June 6, 2002
NCAA Super Regional – at Florida State (June 7-9)
ANOTHER HISTORIC SEASON: 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 47-15 record … ND last week posted wins over Ohio State (8-6), South Alabama (25-1) and OSU again (9-6) to win the NCAA South Bend Regional and advance in the NCAAs for just the second time (the other was the 1957 squad which won the District IV Playoff and went on to Omaha for the College World Series) … next on tap for the 11th-ranked Irish is an NCAA Super Regional series at Florida State (Fri.-Sun., June 7-9), with the winner of the best-of-3 series moving on to the CWS .. the first two games start at 7:00 EDT, with a 1:30 start on Sunday … the Sunshine Network will telecast the first and third games) while South Bend’s WDND 1620 AM will have the radio play-by-play (also available via und.com, as are real-time stats) … ND’s probable rotation for the series includes freshman Grant Johnson, junior Peter Ogilvie and then either freshman Chris Niesel or junior Ryan Kalita (all are RHPs) … Johnson and sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann just were named national players of the week by Collegiate Baseball, which 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) … ND head coach Paul Mainieri is a Miami native and a 1980 graduate of Florida International, while three Irish players also are Florida products – senior DH/1B Ken Meyer (Fort Myers), Niesel (Plantation) and sophomore SS Javier Sanchez (Miami).
QUICK NOTES ON GRANT JOHNSON – After minimal early-season run support (as opposed to last week’s 25-1 win), Grant Johnson has pushed his record to 8-4 by winning his last six decisions, including a relief stint vs. Michigan … he has lowered his ERA to 3.11 (good for 5th 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 next four starts (7.3 rpg, followed by the 25-1 game), 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 freshmen Grant Johnson (8, including vs. FSU) and John Axford (5), plus juniors Peter Ogilvie (2) and J.P. Gagne (1) … Grant Johnson’s dominant innings prior to the NCAAs had been the 2nd-5th, with a 1.86 ERA, 48 Ks and 18 walks in those innings … those numbers are even more noteworthy when considering his stats from the first inning (6.55, 16 Ks/6 BB) and the sixth inning (8.22, .429, 2 Ks, 4 BB) … Johnson’s only hit and run allowed vs. USA came in the first.
Friday’s Starter – Grant Johnson, Fr., RHP (relief vs. Missouri, St. John’s, Ball State, Michigan)
(16 GP/12 GS, 3.11, 7-8, 89.2 IP, 80 H, 82 K/36 BB, .240 opp. avg., 5 HB, 5 WP, 89 GO, 87 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; 7-4) 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
Situationally: 36.2% leadoff batters reached; .277 opp. batting with 2 outs,.226 with runners on
Nine-Inning Averages: 8.0 hits, 3.6 walks, 8.2 strikeouts, 8.9 groundouts, 38.6 batters faced
THE SERIES: Florida State holds a 4-2 series edge vs. Notre Dame but the Irish have won the last two, beating FSU (4-3) in an elimination game at the 1993 NCAA East Regional in Tallahassee before handing FSU its first opening-day loss since 1981 – with a 10-1 win at the ACC/Disney Classic in Orlando (at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex) … FSU beat ND earlier in the 1993 NCAA Regional (winning 7-3 on Ty Mueller’s grand slam) … the first three games of the series were played in the late 1950s, on opposite ends of ND’s 1957 College World Series trip (the only one in team history) … FSU beat ND on March 31, 1958 (played at Florida A&M) while the Irish dropped a pair at FSU on April 5 and 8 of the 1958 season (2-5, 2-3).
MICHALAK’S REVENGE: Former Notre Dame LHP Chris Michalak – currently a reliever with the Texas Rangers, after making his Major League debut in 2001 as a starter with the Tornoto Blue Jays (at Yankees Stadium) – rode the ultimate rollercoaster of emotions at the 1993 NCAA East Regional … Michalak served up the grand-slam home run to Ty Mueller of host Florida State (for a 7-3 win in 10 innings) but he returned the next nigh as a starter and logged a gutsy complete game to knock out the Seminoles in a 4-3 game (9 H, BB, 6 Ks en route to his 34th career win) … Michalak also was a late addition at first base (due to his defense, as he did not bat previously in the 1993 season) and he responded by hitting 8-for-18 to earn a spot on the all-Regional team … see the first pages of the cream-colored pages for recaps and boxscores from the last three ND-FSU games.
NOTABLE OPENERS: The date of the last ND-FSU game – Jan. 30, 1998 – marked the earliest opener in the 106-year history of Notre Dame baseball while the final 10-1 score represented FSU’s fisrt opening-day loss since 1981 … junior RHP had his patented changeup working that day, allowing just one hit and four walks in his five-inning stint … his classmate, LHP Chris McKeown, then logged three solid innings before a relatively unknown freshman RHP named Aaron Heilman made his debut in the ninth (4 BF, H) … Heilman went on to lead the nation in ERA for that 1998 season (1.61) and wa a four-year All-American, finishing as just the 14th Division I pitcher ever to reach 40 wins (43-7) and 400 strikeouts (425, in 393.2 IP).
VS. THE ACC: Notre Dame owns a 14-23 all-time record vs. the current teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference: Clemson (1-0) Duke (4-5), Florida State (2-3), Georgia Tech (4-6), North Carolina State (0-1), Virginia (2-3) and Wake Forest (1-4) – with no game vs. Maryland or North Carolina … during the eight-year Paul Mainieri era, ND is 0-1 vs. Duke, 1-0 vs. FSU, 0-2 vs. GT, 0-1 vs. NC State, 1-1 vs. UVa and 1-0 vs. Wake.
OFFENSE FLEXES MUSCLE: The Irish batters rapped out 32 hits in last Saturday’s 25-1 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 has posted two of its top-six hit totals of the season in the South Bend Regional (15 vs. OSU) … only one of ND’s 32 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).
UNPRECEDENTED DOUBLE DOMINATION: The slew of offensive records made Saturday’s game 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, with Johnson recording just the fourth such pitching gem since 198 … Johnson’s one-hitter – coupled with sophomore second baseman 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 playrs 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).
PRIME-TIME PLAYERS: Several ND players have cranked up their production in previous NCAAs (see box at right), led by the entire starting outfield of Steve Stanley (.448), Kris Billmaier (.512) and Brian Stavisky (.397), plus 2B Steve Sollman (.500) and catcher Paul O’Toole (.380) … O’Toole was named to the 1999, 2000 and ’02 all-Regional teams, as was Billmaier in 1999 and ’02, Stanley in 2001-02 and Sollmann in ’02 (MVP) … 3B Andrew Bushey and RHP Peter Ogilvie also were all-Regional picks in 2001.
BIG FIRST INNING: Notre Dame’s four-run first inning (its fourth-biggest first inning of ’02) vs. USA chased sophomore righthander 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 for every inning but the 8th (36-38) , including a 58-37 edge in the first inning.
THREE OVER THE MAX: Grant Johnson hit T.J. Touchstone with his first pitch of the game and then served up an RBI 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).
BREAKING DOWN THE OUTING: 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 … Johnson dropped his season ERA to 3.11, good for third among ND pitchers with 20-plus innings, while his .240 opponent batting average is fifth-best among the ND regulars … his last seven outings include a 6-0 record and 1.94 ERA in 41.2 innings, with 39 Ks, 14 walks and 32 hits allowed.
THE OTHER STAVO: Grant Johnson is 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).
MULTI-HIT MACHINE: Steve Stanley posted his fifth four-hit game of the 2002 season vs. USA (the rest of the team has totaled eight games with four-plus hits) … his 120 career multi-hit games (36 in 2002) include one five-hit game, 12 with four hits and 29 three-hit games .
GOING DEEP: Andrew Bushey’s six home runs in 2002 are more than he hit in the previous three season combined (5) while Paul O’Toole’s 11 are three above his previous career-best total for HRs in a season (8, in 1999 and 2000).
NCAA LONG BALLS: Paul O’Toole now has homered in all four Regionals he’s played in during his ND career (including all three games of the 1999 South Bend Regional) and now has six home runs in NCAA Regional play.
RARE LATESEASON JUMP: ND’s team batting avg. jumped from .314 to .321 after the 32-for-56 display vs. USA, with the season avg. of 10.72 hits per game ranking 3rd in team history (the ’97 team averaged 11.35 and the ’58 team 10.92).
WHAT ABOUT ME?: 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:
- 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 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 Notre Dame’s 110-year history and are the most since a 28-7 win over Northwestern in 1982 … the ND program’s 3,171 all-time games have seen just one larger margin of victory: a 34-7 win over Indiana in 1900 …he 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).
… PLUS THESE “SIDENOTES”: And on any other day, these items might have grabbed the headlines:
- Senior centerfielder Steve Stanley (4-for-5, 4 R) moved into a tie for fourth place on the NCAA Division I career hits list (with 373) while claiming yet another ND career record, with 250 runs scored (besting Pat Pesavento’s 246, from 1986-89).
- Junior shortstop 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 is batting 18-for-42 (.427) in his current streak.
- Billmaier improved his career batting average in the NCAAs to .476 (20-for-42, in 12 games), 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 is batting .414 in his last 10 games at Eck Stadium (12-for-29) and has elevated his season batting average to .299 (it was .270 entering May), despite an 0-for-8 effort at the BIG EAST Tournament.
- The Irish combined to hit .522 in Friday’s 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 is batting 9-for-11 n the Regional, with 16 total bases (a 1.455 slugging pct.)
- Johnson’s eight strikeouts give him 82 for the season, 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, 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.
GAINING SPEED: 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 15-for-21 streak in the last four games has pushed his season average to .356 (up from .314 prior to the NCAAs).
CAPE COD COMRADES: Several members of the ND and FSU squads were teammates or opponents in the Cape Cod wooden-bat league during the past few summers … current ND senior CF Steve Stanley, senior C Paul O’Toole (both with the Brewster Whitecaps) and junior LF Brian Stavisky (Hyannis Mets) each were starters in the 2000 Cape Cod League All-Star Game (only Georgia Tech could match that many starters in that game) … Stavisky again was an all-star with Hyannis in 2001, as was current sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann as a member of the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox … FSU senior RHP Blair Varnes was a teammate of Stavisky’s on the Mets while Seminoles 3B Ryan Barthalemy also played in the Cape.
RETURN OF THE LION?: Senior catcher Paul O’Toole played his best ball during the month of May in his first three seasons with the Irish, batting .335 (55-for-164) in May during the 1999-2001 seasons (with 38 RBI, 44 runs, 10 home runs, 2 triples, 10 doubles, 18 walks, 19 Ks and 13 stolen bases) … by comparison, O’Toole hit just .306 in pre-May games during his first three seasons … O’Toole’s uncharacteristic slump in May of 2002 (8-for-41/.195 prior to the USA game, with 7 RBI, 1 HR, 10 R, 11 BB, 9 Ks, SB) ended in dramatic fashion as he hit 5-for-5 with a home run and two doubles vs. South Alabama … O’Toole’s career average in May now stands at .324 (68-for-210), including 12 of his 31 home runs and 48 RBI.
ND’s NO-HITTER/1-HITTER HISTORY: RHP David Sinnes was the last ND pitcher to log a nine-inning one-hitter, doing so in a 6-0 win over Evansville in the second game of a doubleheader on April 24, 1993 (31 batters faced, with 5 Ks, a walk, a hit batter and a batter reached on error) …. Brian Piotrowicz tossed ND’s last no-hitter, in a seven-inning game vs. Ball State during the 1988 season … ND’s last nine-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 nine-inning no-hitter, in a 5-0 game vs. the University of Chicago in 1938).
FAVORITE MONTH: Notre Dame has won nearly 82% of its games in April during the eight-year Paul Mainieri era (since ’95), with that 158-36 April record including a 39-4 mark during the past two seasons (20-2 in ’01, 19-2 in ’02).
THEY’RE BACK: 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 last week 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).
GREEN ON THE HILL: Notre Dame’s 12 active pitchers include just six who had pitched in the NCAAs prior to last weekend while just three had pitched in the BIG EAST Tournament prior to the 2001 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 Ogilvie and fellow junior RHPs Ryan Kalita and Matt Laird, plus five freshmen: RHPs Axford, Johnson, Niesel and Martin Vergara and LHP Scott Bickford.
BIG BUGABOO: 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 two 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.
ALWAYS NEAR THE TOP: 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 … in ’98, the 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).
TOP SEED: The Irish have qualified for all seven BIG EAST baseball championships since beginning BIG EAST play in 1996, also earning the top seed in 1997, 1999 and 2001 (Villanova was the top seed in ’96, Rutgers in ’98 and ’00) … this marks just the third time in the 18-year history of the BIG EAST baseball championship – and the first since 1992 – that a team has repeated as the top seed (also Seton Hall in ’89 and ’90 and St. John’s in ’91 and ’92).
40-SOMETHING: ND owns 14 straight seasons with 40-plus wins, including 49 in 2001, 48 in ’89 and ’92, 47 in ’02, 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; currently 59-12), Wichita State (25; 47-17) and Clemson (16; 50-14).
RACKING UP THE Ws: 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.
POSTSEASON PRECISION: Johnson’s one-hitter ranks among ND’s best pitching performances in 64 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.
JOHNSON CLAIMS ND FRESHMAN RECORDS: In addition to besting Aaron Heilman’s ND record for Ks by a freshman (78 in 67 IP), Grant Johnson (82 Ks in 89.2 IP) also used his sixth straight winning decision to push his record to 8-4 … David Sinnes holds the ND record for wins by a freshman (9-2, in ’90) while his classmate and fellow RHP Pat Leahy (8-1) joins Johnson (8-4) as the only other ND freshmen ever to reach eight wins in their rookie season … Johnson’s 89.2 innings also are most ever by an ND freshman (Leahy logged 83.0).
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 tossed 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), 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).
SOLLMANN TIES THREE ND MARKS: The ND players with whom 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).
IN THE NCAA RECORD BOOK: 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)
QUICK NOTES: ND is ranked 9th in the nation for ERA (3.46) 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).
RARE PAIR: Senior CF Steve Stanley (.445) and junior LF Brian Stavisky (.404) 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.
MANUFACTUERS OF SUCCESS: 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 has executed 10 sacrifice bunts (more than doubling his entire total of just four SACs in his first three seasons combined) … junior RF Kris Billmaier (11, including 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.
HOSTS WITH THE MOST: Notre Dame was 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 making their 17th all-time trip to the NCAAs, including four straight and five in the eight-year Paul Mainieri era.
CLASSY CLASS: 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 185-64-1 (.742) 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) … only the class of 1992 (187) has totaled more career wins than the current senior class (185).
DIFFERENCE MAKERS: Here’s a rundown of the impressive statistics racked up by the senior class during their combined college careers (one RBI below 600):
- 1,269 games played, with 1,008 starts
- a .317 combined batting avg. (1,156-3,648)
- 599 RBI and 807 runs scored
- 68 home runs, 41 triples and 221 doubles
- 45 more walks (447) than strikeouts (392)
- 190 stolen bases and 61 sacrifice bunts
- the two pitchers have combined for a 17-7 record, 10 saves, 253 innings, 201 strikeouts and just 95 walks
VETERAN CORE: 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 250, O’Toole 223 and Bushey 216) … their combined career numbers include 700 games played, 689 starts, 845 hits in 2,325 at-bats (.363), 415 RBI and 564 runs scored, 44 home runs, 26 triples and 149 doubles, 61 more walks (291) than strikeouts (230), 176 stolen bases and 57 sacrifice bunts.
FAMILIAR TERRITORY: Notre Dame (16th in ’00, 5th in ’01, 9th in ’02 at 3.46) 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 include 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).
BOK’S BIG HITS: Senior DH Matt Bok (Akron, Ohio) has delivered in clutch fashion several times in recent weeks, including home runs in both NCAA games last week 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).
WINDY-CITY WONDERS: 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 … prior to the NCAAs, that Windy City trio had combined for a 19-7 record and 3.42 ERA, with 161 strikeouts, 68 walks and 198 hits allowed in 182 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).
HOMESTANDERS: 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.
BRINGING ‘EM HOME: 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 opp’s in the loss to Rutgers (1-for-10 in all ABs with runners on) … prior to the NCAAs, ND owned nearly a 1-to-1 ratio of runs scored/LOB (421/449; 0.94), compared to just an 0.55 ratio for the opponents (250/456) – with the Irish also owning a huge edge in season batting with runners in scoring position (.324-.221).
ROCKETS LIGHT THE SPARK: 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 hit .361 with runners in scoring position in their next 24 games, heading into the NCAAs (compared to just .309 overall in that stretch).
HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI: Eighth-year ND head coach Paul Mainieri owns a 683-418-1 (.620) record in 20 college seasons … in addition to his 351-139-1 (.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.).
LINEUP STABILIZES: 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 30-4 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 34 games in that span while sophomore SS Javier Sanchez has started 33 of the last 34 games and three others have made 32 starts in that span: junior RF Kris Billmaier, sophomore 1B Joe Thaman and senior C Paul O’Toole … senior DH Matt Bok has started 27 of the last 34 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.
DIFFERENT PATH, SAME RESULTS: 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 (47-15) now head to FSU with just two fewer wins than the record-setting 2001 campaign (49-11-1) … 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 (16, besting the 15 from 1999 and 2000) … eight different pitchers have posted saves in 2002, led by junior J.P. Gagne (4), 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.
DON’T LEAVE THE YARD: Another impressive season trend by the ND pitching staff has been the low home-run total by the opposing batters (25), 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.
OHIO ALL-STARS: 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).
FROSH FORECASTS: Freshman RHP Grant Johnson has posted the highest strikeout total ever by a ND freshman, with his 82 Ks ranking just 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 (8-4) also was 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 89.2 innings pitched rank first all-time among ND freshmen, just ahead of Leahy (83.0) and Price (81.1).
WEB-GEMS-A-PLENTY: One of the game-by-game goals of the ND baseball team is two 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.
CORNERED: 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).
DOUBLE-DIPPER: 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 had 39, prior to the NCAAs) … 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 2 DPs in games vs. New Orleans, Creighton, Southern Illinois, Arizona State and Rutgers).
MORE ON THE DPs: Notre Dame’s other pitchers with the most double plays (prior to the NCAAs) include junior RHPs Peter Ogilvie (11) and J.P. Gagne (7) and freshman RHP Grant Johnson (6), plus three each from freshman Chris Niesel and 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 44 via groundballs, led by the 6-4-3 (15), 4-6-3 (10) and 5-4-3 (6), plus six 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.
POWER SURGE: 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.
ANOTHER WAKEUP CALL: 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).
QUADRUPLE DOUBLES: Four current players rank among ND’s top-13 leaders in career doubles, led by senior 3B Andrew Bushey (6th with 54) … the other three are bunchedfrom 10th-13th 10: senior C Paul O’Toole (49), senior CF Steve Stanley (46) and junior LF Brian Stavisky (45).
FOUR-YEAR SUCCESS: 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.
ANOTHER WINNING SEASON: ND has posted 79 winning seasons in the program’s 110-year history, including 15 straight (the ’87 team was 15-29).
**BIG INNING: ND owns a 52-14 scoring edge (+38) 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 (+24, 59-35), 4th (+26,52-26) and 5th – with the Irish owning a +88 scoring edge in that three-inning span (163-75)… the opponents own an edge vs. ND in only the 8th (-3, 31-34).
MR. CONTROL: 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 (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) … he has yet to throw a wild pitch in 61 career innings, with just one hit batter.
IN BUNCHES: 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 four 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) … 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 average, plus 35 RBI, one home run, two triples, seven doubles, 38 runs and four SBs.
UNSUNG HERO: 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 B, 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 9 USC game) … Sanchez is ND’s hottest hitter over the last 10 games, batting .414 (12-for-29) with 12 runs scored, a home run, a triple, three walks and just three Ks … 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 (60) and starts (59) and is sixth on the squad in hits (60) and third in runs (48) … his combined total of home runs (4) and triples (3) actually is more than his doubles total (6) while his steady defense has included 41 error-free games (plus a hand in most of the team’s 61 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 2-run shot for an early lead in the first title game vs. Rutgers (4-3 loss).
WIN STREAK HALTED AT 16: The recent 16-game winning streak (April 12-May 4) matched the longest of the eight-year Paul Mainieri era, 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.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: 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 and junior relief ace J.P. Gagne – with eight wins each, plus junior RHP Peter Ogilvie (7-4) and three other pitchers with five wins … the staff’s nine regulars each own an ERA below 4.20, led by eight with ERAs in the 1.86 – 3.79 range.
BACK IN THE GROOVE: Last Sundays starter, freshman RHP Chris Niesel, was a regular member of the rotation who opened his career by totaling 10 and 9 Ks in his first two starts … Niesel closed the 10-6 win over BC 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) … since returning from a five-week bout with mononucleosis, Niesel has allowed just three runs in 16 (dropping his ERA to 3.75), with 15 Ks, one walk and 13 hits allowed … Niesel owns a solid K-to-walk ratio (50/13) – 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) … Niesel’s 3-0 season record (in nine 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.
REUNITED: 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 30 of their last 34 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).
DYNAMIC DUO: 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 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.
FAMILY REDEMPTION: 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 gamesvs. 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 (375), stolen bases (115), consecutive starts (250, 2nd in NCAA history behind Chip Hale’s 255 with Arizona in ’84-’87) at-bats (977) and runs record (251).
- Also owns BIG EAST career records for hits (154) and runs scored (110) in BIG EAST regular-season games.
- Entered the week ranked 7th in the nation for batting average (now .445).
- His 375 career hits rank fourthth 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 10 times in 294 total plate appearances (29.4 per K).
- Has hits in 53 of 62 games this season and in 60 of his last 68 with the Irish.
- Went 50 games without an error, before a controversial dropped-ball call at Seton Hall, and has just eight career Es.
- His 109 hits this season are 2nd in ND history, 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) 45 points, hits by 41, runs by 22, total bases by 26, stolen bases by 20, on-base pct. by 50 pts, batting with runners in scoring position by 59 points and hardest to K by 21.8 plate appearances.
BEST OF THE BEST: Senior CF Steve Stanley is on pace to challenge team records for two of the three season batting percentages, with his .445 batting average ranking two points shy of Edwin Hartwell’s 1993 mark (.447) while Stanley’s .517 on-base pct. is 14 points behind the .531 posted by Hartwell’s classmate Eric Danapilis (in 1991).
SITUATIONALLY SPEAKING: In addition to his stellar all-around numbers, senior CF Steve Stanley led ND (pre-NCAAs) in batting with runners in scoring position (.500) and on-base pct. when leading off an inning (.553) … junior LF Brian Stavisky (.448) is far-and-away the best 2-out hitter (pre NCAAs) on a team that is batting just .286 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 (.382) … ND’s leaders in two-out RBI include surging sophomore 1B Joe Thaman (15), plus Stavisky, senior C Paul O’Toole, sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann and senior DH Matt Bok (each with 13) while Stavisky (.642), Stanley (.623) and senior 3B Andrew Bushey (.603) are the team leaders for pct. of runners advanced (Bushey has advanced a team-high 39 runners).
PENCIL HIM IN, OR USE PEN: Senior Steve Stanley has started all 250 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 98.8 percent of the innings (2,113 of 2,138) – 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).
.400 REPEATER: 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).
STANLEY ENTERING ELITE STATUS: Senior CF Steve Stanley stands fourth on the NCAA Division I career hits list, with 375 … he also entered last week ranked 7th in the nation for 2002 season batting average (now .445) … Stanley’s career average of 1.50 hits per game is better than each of the five players above him on the list while his .384 career batting average is third-best among that group … Stanley and Clemson’s Khalil Greene (390, prior to last Sunday’s game) 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)
390 H, 264 GP (1.48 H/gm, .377 career avg.)
(does not include Sunday’s game)
3. John Fishel (Cal State Fullerton, ’82-’85)
379 H, 295 GP (1.29 H/gm, .340 career avg.)
4. Steve Stanley (Notre Dame, ’99-’02)
375 H, 250 GP (1.50 H/gm, .384 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.)
NATIONAL LEADERS: Stanley continues to rank among the nation’s leaders in batting average, checking in last 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 (.475), Marist’s Anthony Bucchino, Marist (.449) and Maryland’s John McMurdy (.443) … the Southern players and Bucchino join Stanley in NCAA action this week.