freshman Chris Niesel (three in the NCAAs), four from junior Brandon Viloria, two each behind seniors Matt Buchmeier and Drew Duff, junior Ryan Kalita and freshman Martin Vergara, and one with freshman Scott Bickford on the mound … ND’s double plays include 51 via groundballs, led by the 6-4-3 (17), 4-6-3 (13) and 5-4-3 (7), plus seven 6-3s and two each of the 6-3, 1-6-3, 1-2-3 and 4-3 variety (plus a 5-3) … the other 13 double plays include three unassisted lineout plays by sophomore 1B Joe Thaman and three 5-3 lineout DPs, plus a 1-3 lineout, a rare P4-2 and five DPs started by outfielders (9-6, 8-6, 9-2, 8-3 and 7-2) … the most-common innings for the Irish DPs include the 4th (11), 2nd (9), 7th (8) and 3rd (7), plus six in the 6th and 1st, five in the 5th, three in the 8th and two in the 9th.

Sophomore 1B Joe Thaman hit only two home runs as a freshman and had totaled just four career home runs in his first 230 career at-bats before launching his first of two HRs in the Mother’s Day doubleheader vs. Villanova (in Philadelphia) … Thaman was not done with his long-ball assault, as he blasted a pair of grand slams the next weekend, in consecutive games of the season-ending Boston College series … that home run binge included 4 HRs in just 14 ABs, well below the total of 230 ABs that Thaman needed for his first 4 career homers.

The sweep of BC completed an 18-4 turnaround in the conference standings for Notre Dame (after an 0-4 start), bringing back memories of the 1997 campaign in which the Irish were swept in the first weekend at Seton Hall before winning 15 of the final 18 to claim the top seed in the BIG EAST Tournament (with several rainouts).

Four current players rank among ND’s top-12 leaders in career doubles, led by senior 3B Andrew Bushey (6th with 54) … the other three are bunched from 10th-13th: senior C Paul O’Toole (49), senior CF Steve Stanley (47) and junior LF Brian Stavisky (46).

Prior to the 1999 season, no BIG EAST baseball team ever had posted more than 18 conference wins in a season … ND became the first team to break the 18-win barrier by going 20-5 in 1999 and then finished 18-7 in 2000 before a record-setting 22-4 mark in 2001 and 18-8 this season … that four-year run adds up to 78-24 (.765) and boosts ND’s all-time record in seven seasons of BIG EAST regular-season games to 121-41 (.747), the best conference winning pct. by a BIG EAST team during that 1996-2002 span.

ND has posted 79 winning seasons in the program’s 110-year history, including 15 straight (the ’87 team was 15-29).

ND owns a 53-16 scoring edge (+37) in the 5th inning this season, with Arizona State’s 4-run output in the 5th-inning on April 26th nearly matching the total number of 5th-inning runs allowed by the Irish in the previous 41 games (5) … ND’s most dominating innings span the 3rd (+31, 67-36), 4th (+27, 58-31) and 5th – with the Irish owning a +95 scoring edge in that three-inning span (191-83) … for most of the season, the opponents owned an edge vs. ND in only the 8th (now 41-39 in favor of the Irish, who also have a 64-45 first-inning edge and 52-27 in the 2nd).

Junior RHP Brandon Viloria has averaged just 1.63 walks per 9 IP during his career (11/60.2) – which would challenge the ND record of 1.64 set by Alan Walania from 1990-93 (59/324) … Viloria owns a 2.45 season ERA (second-best on the staff), plus a 2-1 record and three saves this season, with just five walks in 21 IP (no wild pitches and one hit batter), plus an eye-popping .203 opponent batting avg. (16-for-79) … he has yet to throw a wild pitch in 61 career innings, with just one hit batter.

Sophomore 2B and 2-hole hitter Steve Sollmann has begun to round into form in recent weeks, after being hampered by a nagging quad injury for much of the season (the injury has led to him totaling just five SBs in 2002, after swiping 23 in ’01) … Sollmann posted a pair of 6-RBI doubleheaders in consecutive weekends vs. Rutgers (3-for-7, R, 3B, 2 SAC) and Villanova (4-for-8, 11 TB 3 R, HR, 3B, 2 2B, SF) – followed by a 7-RBI game vs. South Alabama in the NCAA Regional … he headed into April with just a .250 season batting average but went on to hit .365 in the month of April (.389 in the 16-game win streak), pushing his season average to .321 as May rolled around … Sollmann’s stellar (and healthy) rookie season in 2001 saw him earn first team all-BIG EAST and BIG EAST rookie-of-the-year awards while also being dubbed a consensus first team Freshman All-American, after batting .362 with 36 RBI, five home runs, two triples, nine doubles, 52 runs scored and 23 SBs … he headed into the 2002 NCAAs with a .314 season batting average – now up to .370, thanks to his 20-for-28 batting in the NCAAs.

Senior 3B Andrew Bushey (Boardman, Ohio) and junior LF Brian Stavisky (Port Allegany, Pa.) were named to the 2002 Verizon/CoSIDA Academic All-America team … In the process, ND became the only Division I baseball program to produce multiple Academic All-Americans in each of the past three seasons … Stavisky – a third team Academic All-American in 2001 – registered his fourth Dean’s List GPA (3.47) in six semesters at Notre Dame, with a 3.50 cumulative GPA as a business management major … the three-time all-BIG EAST performer becomes the ND baseball program’s fifth repeat Academic All-American and joins former outfielder Dan Peltier as the only Irish players to earn multiple Academic All-America honors prior to their senior season … Bushey graduated with a 3.43 GPA as a finance major, after posting his third Dean’s List semester with a 3.75 GPA in the 2002 spring semester … the second-year team co-captain ranks among ND’s leaders in several major categories while earning all-BIG EAST Conference honors each of the past two seasons … ND is the only Division I baseball program to produce multiple Academic All-American in each of the past three years, with IF Jeff Perconte and LHP Mike Naumann earning the honor in 2000 while Naumann and Stavisky were 2001 honorees … the Irish were one of five 2002 teams with two Academic All-Americans, with the others including two other teams (Stanford and Nebraska) that are preparing for Super-Regional play, plus Alabama and Air Force … Notre Dame and Nebraska are the only teams to produce multiple Academic All-Americans in both 2000 and 2001 … ND baseball players have combined for 19 Academic All-America awards (since 1977), including five repeat honorees in OFs John Loughran (’86, ’87), Peltier (’88, ’89) and Stavisky (’01, ’02), 1B Joe Binkiewicz (’91-’92) and Naumann (’00-’01).

Notre Dame junior LF Brian Stavisky already had an intimidating field presence due to his 6-3, 220-pound frame and powerful lefthanded swing – but his appearance took on another dimension on Apil 9, when he returned to the lineup vs. Western Michigan … Stavisky had missed the previous nine games after being hit below the right eye with a pitch in the first game of the March 28 doubleheader at West Virginia … upon his return, he was outfitted with a special helmet that includes a football-like headgear similar to that worn by quarterbacks … Stavisky has hit four of his eight home runs while wearing the new helmet.

Junior Javier Sanchez (Miami, Fla.) headed into 2002 projected as a utility infielder, with the ability to play 1B vs. LHPs while also filling in at 2B, 3B or SS … a few months later, Sanchez is one of the more pleasantly-surprising stories of the 2002 season … Sanchez has served virtually the entire season as the team’s starting shortstop, following injuries to freshmen Matt Macri (elbow strain, “Tommy John” reconstructive surgery on April 9) and Matt Edwards (broken leg in March 9th USC game) … Sanchez was ND’s hottest hitter over the 10 games prior to the Super Regionals, batting .414 (12-for-29) with 12 runs scored, a home run, a triple, three walks and just three Ks in that span… his recent 12-game hitting streak has been bested in 2002 by just senior CF Steve Stanley (13) … Sanchez ranks second on the team for games (63) and starts (62) and is sixth on the squad in hits (63) and third in runs (49) … his combined total of home runs (4) and triples (3) equals his doubles total (7) while his steady defense has included 43 error-free games (plus a hand in most of the team’s 64 double plays, a team record) … Sanchez played a key role in the pivotal 10-inning win at West Virginia, with his two-run double giving ND the lead in extra innings … two weeks later, he hit the game-tying double and then scored the winning run as ND rallied for a pair of 9th-inning runs in a 5-4 win over Western Michigan … Sanchez hit a team-best .357 at the BIG EAST Tournament (5-for-14), including a two-run shot for an early lead in the first title game vs. Rutgers (4-3 loss) … he also made several key plays in the field during the Super Regional at Florida State, inluding a bases-loaded catch over-his-head in left field (in the 10-4 opening win) and a diving stop that saved an early run in the 3-1 clincher.

The depth of the Irish pitching staff fittingly was seen at the BIG EAST Tournament banquet, as no ND pitchers received all-conference honors (due to their similar stats and impact) … the Irish pitching depth includes two righthanders – freshman Grant Johnson (9-4) and junior relief ace J.P. Gagne (8-4, 6 SV) – with eight-plus wins, plus junior RHP Peter Ogilvie (7-4) and three other pitchers with five wins (plus 4-0 freshman RHP Chris Niesel) … the staff’s nine regulars each own an ERA below 4.55, led by seven with ERAs in the 2.38 – 3.79 range.

40/400 CLUB:
Just 16 players in Division I history have reached 40 wins and 400 strikeouts – with seven of the eight CWS teams (all but Stanford) having at least one player who has reached the 40/400 milestone … those players include three from Texas: Richard Wortham (50-7, 481 Ks; 1973-76), Greg Windell (43-8, 501 Ks; 1984-86) and Kirk Dressendorfer (45-8, 462 Ks; 1988-90) … other members of the 40/400 club who played for schools that are in the 2002 CWS include Clemson’s Brian Barnes (44-10, 513 Ks; 1986-89), Georgia Tech’s Doug Creek (41-19, 458 Ks; 1988-91) and three who finished up last season: South Carolina’s Kip Bouknight (43-10, 431 Ks; 1998-2001), Notre Dame’s Aaron Heilman (43-7, 425 Ks; 1998-2001) and Rice’s Kenny Baugh (40-8, 419 Ks; 1998-2001) … current Nebraska pitcher Shane Komine recently reached his 40th win and has topped 500 Ks in his career.

Notre Dame’s 16-game winning streak (April 12-May 4) matched the longest of the eight-year Paul Mainieri era and the third-longest in the program’s 110-year history (behind 18-game streak in ’91, 17-game streak in 1907) … the ’91 squad remains the only ND team in the last 85 seasons to win more than 16 consecutive games in a season.

Junior LF Brian Stavisky returned to action in the 5-4 win over Western Michigan on April 9, after missing nine games due to a facial fracture (he was hit by a pitch early in the March 28 doubleheader at West Virginia, suffering two broken bones on the left side of his face) … since Stavisky’s return, the Irish have won 32 of their last 37 games … the WMU game marked just the third game this season (in the first 27) that ND’s three preseason All-Americans – Stavisky, senior CF Steve Stanley and sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann – had started in the same game (also the opener vs. Missouri, when Sollmann left with a 4th-inning quad injury, and March 13 vs. Creighton).

Starting outfielders Steve Stanley and Brian Stavisky turned in a pair of memorable showings at the 2001 NCAA South Bend Regional … Stanley hit 14-for-23 (.609) with eight runs scored (5-for-5 in the opener vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, still his only career five-hit game) … Stavisky’s dominating five-game stretch in the 2001 NCAA Regional included 25 total bases in 21 at-bats – with four home runs, three doubles and three singles (10-for-21), plus 11 RBI, eight runs and four walks.

Three of the principle players in Notre Dame’s 3-2, BIG EAST title-winning victory over Rutgers have a brother or cousin who was part of ND’s six-year agony at the BIG EAST Tournament … sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann’s brother Scott played one season in the BIG EAST (as a junior, in 1996), earning all-conference honors as the Irish CF … junior LF Brian Stavisky’s cousin Dan was a pitcher for the Irish from 1995-98 (he posted a 4-0 win over St. John’s as the Irish battled through the loser’s bracket in ’96) … finally, junior RHP Ryan Kalita’s brother Tim was a lefthanded starter for ND from 1997-99 … the elder Kalita actually started the 1998 winners-bracket game vs. Rutgers, which was won 7-6 by RU in 10 innings (ND and RU are the only teams to play multiple extra-inning games vs. each other at the BET, with the Kalita brothers pitching key innings in both games, four years apart).

Here’s a quick update on senior CENTERFIELDER Steve Stanley:

  • Owns ND career records for hits (380), stolen bases (115), consecutive starts (253, 2nd in NCAA history behind Chip Hale’s 255 with Arizona in ’84-’87) at-bats (990) and runs scored (256).
  • Also owns BIG EAST career records for hits (154) and runs scored (110) in BIG EAST regular-season games.
  • Enters the CWS ranked 7th in the nation for batting average (.442).
  • His 380 career hits rank third in Division I history and are second-most since the 56-game schedule limit was implemented.
  • Owns three double-digit hit streaks this season (13-10-11) and seven in his career.
  • Has struck out just 11 times in 306 total plate appearances (27.8 per K).
  • Has hits in 56 of 65 games this season and in 63 of his last 71 with the Irish.
  • Went 50 games without an error, before a controversial dropped-ball call earlier this season at Seton Hall, and has just eight career Es.
  • His 114 hits this season are first in ND history, just behind Dan Peltier’s 115 in 1989.
  • Stanley’s 31 stolen bases match his career-best and rank 4th all-time at ND (Pesavento had 38 in both ’88 and ’89 while Scott Sollmann swiped 52 in 1996)
  • He is the team leader in batting average by (pre-NCAAs) 36 points, hits by 40, runs by 23, total bases by 19, stolen bases by 20, on-base pct. by 49 pts, batting with runners in scoring position by 56 points and hardest to K by 14.9 plate appearances.

Senior CF Steve Stanley is on pace to challenge team records for two of the three season batting percentages, with his .442 batting average ranking five points shy of Edwin Hartwell’s 1993 mark (.447) while Stanley’s .513 on-base pct. is 18 points behind the .531 posted by Hartwell’s classmate Eric Danapilis (in 1991).

In addition to his stellar all-around numbers, senior CF Steve Stanley leads ND regulars in batting with runners in scoring position (.522) and on-base pct. when leading off an inning (.543) … junior LF Brian Stavisky (.409) is far-and-away the best 2-out hitter (pre NCAAs) on a team that is batting just .284 when facing its last out (compared to a .309 team avg. with 2 outs in 2001), with Stanley a distant second on the list of the team’s top two-out hitters (.373) … ND’s leaders in two-out RBI include surging junior RF Kris Billmaier (16), sophomore 1B Joe Thaman (15), plus senior C Paul O’Toole (15) and sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann (15) while Stanley (.633) and Stavisky (.632) are the team leaders for pct. of runners advanced (senior 3B Andrew Bushey has advanced a team-high 41 runners).

Senior CF Steve Stanley – already named a first team All-American by Collegiate Baseball – received the same honor this week from USA Today Baseball Weekly, which also named Stanford’s Sam Fuld and Ryan Kenning of New Mexico State as its three first team All-America outfielders (Stanley is the only outfielder named a first teamer by both CB and USA Today) … Stanley – who earlier in the week became the fourth-highest drafted player in Notre Dame baseball history (as the 67th overall pick, by the Oakland A’s) – joins OFs Peltier and Eric Danapilis and righthander Aaron Heilman as the only ND baseball players ever named a first team All-American by two of the major awarding organizations (Baseball America and the American Baseball Coaches Association have yet to name their All-America squads) … Stanley joined Heilman (17th pick in 2001 first round, by the New York Mets) as the highest-drafted seniors in ND history while catcher Ken Plesha (16th overall pick in 1965, by the Chicago White Sox) is the only ND position player ever drafted higher than Stanley’s second-round spot … just eight players in the nation have been named a 2002 first team All-American by both CB and USA Today, with that group including Stanley and Florida State 3B Ryan Barthelemy, plus Nebraska C Jed Morris, Southern 2B Rickie Weeks and Clemson SS Khalil Greene – plus RHPs Brad Sullivan (Houston) and Tim Stauffer (Richmond) and LHP Justin Simmons of Texas.

Senior Steve Stanley has started all 253 games of his ND career (all in center field) while logging all but 25 innings in CF his four seasons … the familiar #2 has patrolled center field for the Irish in 98.9 percent of the innings (2,140 of 2,165) – including all but two out of 513.2 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 his sophomore season – a span of 764.2 consecutive innings in CF … the other players who have replaced Stanley with short stints in CF include Ben Cooke (’00-’01), Mike Naumann (’01), John Heintz (’01) and George Howard (’02).

Steve Stanley now stands third on the NCAA Division I career hits list, with 380 … he also entered the week ranked 7th in the nation for 2002 season batting average (.442) … Stanley’s career average of 1.50 hits per game is better than each of the other top seven players on the NCAA career hits list while his .385 career batting average is third-best among that group … Stanley and Clemson’s Khalil Greene (397) have the most hits of any Division I players in the last 15 years (the other four on the below list played before the 56-game schedule limits).

NCAA Division I Career Hits
1. Phil Stephenson (Wichita State, ’79-’82)
418 H, 288 GP (1.45/gm, .423 career avg.)

2. Khalil Greene (Clemson, ’99-’02)
397 H, 268 GP (1.48 H/gm, .377 career avg.)
(does not include Sunday’s game)

3. Steve Stanley (Notre Dame, ’99-’02)
380 H, 253 GP (1.50 H/gm, .385 career avg.)

4. John Fishel (Cal State Fullerton, ’82-’85)
379 H, 295 GP (1.29 H/gm, .340 career avg.)

5. Jim Thomas (Wichita State, ’79-’82)
373 H, 288 GP (1.30 H/gm, .351 career avg.)

6. Tim Raley (Wichita State, ’84-’87)
370 H, 273 GP (1.36 H/gm, .394 career avg.)

Stanley continues to rank among the nation’s leaders in batting average, checking in this week at seventh behind the potent Southern University tandem of Richie Weeks (.506) and Antoin Gray (.459), plus Curtis Granderson of Illinois-Chicago (.483), Clemson’s Khalil Greene (.480), Marist’s Anthony Bucchino, Marist (.449) and Maryland’s John McMurdy (.443) … the Southern players, Bucchino and Greene joined Stanley in NCAA action.

Stanley is on the verge of becoming the fourth ND player ever to hit .400-plus in multiple seasons (he hit .400 in 2001) … each of the previous three multiple-.400 hitters also patrolled center field for the Irish: Dan Peltier (.414 in 1988, .446 in ’89), Eric Danapilis (.429 in ’90, .438 in ’93) and Scott Sollmann (.402 in ’94, /.406 in ’95) … the above four players own the top spots at ND for career batting average: Peltier (.406, ’87-’89), Danapilis (.405, ’90-’93), Stanley (.382, ’99-’02) and Sollmann (.372, ’94-’96).

Notre Dame signed six high school seniors to national letters of intent in the 2001 fall period: C Cody Rizzo (Temecula, Calif.), SS Greg Lopez (Upper Arlington, Ohio), OFs Craig Cooper (Plainview, N.Y.) and Brennan Grogan (Tequesta, Fla.), RHP Ryan Doherty (Toms River, N.J.) and 3B/RHP Matt Bransfield (Englewood, Colo.) … 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 OFs who should add speed to the lineup while Lopez has been rated as the best infield prospect to come out of talent-rich 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 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.

Notre Dame signed 6-foot-7, 210-pound LHP Tom Thornton (Middleboro, Mass.) to a national letter of intent during the spring period, completing the promising seven-member class of 2006 … Baseball America rates Thornton 165th among high school prospects while Team One Baseball ranks him 21st among prep LHPs … Team One also rated Thornton as the 7th-best prospect at its recent Perfect Game World Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. (Dec., 2001) … Thornton’s three-year varsity career at Middleboro HS includes a 16-3 record and 1.11 seven-inning ERA in 19 starts (as of April 25), with 152 Ks, just 36 BB and 59 hits allowed in 107.2 IP (equating to nine-inning averages of 12.7 Ks, 3.0 walks and 4.9 hits).

Two of Notre Dame’s signees – 7-foot-1 RHP Ryan Doherty and 6-7 RHP Tom Thornton – could become two of the tallest players in recorded ND baseball history, with the all-time list of letterwinners including just two players, both RHPs, who stood over 6-6 (data incomplete for some earlier years): 6-8 Larry Mohs (Nutley, N.J.; ’94-’97) and 6-7 Pat Leahy (Yakima, Wash.; ’90-’92) … current junior 1B Mike Holba (6-8) has yet to letter with the Irish (TBA for ’02).