April 28, 2001
The Notre Dame baseball team (37-5-1, 15-2 BIG EAST)-ranked as high as 1st in the national polls-hits the road this week for a three-game series at St. John’s after ending a 13-game, 19-day homestand … the Irish pushed the nation’s longest active winning streak to 16 games with a 7-3 win over Valparaiso on April 25 before losing the nightcap, 4-2 … Saturday’s doubleheader will feature ND’s dynamic duo of senior RHPs Aaron Heilman (10-0, 1.32 ERA/5th in nation, 68 Ks) and Danny Tamayo (6-1, 1.60/11th in nation, 69 Ks) while sophomore righthander J.P. Gagne (4-2, 3.51, 32 Ks) will look to add another strong outing in the series finale … ND’s 13 consecutive BIG EAST Conference wins are a BIG EAST single-season record (Seton Hall’s vaunted 1989 team won 11 straight) … the all-time record for consecutive BIG EAST wins is a two-year, 15-game run by St. John’s in 1990 (5) and ’91 (10) … the Irish are batting .344 in their current 16-1 streak.
RADIO COVERAGE – South Bend-based WJVA radio (1580 AM) is scheduled to carry live broadcasts of Notre Dame’s entire 56-game schedule in 2001 (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.
LIVE STATS POSSIBLE – Notre Dame will attempt to provide live in-game stats during the St. John’s series (check und.com on gameday).
IRISH CLIMB TO TOP RANKING – The Notre Dame baseball team continued its season-long climb up the national polls by earning a No. 1 ranking in this week’s Collegiate Baseball poll (ND was 2nd last week) while rising from 5th to 2nd in the Baseball America poll and from 6th to 4th in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll (see p. 4 for complete polls) … ND joined Stanford (last week’s consensus No. 1) as the only teams currently ranked in the top four of all three polls … each of the rankings is the highest ever for ND in each poll … another Midwest team-Nebraska (35-9)-sits atop the BA poll and narrowly trailed Stanford in the coaches poll (the Huskers lost earlier this week to Creighton) … the baseball team becomes the fourth ND sport to earn a No. national ranking in 2000-01, with the others including the women’s soccer team, the men’s fencing squad and the national championship women’s basketball team.
WIN STREAK HITS 16 – ND pushed its winning streak to 16 games-matching the 3rd-longest single-season streak in the program’s history, behind an 18-game run in 1991 and a 17-game winning streak by the 1907 team (as part of a 21-game overall streak from 1906-07) … the 2001 ND squad also became the quickest Irish team ever to reach the 30-win plateau, after opening 30-5-1 (the 1990, ’94, ’99 and 2000 teams all started 30-9) … the longest previous winning streak of the Paul Mainieri era (since 1995) was a 13-game run from April 8-23, 1999 while the 16-game streak matched a late-season run by the 1988 ND team.
AROUND THE BIG EAST – Notre Dame (15-2) now owns a five-game lead in the loss column of the BIG EAST standings, followed by Rutgers and St. John’s (both 13-7) and Seton Hall (12-7-1) … Connecticut (11-9) and Virginia Tech (10-9-1) also remain in the hunt for one of the four BIG EAST Tournament spots … RU plays at last-place Pittsburgh (3-12) this week while SHU has a bye week, UConn plays host to 7th-place West Virginia (7-10) and VT welcomes 9th-place Georgetown (6-14).
FIRST THINGS FIRST – ND could clinch a spot in the BIG EAST Tournament with a sweep of Saturday’s doubleheaders (that would assure a higher finish for the Irish than SJU and VT) … if the Irish win one game on Saturday, they still could clinch a playoff spot if VT loses once to GU and UConn drops a pair to WVU.
THE SERIES – Notre Dame holds a narrow 7-5 series edge versus St. John’s, since joining the BIG EAST in 1996 … the teams have played just one previous series at SJU (the 1997 series was rained out) … ND won all 10 of its BIG EAST series in 2000, including 8-3, 4-6, 9-8 games vs. SJU on April 29-30 (the same weekend as this season’s matchup) … the teams have split 10 regular-season meetings, with the Irish winning twice in the BIG EAST Tournament … three of the games have been decided by one run, with ND winning two.
BACK & FORTH – ND won the first two games of the SJU series (7-3 and then 4-0, in 1996) but the teams have alternated victories in the last 10 games of the series (technically an 11-game string of alternating victories, with the Irish winning the final meeting in 2000).
SLOW STARTER – The ND-SJU series took a while to get rolling, as the teams played just one regular-season game in 1996 and ’97 due to weather (ND also beat SJU in the ’96 BIG EAST Tournament, 4-0).
LAST YEAR (8-3, 4-6, 9-8) – Aaron Heilman threw a complete game to win the 7-inning opener (7 H, BB, 9 Ks) while Ken Meyer (3 H, 3 R) started what would be a big series for the Fort Myers, Fla., native (Jeff Felker added 3 H, 3 RBI and 2 R) … Meyer added a triple and run scored in the nightcap while Scott Cavey (7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 Ks) had no decision after a solid outing … Felker won the series finale with a solo shot in the bottom of the 9th (he also scored twice earlier in that game) … Meyer (4 H, HR, 2 R) capped his big series.
YOU AGAIN? – The SJU pitching staff had its fill of current ND junior DH Ken Meyer during the 2000 series vs. the Irish … Meyers hit safely in each of his 8 at-bats vs. SJU while scoring 6 runs and collecting 18 total bases (home run, 2 triples, 3 doubles, 2 singles).
SERIES STATS – Senior RHP Aaron Heilman has made six career appearances vs. SJU (five in relief), with a 2-1 record, 2 saves, a 2.40 ERA, 18 Ks, 5 walks and 10 hits allowed in 15 IP … sophomore RHP J.P. Gagne had no decision as the starter in the 2000 series finale vs. SJU (6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 Ks, 2 BB) … junior DH Ken Meyer was just 1-for-15 vs. SJU in 1999 before batting 8-for-8 in the 2000 series (for a .391 career avg. vs. SJU) … no other Irish regular is batting over .300 for his career vs. SJU, with players looking to boost their career numbers including senior SS Alec Porzel (8-for-35, .229, 2 HR, 6 RBI) and junior C Paul O’Toole (4-for-18, .222, RBI).
RARE LOSSES, IN MANY WAYS – SJU’s 3-0 win at ND on May 9, 1998, remains the only shutout loss for the Irish at Eck Stadium during the Paul Mainieri era (since 1995, a span of 194 games) … since that loss, ND has not been shut out during its last 78 home games while scoring in 175 of 177 overall games since that shutout defeat to SJU (the Irish have scored in 407 of 412 games under Mainieri, or 98.8 pct.) … Irish senior RHP Aaron Heilman then tossed three relief innings to win a tense 2-1 nightcap vs. SJU in ’98 but the next day he suffered what remains one of just seven losses in his career (his 38-7 career mark includes a 20-4 record in the BIG EAST regular season, plus 1-1 in the BIG EAST Tournament) … Heilman came on in the 9th inning of that game, yielding a hit and a walk as SJU scored for the final 6-5 cushion.
PAYBACK PLAN – Notre Dame’s Aaron Heilman owns an 8-1 career record when facing a team that beat him earlier in his career, with the lone loss coming to Rutgers late in the 2000 season (16-6, after losing 7-6 in 10 inn. to RU at the 1998 BIG EAST Tournament) … Heilman then avenged that second loss to the Knights this season, by registering a 10-2 win at RU on April 7 … since losing an 11-9, 10-inn. game to West Virginia on May 2, 1998, Heilman has posted a 5-0 record vs. WVU in his last six apperances-with two relief wins and three complete-game wins (highlighted by an 18-K performance in 2000) … Heilman also beat St. John’s last season (8-3, his first decision vs. SJU since a 6-5 loss in ’98) and avenged his 1999 loss to Boston College (10-7) by beating the Eagles in 2000 (10-6) … he has pitched 13 previous games vs. teams that owned a rare win vs. the Irish ace, with the following stats in those games: 8-1, 2.69 ERA, 63.2 IP, 47 hits allowed (6.65/9 IP), 16 walks (2.26/9 IP), 71 Ks (10.04/9 IP) and a 4.4 K-to-walk ratio … Heilman is 17-2 in his career vs. non-BIG EAST teams (both losses came in first outings of a season) but he has not had the chance to avenge his 1999 loss to Florida International or his 2000 loss to Ohio State (although both FIU and OSU are 2001 NCAA tournament hopefuls).
MEMORIES OF A RELIEVER – Aaron Heilman’s 39 career relief appearances at Notre Dame included five vs. St. John’s (the most vs. any opponent) … Heilman led the nation with a 1.61 ERA as the Irish closer in 1998, when he faced St. John’s twice in a series at Eck Stadium before pitching against the Red Storm again in the ’98 BIG EAST Tournament … a late-season injury to closer John Corbin then forced Heilman into an emergency relief role in the final series of the 1999 season-when he pitched out of the bullpen in both games of a DH at SJU.
BYOB(rooms)?: – Notre Dame has seen firsthand how challenging it can be to sweep a three-game series on the road in BIG EAST play-despite being the league’s winningest team since 1996 (96-31, .756) … during their first five seasons in the league, ND managed to sweep just two of 10 three-game series at opposing BIG EAST stadiums: at BC in ’98 and at Georgetown in ’99 … the brooms were dusted off earlier this season when ND became the first BIG EAST team ever to sweep a three-game series at Rutgers (10-2, 8-2 and 5-4 in 11 inn.) … ND’s other three-game BIG EAST road series have included: at GU in ’96 (2-1), at Seton Hall in ’97 (0-3), at RU in ’97 (2-1), at SHU in ’98 (2-1), at SJU in ’99 (1-2), at 2000 series at Villanova, UConn and West Virginia (all 2-1) … the Irish never played a three-game series at Providence and have yet to do so at Pittsburgh … ND’s all-time road record in three-game BIG EAST series is 22-11.
THE STOPPERS – Notre Dame has lost just three of its last 27 BIG EAST series (with one tie, at Rutgers in ’99) and St. John’s owns two of those series wins vs. ND: at Eck Stadium in ’98 and at SJU in ’99 … the other series loss came at Virginia Tech earlier this season.
LAST TIME AT SJU – Notre Dame headed to St. John’s for the final series of the 1999 regular season on the verge of clinching the BIG EAST title, with a 19-3 record that included eight series wins and one series tie … SJU rallied to win the first game, 5-4, when a potential game-ending double play ended up being a costly double error (ND still clinched the regular-season title moments later, due to a loss by Rutgers) … the Irish recovered to win the nightcap (5-2) before resting several regulars (including 2B Alec Porzel and C Paul O’Toole) in the series finale (a 14-5 loss) … ND’s final 20-5 mark remains the only BIG EAST baseball record with more than 18 wins in the conference’s history.
SO MANY STRONG STARTS – Senior RHPs Aaron Heilman and Danny Tamayo and sophomore RHP J.P. Gagne will be looking to extend the impressive performances by ND starting pitchers in 2001, as the Irish starters have combined for a sparkling 1.94 ERA through the first 44 games … the bulk of those starts (20) have come from the lethal combination of Heilman (1.32, 5th in the nation) and Tamayo (1.60, 11th) while Gagne (3.51, 2.46 as starter) has turned in solid efforts in each of his seven starts … junior RHP Matt Buchmeier (3.81) logged five decent starts during the first half of the season while sophomore RHPs Peter Ogilvie (1.20, 3-1 in five starts) and Ryan Kalita (1.13, 2-0 in two starts) both have turned in solid midweek starts … senior LHP Mike Naumann recently jumped into the act with two quality starts (0.60, 2-0) … the other combined stats for ND starting pitchers in 2001 include a 30-3 record in 283 IP (61 earned runs), with 224 Ks, 59 walks and 197 hits allowed (for 9-inning averages of 7.1 Ks, 1.9 BBs and 6.3 hits) … ND’s overall 2.55 team ERA includes a 4.28 by the bullpen-led by sophomore RHP Matt Laird (1.59, 3-0, 4 SV).
THE SKIPPER: Seventh-year ND head coach Paul Mainieri owns a 624-396-1 (.609) record in 18-plus college seasons … in addition to his 292-117-1 (.713) 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 292 wins rank 3rd all-time at ND, behind Pat Murphy (318, ’88-’94) and Jake Kline (558, ’34-’75) … Mainieri has seen 24 of his Irish players go on to pro baseball (16 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 his 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: Mainieri reached the 500-win milestone in the Feb. 27, 1999, win at New Orleans (14-11) before reaching his 600th win this season in memorable fashion: on St. Patrick’s Day in the 7-6 win over Portland in the title game of the Fresno State 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 the 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 on March 29 vs. Hillsdale College.
ANOTHER WINNING SEASON – ND already has clinched the 78th winning season in the baseball program’s 109-year history, including 14 straight (the 1987 team went 15-29).