Feb. 18, 2004
2004 Notre Dame Baseball
Feb. 20-22, at USC Public Storage Classic
PLAY BALL! – The Notre Dame baseball team – ranked as high as 10th in the national polls (by Collegiate Baseball magazine) – is set to open the 2004 season at the USC Classic … the Irish start the season versus San Diego State (6-8) on Friday, Feb.20, at 2:00 P.S.T. (5:00 in South Bend) before facing the host Trojans on Saturday at 5:30 …ND then will make a quick turnaround for a Sunday-morning game vs. Louisville (9:30 a.m.) … ND’s next victory will be the 400th under 10th-year Irish head coach Paul Mainieri.
A QUICK LOOK AT THE IRISH – Notre Dame owns the nation’s No. 6-rated freshman class (per Baseball America) while returning the bulk of its offense (each of top nine hitters, eight of nine position starters) and several top pitchers from the 2003 squad that repeated as BIG EAST Tournament champions (first team to do so since 1986), fashioned a 45-18 record and advanced to the final of the NCAA Fullerton Regional … the pitching staff also is set to welcome back Grant Johnson (missed all of ’03 due to shoulder injury) but his fellow junior RHP John Axford will miss the ’04 campaign after undergoing “Tommy John” reconstructive elbow surgery … the 14 returning position players combined to make 89% of the offensive starts in ’03 while combining for 99% of the stolen bases (83 of 84), 96% of the triples (25 of 26), 90% of the hits (597 of 664) and runs scored (391 of 433), 87% of the walks (178 of 204) and 84% of the home runs (26 of 31) and doubles (97 of 115) … the 2004 staff’s eight returning healthy pitchers (including Johnson, with his ’02 stats) combined for a 3.23 ERA and 28-8 record in their previous season with the Irish, with their other combined stats from the past season including two saves, 290 strikeouts, 115 walks and 318 hits allowed in 334 innings.
KEEPING THE MOMENTUM – The Notre Dame offense – with 10 of the top 11 regulars returning – will be looking to pick up where it left off at the end of the 2003 season, when the ND batters hit a combined .353 (103-for-292) during eight ’03 postseason games.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Notre Dame – junior RHP Chris Niesel, Plantation, FL, 6-0/205 (’03: 2.65, 9-1, 15 GS/3 CG, 98.1 IP, 87 K/19 BB, 86 H, .232 … career: 2.95, 13-1, 2 SV, 29 GP/26 GS, 170.2 IP, 149 K/37 BB)
SDSU – senior RHP Scott Shoemaker (’04: 6.23, 1-2, 4 GS, 21.2 IP, 22 K, 8 BB, 22 H, .262 opp. avg. … ’03 at Long Beach State: 3.60, 1-1, SV, 13 GP/8 GS, 45 IP, 34 Ks, 15 BBB, 42 H)
Notre Dame – sophomore LHP Tom Thornton, Middleboro, MA, 6-6/215 (’03: 1.81, 5-1, 54.2 IP, 29 K/14 BB, 54 H, .269)
USC – soph. LHP Bobby Paschal (1.50, 1-0, 1 GS, 6 IP, 4 K, BB, 5 H … ’03: 5.43, 3-7, 16 GP/13 GS, 69.2 IP, 67 Ks, 30 BB, 73 H)
Notre Dame – freshman RHP Derik Olvey, Pelham, AL, 6-2/205 (’03 at Pelham HS: 1.49, 9-1, 70.2 IP, 93 K/11 BB, 36 H)
Louisville – freshman RHP Justin Valdes (Tampa, FL/Dunedin HS … prep career: 3.30, 9-5, 111.1 IP, 116 K)
QUICK NOTES ON THE USC CLASSIC FIELD
- San Diego State (see www.goaztecs.com) – SDSU already sports a 6-8 record, after playing at Hawaii-Hilo (3-2 record), at home vs. Sacramento State and UC Santa Barbara and at Santa Clara (all 1-2) … the Aztecs are batting .267 as a team with an 82-78 scoring edge (5.9 runs per game), 7 home runs, 82 walks, 90 strikeouts and 16 stolen bases … top SDSU hitters include freshman C Brock Ungricht (.415, 5 RBI, 10 R, 3 2B, 7 BB, 3 SB), sophomore OF Curt Mendoza (.273, 2 HR, 10 RBI) and junior OF Jake McClintock (.300, 12 RBI, 4 2B, 5 BB) … senior RHP Scott Shoemaker (a transfer from Long Beach State) is the likely started vs. the Irish (see stats above) … SDSU returned 15 of 26 letterwinners from its 2003 team that went 29-32 and finished and in the Mountain West Conference (18-12) … top returning hitters include senior OF Landon Burt (.343, HR, 30 RBI in ’03), sophomore SS James Guerrero (.307, 2 HR, 37 RBI) and senior 1B Rielly Embrey (.284, 8 HR, 38 RBI) … senior LHP Drew Jenson returns as the leader of the bullpen (2.09, 8-1, 5 SV, 34 Ks) … future Major League Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn is in his second year as the Aztecs head coach.
- USC (see www.usctrojans.com) – USC is off to a 1-3 after UC Riverside rallied for a 10-9 win over the visiting Trojans on Tuesday … USC opened last weekend with a 3-1 loss at Long Beach State, a 6-4 home win over LBSU and then a 6-2 loss at LBSU … the Trojans are batting .236 as a team, with 2 home runs, 10 walks, 40 strikeouts and 5 stolen bases … top early hitters include sophomore SS Blake Sharpe (.500, HR, 5 RBI) and sophomore C Baron Frost (.357, RBI, 3 2B) … the USC staff owns a 5.88 ERA, with 29 Ks, 16walks and a .285 opponent batting avg. … USC has totaled just 4 errors (.972 fielding pct.) … USC returned 15 of 27 letterwinners from its 2003 team that went 28-28 and finished 5th in the Pac-10 (11-13) … top returning hitters include sophomore C Jeff Clement (.298, 21 HR, 53 RBI in ’03; currently restricted to DH duties due to mononucleosis), junior 1B Joey Metropoulos (.321, 11 HR, 41 RBI) and junior 2B Jon Brewster (.310, 4 HR, 27 RBI) … freshman RHP Ian Kennedy – the nation’s No. 2-rated freshman prospect – is slated to start Friday’s game vs. Louisville while sophomore LHP Bobby Paschal (see stats above) is the likely starter vs. the Irish (senior RHP Jon Williams is the likely starter on Sunday vs. SDSU).
- Louisville (see www.uoflsports.com) – The Cardinals were slated to open their season on Wednesday at Cal State Northridge … Louisville returned 19 of 27 letterwinners from its 2003 team that went 34-23 and finished 7th in Conference USA (14-15) … top returning hitters include senior OF Mark Jurich (.285, 5 HR, 33 RBI), senior C Ron Braun (.363, 7 HR, 41 RBI), senior IF J.T. LaFountain (.313, 8 HR, 47 RBI) and sophomore 2B Nick Haley (.346, HR, 25 RBI) … the Cardinals were expected to start a freshman RHP vs. the Irish, most likely Justin Valdes (see prep stats above).
THREE-YEAR TEAR – Notre Dame racked up a 144-49-1 record during the previous three seasons (49-13-1 in 2001, 50-18 in ’02, 45-18 in ’03), with only four Division I teams totaling more wins over that three-year span: Florida State (161), Rice (157), South Carolina (151) and Stanford (149).
RADIO, LIVE-STATS & HOTLINE – All of Notre Dame’s 2004 regular-season and postseason games again will be broadcast by South Bend-based WDND 1620 AM (and its sister station, WNDV 1490) … the broadcasts are available via the internet at www.und.com (College Sports Pass subscription required) … und.com also provides links to livestats on the website’s main page, for all home games and select road games (including the USC Classic, courtesy of usctrojans.com) … call the ND Sports Hotline at 574-631-3000 for schedule and result information for all varsity sports currently in season (from the main menu, select “4” and then select “1” for baseball information).
FAR & WIDE – The 11 players listed below as potential opening-day starters include three California natives and three from Florida, plus two from Ohio and one each from Virginia, Iowa, New York and Colorado.
PROBABLE OPENING-DAY STARTING LINEUP AND RESERVES (includes stats/notes on each player; see PDF)
PRESEASON RESPECT – Notre Dame is one of six teams that have been in the Baseball America preseason top-20 every season since 2000 … the others include Rice, LSU, Cal State Fullerton, Georgia Tech, Stanford and Baylor … ND checked in at 20th in BA’s 2000 preseason poll, followed by 9th in 2001, 5th in ’02 and 12th in ’03.
- AZTECS SET TO BECOME OPPONENT #280 – Notre Dame has faced 279 different opponents in 111 previous season of Division I baseball, with San Diego State among the more noteworthy teams not on that list (as is Oklahoma State) … the Irish are 13-2 in their last 15 games vs. a first-time opponent, dating back to a win over Akron in 2000 … the recent losses to first-time opponents have been to South Florida (’01) and Jacksonville (’03), with other recent wins over Florida Atlantic, New Mexico, Univ. of the Pacific, Sam Houston State, UC Santa Barbara, Fairfield, Sacred Heart, Arkansas-Little Rock, Rochester College, Rice, Newman and IPFW during that stretch.
- ND-USC – The Trojans won the first two meetings vs. the Irish, with the first game played on the campus of another USC Classic participant (5-4, at Louisville, in 1961) … the football rivals then went 36 years before the next meetings, a 14-4 USC win at the 1997 Long Beach State Classic … the Irish rallied to beat USC at the 2002 Round Rock (Texas) Classic (15-8) … that game featured the freak brown leg suffered by current ND junior 1B/3B Matt Edwards (he was injured on a collision with the leftfielder, while chasing a windblown popup, but return in ’03 as an all-BIG EAST and ABCA all-region performer) … USC led that game 8-4 before the Irish rallied to score the final seven runs … ND freshman RHP Chris Niesel yielded eight runs (five earned) in the first 3.1 innings (5 H, 2 BB, 2 Ks), with half of the USC’s runs coming on Travis McAndrews’ wind-blown grand slam inside the RF foul pole … another freshman RHP, winner Martin Vergara (3.2 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 3 Ks), then combined with junior Brandon Viloria (2 IP, 5 BF, save) to keep the Trojans off the scoreboard the rest of the way … ND held a 14-8 hit edge while the teams combined for nine errors (six by USC … five Irish players registered multiple hits, including three-hit games from senior CF Steve Stanley (2 R, RBI, 2B) and 3B Andrew Bushey (3 R, 2 RBI, 2B) … freshman RHP Brett Bannister started for the Trojans (4 IP, 4 R/2 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 5 Ks).
- ND-LOUISVILLE – Notre Dame and Louisville surprisingly have met just twice previously on the baseball diamond and just once in the previous 81 seasons: a 3-2 ND win at Louisville in 1992 (the first meeting saw ND win 13-4 in 1922, also in Louisville).
BIG EAST BROTHER – Sunday’s game will be a preview of the 2005 season, when Louisville is slated to join the BIG EAST Conference (for the 2004-05 school year).
WE’RE TALKING ABOUT … (OUTDOOR) PRACTICE! – After checking into its Marina del Rey team hotel early Thursday morning, Notre Dame is scheduled spend several hours at USC’s Dedeaux Field later in the day, playing a simulated scrimmage while getting the team’s first outdoor workout of ’04 … ND’s current 5-1 streak in season openers was sparked by the first season (’98, with the 10-1 win over Florida State) of the Mainieri era in which the Irish opted to use a missed-class-day for a practice day leading into the opener … ironically, the only season since ’98 in which the Irish have not used the practice day led to the 7-6 loss vs. New Orleans in 2001.
FOR OPENERS – Notre Dame is 5-1 in its last six season openers and 5-4 in previous openers during the Paul Mainieri era … the Irish suffered a tight loss to New Orleans in the 2001 opener (7-6, at Mississippi State) but have opened with wins in 1998 (10-1 vs. Florida State, in Orlando), 1999 (8-4 over James Madison, at Florida International), 2000 (6-0 vs. Air Force, in Millington, Tenn.), 2002 (7-6 vs. Missouri, at UNO) and 2003 (10-9 over Dayton, at ASU) … each of the last three openers has produced a one-run game (the Missouri game in ’02 went 10 innings).
QUALITY ROAD WINS – Saturday’s game vs. USC will give the Irish another chance to beat a top-25 team on its home field (USC is 20th in the Collegiate Baseball magazine poll and 23rd in the USA Today coaches poll) … previous Notre Dame teams have posted noteworthy teams over homestanding traditional powers such as Miami, Florida State, LSU, Texas, Clemson and Mississippi State.
FRIEND OR FOE? – Several Notre Dame players could face former teammates at the USC Classic … ND senior C Javi Sanchez and Louisville’s Louis Prado were youth baseball teammates in the Miami area … junior RHP Grant Johnson and Louisville senior OF Mark Jurich were teammates on the 2002 USA National Team … junior RHP Chris Niesel and USC junior 1B Joey Metropoulos were teammates on the Falmouth Commodores in the 2003 Cape Cod League (Metropoulos and current ND junior 3B Matt Macri finished 1-2 among the 2003 CCL home run leaders) … sophomore OF Cody Rizzo played on the U.S. Under-16 National Team alongside current San Diego State players James Guerrero (sophomore SS) and Jordan Swayden (sophomore C) and USC sophomore C Baron Frost … Rizzo’s former club teammates include SDSU sophomore OF Curt Mendoza and USC sophomore OF Ryan Broderick … two ND freshmen who are not on the season-opening trip also have connections to this weekend’s opponents … RHP Jeff Manship is a former teammate of USC freshman OF Daniel Perales (with U.S. Youth National Team) while fellow Irish RHP/1B Chris Vasami also has played USC righthander Ian Kennedy (Baseball America listed Kennedy No. 2 and Manship No. 3 in its ratings of the top freshman prospects for the 2004 college baseball season).
BACK TO CALI – ND’s opening-day lineup may feature all three of California natives on the ’04 roster: sophomore RF Cody Rizzo (Temecula/Chaparral HS), sophomore DH Steve Andres (Napa/Siena HS) and freshman CF Danny Dressman (San Jose/Mitty HS).
FAMILIAR CLIMATE – Notre Dame will be starting its 2004 season in a familiar part of the country, as the final games of ND’s 2003 season were played at nearby Cal State Fullerton in the 2003 NCAAs (this weekend’s host SID, USC’s Jason Pommier, assisted with media relations at that ’03 Regional) … the 2001 Irish team made a true return in its season-opening trip, starting that ’01 season at the Mississippi State Classic (the 2000 team lost to the host Bulldogs in the title game of the 2000 NCAA Starkville Regional).
GOLDEN STATE SITES – Notre Dame’s trip to the USC Classic and Dedeaux Field will represent the 10th different California site visited by the Irish in the program’s history … previous ND teams have played at the University of California, Cal State Fullerton, Fresno State, Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount, UCLA, UC Riverside, the University of the Pacific and Santa Clara … since 1957, Notre Dame has played in 34 different states (plus Washington, D.C.) and 116 cities.
HEADING FOR THE LEFT COAST – The Notre Dame baseball team has made a handful of trips to California, posting a 15-21-1 record in those games (10-7-1 in the Paul Mainieri era) … the 2001 spring break trip produced a 7-0-1 record for the Irish, including a 5-0-1 record in wining the prestigious Fresno State Classic (with highlight wins over Fresno State and Illinois) … other recent trips to California include: the first games of the Mainieri era, at the 1995 Anaheim Classic (win over Pepperdine, losses to Texas and host Cal State Fullerton); the 1997 Long Beach State Classic (0-3 vs. LBSU, USC and Mississippi); and the 2003 NCAA Fullerton Regional (wins over Arizona and San Diego, two losses to CSF) … previous ND visits to the Golden State include the 1961 squad going 4-5 vs. an assortment of teams throughout California, a rough week at the 1986 UC-Riverside Invitational (0-7) and the 1989 NCAA West II Regional (win over Portland, two losses to host Fresno State).
TOURNAMENT-TOUGH – Notre Dame is 71-26-1 (.730) in regular-season tournaments during the Paul Mainieri era, including a 1998 win over Florida State, wins in 2000 over Wake Forest, Georgia and Illinois (2) and 2001 wins over Mississippi State (2), Fresno State and Illinois … the Irish have not had a losing record in 15 of their last 17 regular-season tournaments (50-14-1 record in those events), dating back to a 1-2 showing at the ACC Disney Blast early in 1998 … here are the regular-season tournaments during the Mainieri era:
1995 – Anaheim Classic (at CS Fullerton, 1-2) … College Baseball Classic (Seattle, 3-0) … Irish Baseball Classic (San Antonio, 2-2)
1996 – Service Academies Classic (Millington, TN; 3-1) … Husky Classic (Seattle, 2-1) … Irish Baseball Classic (San Antonio, 4-0)
1997 – Long Beach State Classic (0-3) … Service Academies Classic (Millington, TN; 2-0) … Irish Baseball Classic (San Antonio, 3-1)
1998 – ACC Disney Blast (Orlando, 1-2) … Diamond Classic (Evansville, IN; 3-0) … Irish Baseball Classic (San Antonio, 1-0)
1999 – New Orleans Invitational (2-1) … Irish Baseball Classic (San Antonio, 4-0)
2000 – Service Academies Classic (Millington, TN; 2-1) … Minnesota Hormel Foods Classic (2-1) … Kennel Clubs Classic (7-1)
2001 – Miss. St. Classic (2-1) … Alamo Invit. (San Antonio, 3-0 … Devil Rays Invit. (St. Pete., FL; 2-1) … Fresno St. Classic (5-0-1)
2002 – New Orleans Classic (1-2) … Homestead (Fla.) Challenge (3-1) … Round Rock Classic (1-3) … IBC (San Antonio, 4-0)
2003 – Minnesota DQ Metrodome Classic (1-2) … Kennel Clubs Classic (Jacksonville, 6-1)
SOLLMANN RECORD-BOK WATCH – Junior 2B Steve Sollmann needs just 45 hits in 2004 to join former teammate Steve Stanley (385; ’99-’02) as the only Notre Dame players to reach 300 career hits … Sollmann already ranks 8th on the ND career hits list with 255, just two behind three-year player Dan Peltier (257; ’87-’89) and 14 behind Mike Amrhein (269; ’94-’97) … Sollmann also already ranks 6th on the ND career stolen-base list (67), just one behind Dan Bautch (’90-’92) … ND’s top four leaders in career SBs include Stanley (’02), Sollmann’s brother Scott (101; ’94-’96), Pat Pesavento (94; ’86-’89) and Greg Layson (80; ’91-’94) … Sollmann enters 2004 with a .370 career batting avg. that ranks 5th in the ND record book behind Peltier (.406), Eric Danapilis (.405, ’90-’93), Stanley (.384) and his brother (.372).
BIG BOYS – Notre Dame’s 2004 roster includes some big bodies, with nine players checking in at 6-4 or taller – led by a pitching staff that averages 6-foot-4, 215 pounds … topping the charts the are the lofty sophomore tandem of RHP Ryan Doherty (7-1/220) and LHP Tom Thornton (6-6/215), plus junior RHPs Grant Johnson (6-5/215) and John Axford (6-5/180), junior LHP Scott Bickford (6-5/170), freshman 1B/LHP Mike Dury (6-5/225), freshman RHP Dan Kapala (6-5/210) and senior LHP/1B Joe Thaman (6-4/210).
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON – Seven current Irish players are second-generation college baseball players: junior Chris Niesel (Rudy Niesel, Spring Hill), junior 1B/3B Matt Edwards (Norm Edwards, Stetson), junior LHP Scott Bickford (Mark Bickford, Salisbury State), sophomore C Nick Mainieri (Paul Mainieri, New Orleans), freshman 1B Mike Dury (John Dury, N.C. State), freshmen RHP Jeff Manship (John Manship, Arizona) and freshman RHP/1B Chris Vasami (Ralph Vasami, NYU).
CALIFORNIA NATIVES – Notre Dame’s list of all-time baseball monogram winners includes 816 players who hail from 43 states, Washington, D.C., Panama and Ontario … California is the ninth-most common home state among the all-time letterwinners, with 31 (behind Illinois, New York, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania) … 19 those players hail from southern/central California (the 12 from Northern California include current sophomore DH and Napa native Steve Andres, plus five from San Francisco, two from Oakland and one each from Berkley, Stockton, San Jose and Scotts Valley) … the southern/central California natives include current sophomore OF Cody Rizzo (Temecula/Chaparral HS), All-America catcher Walt Osgood (Compton/St. Anthony’s HS, ’60-’62), 2B Greg Layson (La Mesa/Grossmont HS, ’91-’94, his .321 with 5 HR, 101 RBI in 700 AB) and catcher Ed Lund (Pasadena/St. Francis HS, ’88-’90, St. Francis HS, .308, 10 HR, 116 RBI, 507 AB) … others of note include two Mission Viejo natives – SS/CF Steve Skupien (Capistrano Valley HS, ’86-’88, .272, 8 HR, 53 RBI, 378 AB) and OF/1B Matt Strickroth (Santa Margarita HS, ’99-’02, 9 HR, 45 RBI), LHP Ed Lupton (Ventura, ’63-’65; 3.06 ERA, 15-7, 161.2, 135 Ks) and 1B/OF Jim Gillis (Huntington Beach/Union HS, ’49-’51), who is actively involved in the area Notre Dame Alumni Club events … others include: RHP Mike Balicki (Santa Margarita HS, ’95-’97), C Michael Dorning, (Claremont/LaVerne Damien HS, ’83-’85), C/OF Terry Harsha (Van Nuys, ’65), C Mike Knecht (Newport Beach/Corona del Mar HS, ’98), IF Harold “Hi” Lavelle (Compton, ’55-’56), IF Thomas MacDonald (Downey/Pius X. HS, ’63), IF Robin Reschan (San Clemente, ’70-’72, .336, 7 HR, 32 RBI), RHP Mike Riddell, (San Bernadino/Aquinas HS, ’70-’73, 3.58, 9-14, 161 IP, 100 K), C Dennis Twombley (San Diego/ Patrick Henry HS, ’94, .348, 5 HR, 24 RBI) and OF Howard Wood ( Redondo Beach /Montgomery HS, ’72-’73).
TALE OF THREE NUMBERS – Current sophomore DH Steve Andres finished 11th among ND’s 2003 regulars in season batting average (.269) but he still made a significant impact on the ’03 season, thanks to a .442 slugging pct. and .415 on-base pct. (ranking 5th and 4th, respectively, on the ’03 team).
PERFECT CLOSERS – Every four-year player in the Paul Mainieri era (since ’95) has graduated from Notre Dame, an impressive 53-of-53 streak that does not include eight former players who signed as junior but have returned to complete or near completion of their degree requirements.
40-SOMETHING – Notre Dame owns 15 straight seasons with 40-plus wins, including 49 in 2001, 48 in ’89 and ’92, 46 in ’90, ’93, ’94 and ’00, 45 in ’91 and ’03, and 44 in ’95 … ND’s active streak of seasons with 40-plus wins ranks 3rd in Division I, behind Florida State and Wichita State (both with 26 straight 40-win seasons).
MAINIERI ONE SHY OF 400TH WIN WITH IRISH
Tenth-year ND head coach Paul Mainieri – now in his 22nd overall season – picked up his 700th career coaching victory vs. Georgetown on March 29, just 135 games removed from his 600th win (ND’s 99 combined wins in ’01 and ’02 were third-most in nation, behind Florida State’s 107 and South Carolina’s 106) … Mainieri’s 730-439-2 career record (.624) includes 179-121-1 at St. Thomas (’83-’88), 152-158 at Air Force (’89-’94) and 399-160-1 (.713) at ND (’95-’03), with his 400th win at ND suddenly one win away … his ND career includes five BIG EAST titles and six NCAA trips with the Irish (’96, ’99-’03), the program’s first No. 1 ranking in 2001 and first CWS trip since ’57 (in ’02) … he was the nation’s only coach to repeat as ABCA regional coach of the year (Mideast), in 2002, and his squads have extended ND’s streak of seasons with 40-plus wins to 15 (nation’s 3rd-longest active streak) … 35 of his ND players have moved on to pro ball, including 12 drafted in the first 10 rounds and pair of first-round pitchers (Brad Lidge in ’98, Aaron Heilman in ’01) … every ND player in the Mainieri era who has completed his eligibility with the Irish has graduated from Notre Dame (53 of 53) while the eight who were signed after their junior seasons have returned to complete or near completion of their graduation requirements (including two-time Academic All-American Brian Stavisky) … Mainieri owns the best BIG EAST winning pct. in the conference’s history (.741, 137-48) … in 73 BIG EAST series spanning eight seasons, the Irish have won 55 with nine splits and just nine series wins by the opponent (just two of them being 3-game sweeps) … the Irish have been swept just four times in 71 all-time BIG EAST doubleheaders (42 ND sweeps, 25 splits) … Mainieri’s ND teams have averaged 45 wins per season.
Chris Niesel NOTES 2003 Nine-Inning Averages: 7.9 hits, 1.7 walks, 8.0 Ks, 10.3 groundouts (6.2 IP per outing; 36.8 BF per 9 IP)
2003 Situational Pitching: .222 opp. batting with runners on, .207 with 2 outs, 29% of leadoff batters reached (2.6 per 9 IP)
- Has won 31 of last 33 overall decisions, dating back to 13-0 record as a senior All-American at Aquinas High School (also 13-1 at ND, 3-1 in Cape Cod League and 2-0 in Blue-Gold fall intrasquad series).
- Tossed near-no-hitter vs. hot-hitting West Virginia (.330 team avg.) on May 3, 203, allowing Lee Fritz bunt single with two outs left in 7-inning opener (23 BF, BB, 9 Ks) … would have been first no-hitter by ND pitcher since 1988 (Brian Piotrowicz vs. Ball State).
- Allowed just one run (0.64 ERA), nine hits (.188 opp. avg.) and no walks in the 1st inning of 2003 games, pre-NCAAs (14 IP, 18 Ks).
- Averaged nearly 20 outs per 9 IP in 2003 via Ks in (8.0) or groundouts (10.3).
- Posted a 4.6 season K-to-walk ratio in 2003 that ranks 7th in ND history … his 4.03 career K-to-BB ratio (149/37) is ahead of Alan Walania’s ND record (4.00, from ’90-’93).
- Allowed just two home runs in 98.1 innings during 2003 season, after serving up team-high 7 in 2002 (72.1 IP) … went 11 outings without allowing a home run before a Spencer Harris 3-run blast in the final 2003 regular-season series at Virginia Tech.
- 10th all-time ND pitcher with multiple double-digit K games in career (10 vs. So. Ill. in ’02, 11 vs. Villanova in ’03) and 5th to do so in the 9-year Mainieri era (the others are Brad Lidge, Tim Kalita, Aaron Heilman and Danny Tamayo) … also owns five 9-K games in his ND career (four in ’03) … combined with John Axford (12 vs. WMU) as 10th pair of ND teammates with 10-plus Ks in same season (’03).
- Fourth ND player ever to receive multiple BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-week honors in same season, joining Aaron Heilman (3 in ’99, 4 in ’00, 2 in ’01), Scott Cavey (2 in ’00) and Danny Tamayo (3 in ’01).
- His 13-1 career record with the Irish could include upwards of nine more wins (due to lack of run support or lost leads by the bullpen), with his ’02 season also interrupted by mononucleosis and the hand injury holding him out of the ’03 BIG EAST Tournament.
- Had dominating 2002 postseason with 2.05 ERA in five outings (four starts), plus 22 Ks, 7 BB and 23 hits allowed in 26.1 IP (he won the 3-1 clincher at top-ranked Florida State in the Super-Regional and had a strong CWS start vs. Rice).
QUITE A RESPONSE – Notre Dame junior RHP Chris Niesel boasted a 22-1 overall streak – 130 as a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas HS, 4-0 as a freshman at ND, 3-1 in summer of ’02 with Cape Cod League’s Falmouth Commodores, and 2-0 in the ’01 and ’02 Blue-Gold intrasquad scrimmages – before suffering the first loss of his ND career, a 7-1 game vs. Nebraska at the Minnesota Metrodome Classic (2/28/03) … Niesel responded to that loss in fine fashion, closing the 2003 college season with a 1.94 ERA and 9-0 record in his final 13 appearances – with 84 Ks and just 17 BB in 88.1 IP, for a 4.9 K-to-walk ratio, plus 71 hits allowed and a .218 opponent batting average in that 13-outing span … since the Nebraska loss, Niesel’s nine-inning averages with the Irish have included 8.6 strikeouts, 1.7 walks and 7.2 hits.
ON A ROLL – Chris Niesel won his final nine decisions of the 2003 season and enters 2004 one victory shy of posting a 10-decision overall winning streak, which still would be seven shy of the Notre Dame record … Ed Walsh won 17 straight decisions spanning the 1926-28 seasons … Aaron Heilman (who went 15-0 in 2001) is the only ND pitcher in the last 75 years to post more than 13 consecutive winning decisions … Niesel’s classmate John Axford won 13 straight decisions, spanning the 2002 (4) and ’03 (9) seasons … two others join Walsh ad Heilman with the longest winning streaks in the ND record book: Frank “Dreams” Scanlan (16; 1907-09) and Herb Kelly (14; 1912-14) … Niesel nearly posted a 10-decision single-season winning streak, which would have tied for the 2nd-longest in recorded ND history.
ALL-AMERICAN DUO – Notre Dame boasts multiple returning All-Americans – senior 2B Steve Sollmann and junior RHP Chris Niesel – for the second time in the program’s history, with the 1999 squad also featuring a returning All-America position player (junior IF Brant Ust) and pitcher (sophomore RHP Aaron Heilman) … five other ND seasons have featured returning All-Americans: 1957 (senior C Elmer Kohorst), 1961 (RHP Nick Palihnich), 2000 (Heilman’s junior season), 2001 (Heilman’s senior season) and 2002 (senior CF Steve Stanley) … Sollmann has the chance to follow Kohorst and Stanley as the third ND position player to be a multi-year All-American (Heilman is the program’s only other player to hold that distinction, as a rare four-year honoree).
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY PROVIDES BONUS OFFERINGS – The official Notre Dame athletics website (und.com) included a wide variety of features leading up to the 2004 Irish baseball season … the Irish – ranked as high as 10th in the preseason polls – head into the 10th season of the Paul Mainieri era looking to add to the legacy of success for a program that dates back to 1892 and includes more than 800 former ND baseball monogram winners … the “Countdown to Opening Day” offerings spanned offerings such as: weekly practice reports; audio extras and photo galleries; various preseason national polls and awards; ND Baseball History Book entries; a “Catching Up With” series featuring former ND baseball players; and a regular ND Baseball Trivia Corner … see the Countdown headline on the und.com baseball page for links to the various features – and stay tuned for more throughout the ’04 season.
Notre Dame’s 2004 opening-day infield will have a distinctively new look, with four veterans moving to new spots to yield what could be an even tighter defensive unit than the ’03 squad (which set the ND record with a .970 season fielding pct.) … the resulting formation includes high school shortstops at three positions (sophomore SS Greg Lopez, junior 3B Matt Macri, junior 1B Matt Edwards), one of the nation’s top-rated defensive 2B (senior Steve Sollmann) and a second-year catcher who was a prep 2B (senior Javi Sanchez, who was the starting SS on the ’02 CWS team after early-season injuries to Macri and Edwards) … here are the changes and how they came about:
- The dominoes began to fall with the emergence of Lopez (Upper Arlington, Ohio), who played error-free in the firs5 15 days of ’03 fall ball … Lopez – a regular shortstop dating back to his tee-ball days – was a part-time starter at third base for the Irish in 2003 but earned the chance to compete for his familiar shortstop role during the 2003 fall season.
- The returning starter at shortstop, Macri (Clive, Iowa), missed the first couple weeks of ’03 fall ball with a thumb injury suffered late in the summer season … as luck would have it, Macri had spent the summer playing third base for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League (that team included two other college SS), emerging as a top pro prospect at the hot corner .. the combination of Macri’s prospects at third and Lopez’s strong play at shortstop (plus the bonus of his boost in strength and offensive production) resulted in a shuffling on the left side .. Macri was slotted 33rd on the Perfect Game/Baseball America list (Oct. ’03) of top college prospects for the 2004 draft (he was the fourth infielder on that list), with BA also rating him as the BIG EAST Conference’s “best defensive third baseman” and “infielder with the strongest arm.”
- Edwards (Mechanicsville, Va.) – who split time at third and first base with the Irish in ’03 – then headed across the diamond to focus on first base.
- The most intriguing change has involved senior Joe Thaman (St. Louis, Mo.), who made a name for himself as one of college baseball’s top defensive first basemen during the ’01-’03 seasons .. inconsistency on the offensive end prompted Thaman to follow through on an idea that he’d floated earlier in his career: a move to the mound … Thaman naturally has provided some key tips to help Edwards in his transition.
- Sanchez (Miami, Fla.) is the wildcard in the whole equation, holding a unique dual role as starting catcher and top utility infielder … if Sollmann, Lopez or Macri are forced from a game, the Irish coaching staff’s first inclination will be to shift Sanchez into any of those infield spots (with freshman catcher Sean Gaston a solid option behind the plate).
G-A-S-T-O-N SPELLS RELIEF – Notre Dame has added one of the nation’s top freshman catchers in the form of in-state talent Sean Gaston (Brownsburg), who was the runner-up for the 2003 Indiana Mr. Baseball Award … the arrival of Gaston gives the Irish a strong catching tandem, with senior Javi Sanchez (who also is the team’s top utility infielder and a leading righthanded DH option) now able to catch fewer innings this season … Sanchez caught 86% of the innings in 2003 (476 of 554), including 92% in the second half of the season and 71 of 72 in the ’03 postseason.
OPENING DINNER AGAIN A SMASH HIT – Nearly 1,300 South-Bend area baseball fans were on hand the night o Feb. 5 at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse for the Notre Dame baseball program’s third annual Opening Night Dinner, with bestselling author and baseball enthusiast John Grisham serving as the keynote speaker while former Notre Dame All-American Steve Stanley also provided an inspiring speech to the large gathering (the crowd numbering some 300 more than the previous two Opening Night Dinners, which featured keynote speakers on the level of Hall-of-Fame manager Tommy Lasorda and current Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry) … see the “news” link on the und.com baseball page for excerpts of the comments from the Opening Night Dinner, plus a photo gallery.
WINNING BIG & SMALL – Notre Dame was 9-1 this in 2004 one-run games (including 4-3 NCAA loss to Cal State Fullerton) while posting 24 “big wins” (margin of five-plus runs) … by comparison, ND’s 2002 College World Series team was 9-8 in one-run games and totaled 21 wins by 5-plus runs.
EVEN STEVEN – Notre Dame’s 2003 scoring dominance in the 2nd inning this season (73-17) nearly was matched by the team’s scoring edge two innings later in the 4th (57-24) and then two later in the 6th (80-34) for a combined edge of 210-75 (+135) in those three frames … the Irish did not outscore the ’03 opponents by more than 10 runs in any other inning (1st, 3rd, 5th, 8th) while being outscored in only the 7th (33-36) and the 9th (11-19).
SCHEDULE CHANGES – Fans are reminded to note several changes to the 2004 ND baseball schedule in recent weeks (always consult und.com for the most up-to-date schedule information) … the primary changes involving one-day shifts in lateseason BIG EAST series vs. Connecticut and Rutgers … all of the changes are listed below:
- Due to a change in the University of Connecticut finals schedule, ND’s series at UConn in early May has been pushed back one day. The teams now will play a noon doubleheader on Sunday, May 9, and the third game of the series will be played at noon on Monday, May 10.
- The above ND-UConn series will have Tuesday, May 11, available as a makeup day – thus removing the previously scheduled ND-Bowling Green game (May 11) … Bowling Green now is not on the official 56-game schedule, although the Irish and Falcons could play in makeup-game scenario at some point in the 2004 season.
- The shift in the ND-UConn series also has resulted in a one-day shift the following weekend when Rutgers will visit Eck Stadium to face the Irish … the teams now will play a doubleheader on Saturday, May 15 (12:05 p.m.) and then will wrap up the series several hours after graduation ceremonies, in the first Sunday-night game in Eck Stadium history (May 16, 7:05).
- The 56-game schedule has been filled out with a game vs. Central Michigan on Tuesday, March 23 (5:05) … this game now will serve as the home opener and fills the void on the schedule after dropping the Bowling Green game.
- Two early-season games have undergone minor time changes: Feb. 27 vs. Winthrop (1:00 p.m. eastern) and Feb. 29 vs. Minnesota (11:00 a.m. eastern) … finally, the doubleheader at Pittsburgh on Sunday, April 25, now will begin at 11:00 a.m.
See PDF for various chart data on first-week stats during the Mainieri era and career first-week stats for current ND players
Opening-Week Home Runs in the Mainieri Era
Rowan Richards (Jr., CF, ’95) – game 3 vs. Pepperdine, in Anaheim (14-5)
Ryan Topham (Jr., RF, ’95) – game 3 vs. Pepperdine, in Anaheim (14-5)
Bob Lisanti (Sr., C, ’96) – game 1 at Georgia Tech (4-12)
Justin Scholl (Sr., RF, ’97) – game 2 vs. USC, at Long Beach (4-14)
Dan Leatherman (Sr., 1B, ’98) – game 1 vs. Florida State, in Orlando (10-1)
Brant Ust (So., 3B, ’98) – game 2 vs. N.C. State, in Orlando (8-10)
Jeff Wagner (Jr., C, ’98) – game 2 vs. N.C. State, in Orlando (8-10)
Brant Ust (Jr., SS, ’99) – game 1 vs. JMU, at FIU (8-4)
Ed Golom (Fr., PH, ’99) – game 2 at FIU (1-14)
Alec Porzel (Jr., SS, ’00) – game 3 at Memphis (4-3)
Brian Stavisky (Fr., RF, ’00) – game 3 at Memphis (4-3)
Matt Bok (Sr., DH, ’02) – game 1 vs. Missouri, @UNO (7-6)
Andrew Bushey (Sr., C/B, ’02) – game 2 at New Orleans (7-8)
Kris Billmaier (Sr., RF, ’03) – game 1 vs. Dayton, @ASU (10-9)
Kris Billmaier (Sr., RF, ’03) – 2 HRs in game 2 vs. Newman, @ASU (15-5)
Steve Andres (Fr., DH, ’03) – game 3 at Arizona State (3-16)
Matt Macri (So., SS, ’03) – game 4 at Arizona State (8-14)
Cody Rizzo (Fr., CF, ’03) – game 4 at Arizona State (8-14)
Opening-Day Home Runs in the Mainieri Era
Bob Lisanti (Sr., C, ’96) – at Georgia Tech (4-12) Dan Leatherman (Jr., 1B, ’98) – vs. Florida State, in Orlando (10-1) Brant Ust (Jr., SS, ’99) – vs. JMU, at FIU (8-4) Matt Bok (Sr., DH, ’02) – vs. Missouri, @UNO (7-6) Kris Billmaier (Sr., RF, ’03) – vs. Dayton, @ASU (10-9)
A glance through Baseball America’s annual college preview issue shows many accolades for the Notre Dame baseball program while highlighting the many challenging opponents that await the Irish in 2004.
- BA picked the Irish to win their fifth BIG EAST regular-season title, with senior 2B Steve Sollmann, junior 1B Matt Edwards, sophomore OF Cody Rizzo and junior RHP Chris Niesel each named to B ‘s preseason all-BIG EAST team (Sollmann was projected as the player of the year).
- BA’s list of the league’s top-10 prospects include three ND juniors: RHP Grant Johnson (2nd), 3B/SS Matt Macri (4th) and Niesel (5th) … Macri also was rated as the nation’s #41 prospect among true juniors … Johnson has two years of eligibility left and was slotted by BA as the #12 prospect for the ’05 draft, along with current sophomores/second-year juniors (an earlier Oct. ’03 projection by BA had him rated as college baseball’s No. 24 draft-eligible prospect for the ’04 draft, with Macri 33rd, Niesel 39th and junior RHP John Axford 44th, prior to his season-ending elbow surgery) … Macri is the fourth 2B/SS/3B on the junior prospects list, behind Georgia Tech 2B Eric Patterson, Clemson 3B Brad McCann and Arizona State SS Dustin Pedroia.
- Sollmann is 12th on BA’s list of the top senior prospects while sophomore RHP Ryan Doherty is 47th on BA’s list of the nation’s top sophomore prospects (he is the 20th pitcher and 15th RHP on that list) … freshman RHP Jeff Manship is BA’s No. 3-rated freshman prospect behind UNC lefthander Andrew Miller and Southern California RHP/OF Ian Kennedy (Manship underwent elbow surgery on Feb. 11) … another Irish RHP, Derik Olvey, checks in at #22 on the freshman prospects list, with ND joining UNC (1/9) and Tulane (16/24) as the only schools with multiple players among the top 25 on that list … Manship and Olvey were rated 1-2 among BA’s list of the BIG EAST’s top five newcomers.
- BA’s list of “top tools” among BIG EAST players includes Sollmann as the league’s “best baserunner” and “best defensive 2B” while Macri is cited as the “best defensive 3B” and “best infield arm.”
- The BIG EAST was listed seventh among BA’s rankings of the nation’s top conferences, behind the SEC, ACC, Pac-10, Big 12, C-USA and Big West … the BIG EAST also owned the 7th-most alums currently in the Major Leagues (19) on BA’s top conferences chart.
Here’s a look at how BA rates Notre Dame’s upcoming 2004 opponents (see release on und.com for full list of opponent info. .. national ratings for “top tools” and other categories had yet to be released):
San Diego State (29-32 in ’03, 2nd in Mountain West at 18-12; return 15 of 26 letterwinners) – picked to finish 2nd in MWC, behind UNLV … former ASU righthander Ryan Schroyer is dubbed the nation’s top transfer (also MWC’s top overall newcomer and #2 prospect) … predicted all-conference picks include Schroyer (nation’s #5 senior prospect), C Jordan Swayden and OF Jake McClintlock … 3B Chad Corona rated MWC’s #3 prospect and nation’s #32 senior prospect (also “best raw power in MWC”) … SS James Guerrero is MWC’s #7 prospect, RHPs Scott Shoemaker (#3) and Brett Douglas (#3) are among the top newcomers and Rielly Embrey is rated the “best defensive 1B” … Aztecs hoping to a “return to form” from McClintlock and Corona in ’04.
USC (28-28 in ’03, 5th in Pac-10 at 11-13; return 15 of 27 LWs) – picked 28th in BA preseason top 50 (5th in Pac-10) … predicted all-conference picks include C Jeff Clement (2nd team AA, nation’s #5 sophomore prospect, Pac-10’s #2 prospect for ’05 draft and “best raw power,” played with Team USA in ’03), 1B Joey Metropoulos (3rd team AA, nation’s #45 junior prospect, #7 in Pac-10) and RHP Ian Kennedy (projected Pac-10 rookie of the year, top newcomer, rated nation’s #2 freshman prospect) … OF Daniel Perales is listed 49th among top freshman prospects.
Louisville (34-23 in ’03, 7th in C-USA at 14-15, 2-2 at C-USA Tour.; return 19 of 27 LWs) – future BIG EAST team is picked 7th in C-USA … senior OF Mark Jurich, son of the Louisville AD and a teammate of ND’s Grant Johnson on the 2002 Team USA squad, is projected for all-conference honors in ’04 (also dubbed “best baserunner” and nation’s #11 senior prospect) … RHP Travis Ingle (Oklahoma State) is rated nation’s #3 transfer …Ron Braun is the league’s top returning hitter (.363, 7 HR, 41 RBI).
Winthrop (35-22 in ’03; 1st in Big South at 15-4, 1-2 at BS Tour.; return 20 of 24 LWs) – picked to finish 2nd in Big South behind Coastal Carolina … predicted all-conference players include 2B Matt Matkovich, 3B David Skogin and OF Daniel Carte (#3 prospect, best pure hitter) … C Chris Leroux (Big South’s #6 prospect, best catcher’s arm) also is slated to be the team’s closer … team returns all of its regulars and is a proven fielding team, with 1B Bennett Stapf, 2B Matkovich and SS Matt Repec each rated the Big South’s top defensive players at their positions (Carte was cited for “best OF arm”) … Matkovich led the league in ’03 with a .377 batting avg. (8 HR, 34 RBI) while Carte (.340, 13 HR, 53 RBI) was the BIG South HR leader and MVP of Great Lakes League in the summer of ’03.
Florida Atlantic (47-16 in ’03, 1st in Atlantic Sun at 25-7, 1-2 at NCAA Miami Reg.; return 15 of 25 LWs) – picked to repeat as A-Sun champs (#23 in BA preseason poll) … all-conference picks include 1B Derek Brown, 3B Jeff Fiorentino (player of year, #1 prospect, “best pure hitter”), OF Rob Horst and LHP Randy Beam (pitcher of year, 1st team AA, nation’s #50 senior prospect) …four FAU players – C Robbie Orton, 1B Brown, 2B Derek Hutton and SS Evan Brannon – each were cited as the Big South’s best defensive players at their positions …RHP Mike Crotta is predicted to be rookie of the year (#2 newcomer, nation’s #13 freshman prospect) … Fiorentino (league’s top hitter in ’03, at .382 with 15 HR, 49 RBI) and Brown provide big bats in middle of lineup, Beam (top pitcher at 2.39, 13-1) noted for Crafty approach and stellar control (17 BB in 102 IP in ’03) … FAU is leaving for the Sun Belt after ’04.
Minnesota (40-22 in ’03, 1st in Big Ten at 24-6, 1-2 at NCAA Long Beach reg.; return 17 of 24 LWs) – checked in at 30th in BA preseason top 50, picked to win fourth Big Ten regular-season title in last five years … projected all-conference players include LHP Glen Perkins (best fastball, best control, #2 prospect, nation’s #24 sophomore prospect), 1B Andy Hunter, 3B David Hrncirik (“best defensive 3B”) and OF Sam Steidl (“best pure hitter” and “best defensive OF”) … the Gophers have welcomed three of Big Ten’s top newcomers: OF Sean Kommerstad (2nd), RHP Josh Oslin (3rd) and LHP John Gaub (4th).
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? – The first nine years of the Paul Mainieri era at Notre Dame (’95-’03) included many noteworthy individuals who have gone on to distinguish themselves after completing their Irish baseball careers … included among the 61 former Mainieri players listed below are: three pitchers who have reached the Major Leagues, 11 other current pro baseball players (plus 21 former pro players), seven lawyers/current law students, three medical-school students, 12 others who have received or are pursuing postgraduate degrees (three of them MBAs, one Ph.D.), three engineers, five involved in medical supplies sales, eight college/high school coaches, three commodity brokers, a prospective dentist, a sports agent, a contractor and a town mayor – plus others involved in areas such as youth services, accounting, sales, athletic administration, technology, advertising, graphic design, banking and consulting … see p. 15 of the 2004 ND baseball media guide or und.com (click “news”) for the complete list.
Notre Dame Baseball 2003 Final Summer Stats (College Wood-Bat Leagues)
Here’s a final look at 2003 summer baseball stats for current and former Notre Dame baseball players (the pro player stats follow below the summer wooden-bat league recaps):
Matt Macri (Brewster Whitecaps, Cape Cod League) – finished second in the CCL with 7 HRs (behind the 11 by USC’s Joey Metropoulos, with Falmouth) … chosen for the CCL home run derby … hit mostly in the 3-hole … played at 3B, with team featuring two other college starting SS … helped Brewster share Eastern Division title (24-17-3) … hit .172 (21-for-122) on squad with .231 team batting avg., plus 23 runs, 7 home runs, 1 triple, 4 doubles, 16 RBI, 30 walks, 8-of-11 stolen bases in 36 games played … saw his summer season end due to hand injury in late July.
Chris Niesel (Falmouth Commodores, Cape Cod League) – served in new role as bullpen ace, ranking 5th in the CCL with 7 saves … also posted 1-4 record in 13 games (3 starts), with 33 strikeouts, 11 walks and 24 hits allowed in 26.1 innings … team finished 16-26.
John Axford (Cotuit Kettleers, Cape Cod League) – joined CCL in midseason after completing training with the Canadian National Team … made 7 appearances with Cotuit (9.00, 1-0, 9 IP, 4 H, 16 BB, 8 Ks) … team finished 20-21.
Javi Sanchez (Madison Mallards, Northwest League) – helped team win first-half league title, en route to 38-26 final record …split time at C/3B while playing in front of large crowds that numbered up to 4,000 … hit .262 (50-for-191) on squad with .257 team batting avg. … added 19 R, 2 2B, 26 RBI, 17 BB, 9-16 SV, a .272 slugging pct., .325 on-base pct. and 10 errors in 53 games played.
Joe Thaman (Madison Mallards, Northwest League) – hit .215 (28-for-130) with 12 RBI (48 GP, 13 R, 7 2B, HR, 13 BB, 5-7 SB, .292 slugging, .301 on-base, 6 Es).
Tyler Jones (Madison Mallards, Northwest League) – made 10 appearances (4 starts) with 15 Ks in 32 IP (8.72, 0-4, 4 HB, 12 BB, 3 WP, .368 opp. avg.).
Tom Thornton (Newport Gulls, New England Baseball League) – ranked 4th on staff with 2.91 ERA in 9 appearances and 8 starts (3-1, 2 complete games, 1 shutout, 52.2 IP, 48 H, 23 BB, 43 Ks, .247 opp. batting, 1 WP, 1 HB, 25-14 team record).
Martin Vergara (Sanford Mainers, New England Baseball League) – made 7 relief appearances and 1 start, with a 3.21 ERA (1-0, 14 IP, 11 H, 8 BB, 7 Ks, .220, WP, 28-13 team record).
Craig Cooper (Hays Larks, Jayhawk League) – enjoyed stellar summer while playing LF and batting in 2 and 3 hole for most of season … stayed with Flax family that has hosted several previous ND players … team won league title (22-6), posted 39-10 overall record and placed 2nd at regional tournament before reaching final six at annual National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita … led team in stolen bases (24-of-27) while ranking 2nd in RBI (38) and 3rd in batting (.337, 57-for-169), HRs (5), slugging (.527) and on-base (.413), plus 42 R, 5 3B, 7 2B, 20 BB and .939 fielding (4 Es) on squad that owned .299 team batting avg. and 42-12 final record.
Cody Rizzo (Hays Larks, Jayhawk League) – saw his summer cut short by foot injury (7 GP/6 GS, .174, 4-for-23, 4 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB, 1-1 SB).
Greg Lopez (Delaware Cows, Great Lakes League) – hit .268 (22-for-82) as infield on squad with .296 team batting avg. and 26-15 final record (30 GP, 13 R, 4 2B, 6 RBI, 5 BB, 1-1 SB, .337 OB, .317 slugging).
Ryan Doherty (Delaware Cows, Great Lakes League) – dominant closer, allowing just one earned run for a 0.46 ERA while racking up 28 Ks in 19.2 IP (8 GP/1 GS, 3 saves, 10 H, 5 BB, 1 HB, 1 WP, 2.75 team ERA).
Brennan Grogan (Delaware Cows, Great Lakes League) – saw his summer cut short by hamstring injury (4 GP, 2-for-7, 2-2 SB).
Matt Edwards (Waynesboro Generals, Shenedoah League) – hit .300 in second half of summer to raise batting avg. to .207, while playing 3B, SS and 1B (28 GP/27 GS, 19-for-92, 7 R, 3 2B, 3 RBI, .239 slugging, 9 BB, .291 OB, .909 fielding, 6 Es) … injury-riddled team finished 13-27, with .217 team batting avg.
Scott Bickford (Waynesboro Generals, Shenedoah League) – posted 3.00 ERA in 12 relief appearances (1-0, 18 IP, 16 H, 5 BB, 16 Ks, .222, 2 WP, 2 HB).
Matt Bransfield (Colorado Sox, Rocky Mountain League) – hit cleanup while ranking among top hitters in entire National Baseball Congress, spanning 16 leagues across the nation … his 9 regular-season HRs tied for the national lead among all NBC teams (he finished with 12 total HRs) … also ranked 4th in the NBC regular-season rankings for RBI (36), 9th in batting (.381) and 8th in hits (32) … hit 4-for-11 at the NBC World Series (2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB) … team finished 25-15 overall and 2nd in the RML (19-8).