May 7, 2002

The Notre Dame baseball team is ranked among the top 25 of all three major national polls, after posting a 4-1 record last week – including a series win over BIG EAST rival Rutgers.

Notre Dame (34-13) – which has won 25 of its last 28, including a 16-game streak that was snapped Sunday by RU – remained No. 19 in the Collegiate Baseball magazine poll while moving up from 22nd to 19th in the Baseball America poll. The Irish also have returned to the USA Today coaches poll, ranking 24th in this week’s poll.

One of Notre Dame’s early-season opponents, USC, also has surged since its early struggles and currently ranks 20th, 18th and 25th respectively in the above polls. Recent ND opponent Arizona State remains 19th in the coaches poll while Florida International received votes in this week’s USA Today poll.

Several of Notre Dame’s early-season opponents have pieced together solid seasons, including USC (28-18 Div. I record), Texas Christian (25-24), Florida International (33-14), Creighton (23-19), New Orleans (26-23) and Southern Illinois (25-17), plus recent opponents Arizona State (27-16), Rutgers (29-18) and Virginia Tech (26-21).

The Irish have remained among the national ERA leaders, checking in this week at 10th (3.42) – just behind Alabama (3.36), Houston (3.35), Marist (3.28) and Illinois-Chicago (3.26), with the nation’s top-five ERA teams including Texas (2.70), Rice (2.81), Wichita State (3.05), Northwestern (La.) State (3.15) and East Carolina (3.23).

Notre Dame has fashioned its solid season ERA despite losing the potent 1-2 starting tandem of graduated Aaron Heilman (1.74) and Danny Tamayo (2.72) from the 2001 season. Several of Notre Dame’s 2002 opponents currently rank among the nation’s top hitting teams, including Florida International (.342, 3rd), Western Michigan (.328, 20th), USC (.328, 20th) and Bowling Green (.323, 28th). FIU (9.1 runs per game, 8th) and USC (8.5, 16th) also rank among the nation’s top-scoring teams, as does another 2002 ND opponent, Missouri (8.3, 22nd).

Senior centerfielder Steve Stanley (Upper Arlington, Ohio) remains among the national leaders in season batting average, checking in this week in the 8th spot (his .457 average is on pace to best Edwin Hartwell’s team record of .447, set in 1993). Stanley sits just behind Brad Bouris of Illinois State (.458) and Southern’s Antoin Gray (.459) – with the top five batting leaders including another Southern University batter, Rickie Weeks (.506), plus Clemson’s Khalil Greene (.478), Curtis Granderson of Illinois-Chicago (.472), TCU’s Terry Trofholz (.464) and Marist’s Anthony Bocchino (.462).

Notre Dame junior righthander J.P. Gagne also remains among the national leaders in season ERA, ranking 38th at 2.38.

Notre Dame’s final eight regular-season games include several schedule notes:

* The May 11-12 series vs. Villanova will be played in downtown Philadelphia at Richie Ashburn Field, in FDR Park (the Irish also played Villanova at Richie Ashburn in 1999 and 2000). The format will include a single game on Saturday (3:00 p.m.) while the doubleheader will be played on Sunday, beginning at noon.

* The start time of next Tuesday’s game at Purdue (May 14) has been pushed back one hour to a 3:00 p.m. start.

* The format for the final regular-season series vs. Boston College was altered from the original preseason schedule. The teams will play the third Friday-night game of the season at Eck Stadium on May 17 (6:05), with the doubleheader to follow on Saturday the 18th (12:05).