March 9, 2001
HEADING WEST: The 11th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team (6-2) returns to the airways this week for a spring break trip to Northern California, with the Irish slated to play eight games in an eight-day stretch … the California trip will complete a first month of the season that will see Notre Dame traverse more than 10,000 miles while playing in four parts of the country (also Starkville, Miss., San Antonio, Texas and St. Petersburg, Fla. … the Irish will play a pair of games on Saturday, March 10 at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, with games vs. UOP (12-8) at 1:00 p.m. pacific time and Eastern Michigan (1-9) at 6:00, before competing in Fresno State’s Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic from March 12-17 … the Irish last week blanked Florida Atlantic (3-0) behind Aaron Heilman’s fist career nine-inning shutout before losing to South Florida, 6-1 (both games were played at Florida Power Park, the spring training home of the Tampa Devil Rays) … Notre Dame also played an exhibition vs. the Devil Rays, losing 17-4 while saving its top pitchers for FAU and USF (a third game versus Western Michigan was rained out) … the Irish opened play on Feb. 17-18 at the Bank of Commerce Classic, losing a tough 7-6 game to New Orleans before twice knocking off the host team and 16th-ranked Mississippi State (7-5, 4-2 in 11 inn.) … the Irish then swept all three games in San Antonio at the Alamo Invitational, beating Texas-San Antonio (8-3), Texas-Pan American (14-9) and Sam Houston State (7-4) … the well-travelled Irish spent 13 of 17 days on the road from Feb. 16-March 4 (all but Feb. 19-20, 26-27) and will be away from home during 19 of 27 days from Feb. 16-March 17 (ND will spend the first six weekends of its 2001 season away from home, before a March 31-April 1 series with Seton Hall at Eck Stadium).
RADIO COVERAGE: South Bend-based WJVA radio (1580 AM) is scheduled to carry live broadcasts of Notre Dame’s entire 56-game schedule in 2001 (plus all postseason action) … a real-audio link to internet broadcasts of the games may be accessed at www.und.com … the regular play-by-play voice of Irish baseball-Sean Stires-is set to make his first broadcasts with the Notre Dame baseball program, as he will call the first five games in California before returning to Notre Dame for duties with the Irish women’s basketball broadcasts in the NCAA Tournament … sophomore RF Brian Stavisky (Port Allegany, Pa.)-who earned national player of the week honors for his 9-for-13 effort at the National Bank of Commerce Classic-has missed the last four games due to a hamstring injury suffered late in the 14-9 win over Texas-Pan American on Feb. 24 (he could return to action sometime during the California trip).
IN THE POLLS: Notre Dame moved downed one spot all three national polls, currently checking in at 12th according to Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball while checking in at 11th in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll … Nebraska moved ahead of the Irish in the two magazine polls while Pepperdine edged in front of Notre Dame in the coaches poll.
HEILMAN PICKS UP NINTH WEEKLY HONOR: Senior RHP Aaron Heilman (Logansport, Ind.) received his ninth career BIG EAST Conference pitcher-of-the-week award, after tossing the first nine-inning shutout of his career on March 2 versus Florida Atlantic (3-0), in St. Petersburg, Fla .. since the BIG EAST awards began in 1985, Heilman is the only individual to amass more than four player or pitcher-of-the-week awards in his career (including one in 1998, three in 1999 and four in 2000) … with plenty of pro scouts in attendance for the swing through spring training territory-and with FAU ace Petersen Benjamin going for the Blue Wave-Heilman fashioned shutout in often dominating fashion (he owns three previous seven-inning shutouts), scattering five hits and one walk over the nine innings while striking out nine batters in his economical 110-pitch outing, versus a Blue Wave offense that already had posted wins over the Miami Hurricanes and Oklahoma State … he faced just five batters over the minimum (32), thanks to a double play in the fifth inning and an earlier rundown play (FAU’s seventh baserunner reached on an error) … after working out of a fifth-inning jam (runners on 1st and 2nd, no outs, followed by the double-play ball and a popup), the 6-5, 225-pounder retired 13 of the next 14 batters before second baseman Steve Sollmann’s fielding error with two outs in the ninth (the next batter recorded the fifth hit off Heilman, who then ended the game with his ninth K) … Heilman kept his pitches down, as just six balls left the infield (nine Ks, 11 groundball outs, two flyouts, two infield popups, two infield lineouts and a rundown).
BIG WINS IN THE BANK: ND opened its 2001 season with a tough 7-6 loss to New Orleans at the National Bank of Commerce Classic before posting a pair of clutch victories over host Mississippi State (7-5, 4-2) … the Bulldogs were ranked as high as 16th in the national polls and opened 0-2 for the first time since 1996 while dropping consecutive home games for the first time since midway through the 1998 season, when Kentucky posted 3-2 and 12-9 wins over the Bulldogs … for the first time in its 109-year history, ND opened on the road at the same ballpark where it ended the previous season (the Irish battled MSU in the championship game of the 2000 NCAA Starkville Regional before losing 10-9).
WINDS OF CHANGE?: The Starkville area was hit early Friday afternoon (Feb. 16) by a tornado that touched down on the MSU campus, reportedly causing several million dollars of damage while canceling Friday night’s scheduled game between MSU and UNO .. the coincidence of ND’s impending arrival (late Friday night) was not lost on the MSU fans, many of whom were in attendance during ND’s game versus Tulane during the 2000 NCAAs (at Dudy Noble Field) that was halted for two hours-plus due to a passing tornado … the Irish had to overcome several logistical obstacles even before taking the field, including 10 hours of travel (South Bend-Chicago-Memphis-Starkville) that ended with an arrival at the team hotel shortly after midnight … with some of the rooms lacking electricity and heat due to the tornado damage, the Irish also coped with the lack of hot water following a 6:45 a.m. wakeup and team breakfast … Starkville was bathed in 75-degree temperatures Friday at noontime but Saturday’s gametime temperature had dipped to 39, with steady winds providing a chilly atmosphere throughout the day.
STANLEY, TAMAYO RECEIVE BIG EAST AWARDS: ND junior CF Steve Stanley (Upper Arlington, Ohio) was named the BIG EAST Conference’s co-player of the week while senior RHP Danny Tamayo (Miami, Fla.) was tabbed the BIG EAST pitcher of the week, in recognition of their performances during last week’s three wins at the Alamo Invitational … Stanley led an ND offense that hit a combined .369, posting a team-best .583 batting average (7-for-12) in the three games (with 4 runs scored, 2 RBI, 3 stolen bases, 2 walks and a sacrifice bunt) … Tamayo was the winning pitcher in the 7-4 game versus Sam Houston State, outdueling Bearkats ace pitcher Joe Fowler (who beat Texas A&M earlier in the week, 2-1) … Tamayo posted a career -best 10 strikeouts, including five straight at one point and five “looking” during his six-inning outing (94 pitches) … he allowed just three hits and one walk in the shutout stint while facing 20 batters (two over minimum), thanks to pair of double-play balls … Stanley currently ranks second among ND regulars with a .407 season batting average, trailing only the .650 mark owned by sophomore RF Brian Stavisky (who last week was named the BIG EAST player of the week and national player of the week by CB) … Stanley’s other season stats include seven runs scored, three RBI, a double, two walks and 3-of-5 on stolen base attempts … Tamayo’s two starts in 2001 have yielded a 1-1 record and 1.64 ERA, plus 13 Ks, one walk and nine hits allowed in 11 innings pitched … Stanley’s big game last week was a 4-for-5 effort in the 7-4 win over Sam Houston State, helping put the Bearkats away with a single and run scored in the 7th inning (for a 5-1 lead) and an RBI single in the 8th (7-4).
NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK: ND sophomore RF Brian Stavisky (Port Allegany, Pa.) lived up to his preseason hype by earning national player-of-the-week honors after batting .692 (9-for-13) and reaching base on 10 consecutive plate appearances at the National Bank of Commerce Classic … Stavisky was recognized by Collegiate Baseball magazine as the national player of the week while the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association tabbed Stavisky as its national “hitter of the week” … the 6-3, 220-pound lefthander also earned the first BIG EAST player-of-the-week award for the 2001 season … his 10 consecutive times on base included hits in his final two ABs versus UNO and a 3-for-3 effort (with 2 BB) later that day vs. host Mississippi State. … in the final game of the NBC Classic, he collected hits in his first three ABs vs. MSU-yielding 10 straight times on base … a strikeout to open the 8th halted Stavisky’s streak (he had hits in eight of his first 10 ABs overall) and his final 1B was a hard-hit lineout to CF in the 11th inning of that 4-2 win … Stavisky’s weekend production from the cleanup spot included three walks, three RBI, three runs scored, two triples, two doubles, 15 total bases, a stolen base and two Ks … current Irish senior RHP Aaron Heilman (Logansport, Ind.) was named by CB as the national pitcher of the week twice in 2000, following his 12-K game in a 6-4 win over Georgia on March 5 and his 18-K game at West Virginia on April 15 (a 3-1, 10-inning win) … Stavisky’s 10 straight times on base included a wide variety of ABs, with three first-pitch hits (one RBI double, one RBI triple), four hits with two strikes (one RBI triple), two leadoff hits and a two-out RBI double.
DOUBLE YOUR DP PLEASURE: Sophomore RHP Matt Laird (Bellaire, Texas) recorded four outs on his first seven pitches of the 2001 season-thanks to pair of clutch double plays in the wins over MSU … Laird took the hill on Feb. 17 with runners on first and second, one out and ND leading 7-5 … he worked to a 1-2 count on his first batter before Matthew Maniscalco send a dipping line drive, with SS Alec Porzel snaring the ball and stepping on second for the game-ending DP … the next day, Laird took the mound again with runners on 1st and 2nd (in the 10th) and induced pinch hitter Brad Rutto in to a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning (on a 2-0 pitch).
30-30: Senior SS Alec Porzel is on the verge of becoming the first Irish player ever to reach 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in his career … Porzel has 29 HRs and 27 SBs in 184 GP, leaving him on the doorstep of the 30-30 plateau … junior C Paul O’Toole (17 HR, 29 SB, 123 GP) likewise has a shot at the 30-30 distinction.
CAPE COD’S BEST: Three ND baseball players made big names for themselves as participants in the 2000 Cape Cod League-the nation’s premier wooden-bat summer league for college-age players … all three Irish players-CF Steve Stanley, OF Brian Stavisky and C Paul O’Toole-were selected as starters for the 2000 Cape Cod League all-star game (only Georgia Tech, with three, could match the Irish) … Stanley led the Cape with a .329 batting average as leadoff man for the Brewster Whitecaps, playing alongside Irish classmate O’Toole. Stanley also ranked second in the Cape for runs (31), third in on-base percentage (.429) and fourth in stolen bases (20-of-27, in 43 GP) … O’Toole hit .273 and impressed observers with his wooden-bat power, tying for fifth in the league with four home runs, plus three triples, three doubles, 24 RBI, 26 runs, 18 walks, 27 Ks and 13-of-18 SBs (41 GP). Stavisky-who finished second in the Cape batting race (.324)-saw his Hyannis Mets fall to Brewster in the title game, 6-2, while O’Toole combined with Stanley to help the East all-stars rally past the West, 7-6. Stavisky hit three home runs in the Cape (one coming as co-MVP of the all-star game) while ranking fifth in the league in slugging (.453), fourth in RBI (26), second in doubles (14) and first in hits (55), plus 19 walks, 30 Ks and four SBs (44 GP) … several players from teams on ND’s 2001 schedule were teammates of the Irish players in the Cape, including Fresno State 2B Tom Creighton (Brewster) and three players from Hyannis: Florida Atlantic RHP Dan Core, Virginia Tech RHP Jason Bush and Connecticut OF Mike Scott.
JUMPIN’ JAYHAWKERS: Three other Irish players also experienced summer success on a high level, as member of the Hays (Kansas) Larks team that advanced to the championship game of the annual National Baseball Congress World Series (held in Wichita) … current junior RHP Matt Buchmeier was named all-Jayhawk League, after posting a 1.75 ERA and 6-3 record in 70 IP during the summer of 2000 … Buchmeier handed the potent Santa Barbara Foresters an 8-1 loss in the late rounds of the NBC World Series (7-inning CG, 7 Ks, BB, 4 H, UER) … current junior 3B Andrew Bushey also was named first team all-Jayhawk League after leading the Larks with a .346 batting avg. (62-for-179) … Bushey likewise was named to the NBC World Series all-Midwest Regional team (he hit .308 and scored seven runs) … junior RHP Drew Duff did his part as well, posting a 4-1 mid-tournament win over the Santa Maria Indians (9 IP, R, 5 H, 2 BB, 6 Ks) and turned in a solid outing in the 3-1 title-game loss to the Liberal (Kansas) Bee Jays.
GAME-ENDING HOME RUNS: Senior SS Alec Porzel has made a name for himself when it comes to game-ending home runs … in addition to his 10th-inning blast vs. Pittsburgh (11-8) on May 7, 2000, Porzel also beat the Panthers with a first-pitch, walkoff home run to cap the ’99 Pittsburgh series (3-2, in the ninth) … as a freshman in ’98, he ended the longest game in Eck Stadium history with a 15th-inning homer vs. West Virginia (5-3) … most recently, Porzel’s first career grand slam broke an 7-7 tie in the eighth inning of the 15-7 BIG EAST Tournament win over Pittsburgh in 2000.
REVERSE TRANSFORMATION: During the previous six seasons of the Paul Mainieri era at Notre Dame, several prep shortstops have been converted into Irish outfielders … current ND freshman Steve Sollmann has completed what seemingly has been a seamless transition in the other direction, by moving from his typical outfielder position to second base for the Irish … Sollmann has filled one Mainieri staple, as the team’s No. 9 batter (providing a “second leadoff hitter” in hopes of jumpstarting big innings).
YOU THE MANN … SORRY THE MAN: You’ll have to forgive those close to the ND baseball program for causing confusion over the proper spelling of Irish freshman 1B Joe Thaman’s last name … Thaman’s last name is of the one-n variety-putting him in the lofty company of three-time All-America pitcher Aaron Heilman but leaving him another “n” short of his rightside infield partner (freshman 2B Steve Sollmann) and senior LHP Mike Naumann … three other regulars in the Irish lineup have similarities to their last names: junior DH Ken Meyer, junior RHP Matt Buchmeier and sophomore LF Kris Billmaier.
AYE, CAPTAIN: ND’s tri-captains for 2001 are senior RHP Aaron Heilman (Logansport, Ind.), senior SS Alec Porzel (Lisle, Ill.) and junior 3B Andrew Bushey (Boardman, Ohio) … Bushey-whose .273 career average at ND includes 9-for-25 in the NCAAs (.360)-is the fifth junior to serve as an Irish baseball captain since ’91, the others: Heilman, SS Brant Ust (’99), C Bob Lisanti (’94) and 1B Joe Binkiewicz (’91) … Heilman joins Binkiewicz (’91-’92), Lisanti (’94-’96) and IF J.J. Brock (’97-’98) as the fourth multi-year captain at ND in 22 years (Lisanti and Brock both were five-year players).
PRESEASON POLLS: Notre Dame was a consensus top-14 team in 2001 preseason polls: 9th in Baseball America, 14th by Collegiate Baseball and 13th in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll … the ranking of No. 9 in the BA poll is ND’s highest rank in the history of that poll (since ’81), at any time in the season … the Irish have been ranked in the BA top 10 once previously, as the ’92 squad was ranked as high as 10th in a two-week stretch in mid-February … the No. 9 ranking is the highest ever in the BA poll for a BIG EAST team, with Rutgers holding the previous best mark after rising to 14th in 2000 (St. John’s was ranked as high as 14th in ’81, four years prior to BIG EAST baseball) … ND has been ranked in the BA preseason top 25 five times previously: 15th in ’91, 11th in ’92, 15th in ’93, 20th in ’94 and 20th in 2000 … ND was one of three “northern” teams on BA’s preseason top 25 (the others were 5th-ranked Nebraska and 24th-ranked Minnesota).
PROSPECTS: ND senior RHP Aaron Heilman is listed seventh on BA’s annual list of top pro prospects in college baseball (14th overall when including high school players, seventh among all pitchers) … Heilman ranks fourth among college pitchers, behind his former Team USA teammates Mark Prior (transfer from USC to Vanderbilt, 2nd) and Josh Karp (UCLA, 3rd) and Middle Tennessee’s Dewon Brazleton (5th) … other top prospects include: Georgia Tech 3B Mark Texiera (1st), LSU transfer (from Washington) OF Todd Linden (4th) and Auburn OF Gave Gross (6th).
PROSPECTS, PART II: ND sophomore RF Brian Stavisky was listed by BA as the No. 17 prospect (8th among position players)-making ND and Georgia Tech (three) the only schools with multiple players in the top 28 … Irish junior C Paul O’Toole checked in at 46th, with ND again joining Georgia Tech (four) as the only school with three-plus players in the top 55 (just four others had two) … position players listed before Stavisky include Teixeira, Linden and Gross, plus Long Beach State SS Bobby Crosby, San Francisco 1B/3B Taggert Bozied, LSU 2B Mike Fontenot and Southwest Missouri 1B Ryan Howard … O’Toole is the 22nd position player and third catcher on that list, behind Georgia C/1B Doc Brooks (21st) and Oklahoma State’s Ryan Budde (28th).
PROSPECTS, PART III: ND’s three top-50 prospects are more than the total from 25 of the nation’s 30 Div. I conferences, with just the ACC (9), the SEC (8), the Pac-10 (5) and the Missouri Valley (4) conferences having more than three … Heilman combined with Evansville RHP Preston Larrison (9th) to give Indiana schools two players among the top 12 (California schools have four players in the top 12 while two currently play at schools in Tennessee, one a USC transfer) … Heilman (Logansport, Ind.) is not the only Indiana native on the list, as Ball State’s Justin Wechsler (Anderson, Ind.) is listed 37th … only four states-Florida (5) and California, Texas and Missouri (3 each)-can claim more than two natives among the top 37 prospects … in addition to Wechsler, five other players from teams on ND’s 2001 schedule were included on BA’s list of college baseball’s top 100 prospects for 2001: New Mexico OF Donny Sevieri (66th), Fresno St. RHP Zach Minor (81st), Mississippi St. RHP Tanner Brock (88th) and St. John’s OF Charlie Bilezikjian (97th).
TOP-FIVE CONFERENCE: BIG EAST baseball heads into 2001 with a prestigious ranking from BA, which rated the BIG EAST as the nation’s fifth-best conference, behind the SEC, ACC, Pac-10 and Big 12 … four current BIG EAST teams participated in the 2000 NCAAs: ND, Rutgers, Seton Hall and newcomer Virginia Tech (formerly of the Atlantic-10) … five other current BIG EAST teams advanced to the NCAAs in the ’90s while the league consistently has produced high draft picks and NCAA statistical leaders … the BIG EAST had seven teams in BA’s preason top 100-ND (9), RU (35), Virginia Tech (40), SHU (69), UConn (86), St. John’s (92) and Boston College (100)-trailing only the SEC (11), Pac-10 (8) and Big-12 (8)
CREAM OF THE CROP: ND joined LSU as the only teams to place multiple players on BA’s 14-player list of first-team preseason All-Americans-senior RHP Aaron Heilman and sophomore RF Brian Stavisky-as selected by Major League scouting directors (LSU junior OF Todd Linden is a transfer from Washington) … Heilman and San Francisco 1B Taggert Bozied were the only seniors on the team while Stavisky and LSU 2B Mike Fontenot were the only sophomores … Heilman was joined on BA’s first-team pitching staff by two of his former teammates from the ’99 USA National Team–UCLA junior RHP Josh Karp and Stetson senior LHP Len Dinardo-plus Mark Prior (Vanderbilt transfer from USC) and Middle Tennessee’s Dewon Brazelton … Stavisky was joined in the first-team outfield by LSU’s Linden and Auburn junior Gabe Gross … just seven of the 29 other BA preseason All-Americans hit more home runs than Stavisky (14) in 2000 … CB made Heilman one of three pitchers named first team preseason All-America by both BA and CB (which placed Stavisky on its second team for 2001 preseason All-Americans).
FANTASTIC FIVE: The preseason all-BIG EAST teams released by the conference office and BA included just seven repeat selections, with ND producing five: senior RHP Aaron Heilman, senior SS Alec Porzel, junior C Paul O’Toole, junior CF Steve Stanley and sophomore RF Brian Stavisky … Rutgers (3) and Virginia Tech (2) were the only other schools with multiple players on BA’s 14-player all-BIG EAST team … the 15-player BIG EAST coaches all-conference team included three UConn players and two from Seton Hall (Heilman and Rutgers RHP Bob Brownlie were the only unanimous selections).
TOP FROSH: BA listed three Irish players among the BIG EAST’s top five newcomers: RHP Aaron Edwards (3rd), 2B Steve Sollmann (4th) and 1B Joe Thaman (5th) … BA tabbed Edwards for BIG EAST rookie of the year while Edwards, Sollmann and Thamann were the only freshmen on the newcomers list (the others are transfers).
TOOL TIME: In BA’s annual “best tools” list for the BIG EAST, five Irish players combined for six of 16 citations … C Paul O’Toole, 3B Andrew Bushey and CF Steve Stanley were judged to be the best defensive players at their positions (Stanley as top all-around OF) while sophomore RF Brian Stavisky repeated as the BIG EAST player with the “best raw power,” Stanley was tabbed the “fastest runner” for the second straight year and senior RHP Aaron Heilman again was cited for being the league’s pitcher with the “best control” … BA also lauded Heilman for having college baseball’s “best pure slider” and listed him as one of three pitchers in college baseball with the “best command” of his pitches (the others were South Carolina’s Kip Bouknight and Rice’s Kenny Baugh.
DANGEROUS DUO: ND’s likely No. 3 and cleanup hitters have more in common than hitting in pressure-packed spots, as senior SS Alec Porzel and sophomore RF Brian Stavisky each were tabbed as BIG EAST preseason player of the year by different national publications (Porzel from CB and Stavisky from both BA and the BIG EAST coaches) … Irish senior RHP Aaron Heilman-the 2000 BIG EAST pitcher of the year-was picked by CB as co-favorite for 2001 BIG EAST pitcher of the year, along with Rutgers sophomore RHP Bob Brownlie (who got the nod from BA and the BIG EAST coaches).
TOUGH CONFERENCE: ND was picked to win the BIG EAST by BA, CB and the BIG EAST coaches but the preseason picks differed somewhat in forecasting the runner-up (BA and the BIG EAST coaches went with Rutgers, CB with newcomer Virginia Tech).
DOMINO EFFECT: The return of senior RHP Aaron Heilman does more than just impact the top pitching matchup of a weekend series-in fact, the return of No. 22 could leave a mark on nearly every Irish game during the 2001 season … Heilman’s return transforms classmate Danny Tamayo into potentially one of the BIG EAST’s top No. 2 pitchers while helping junior Matt Buchmeier ease into the role of weekend starter in the No. 3 spot (as opposed to breaking in at No. 2) … sophomore J.P. Gagne also now can be used in a swingman role, as a very capable starter and tough long-reliever … finally, Heilman’s return also could impact the role of sophomore Matt Laird-who may have taken on a role somewhere in the starting rotation without Heilman on the staff but instead has turned in a solid two-week debut as the Irish closer.
SCORING STREAK: Notre Dame is on the verge of setting the school record for consecutive games with at least one run scored … the Irish scored in the final 58 games of ’99, in all 64 games of 2000 and in the first eight games of 2001, yielding an active 130-game scoring streak that stretches back to a 12-0 loss at Florida International on Feb. 21, 1999 … the 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 their final game of the 1994 NCAA East Regional at Clemson, S.C.) … the record streak ended with a shutout loss to another Texas team, 2-0 versus Texas Pan-American in a seven-inning game on March 10, 1997 (at Wolff Stadium in San Antonio) … just as impressive as those two streaks is the fact that Notre Dame has scored in 98.7 percent of its games in the Mainieri era (366 of 371), with the other three shutouts coming 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 a 103-game streak spanning May 25, 1907-May 17, 1912.
PUSHING FORTY: Notre Dame has posted 12 straight seasons with 40-plus wins, including 48 wins in 1989 and ’92, 46 victories in four seasons (’90, ’93, ’94, ’00), 45 wins in ’91 and 44 in ’95 … ND’s active streak of seasons with 40-plus wins ranks fourth in Division I baseball, trailing only Florida State (23), Wichita State (23) and Clemson (15).
ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE: The Notre Dame baseball squad posted a 3.19 team grade-point average in the 2000 fall semester-the program’s best semester in the seven-year tenure of head coach Paul Mainieri … 11 players turned in a Dean’s List semester (3.4 or higher) in the fall of 2000, with 21 at 3.0 or higher … Irish baseball players have earned GTE Academic All-America honors 13 times since 1982, including a pair in 2000: 2B Jeff Perconte (3.76 cumulative GPA, double major in economics and government, now attending ND Law School) and current senior LHP Mike Naumann (3.92, pre-professional science, three 4.0 semesters, already accepted into and plans to attend Baylor Medical School) … ND was one of seven Division I baseball teams with multiple Academic All-Americans in 2000 and only two of those schools-Notre Dame and North Carolina-participated in the 2000 NCAAs … top Academic All-America candidates for 2001 include Naumann, junior 3B Andrew Bushey (3.33, finance) and sophomore RF Brian Stavisky (3.69, Mendoza College of Business).
FAR & WIDE: The Notre Dame list of all-time monogram winners includes players hailing from 43 home states … current sophomore RHP Brandon Viloria (Wailuku, Hawaii) in 2000 became the first Irish baseball letterwinner from the island state while current freshman LHP Cody Wilkins (Hudson, N.C.) could become the first from the Tar Heel state … the only other states that have not produced Notre Dame baseball letterwinners include: Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Vermont.
WORKING OVERTIME: Notre Dame has won its last six extra-inning games, since losing a 10-7 game to Boston College on April 17, 1999 (in a seven-inning game that ended in the eighth) … in addition the 11-inning win at Mississippi State on Feb. 18 (4-2), the extra-inning streak includes wins over Oakland (7-6 in 10, 4/30/99), Villanova (7-3 in 10, 3/25/00), West Virginia (3-1 in 7-inn. game extended to 10, 4/15/00), Michigan (5-4 in 11, 4/26/00) and Pittsburgh (11-8 in 10, 5/6/00) … the VU and WVU games both came on the road while the Michigan win was held on neutral ground, at Old Kent Park (just outside of Grand Rapids, Mich.).
KING K: When Aaron Heilman left the mound at Dudy Noble Field during the 2000 NCAA Starkville Regional, his 314 career strikeouts left him one shy of tying the Notre Dame record for career Ks (315), set by David Sinnes from 1990-93 … Heilman returned to Dudy Noble in the first week of the 2001 season and claimed the record with a 6-K outing vs. host Mississippi State … he also owns the top two season K totals in ND history, posting 118 in both 1999 and 2000.
BIG-TIME RATIO: Heilman’s quick start to the 2000 season has yielded a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 6-to-1 (23/4), raising his career ratio to 3.79-to-1.
BIG-TIME WINNERS: Heilman (31-7) ranks as ND’s winningest pitcher in 77 years, as his .816 career winning pct. stands fourth in the Irish record book and best since Hugh Mageveney’s 18-3 record (.857) from 1922-24 … among pitchers who have logged at least 25 decisions, Heilman is the winningest hurler in ND history … Heilman’s win in the opening week over Mississippi State moved him out of a tie on the winning pct. list with ’93 graduate David Sinnes (32-8) and ’94 grad. Tom Price (40-10) … he has won 13 of his last 14 decisions, with the lone loss coming to BIG EAST rival Rutgers (10-2) on May 13, 2000.
A LOOK BACK: Heilman’s 2000 season included a 10-2 record, 3.21 ERA, 118 strikeouts and just 29 walks in 103.2 innings pitched … the 6-5, 225-pound righthander is one of just four Baseball America 2001 preseason All-Americans (among the 15 spread across three teams) who posted 10-plus wins, 100-plus Ks and an ERA of 3.30 or lower during the 2000 season, with the others including Stetson senior Lenny DiNardo, South Carolina senior Kip Bouknight (2nd team) and Rice senior Kenny Baugh (3rd team).
WHO’S THE BEST?: Notre Dame’s Aaron Heilman joined Middle Tennessee State junior RHP Dewon Brazleton and Stetson senior LHP Lenny Dinardo as the only 2001 pitchers tabbed preseason first team All-America by both Baseball American and Collegiate Baseball … Heilman and DiNardo were teammates on the 1999 USA Baseball national team.
TOP TOOLS: Baseball America’s annual college preview edition cited Aaron Heilman for having college baseball’s “best pure slider” and listed him as one of three pitchers in college baseball with the “best command” of his pitches (the others were South Carolina’s Kip Bouknight and Rice’s Kenny Baugh).
FOUR-TIME ALL-AMERICANS: Notre Dame senior RHP Aaron Heilman could post the fourth All-America season of his career, which would place him among an elite group of Notre Dame student-athletes (he already is the first Irish baseball player ever to be a three-year All-American) … just 16 previous Notre Dame student-athletes have been four-year All-Americans, with four coming from team-oriented sports: men’s basketball player Kevin O’Shea (’47-’50) and women’s soccer players Holly Manthei (’95-’98), Jen Grubb (’96-’99) and Anne Makinen (1997-2000) … others include cross country runners Oliver Hunter (’40-’43) and Mike McWilliams (’90-’93), plus men’s fencers Mike Sullivan (’76-’79), Charles Higgs-Coulthard (’84-’87), Yehuda Kovacs (’86-’89), Leszek Nowosielski (’88-’91), Jeremy Siek (’94-’97) and Luke LaValle (’96-’99) and women’s fencers Molly Sullivan (’85-’88), Myriah Brown (’96-’99), Sarah Walsh (’96-’99) and Magda Krol (’97-’00).