March 8, 2002
Express College Classic – (March 8-11, Round Rock, Texas)
The 12th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team (4-3) – which won three of four games at last week’s Homestead Challenge – embarks on its third road trip this week, with the Irish slated to play eight games in Texas during the annual Spring Break trip … the Irish first will compete in the Express College Classic, at Dell Diamond (home of the Houston Astros double-A affiliate Round Rock Express, owned by Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan) … ND’s first two games will be played at 3:00 p.m. local time (4:00 in South Bend), with the Irish facing Texas Christian on Friday, March 8, USC on Saturday the 9th … ND and Texas-Pan American then will play at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday the 10th (originally slated for a 3:00 start) before playing a 1:00 p.m. game on Monday the 11th … the Irish then will head to San Antonio for the annual Irish Baseball Classic at Wolff Stadium, home of the double-A San Antonio Missions (March 13-16) … six ND starters have combined to miss 22 starts due to injuries (through seven games).
RADIO COVERAGE: South Bend’s ESPN Radio 1620 AM (WDND) and its sister station WHLY 1580 AM are slated to broadcast Notre Dame’s entire 56-game schedule in 2002 (plus all postseason action) … a real-audio link to internet broadcasts of the games may be accessed at www.und.com while real-time stats for home games – including updated play-by-play – likewise can be accessed at und.com … any baseball games that conflict with ND hockey or women’s basketball broadcasts on WDND 1620 typically will be shifted to WHLY 1580 (all of the games in Round Rock will air on 1620).
INJURY UPDATE: Senior tri-captain and 3B/C Andrew Bushey (named the BIG EAST Conference player-of-the-week after hitting 6-for-9 at the New Orleans Classic) could return to action after missing the last four games with a shoulder sprain while junior LF Brian Stavisky (a preseason 1st team All-American) is slated to miss 2-3 more weeks with his shoulder sprain … Stavisky has missed the last four games but will be making the trip to Texas, which includes homestays with host families in San Antonio (freshman C Jay Molina, out for the year with an elbow injury, also is making the spring break trip) … freshman SS Matt Macri started three games last week at DH (batting in the third spot) but is not expected to return to the field until early April … sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann continues to rehab from his quad injury suffered in the opener vs. Missouri (he missed the UNO and SIU games and started just tow of four games in Homestead) … ND’s 2001 closer, junior RHP Matt Laird (arm strain), returned to action in the Fairfield game (picking up the save in Sacred Heart game) … senior C Paul O’Toole has been relegated to mostly 3B duty, due to a sore left thumb (he had missed just one start) … sophomore 1B Joe Thaman (shoulder) made just one start in Homestead … sophomore Javier Sanchez (2B) and freshman Matt Edwards (SS) have filled in at the middle-infield positions last week (Sanchez also has started at 3B) while seniors Matt Bok (OF/C), Ken Meyer (1B) and Matt Strickroth (OF) also have started in 2002
NOTRE DAME IN TEXAS: The Irish baseball team is heading to Texas for the 14th time in the last 19 seasons (every year since 1983, except ’86, ’92-’94 and 2000) … ND will be playing host to the seventh Irish Baseball Classic (called the Alamo Invitational in ’01, played at St. Mary’s), with ND owning a 25-12 record in games played in Texas during the Paul Mainieri era (since 1995), mostly at Wolff Stadium … ND lost the 1995 IBC title game to Baylor (10-4), swept to the title in ’96 and lost to Creighton in the ’97 BC title game (8-5) … most of the ’98 event was rained out, with ND then sweeping to the IBC title in 1999 and ’01 (Alamo Invitational, at SMC’s V.J. Keefe Field).
SERIES NOTES: Notre Dame opened its 1985 season with a 9-3 loss at TCU (the only game of the series) … USC has won two previous games vs. ND (4-3 at USC in 1961 and 14-4 at the 1997 Long Beach State Classic) … ND holds a 4-3 series edge vs. UTPA, including last year’s 14-9 win at the Alamo Invitational … ND took 2-of-3 from UTPA in 1995 at Wolff Stadium (7-6, 1-5, 13-4) but the Broncs did the same in ’97 (5-4, 0-2, 2-5) … UTPA owns one of just five shutouts vs. ND during the Paul Mainieri era … ND leads the Creighton series (4-2), including an 8-1 win to open the 1999 NCAA South Bend Regional … the Irish and Blue Jays played twice in San Antonio at two previous Irish Baseball Classics in 1997 (7-3 ND win, 8-5 Creighton win in title game) and ’99 (5-4, 5-3 wins for ND) … Creighton won the first game of the series (6-5), in the 1983 opener (played at Oral Roberts).
FRIEND OR FOE?: Several ND players are former teammates of opposing players from the Express College Classic … ND junior LF Kris Billmaier was a prep teammate of USC pitcher Brett Butler (Woodinville HS) and teamed with Irish pitcher Matt Buchmeier and USC hurler Frasier Dizzard on the 1999 Washington Bankers summer team … Irish freshman pitcher Grant Johnson played on the 20001 U.S. Junior National Team, as did USC’s J.P. Howell and Matt Chico … ND freshman SS Matt Macri played alongside Creighton’s Ryan Fitzgerald at Dowling HS and in American Legion ball, also playing with the Jays’ Mike Sirianni in the Perfect Game Wooden Bat League … ND junior RHP Pete Ogilvie and Creighton’s Keith Hood were teammates at Adlai Stevenson HS … Irish junior RHP J.P. Gagne – the likely starter vs. Creighton – was a prep opponent of two Blue Jays players: Sean Piekert and Steve Grasely (Gagne homered vs. Grasely in an American Legion title game).
TEXAS NATIVES: Notre Dame’s 2002 roster includes players from 21 states/provinces while the list Notre Dame all-time baseball letterwinners includes players from 43 state (plus Canada and the Canal Zone) … junior RHP Matt Laird (Bellaire/Bellaire HS) and freshman RHP Tyler Jones (Arlington/Martin HS) are part of a ND baseball program that includes 14 all-time letterwinners from Texas, with the more noteworthy including OFs Dan Bautch (Houston/Stratford HS) and Edwin Hartwell (Fort Worth/County Day HS) and brothers Samuel (SS, 1913) and Harry (2B, 1913-14) Newning of Houston … 1B Angus McDonald (Houston, 1897-1900) was one of the top players in the early days of the Notre Dame baseball program.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS (also see updates later in the week)
TCU – TCU (6-9) returned just nine of 22 letterwinners from its 2001 team that went 32-28 and finished 3rd in WAC (21-15, moved to Conference USA this year) … 1B Walter Olmstead hit .308 in ’01 (10 HR, 53 RBI)
USC – USC (6-8) returned 19 of 29 letterwinners from its 2001 College World Series team (45-19, 18-6 as Pac-10 champs) … USC’s top returning position players include senior OF Brian Barre (.345, 13 HR, 48 RBI in ’01), junior C Alberto Concepcion (.321, 7 HR, 41 RBI) and sophomore 3B Michael Moon (.313, 6 HR, 35 RBI) … USC’s top returning pitchers include junior RHPs Brian Bannister (4-4, 5 SV, 2.80, 56 Ks) and Anthony Reyes (5-4, 3.72, 97 Ks) and sophomore LHP Frasier Dizzard (3-3, 7 SV, 5.44, 47 Ks).
UTPA – UTPA (2-14) returned just 10 of 24 letterwinners from its 2001 team that went 12-40 … UTPA’s top returners include senior 1B Sergio Pompa (.296, HR, 18 RBI) and senior OF Marvin Manns (.289, 5 HR, 26 RBI).
Creighton – The Blue Jays (3-4) returned 15 of 26 letterwinners from their 2001 team that went 21-31 and finished 7th in the Missouri Valley Conference (11-21) … senior 3B Scott Allen hit .341 in ’01 (5 HR, 31 RBI) while sophomore RHP Steve Grasley was 3-5 with five saves (4.28, 57 Ks).
IN THE POLLS: Notre Dame heads to Texas ranked as high as 12th in the nation (in the Baseball America poll, after ranking 5th in the preseason) … the Irish also currently rank 24th in the USA Today coaches poll (13th preseason) and 24th in the Collegiate Baseball magazine poll (19th preseason).
HOMESTEAD CHALLENGE NOTES
- Senior CF and leadoff batter Steve Stanley posted a pair of four-hit games vs. Fairfield (6-4) and Sacred Heart (4-1), hitting 10-for-18 in the four games (also 6-0 win over Duquesne and 13-4 loss to Florida International).
- Senior DH Matt Bok did a solid job filling in as the starting catcher while batting 8-for-14 in the four games (he was 3-for-5 with 2 RBI and a run scored as the No. 2 hitter vs. Sacred Heart).
- Stanley (4-for-5, 2 R) and Bok (3-for-5, 2 RBI, R) combined with freshman SS Matt Edwards for a solid 1-2-3 part of the lineup that accounted for nine of ND’s 10 hits vs. the Pioneers.
- The Irish played with as many as five injured starters during the weekend.
- Junior RHP J.P. Gagne had an impressive shutout outing vs. Duquesne (7 IP, 2 H, 6 Ks in 88 pitches).
- Senior C Paul O’Toole delivered the big hit vs. the Dukes, a three-run HR in the 3rd (on an 0-2 pitch, after falling behind 0-2).
- RHP Chris Niesel held Fairfield to three runs (two earned) on six hits and just one walk while racking up nine strikeouts in his seven-inning, 98-pitch outing (he has 19 Ks and just one walk in 12 IP this season).
- Six Irish errors led to nine unearned runs in a 13-4 loss to Florida International (seven of FIU’s eight runs in the 8th were unearned).
- Freshman RHP Grant Johnson had no decision vs. FIU aftter logging 5.1 innings (9 hits, 4 runs, 2 earned runs, 7 Ks, 1 BB).
- Junior RHP Peter Ogilvie picked up the win vs. Sacred Heart (5 IP, 1 R, 6 H, 4 Ks) while pushing his career record to 6-1.
MACRI MAKES DEBUT: Highly-touted newcomer Matt Macri – the nation’s No. 2 prospect among freshmen, according to Baseball America – had an impressive debut vs. Duquesne, batting 2-for-5 as the DH while hitting in the No. 3 hole … Macri – who likely won’t return to shortstop until early April (elbow strain) – delivered in the second at-bat of his college career, driving a 2-1 pitch from RHP Jim Popp into the leftfield corner for a no-outs double before scoring on Paul O’Toole’s three-run shot for a 3-0 ND lead in the 4th … Macri then collected his first career RBI in the 7th, smacking a 2-1 pitch through the left side of the infield (with speedy Steve Stanley scoring from second for a 5-0 cushion) … Macri also had an impressive drive to left-center in the 9th, with the strong wind holding up the ball for a flyout… he added a pair of sacrifice flies later in the Homestead Challenge and is batting 4-for-14 (.286) overall, already sharing for the team RBI lead (4).
POWER POSITION: Senior catcher Paul O’Toole was up to the challenge of batting cleanup while shaking off his sore left thumb to return behind the plate … O’Toole typically has batted 5th-7th in his career, with several starts at leadoff and the No. 2 hole early in his career, while making four starts in the cleanup spot as a sophomore (and three in 2001) … O’Toole delivered the biggest hit vs. the Dukes in the 3rd inning, despite falling behind on an 0-2 count vs. RHP Jim Popp … O’Toole then showed his veteran poise by laying off two close curveballs before lifting the next pitch over the rightfield wall for the 3-0 Irish lead .. O’Toole – who started the season batting 1-for-14 – then led off the 6th by sending a 1-1 pitch through the right side of the infield for a single (he heads to Texas with a .208 season batting average, 5-for-24).
ONE DOWN, NINE TO GO: O’Toole’s home run vs. Duquesne was the 21st of his career, to go along with 45 stolen bases – easily the most SBs ever by an ND catcher and 7th among all Irish players (just one behind 1993 graduate Eric Danapilis) … O’Toole needs to average roughly one home run every five games for the rest of the 2002 regular season to reach 30 HRs for his career … in the process, he would join former teammate Alec Porzel (37 HRs, 32 SBs) as the only “30-30” players in Notre Dame baseball history … O’Toole hit eight home runs as both a freshman and sophomore and four as a junior (10 of his first 20 home runs came during lateseason games played in May).
DOUBLE DOUBLE: Sophomore 1B Joe Thaman opened the 2001 season by collecting six doubles in his first seven hits, with the 6-4 lefthander’s on two hits of 2002 also going for two bases … his final 2001 stat line included two home runs, one triple, 15 doubles and 41 singles.
‘GOOSE BACK ON THE LOOSE: Senior DH Ken Meyer – nicknamed the Mongoose due to his hustland deceptive speed – could be dialed in for a strong final season, after batting 5-for-10 in the first two games (including 2-for-2 as a pinch-hitter) … Meyer already has collected three doubles, two runs and an RBI and started three games in Homestead at 1B (Joe Thaman missed the starts due to his sore shoulder) … Meyer saw his batting average dip from .326 in 2000 to .271 in 2001, when he was affected by season-long shoulder problems.
SHUFFLE THE DECK: Head coach Paul Mainieri’s 2002 lineup cards have featured few similarities, due to an assortment of injuries and position shifts (six starters have combined to miss 22 starts through seven games) … just four games into the season, senior CF Steve Stanley held the distinction of being the only ND player to start every game at the same position (that’s only fitting, since he now has started all 195 games of his ND career in CF) … senior Ken Meyer drew three starts in Homestead at 1B (for injured sophomore Joe Thaman), sophomore Javier Sanchez has made three starts at 2B (for injured 2B Steve Sollmann, with freshman Geoff Milsom starting vs. Sacred Heart) and one at SS (where freshman SS Matt Edwards has started the other six, in place of his injured classmate Matt Macri) while 3B has seen starts from Sanchez (3) and the senior duo of Andrew Bushey and Paul O’Toole (3) … O’Toole (3), Bushey and fellow senior Matt Bok (3) each have started behind the plate, with Bok, juniors Brian Stavisky (2) and Kris Billmaier (2) and freshman Brent Weiss all starting in LF … Billmaier has made five starts in RF, plus one from senior Matt Strickroth and one by Meyer … the first four games featured four different DHs: Bok, Meyer, Weiss (2) and Macri (3) … Stanley, Sanchez and Billmaier are the only players who have started every game this season.
LEARNING FAST: Notre Dame’s 14 active field players on the Texas trip include the veteran leadership of six seniors and junior Kris Billmaier, but the Irish contingent also features four freshmen (two in the starting lineup) and three sophomores (with Javier Sanchez playing sparingly in 2001).
MR. VERSATILITY: Miami native Javier Sanchez (Columbus HS) started at three infield positions in the first four games of the season: at SS vs. Missouri, at 2B vs. UNO and SIU, and at 3B vs. Duquesne … Sanchez has played solid defense (just two errors) while batting 5-for-9 (.294) with an RBI and run scored.
SUBTLE STAR: Senior CF and leadoff batter Steve Stanley had a modest stat line vs. Duquesne (1-for-4, R, BB) but he had several key plays in the game … his groundball to the right side plated Ken Meyer in the 5th for a 4-0 lead (he was not credited with an RBI due to hitting into a rare double play for the speedy lefthanded hitter) … in the 6th, Stanley made a running catch into shallow right-center and threw to second base for the inning-ending double play … in the 7th, he beat out an intended sacrifice bunt to the left side, add his 5th stolen base of the young season and scoring on Matt Macri’s single for a 5-0 lead.
UNO CLASSIC NOTES
- ND’s 1-2 showing at the New Orleans Classic (7-6 vs. Missouri, 7-8 vs. UNO, 2-6 vs. Southern Illinois) marked the first time since early in ’98 that the Irish had a losing record at a regular-season tournament … 2-out hitting proved to be a key at UNO (ND hit .156 with two outs, the opponents .361).
- Freshman RHP Chris Niesel had an impressive debut vs. SIU (5 IP, 5 H, R, 10 Ks, see p. 2), as did his classmate Grant Johnson in picking up the relief win over Missouri (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, K, 12 groundouts, recorded 15 outs in final 16 batters faced).
- The Irish rallied from a 5-1 deficit to beat Missouri, 7-6 in 10.
- The 10-inning win over the Tigers pushed ND’s recent extra-inning success to 11-1-1 in the last 13 extra-inning games (dating back to 1997), including a 5-1-1 record in the 2001 season (highlighted by wins over Mississippi State, Fresno State, Rutgers and then UCSB in the NCAAs) – with the lone loss in that stretch coming vs. FIU in the 2001 NCAAs (7-6, in 10).
- ND was one out away from opening 2-0 before UNO smacked two singles and won the game on Gabe Trevizo’s home run (the Irish had rallied to the lead with three runs in the 9th).
- The UNO loss spoiled Andrew Bushey’s 5-for-5 day, including his 6th career home run and first since 2000 (he also homered at UNO in 1999).
- ND has seen 10 of its last losses come by one run.
- Brian Stavisky’s triple vs. UNO made him the 10th ND player to post 10-plus triples in his career … among those players, only Ryan Topham (34, 1993-95) and Alec Porzel (37, 1998-2001) have totaled more home runs than Stavisky’s 24.
- SIU’S Sal Frisella broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run home run in the 7th, as ND faced the challenge of playing without four of its position starters, including the 2-3-4 batters in the lineup and Bushey … both teams stranded 11 baserunners, with the Salukis holding a 13-6 edge in hits.
NIESEL MAKES HISTORY: Chris Niesel’s impressive debut vs. Southern Illinois was noteworthy in several respects:
- His 10 strikeouts equaled the second-most ever by an ND freshman and are the most by an Irish freshman in his first start … LHP Don Wolfe posted 12 Ks in a 10-0 win over Butler on April 20, 1975, while RHP David Sinnes had 10 Ks in a nine-inning win at Xavier on April 16, 1990 (2-0).
- Niesel also became the first Notre Dame freshman pitcher to start an opening-week game Christian Parker’s gem that beat Pepperdine (14-5) at the 1995 Anaheim Classic (Parker started for the New York Yankees in the opening week of the 2001 season and currently is on the Yankees 40-man spring training roster).
- Just two previous Notre Dame pitchers have posted a double-digit strikeout game in February, with Alex Shilliday totaling 10 Ks in a 6-1 win over Evansville on Feb. 27, 1998 (8 IP, at the Diamond Classic) while Danny Tamayo had 10 Ks last season in the 7-4 win over Sam Houston State at the Alamo Invitational (Feb. 25, 6 IP).
TOURNAMENT TOUGH: Notre Dame is 58-21-1 (.731) in regular-season tournaments during the Paul Mainieri era (1995- ), including a 1998 win over Florida St., wins in 2000 over Wake Forest, Georgia and Illinois (2) and the 2001 season’s wins over Mississippi State (2), Fresno State and Illinois … the Irish head to Texas with a record of 23-6-1 in their previous 30 regular-season tournament games, dating back to a 9-7 loss to Minnesota on March 4, 2000 … prior to the 2002 UNO Classic (1-2), ND had not had a losing record in its previous 11 regular-season tournaments (33-6-1 in those events), since a 1-2 showing at the ACC Disney Blast early in 1998 … the current 23-6-1 stretch in regular-season tournaments includes wins over Georgia, Illinois (3), Mississippi State (2), Florida Atlantic and Fresno State … ND has played in 23 previous regular-season tournaments during the Mainieri era, posting a winning record in 16 of them and splitting its games in two others, with only four losing records (also 1-2 at ’95 Anaheim Classic, 0-3 at ’97 Long Beach State Classic and 1-2 at ’98 ACC Disney Blast).
FAR & WIDE: Notre Dame’s 2002 roster includes 35 players from 21 different home states/provinces … the top 10 position players and top three starting pitchers hail from eight different states, including five from Ohio and two from Florida, plus one each from Iowa, Pennsylvania, Washington, Missouri, Illinois and Minnesota.
RECORD RUN: Senior CF Steve Stanley is on pace to set several Notre Dame career records, including the top all-time marks for hits, stolen bases and runs scored.
THE SHIFT: Notre Dame’s 2002 lineup includes several position switches, with junior Brian Stavisky shifting from RF to LF (flipping with classmate Kris Billmaier) while seniors Paul O’Toole and Andrew Bushey are slated to split time behind the plate (where O’Toole made 128 starts from 1999-2001) and at third base, where Bushey owns 148 career starts … sophomore Javier Sanchez also could develop into a solid backup option at 1B, after playing mostly at 3B and in the middle infield during previous seasons.
ROAD TRIPPERS: Notre Dame will be playing its first 22 games away from home, in seven different cities: New Orleans, Homestead, Fla., Round Rock and San Antonio, Texas, Storrs, Conn., Morgantown, W.Va., and Washington, D.C. … the Irish then will spend virtually all of April (18 of 22 games) in the friendly confines of Eck Stadium, including the first 14 games of the month (before an April 20-21 series at Seton Hall, plus the April 30 game vs. Michigan in Grand Rapids) … ND’s 12 regular-season games in the month of May will include eight at home, plus a May 11-12 road series vs. Villanova and the May 14 game at Purdue … all told, the Irish will play 26 of their final 34 games at Eck Stadium.
WHO’S BACK, WHO’S GONE?: Notre Dame returned many of the key elements from its landmark 2001 season (49-13-1), including the top five hitters, nine of the top 10 position players and 16 total letterwinners … top losses included starting SS Alec Porzel and the squad’s top starting pitchers, four-year All-American Aaron Heilman and fellow first team all-BIG EAST performer Danny Tamayo … the veteran core includes five senior and two juniors among the top nine returning position players … the ND returning offensive players combined for 91% of the team’s stolen bases in 2001, plus 86% of the walks, 85% of the hits, 82% of the RBI and 81% of the home runs … the returning pitchers totaled 26 of ND’s 49 wins last season while logging 49% of the innings, 30 of 63 starts, 43% of the Ks and all eight saves.
HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI: Eighth-year ND head coach Paul Mainieri owns a 639-407-1 (.611) record in 19-plus college seasons … in addition to his 307-128-1 (.705) mark at ND, Mainieri’s teams were 180-121 in six seasons at St. Thomas (Fla.) and 152-158 in six seasons at Air Force … his 307 wins rank 3rd all-time at ND, behind Pat Murphy (318, ’88-’94) and Jake Kline (558, ’34-’75) … Mainieri has seen 27 of his Irish players go on to pro baseball (19 via the draft), with RHP Christian Parker being the first to reach the Majors (as the N.Y. Yankees No. 5 starter, making his debut vs. Toronto on April 6 at Yankees Stadium -with Mainieri and others from ND on hand) … 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 Majors … Mainieri and his father Demie are the only known father-son combo in college baseball history to top 500 wins … Demie won 1,018 in 30 years at Miami-Dade North CC.
MAINIERI’S MILESTONES: Paul Mainieri – who posted his 300th career victory at Notre Dame in the second game of the DH sweep at Boston College on May 12, 2001 – fittingly reached the 500-win milestone in ND’s Feb. 27, 1999, win at his former school New Orleans (14-11) before reaching his 600th win during the 2002 season in memorable fashion: on St. Patrick’s Day in the 7-6 win over Portland in the title game of Fresno State’s Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic (the Irish wore special green jerseys) … Mainieri experienced two noteworthy homecomings in ’99, making his third return with the Irish to UNO (where he played) and his third return as the ND coach to his hometown of Miami … he coached his 800th career game on Feb. 20, 1998, at the University of Miami, after a Feb. 15 game at UNO was rained out … he notched his 499th career win in the ’99 season opener vs. James Madison, in Miami at Fla. International (Feb. 19) … Mainieri picked up his 200th win at ND in the 7-6 win over Oakland on April 30 ,1999 … he coached his 900th college game in the opener at Georgetown on May 8, 1999, and his 1,000th last season vs. Hillsdale College (March 29, 2001).
PENCIL HIM IN, OR USE PEN: Senior Steve Stanley has started all 195 games of his ND career (all in CF) while logging all but 14 innings in CF his three seasons … the familiar #2 has patrolled CF in 99.16% of the innings (1,656 of 1,670) – including all but two of 513 as a freshman (his classmate Paul O’Toole played the final two innings in a 20-10 loss at Northwestern on April 6, 1999) … Stanley then played in CF for the final 267.2 innings of ’99 and the first 497 of 2000 – a span of 764.2 consecutive innings in CF – before being replaced by 2001 grad Ben Cooke for the final five innings of the 8-1 NCAA loss at Mississippi St. (the Irish fell into an early 7-0 hole and Stanley reluctantly left the game due to illness) … in 2001, he patrolled center in all but seven of 547.2 innings – with Mike Naumann inserted into CF for the final inning vs. Texas-Pan American (14-9) while John Heintz played the position for the final four innings vs. Hillsdale (9-2) and for the final two innings of the 15-3 win over Seton Hall.
MLB CONNECTIONS: Several Notre Dame graduates currently serve as top executives in Major League Baseball: Oakland A’s president Mike Crowley (’85), Cleveland Indians CEO and president Lawrence Dolan (’54, also ’56 ND Law School grad.), Arizona Diamondbacks GM Joe Garagiola, Jr. (’72), L.A. Dodgers V.P. of External Affairs Tommy Hawkins (’59), Tampa Bay Devil Rays GM John McHale (’71), Tampa Bay owner and CEO Vince Naimoli (’59) and MLB Director of Special Events Brian O’Gara (’89) … Hawkins, a star basketball player for the Irish, played with the NBA’s L.A. Lakers before going into broadcasting.
ALL-TIME OPPONENTS: Notre Dame has faced 274 different opponents, entering its 110th year of varsity baseball … James Madison, Florida International, Missouri and Oakland were first-time opponents in 1999, followed by North Florida and Akron in 2000 and six more first-time opponents in 2001 (Florida Atlantic, New Mexico, Pacific, Sam Houston St., South Florida and UC Santa Barbara) … the Irish added Fairfield to that list last week and could face Arkansas-Little Rock for the first time at next’s week Irish Baseball Classic … ND’s most common all-time opponents include: Northwestern (130 games), Michigan St. (125), Western Michigan (122), Wisconsin (118), Purdue (114) and Michigan (114) … noteworthy teams ND has yet to face include Oklahoma St. and Texas Tech.
TOP PROSPECTS: Notre Dame junior LF Brian Stavisky is listed 25th on Baseball America’s annual list of top pro prospects in college baseball … Stavisky is the 8th position player and 2nd OF on the list, behind Stanford’s Jason Cooper (12) … ND was the only school with multiple outfielders on BA’s list of the top 100 college prospects, with senior CF Steve Stanley listed 80th (he’s the 34th position player and 14th OF on the list) … only seven teams had more than two players listed among the top 80 on that list … ND (7) joined Stanford (10) as the schools with the most players among BA’s top-40 prospects by college class: Stanley (9th among seniors), C/3B Paul O’Toole (31st senior), Stavisky (25th junior), 2B Steve Sollmann (37th sophomore), SS Matt Macri (2nd freshman) and freshman RHPs Chris Niesel (11th) and Martin Vergara (15th).
SCORING STREAKS: Notre Dame heads to Texas riding the school record for consecutive games with at least one run scored (192) … the Irish scored in the final 58 games of 1999 and in every game of 2000 (64) and 2001 (63), for a streak that stretches back to a 12-0 loss at Florida International on Feb. 21, 1999 … the previous record 133-game scoring streak began with the first game of the Paul Mainieri era, a 10-6 loss to Texas at the Anaheim Classic, on Feb. 24, 1995 (the Irish were shut out by Auburn, 8-0, in the 1994 NCAA East Regional at Clemson) … the previous record streak ended vs. another Texas team, 2-0 vs. Texas Pan-American in a seven-inning game on March 10, 1997 (at Wolff Stadium in San Antonio) … ND has scored in 98.9 pct. of its games in the Mainieri era (433 of 438), with other shutouts at Seton Hall (16-0, 3/22/97), vs. St. John’s (3-0, 5/9/98) and vs. Rutgers in the BIG EAST Tournament (12-0, 5/16/98) … prior to the Mainieri era, the longest ND scoring streaks were: 121-games (April 23, 1930-May 26, 1937) and 103-games (May 25, 1907-May 17, 1912).
FALL SIGNEES: Notre Dame signed six high school seniors to national letters of intent in the 2001 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.
TOP ASSISTANT: Notre Dame’s Brian O’Connor was named the Division I national assistant baseball coach of the year for the 2001 season, as selected by the American Baseball Coaches Association and Baseball America … O’Connor – recently promoted to associate head coach – spent the previous seven seasons as ND’s primary assistant h while overseeing the pitching staff and coordinating the program’s highly-successful recruiting effort … O’ Connor, who pitched on Creighton’s 1991 College World Series team, has tutored 13 eventual pro baseball pitchers, including 10 Major-League draft picks (two 1st-rounders) … Notre Dame is one of just four schools since 1998 to produce two pitchers who have been drafted in the first round – Brad Lidge in 1998 and Aaron Heilman in 2001 – with only Notre Dame and Baylor having the same pitching coach during that span (Baylor head coach Steve Smith coaches the Bears pitching staff).
ROAD WARRIORS: Notre Dame was 24-5-1 away from home in the 2001 regular season (21-4 at Eck Stadium) … ND’s 14-3 record on the opponent’s field nearly was 17-0 (with two late-inning losses at Virginia Tech, 3-2 and 9-8, and another at BC, 7-6).
TRAVEL: Notre Dame’s schedule regularly takes the baseball team to top-notch facilities and noteworthy cities. In Paul Mainieri’s eight seasons, the Irish have visited: Fullerton and Long Beach, Calif., Seattle, Wash. (Kingdome), San Antonio and Round Rock, Texas, five Florida cities (Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, St. Petersburg and Homestead), Atlanta, New Orleans, Boston, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Minneapolis, Minn. (Metrodome).
SUMMER STARS: Several Notre Dame players had noteworthy 2001 summers, following a 2000 summer season that saw Steve Stanley, Paul O’Toole and Brian Stavisky start in the Cape Cod League All-Star game while three others – Matt Buchmeier, Drew Duff and Andrew Bushey – helped the Hays Larks reach the title game of the National Baseball Congress World Series (Wichita, Kan.) … Stanley was named by Baseball America as a 2001 summer All-American, after earning Great Lakes League MVP honors as a member of the Delaware (Ohio) Cows (.442 batting avg., 23 SBs) .. Stavisky again was an all-star with Hyannis in the summer of 2001, as was Irish 2B Steve Sollmann with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox … righthander J.P. Gagne (11-1, 1.70 ERA, 65 Ks/15 BB in 80 IP), Buchmeier and 1B Joe Thaman continued ND’s tradition in Hays, helping lead the Larks back to the NBC World Series title game in the 2001 summer season.
FRESHMAN FOCUS: Notre Dame’s current freshman class was ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America … here are some facts about Notre Dame’s 2002 freshman contingent:
Top Prospects – SS Matt Macri was listed in Baseball America’s 2002 college preview as the No. 2 prospect among all current college freshmen, behind Vanderbilt LHP Jeremy Sowers … freshman RHPs Chris Niesel (11th) and Martin Vergara (17th) also were on BA’s freshman prospect list, with ND joining USC (3) as the only schools with more than two freshmen in the top 20 of that list … Macri also has been forecasted by BA as the No. 4 overall prospect for the 2003 Major League draft (he will be sophomore-eligible because his 21st birthday falls in late May of 2003).
Draft Picks – Five ND signees were selected in the 2001 Major League draft, with most falling in the draft due to their strong commitment to attend Notre Dame … most notably, RHP Grant Johnson was not drafted but was rated as a 2nd-rounder by BA prior to the draft … the freshmen drafted as preps included RHPs John Axford (7th round, Seattle) and Vergara (15th, Cleveland), Macri (17th, Minnesota, was rated a 1st rounder) and RHPs Tyler Jones (30th, Atlanta) and Niesel (46th, Chicago Cubs, was expected to be drafted as high as the third round), who also was one of five pitchers nationwide named by BA as a first team All-American (Macri, Vergara and Johnson all were named Gatorade player of the year for their respective states).
National Teams – Three freshmen recently were top players on junior national teams … Macri was one of two members of the 2000 U.S. Junior National Team who was named to the all-tournament team at the 2000 Junior Pan Am Games in Sonora, Mexico, after hitting .353 with seven RBI in nine games as a member of that bronze-medal team (9 BB, 3B, 2B, 5 SB, 12 R) … Johnson helped the 2001 U.S. team post a best-ever silver-medal finish at the 2001 Pan-Am Games in Cuba, winning both of his outings versus Panama (10-1, 2 H) and Columbia (17-1, unearned run. 2 H) … Axford actually crossed paths with Johnson during the summer of 2001 in Joplin, Mo., when he won a game vs. the U.S. as a member of Canada’s Youth National Team (he also saved a game vs. a professional rookie-level team in Florida and posted a 1-1 record while competing with Team Canada in the Dominican Republic, vs. teams from the Dominican Summer League).
Multi-Sport Stars – Three freshmen – Macri (Iowa player-of-the-year and state champs), Vergara (all-state in New Jersey) and C Jay Molina (all-conference in Illinois) – each were accomplished high school quarterbacks while Johnson was one of the top players on the Lyons Township High School basketball team that made an impressive run to the quarterfinal round of the 2001 Illinois state tournament.
Bloodlines – Fourteen Notre Dame players – nine of them freshmen – have parents who were college athletes … three have fathers who played college baseball: LHP Scott Bickford’s father Mark (Salisbury St.), IF/OF Matt Edwards’ father Norm (catcher at Stetson) and Niesel’s father Rudy (Spring Hill), while Johnson’s father Gary played football and basketball at Kansas … not to be outdone are the mothers of Macri (Audrey Macri, cheerleading, Wartburg) and C Mike Milligan (Tish Kierl Milligan, basketball/volleyball/tennis, Marymount) … Macri’s father Mike also played football at Simpson College while Doug Jones (father of Tyler) played golf at Stephen F. Austin, freshman IF Geoff Milsom’s father Jeff was on the rowing team at the University of Pennsylvania and OF/C Brent Weiss’s father Paul was an All-American lacrosse player at Johns Hopkins … two of the freshmen also have brothers who have played college baseball: Jones’ brother David at Texas Wesleyan and Molina’s brother Anthony at Evansville, while OF George Howard’s sister Jennifer is a softball player at Arkansas-Pine Bluff … Jones joined sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann as the only current ND players with a parent and a sibling who have played college sports.
Big Shadows – Notre Dame’s 2002 roster includes some big bodies, with the freshman class more than doing its share, led by RHPs Johnson (6-6, 220), Axford (6-5, 175) and Jones (6-4, 205) and LHP Bickford (6-4, 160).