Oct. 7, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame baseball team will close its 2002 fall practice by holding its annual “Blue-vs.-Gold Baseball World Series,” a slate of three intrasquad scrimmages scheduled for Oct. 8-10 (Tues.-Thurs.) at Eck Stadium. The seven-inning games (one per day) are open to the public, with start times of 4:30 p.m.
Notre Dame associate head coach Brian O’Connor will serve as manager of the Blue team while assistant coach David Grewe is the skipper for the Gold.
Tuesday’s probable pitching matchup will feature a showdown between sophomore righthanders who played for opposing teams in the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2002. Hard-throwing John Axford is slated to take the hill for the Blue while Chris Niesel again will start for the Gold (as he did in 2001, when he won game 1). Since the start of his senior season at Aquinas HS, Niesel has won 20 of his last 21 decisions (13-0 at Aquinas, 4-0 at ND, 3-1 in the Cape).
Starting pitchers will be limited to five innings of work (or 100 pitches).
O’Connor’s 16-man roster includes two starting position players from the 2002 team: senior RF Kris Billmaier and junior SS Javier Sanchez, a developing utility player who likely will be used at his new position of catcher during the series. Top veteran pitchers for the Blue include Axford, his classmate Martin Vergara and senior Matt Laird.
Grewe’s 15-player Gold team will counter with just one starter from the 2002 campaign – junior second basemam Steve Sollmann – but the Gold has plenty of veteran pitchers with Niesel and the senior trio of J.P. Gagne, Ryan Kalita and Brandon Viloria.
Several veterans and newcomers will not compete in the Blue-Gold series while the team’s final roster for the 2003 spring season will be announced later in the month.
Freshman Craig Cooper is slated to patrol center field for the Blue while his classmate Brennan Grogan is the likely starting CF for the Gold. Two highly-touted newcomers on the mound also will pitch for opposite sides, with 7-foor-2 righthander Ryan Doherty pitching for the Gold while 6-7 lefthander Tom Thornton could log some key innings for the Blue.
The Gold squad includes two other noteworthy freshmen, in catcher Cody Rizzo (who also could see time at 3B and OF) and OF/IF Matt Bransfield – plus sophomore C/3B Jay Molina, who could see his first action in an Irish uniform after missing all of 2001-02 due to injury.
BLUE TEAM (manager: Brian O’Connor)
RF – #8 Kris Billmaier (Sr.; Woodinville, WA)
C – #15 Javier Sanchez (Jr.; Miami, Florida)
SS – #6 Geoff Milsom (So.; New York, New York)
2B – #7 Zach Sisko (Jr.; Belleville, Illinois)
CF – Craig Cooper (Fr.; Plainview, New York)
LF – Alex Netty (Fr.; Dolton, Illinois)
1B – Steve Andres (Fr.; Napa, California)
3B – Steve Sweeney (Fr.; Los Gatos, California)
DH – Sam Richey (Fr.; Minneapolis, Minnesota)
RHP – #49 John Axford (So.; Port Dover, Ontario)
RHP – #23 Martin Vergara (So.; Paterson, New Jersey)
RHP – #37 Matt Laird (Sr.; Bellaire, Texas)
RHP – #38 Tyler Jones (So.; Arlington, Texas)
LHP – Tom Thornton (Fr.; Middleboro, Massachusetts)
LHP – #33 Scott Bickford (So.; Owings, Maryland)
LHP – #29 Cody Wilkins (Jr.; Hudson, North Carolina)
GOLD TEAM (manager: David Grewe)
2B – #3 Steve Sollmann (Jr.; Cincinnati, Ohio)
OF/DH – #18 Brent Weiss (So.; Cockeysville, Maryland)
1B – #25 Mike Holba (Sr.; Lansing, Illinois)
C/3B – #13 Jay Molina (So.; Moline, Illinois)
OF – #40 George Howard (So.; Pine Bluff, Arkansas)
CF – Brennan Grogan (Fr.; Tequesta, Florida)
C/3B/OF – Cody Rizzo (Fr.; Temecula, California)
OF/1B – Matt Bransfield (Fr.; Englewood, Colorado)
SS – Tim Murray (Jr.; Shrub Oak, New York)
RHP – #10 Chris Niesel (So.; Plantation, Florida)
RHP – #46 J.P. Gagne (Sr.; Bloomington, Minnesota)
RHP – #32 Ryan Kalita (Sr.; Oak Park, Illinois)
RHP – Ryan Doherty (Fr.; Toms River, New Jersey)
RHP – #45 Brandon Viloria (Sr.; Wailuku, Hawaii)
LHP – Matt Arminio (Fr.; Brentwood, Tennessee)