Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Baseball Ready For Rice In College World Series

June 17, 2002

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Notre Dame senior CF Steve Stanley has started every game of his ND career and today will tie an NCAA Division I record by starting his 255th consecutive game (Arizona’s Chip Hale started all 255 in his career, from 1984-87) … Stanley also has played nearly every inning of his ND career (98.9 percent, or 2,149 of 2,174) – including 557.1 of 567.1 in the 2002 season … the ND leadoff hitter also has played every inning of the last 26 games (221 innings) … he did not play CF for the final two innings of both games in the April 3 doubleheader vs. Valparaiso and again yielded to George Howard for the final inning vs. Toledo on April 17 (Howard also played the final five innings in the April 23 game vs. Chicago State).

Steve Stanley has racked up plenty of stats in his ND career – but errors and strikeouts are not among them … Stanley has made just one error in the last 77 games, with his lone error of 2002 coming on a controversial “dropped ball” call in the final game at Seton Hall on April 21 (he made a diving catch in shallow right-center, popped up and threw the ball back to the infield but the play was ruled a no-catch) … Stanley’s four-year career includes just eight errors in 2,174 innings played (or 272 innings per E) … he also has struck out just 11 times in 313 total plate appearances this season (28.5 PAs per K).

After batting just .208 in the 2002 BIG EAST Tournament, the Irish now have compiled a .404 team batting average in eight NCAA Tournament games – led by six games with 14-plus hits and double-digit hits in every game except the 3-1 clinching win at FSU (7 H) … more impressively, the Irish are batting 74 points higher with runners in scoring position (.478) during the NCAAs.

Sophomore SS Javier Sanchez has posted four of his five home runs this season outside of Eck Stadium, including two in the postseason (he also homered in the first BIG EAST title matchup vs. Rutgers) … Sanchez is batting .341 in all postseason games (14-for-41, 7 RBI, 9 R), good for 5th-best among the ND regulars.

Notre Dame’s starting lineup has combined for 149 starts in the NCAA Tournament (including today), led by senior CF Steve Stanley, senior C Paul O’Toole and senior 3B Andrew Bushey (each is making his 21st NCAA start today) … junior LF Brian Stavisky and junior RF Kris Billmaier each are making their 18th career NCAA start today.

Notre Dame last week posted a pair of wins over consensus No. 1 Florida State (10-4, 3-1) and now faces the new top-ranked team in the latest polls … ND also beat No. 1 teams during the NCAAs twice in the early 1990s, winning 6-3 at Miami in the 1992 Atlantic Regional and 8-1 at Clemson in the 1994 East Regional.

Notre Dame is averaging a home run per game in the 2002 postseason (11 HRs in 11 games), led by two each from junior LF Brian Stavisky, senior DH Matt Bok and sophomore SS Javier Sanchez … six other ND players also have homered in the 2002 postseason.

The eight-member senior class has helped ND win nearly 75 percent of its games during the past four seasons (187-66-1) while combining for 1,287 games played, 1,024 starts, 1,175 hits, 601 RBI, 813 runs, 68 home runs, 41 triples, 222 doubles, 395 walks, 190 stolen bases and 257 innings pitched.


  • Senior C Paul O’Toole today will be playing in his 239th career game with the Irish, tying former teammate Alec Porzel (’01) for 2nd in the ND record book (behind senior CF Steve Stanley, who is playing his 255th game with ND today) … O’Toole is making his 227th start (behind Stanley’s 255, J.J. Brock’s 238 from 1994-98 and Porzel’s 234) … his 802 career at-bats rank 5th in ND history, just behind Pat Pesavento’s 806 (’86-’89) … O’Toole’s hit vs. Stanford gave him 244 for his career, edging past Brant Ust (’97-’99) into 9th on the ND list.
  • Senior CF Steve Stanley needs five at-bats today to land on 1,000 for his career … his 456 career total bases rank 3rd in the ND record book, just behind Eric Danapilis (459; ’90-’93) … Stanley’s two hits vs. Stanford give him an ND record 116 for the season (future Major Leaguer Dan Peltier had 115 in 1989) … Stanley’s next run scored will be his 76th of the season – with only Pat Pesavento (88, in ’89; 81, in ’88) and Peltier (81, in ’89) scoring more.
  • Junior LF Brian Stavisky (163) and senior C Paul O’Toole (162) are on the verge of cracking the ND career top-10 list for RBI (needing 166 for a share of 9th) … O’Toole’s next double will be the 50th of his career and would earn him a share of 8th on that ND list.
  • Senior 3B Andrew Bushey’s next double will be his 20th of the season, good for a share of 10th in the ND record book.
  • The ND pitchers have totaled 473 strikeouts, just five shy of the team record (478) set in 1999.

Notre Dame’s first three batters in the lineup also rank among NC’s all-tim leaders for career batting average: senior CF Steve Stanley (.384, 3rd), sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann (.364, 8th) and junior LF Brian Stavisky (.357, 11th).

Stanley – 58th start in leadoff spot this season (35 straight)
Sollmann – 32nd start in No. 2 hole (26 straight)
Stavisky – 44th start in 3rd spot (39 straight)
Bushey – 25th start in cleanup spot (21 of last 23)

Stanley – 67th start in CF
Sollmann – 55th start at 2B (48 straight)
Stavisky – 45th start in LF (35 straight)
Bushey – 48th start at 3B ( )
O’Toole – 45th start at catcher ( )
Bok – 34th start at DH (29 of last 34)
Billmaier – 57th start at RF (35 of last 36)
Sanchez – 58th start at SS (57 of last 59)
Thaman – 57th start at 1B ( )
(Average of 52 starts at respective positions)

Notre Dame has posted 21 come-from behind victories in 2002, with 12 wins in which the Irish scored the gamewinning run in the final three innings (including some games in which ND never trailed) … here’s a look at the late-game rallies:

  • ND 7, Missouri 6 (10) – The Tigers held a 4-1 edge after four innings in the season opener at the UNO Classic
  • ND 15, USC 8 – The Trojans held an 8-5 lead after four innings, with the Irish suffering a major setback in the bottom of the 4th when freshman SS Matt Edwards broke his leg in a collision while chasing a popup into left field.
  • ND 7, Arkansas-Little Rock 5 – UALR scored three times in the top of the 8th to forge a 4-4 tie and ND retook the lead with a run in the bottom of the 8th, followed by another UALR run in the top of the 9th (5-5) … the game then ended on Joe Thaman’s 2-run blast.
  • ND 3, Southern Illinois – One day after the win over UALR, the homestanding Irish score twice in the bottom of the 8th to beat SIU in the title game of the Irish Baseball Classic (at San Antonio’s Wolff Stadium).
  • ND 10, West Virginia 6 (10) – WVU jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the 1st inning but ND chipped away before suring ahead in the 10th on an RBI single from Javi Sanchez.
  • ND 5, St, John’s – The Irish broke a 2-2 tie by plating three runs in the bottom of the 7th.
  • ND 5, Western Michigan 4 – A ninth-inning rally saw the Irish push across two runs for the win.
  • ND 2, Virginia Tech 1 (11) – The 7-inning opener extended to four extra frames, with the key win ending on Matt Bok’s RBI triple and Joe Thaman’s hard single back to the mound.
  • ND 3, Bowling Green 2 (6) – Kris Billmaier’s solo shot in the bottom of the 6th beat the impending rain.
  • ND 6, Rutgers 5 – The Irish rallied for four runs in bottom of the 7th and final inning, vs. RU ace Bobby Brownlie.
  • ND 8, Virginia Tech 4 – The Irish faced a 4-3 deficit heading into the 8th inning of the key winner’s bracket game of the BIG EAST Tournament, with ND putting four runs on the board and adding another in the 9th for the win.
  • ND 3, Rutgers 2 (10) – The BIG EAST Championship was decided in the bottom of the 10th, when Brian Stavisky’s double into the leftfield corner helped bring Steve Sollmann home all the way from first base for ND’s first BIG EAST tournament title.

Today’s starter Chris Niesel has been most effective when he has avoided serving up home runs, as 14 of the 25 runs vs. Niesel have come via the long ball … after allowing five HRs in his first six outings, Niesel has been touched for just one HR in his last seven outings (spanning 30.1 innings) … Virginia Tech’s Chris Hutchin

Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri made a short departure from Omaha on Sunday morning in order to be with his wife Karen in Oregon, Ohio … Karen’s father Bill Fejes passed away on Friday morning, with his funeral service to be held Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. … Mainieri’s time of return to Omaha was contingent on ND’s result in the first game (he returned Sunday night, prior to this morning’s funeral).

The Notre Dame baseball team has ended its 45-year CWS drought – led by a veteran lineup (nine of top 10 batters returned) and a highly-touted freshman class that includes three of the team’s top pitchers (led by top starters Grant Johnson and Chris Niesel) … the Irish had to replace their pair of ace pitchers from the 2001 season – Aaron Heilman and Danny Tamayo – who combined for a 23-3 record and 2.22 ERA in 227 innings during the 2002 season, with 217 strikeouts (8.6 per 9 IP), just 48 walks (1.9 per 9 IP) and 177 hits allowed (7.0 per 9 IP).

Notre Dame won the opening game in each of its previous three 2002 postseason competitions: 8-3 vs. Rutgers (BIG EAST Tournament), 8-6 vs. Ohio State (NCAA South Bend Regional) and 10-4 at Florida State (NCAA Super Regional) … the Irish are 8-3 overall in the 2002 postseason.

Chris Niesel has not allowed a 1st-inning run in his 10 starts this season, with a .237 opponent baggin average in the first innings (plus 7 Ks and just 3 walks) … Niesel also has been strong in the 5th, allowing just one earned run (0.96) and five hits (.156 opp. avg.), plus 5 Ks and no walks.

Notre Dame and its first two CWS opponents – Stanford and Rice – consistently have ranked among the national leaders for graduate rates of their student-athletes … ND and Stanford recently joined Nebraska, Alabama and Air Force as the only schools with two players on the Verizon CoSIDA Acacemic All-America team (junior LF Brian Stavisky and senior 3B Andrew Bushey were the ND honorees) and Notre Dame ranks second all-time with 141 Academic All-Americans … here’s the top five in the latest student-athlete graduation rates released last fall by the NCAA (based on students who enrolled from 1991-94 and graduated within six years, with all transfers counted as non-graduates):

The 2002 Notre Dame baseball team includes players from 21 states/provinces, with junior RHP Brandon Viloria (Wailuku) becoming the first Hawaii native ever to letter with the ND baseball program (which has produced nearly 700 all-time letterwinners, from 43 different states) … Viloria’s parents Adelfo and Sandra are in Omaha and have the chance to see their son pitch for just the third time in his ND career … they also attended this season’s March 30th doubleheader vs. Georgetown, in Bethesda, Md., in addition to attending the St. John’s series the following weekend at Eck Stadium, on April 6-7.

Dominance In The Middle –
The Irish pitching staff has been nearly untouchable in the 5th inning this season, allowing just nine earned runs in the 66 games (equivalent to a 1.23 team ERA, well ahead of the second-best inning, a 3.00 in the 2nd and 4th) … opponents are batting just .203 vs. the ND pitchers in the 5th, with 54 Ks, 25 walks and just 48 hits allowed (one HR) … the first inning has yielded the most runs for the ND pitching staff this season (42, eqivalent to a 5.73 ERA), followed by the 8th inning at 5.09 (30 earned runs).

ND head coach Paul Mainieri was busy earlier this week with the task of checking his voicemail, jotting down the names of the callers and then erasing the messages to free up his voicemail … the calls rolled in from all corners of baseball and elsewhere, including former and current Major League managers (such as Tommy Lasorda and Don Baylor) and scores of head coaches from Northern baseball schools … one unique call came from Rudy Ruettiger, the former ND football walk-on whose story is depicted in the movie “Rudy,” who told Mainieri he was inspired by the baseball team’s underdog triumph at top-ranked Florida State … Ruettiger is not the only “Rudy” who has a connection to Notre Dame baseball and last week’s Super Regional – as two of ND’s three Florida natives have fathers named Rudy … today’s starter, freshman RHP Chris Niesel, won the decisive third game at FSU, with his father Rudy Niesel looking on … senior DH Ken Meyer – who hit 2-for-3 in the first Super Regional game – also is the son of a father by the same name (Rudy Meyer passed away in 1998).

Despite missing five weeks of the 2002 season due to mononucleosis, freshman RHP Chris Niesel has logged some important outings for the Irish in recent weeks – including the clinching wins in the South Bend Regional (vs. Ohio State) and the Super Regional (at Florida State) … Niesel also tossed five solid innings (no decision in 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R) in the key winner’s bracket game vs. Virginia Tech at the BIG East Tournament (his first start since returning from mono, with his stamina still somewhat limited at that point) … Niesel’s first games back from the mono produced important saves vs. Villanova and Boston College, helping ND secure the top seed for the BIG EAST Tournament.

Notre Dame – which is slated to face Stanford All-American and Cleveland Indians 1st-round draft pick Jeremy Guthrie – has some experience this season facing a pitcher who ended up being a 1st-round pick in the 2002 Major League draft, with the Irish winning all three of those games:

  • April 12 – The first showdown produced one of the key victories in ND’s 2002 season, as the Irish rode the strong pitching of replacement starter Ryan Kalita (subbing for Chris Niesel, who was out with mono) and surging closer J.P. Gagne to outlast Virginia Tech ace lefthander Joe Saunders (the 12th overall pick, by the Anaheim Angels) … that 7-inning game extended to 11 innings, with ND winning 2-1 behind Matt Bok’s pinch-hit triple and Joe Thaman’s single back to the box … Saunders allowed the single run on eight hits and no walks over eight innings while racking up 11 Ks in his 134-pitch outing – but Kalita (6 IP, UER, BB, 5 K) and Gagne (5 IP, 3 H, BB, K) matched the pitcher who was rated as the top lefty in college baseball.
  • May 4 – The next matchup vs. a top pitcher saw ND rally in its final at-bat of the 7-inning opener to beat Rutgers and its ace righthander Bobby Brownlie, 6-5 … Brownlie was touched for nine hits and one walk in his 91-pitch outing while failing to strike out an ND batter (the first time in his career that he failed to register a K)
  • May 23 – The Irish later jumped all over Brownlie in the opener of BIG EAST Tournament, knocking the RU ace out of that 8-3 game after five innings (6 H, 7 R/6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K).

Notre Dame also faced an eventual 2nd-round draft pick in the May 11 game vs. Villanova in Philadelphia, with VU rallying in the 9th for an 8-7 win … ND roughed up ace RHP Brian Slocum over the first 5.1 innings (6 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 4 Ks) but VU came back from the 6-4 deficit to get the win.

Notre Dame survived major injuries during the first half of the season, including the loss of one of the nation’s top-rated freshmen (SS Matt Macri) … five players that were slated to start on opening day or who assumed an early starting job due to another’s injury (Matt Edwards for Macri) have combined to miss 135 games due to injuries … Macri and several other ND players who are not on the 25-man CWS roster are in Omaha to cheer on their teammates (that group includes freshman catcher Jay Molina, a versatile defensive player who has missed the entire season due to “Tommy John” reconstructive elbow surgery) … the below list details the major injuries and does not include several other players who missed spot duty (many of them in that early-season stretch:

  • Shortstop (48/56) – Highly-touted Matt Macri, the No. 2-rated prospect among the nation’s freshmen (according to Baseball America) never had the chance to play his natural position, with two starts at 2B and 14 at DH due to an elbow strain that ultimately required “Tommy John” reconstructive surgery … all told, Macri has missed 48 games, with his last action coming on March 28 at West Virginia … Macri’s replacement at SS, classmate Matt Edwards, also was lost for the year after suffering a broken leg when he collided with a teammate chasing a popup into left field during the March 9 win over USC … Edwards now has missed 56 games … Edwards also was a candidate to see time in the outfield, at third base or as a DH … sophomore Javier Sanchez was the third option at SS and has done a solid job at the new position (he played mostly 3B and 2B prior to 2002).
  • Left Field (18) – Preseason All-American and two-time Cape Cod League all-star Brian Stavisky was sidelined for a pair of nine-game stretches in the first half of the season: Feb. 23-March 11 (after injuring his shoulder on a slide into third, after tripling in the game at UNO) … ND went just 4-5 during his first nine-game absence … Stavisky then was lost for nine more games (March 28-April 7) after he as hit in the face by a 90-mph fastball in the first game of a doubleheader at West Virginia (ND lost that game to fall to 9-10 but then rallied to go 8-1 with Stavisky out of the lineup).
  • Second Base (8) – Another preseason All-American, sophomore Steve Sollmann, was hampered for much of the year with a pulled quadriceps (he played through the injury in many games) … he first hurt the quad in the fourth inning of the season (vs. Missouri, at UNO on Feb. 22) and then missed eight of the next 17 games (including the three losses at UConn on March 23-24) … with Macri and Edwards also sidelined for the March 8-11 Irish Baseball Classic in San Antonio, ND actually tried four different players as the starting 2B in the four games of that tournament.
  • Third Base (5) – Senior Andrew Bushey suffered a freak shoulder injury while reaching for a ball during infield practice prior to the Feb. 23 game vs. SIU … Bushey missed the next five games (including all four at the Homestead Challenge) … Bushey also shares time behind the plate with classmate Paul O’Toole, whose ability to catch was limited early in the season due to a thumb injury.

Baseball Hall-of-Famer Tommy Lasorda was the keynote speaker at the Notre Dame baseball team’s season-opening “ballpark-style” dinner (Frb. 18) that drew nearly 1,000 fans to the Joyce Center Fieldhouse … Lasorda fittingly was in Omaha for Thursday night’s festivities that kicked off the College World Series and he then gave the ND team an inspirational speech at its team breakfast on Friday morning.

Four Notre Dame position players were selected in last week’s Major League draft, led by a pair of Oakland A’s draftees (senior CF Stave Stanley in the 2nd round and junior LF Brian Stavisky in the 6th) … senior 3B/C Andrew Bushey then was the 15th-round pick of the Colorado Rockies and senior C Paul O’Toole went to the Chicago Cubs in the 21st round … here’s some notes on the draft’s significance:

  • Stanley was the 67th overall pick and the 27th U.S. college player selected … he was the ninth outfielder drafted and the third college OF selected, just behind Jeremy Reed of Long Beach State (59th) and Fred Lewis of Southern University (66th).
  • Stanley is the 4th-higest-drafted player in ND baseball history, plus the program’s 2nd-highest drafted senior and second-highest position player … the top three all-time ND draft picks include catcher Ken Plesha (17th overall pick of Chicago White Sox, 1965) and the RHP tandem of Brad Lidge (17th overall pick of Houston Astros in 1998) and Aaron Heilman (31st pick by Minnesota Twins in 2000, returned for senior season and drafted in 2001 by New York Mets with 18th pick of first round.
  • Stanley and Stavisky became the first ND teammates ever drafted in the first six rounds while no previous Irish team had produced four players all drafted in the first 21 rounds (the 2001 squad had four in the first 33 rounds).
  • Stavisky has been drafted twice previously – by the Montreal Expos in 1999 (12th round) and by the Cubs in the 33rd round of the 2001 campaign … Stanley, Bushey and O’Toole all were undrafted out of high school … both O’Toole (48th rd, San Francisco Giants) and Stanley (50th rd, Florida Marlins) were late-round picks in 2002.
  • Stanley and Stavisky (188th pick) were the highest-drafted outfielders from the same team … Val Majewski of Rutgers (3rd rd, 76th overall pick of Baltimore Orioles) actually gave the BIG EAST Conference three outfielders that were picked in the first six rounds … in fact, no other conference can match the BIG EAST with three outfielders drafted that high.
  • The BIG EAST also produced three highly-drafted pitchers: Virginia Tech LHP Joe Saunders (12th overall, Anaheim), Rutgers RHP Bobby Bronwlie (21st pick, Cubs) and Villanova RHP Brian Slocum (63rd, Cleveland) … again, no other conference could match that level of high draft picks among pitchers.
  • The BIG EAST’s total of four players selected is second only behind Clemson’s six.
  • There was plenty of representation from the Midwest region among the top picks … in fact, five players from Indiana colleges were among the top 67 selections: Ball State RHP Brian Bullington (1st overall pick) and BSU lefthander Luke Hagerty (32nd), Purdue RHP Chadd Blasko (36th), Evansville RHP Steve Obenchain (37th) and Stanley.
  • Four players in the CWS were drafted higher than Stanley: South Carolina SS Drew Meyer (10th overall, Rangers), Clemson SS Khalil Greene (13th, Padres), Stanford RHP Jeremy Guthrie (22nd, Indians) and Clemson 1B Michael Johnson (54th, Padres).
  • In addition to Stanley and Stavisky, just two other CWS outfielders were picked in the first six rounds: Stanford’s Jason Cooper (82nd, Indians) and Georgia Tech’s Jason Perry (176th, Blue Jays).

Sixth Sense –
The Notre Dame offense has enjoyed its best success in the 6th inning, with a .370 team batting average in the 6th (25 points higher than any other inning), plus 54 runs scored, six home runs, a .521 team slugging pct. and a .438 team on-base pct. (both team bests) … the veteran hitting skill of senior CF and leadoff batter Steve Stanley can be seen in his strong batting in the 6th (typically his third at-bat), with a .565 batting avg. in the 6th (13-for-23), plus a .913 slugging pct. (HR, 3B, 3 2B), eight runs, five RBI, six walks and just one strikeout …five other ND regulars are batting above .400 in the 6th inning: sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann (.550, 11-for-20, 9 R, 5 RBI, 5 BB/0 K), junior RF Kris Billmaier (.516, 16-for-31, 6 R, 8 RBI, 2 HR, 2 BB/3 K), senior DH Matt Bok (.476, 10-for-21, 2 R, 2 RBI, 3 BB/4 K) and sophomore SS Javier Sanchez (.414, 12-for-29, 8 R, 3 RBI, 4 BB/4 K).

Strong Starter … and Finisher –
Leadoff batter Steve Stanley has been ready to hit right out of the box this season, with a .475 batting average during the 1st inning of ND’s 2002 games (28-for-59, 22 R, just 2 Ks) … Stanley also is ND’s top hitter in the 9th inning (.571, 8-for-14, 4 R, 4 RBI).