March 9, 2002


vs. USC … Saturday, March 9, 2002

Express College Classic … Dell Diamond (Round Rock, Texas)

The Notre Dame baseball team (4-4) resumes play at the Express College Classic with today’s 3:00 matchup versus perennial power USC … the Irish dropped a heartbreaker on Friday vs. TCU, after coming one out shy of posting a 3-2 victory (TCU then rapped out six straight hits for the 7-3 win).

Today’s starter, CHRIS NIESEL (Fr., RHP, Plantation, Florida/St. Thomas Aquinas HS, 5-11, 205

2002 Outings

vs. Southern Illinois (no decision, 2-6) … 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R/1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, 1 WP, 2 HB, 3 GO, 2 FO

vs. Duquesne (W, 6-0) … 7.0, 6 H, 3 R/2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 0 WP, 0 HB, 6 GO, 5 FO

Totals (2.25 ERA, 1-0, .220 opp. avg.) … 12.0 IP, 11 H, 4 R/3 ER, 1 BB, 19 K, 1 WP, 2 HB, 9 GO, 7 FO

Nine-Inning Averages: 14.3 Ks, 0.8 BB, 8.3 H, 6.8 GO, 5.3 FO, 39.8 BF

Record-Setting Pace: Niesel’s quick start puts him in contention to challenge the seemingly untouchable ND record for season K-to-walk ratio, set by LHP Tom Price in 1994 (12.14, 85/7) … Niesel heads into the USC game with 19 Ks and just one walk … current K.C. Royals prospect Danny Tamayo posted a 6.24 K-to-walk ratio last season (106/17) … Niesel also is averaging 14.25 Ks per nine innings (RHP Frank Carpin holds the ND record, averaging 12.63 in 1958, or 102 in 72.2 IP) … Niesel’s 0.75 walks per 9 IP would rank 2nd-best in ND history behind Price’s 0.49 in 1994 (7 in 127.2 IP), with RHP Scott Cavey currently ranking 2nd on that list (1.23, or 8 in 58.1, in 1999) … Niesel’s early pace also puts him on track to challenge the ND single-season K record (118, by Aaron Heilman in 1999 and 2000) while his .220 opponent average would rank 8th in ND history (since 1991).

Easy Outs: The bulk of Niesel’s outs this season have come via the strikeout (19) and the groundout (9), with his nine-inning averages including 21 of 27 outs via a K or GO.

Opponent Batting: Niesel has held opposing hitters to a .220 batting avg. (11-for-50), with similar success during two-out situations (.214) and with runners on base (.222).

AWESOME RATIO: Notre Dame’s four starting pitchers have combined for an impressive 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (51/5), led by today’s starter Chris Niesel (19/1) … yesterday’s starter Grant Johnson now has totaled 16 Ks with just two walks while junior RHPs Pete Ogilvie (7/1) and J.P. Gagne (9/1) also own solid K-to-walk ratios.

Late-Inning Scoring: Notre Dame will be looking to shore up its late-inning defense and pitching while boosting its own late-game scoring, as the opponents have combined to outscore the Irish 23-6 this season in the 7th-9th innings (ND owns a 32-22 scoring edge in the 1st-6th innings).

BACK-TO-BACK LOSSES RARE: Notre Dame has not lost consecutive games at a regular-season tournament since the 1998 season-opening ACC/Disney Blast, when the Irish dropped a 10-8 game to North Carolina State and a 3-1 game vs. Duke (after knocking off Florida State, 10-1, in the opener) … ND has played 51 consecutive regular-season tournament games without back-to-back losses (38-12-1 in those games)… the Irish lost consecutive games just one in the entire 2001 season (49-13-1), dropping a DH at Virginia Tech, 2-3 and 8-9 (the Hokies rallied in the late innings for both wins) … ND lost two straight at the 2002 UNO Classic (7-8 vs. UNO, 2-6 vs. SIU).

Two-Out Trouble: Batting with two outs has proven to be a key situational hitting area in ND’s games this season, as the Irish are batting just .188 with two outs while the opponents are hitting .306 when facing their last out of the innings … ND’s opponents twice have rallied to victory when they were down to their last out of the game (New Orleans hit a pair of two-out singles and then homered for an 8-7 win while TCU used six two-out hits to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 7-3 win) … ND’s top hitter with two outs has been freshman SS Matt Edwards (4-for-12).

AN SB A DAY: Senior CF Steve Stanley has averaged one stolen base per game this season (8-for-9), which puts him on pace to challenge the ND single-season record set by Scott Sollmann in 1996 (52, in 62 GP) … ironically, Sollmann’s brother Steve typically bats with Stanley on base (as the Irish No. 2 hitter) … Stanley’s 92 career SBs rank third in ND history, just two behind Pat Pesavento (’86-’89) and nine shy of Sollmann’s record total of 101 (from 1994-96) … Stanley also has hit safely in every game this season, including four-hit games last week vs. Fairfield and Sacred Heart.

MORE RECORD BOOK UPDATES: Steve Stanley already has cracked the ND career top-10 list for games started (196, tied with Jeff Wagner for 10th) and would move into a tie with Joe Binkiewicz by starting today (he has started every game of his ND career, all in CF) … Stanley also is nearing Pat Pesavento’s ND record for consecutive starts (204, from April 5, 1986 to May 28, 1989) … he has moved into 6th at ND in career at-bats (768, former teammate Jeff Felker is 5th with 792), is 3rd with 281 hits, trailing only Pesavento (296) and Eric Danapilis (295, ’90-’93), and is tied with Sollmann for 6th in runs scored (187) … Stanley has pushed his career batting average to .366, which would rank 7th in the ND record book (just behind Pesavento’s .367 and the .368 posted by two-year player Robbie Kent from ’93-’94 and Brant Ust from ’97-’99).

WHO’S ON FIRST?: Notre Dame’s rotating starting lineups included the following combinations in the first eight games (senior DHs Ken Meyer and Matt Bok have combined for just two DH starts, due to the Irish needing them at other positions):

Catcher … Paul O’Toole (3), Matt Bok (3), Andrew Bushey (2)

First Base … Joe Thaman (4), Ken Meyer (4)

Second Base … Steve Sollmann (4), Javier Sanchez (1), Geoff Milsom (1)

Shortstop … Matt Edwards (7), Javier Sanchez (1)

Third Base … Paul O’Toole (4), Javier Sanchez (3), Andrew Bushey (1)

Left Field … Matt Bok (3), Brian Stavisky (2), Kris Billmaier (2), Brent Weiss (1)

Center Field … Steve Stanley (8)

Right Field … Kris Billmaier (6), Matt Strickroth (1), Ken Meyer (1)

DH … Matt Macri (4), Brent Weiss (2), Ken Meyer (1), Matt Bok (1)

SPLITTING UP SPRING BREAK: For just the second time in the eight-year Paul Mainieri era, the Notre Dame baseball team is spending several days in multiple cities during its Spring Break trip … ND opened Spring Break in 1996 by playing at the Husky Classic (in the Seattle Kingdome) before flying to San Antonio as the host team for the Irish Baseball Classic … ND played in San Antonio throughout the break in 1995, ’97, ’98 and ’99 before playing at the 2000 Kennel Clubs Classic in Jacksonville, Fla. … the Irish made a short stop in Stockton, Calif., to open the 2001 Spring Break swing (beating UOP and Eastern Michigan) before spending seven days in Fresno at the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic … the Irish now are 25-13 in Texas during the Mainieri era.