Craig Cooper (left) and Jeff Manship have joined an elite group of pairs from the same team who have combined to receive the BIG EAST player- and pitcher-of-the-year honors in the same season.

Cooper And Manship Take Home Top BIG EAST Awards As Irish Total Nine All-BIG EAST Honorees

May 22, 2006

Notre Dame senior first baseman Craig Cooper and junior righthander Jeff Manship have received the top BIG EAST Conference baseball awards for the 2006 season, marking just the fifth time in the 22-year history of BIG EAST baseball – and first time since 1999 – that the same team has produced the BIG EAST player- and pitcher-of-the-year recipients. Notre Dame players accounted for nine of the 42 total all-BIG EAST honors, one shy of the conference’s all-time high-water mark set by Notre Dame’s record-setting 2001 team that featured 10 all-BIG EAST performers.

(Note: Check back to this release on Tuesday for complete info. on the BIG EAST awards, including action photos of each ND recipient and updated bio. info. on each of those players … pre-tournament notes also will be posted soon – as will a release on another stellar semester in the classroom for the ND baseball team, which just posted a 3.28 team GPA in the 2006 spring term with 25 of 32 players registering a 3.0 semester GPA or higher … also note that sophomore LHP Wade Korp is ND’s probable starter on Tuesday vs. USF while jr. RHP Jeff Samardzija will start on Wed., with the rotation for other potential games TBA).

Manship was joined on the first team all-BIG EAST squad by fellow junior righthander Jeff Samardzija (plus Cooper) while five Irish players were second-team selections: senior shortstop Greg Lopez, junior outfielder Danny Dressman, sophomore third baseman Brett Lilley, freshman closer Kyle Weiland and freshman DH Jeremy Barnes. Senior leftfielder Matt Bransfield rounded out the team’s all-conference selections, as a member of the third team.

Notre Dame players now have combined to earn the BIG EAST player-of-the-year honor four times in the past nine seasons, with Cooper joining third baseman Brant Ust (1998) and centerfielder Steve Stanley (’01 and ’02) in that distinction. The Irish program also now has produced five BIG EAST pitchers of the year since 1998, with the earlier recipients including current major leaguers Brad Lidge (’98) and Aaron Heilman (’00, ’01), plus Chris Niesel in 2003.

Ust and Lidge were the third set of teammates ever to earn the BIG EAST top pitcher and top player awards, a feat matched by Providence outfielder Keith Reed and righthander Marc DeRoches in 1999. In addition to the five seasons that have featured an outright player- and pitcher-of-the-year from the same team, there also have been three seasons in which players from the same team earned both awards but one was part of a co-recipient – including 2001, when Heilman was the top pitcher and Stanley shared the player-of-the-year award with Connecticut centerfielder Mike Scott.

Samardzija and Manship join an exclusive group of seven pairs of pitchers from the same team who have been first team all-BIG EAST selections in the same season. Since 1992, only two other pairs of starting pitchers from the same team – Notre Dame’s 2001 senior duo Aaron Heilman and Danny Tamayo and the 2005 Boston College tandem of Joe Martinez and Mike Wlodarczyk – have been named first team all-BIG EAST.

Cooper earlier had received all-BIG EAST honors in 2004 (2nd team) and 2005 (3rd team), with his 2006 award making him the sixth Notre Dame position player to earn all-BIG EAST recognition in three or more seasons. Former designated hitter Jeff Wagner was a four-time all-BIG EAST performer while Cooper joins Ust, Stanley, outfielder Brian Stavisky and second baseman Steve Sollmann as the program’s three-time recipients.

Former second baseman/centerfielder Randall Brooks and Cooper are the only Notre Dame baseball players ever to receive all-BIG EAST honors at distinctly different positions, with Ust earning his honors at three different infield positions (second base, third base and shortstop).

Lilley was a third team all-BIG EAST selection as a freshman in 2005, when he also was named the conference’s rookie of the year. Lopez also is a two-time all-BIG EAST recipient, after earning third-team honors in 2004.

Weiland and Barnes are the eighth and ninth Notre Dame freshmen to be named all-BIG EAST, with Lilley being the program’s only other freshman all-BIG EAST performer since 2001. This marks the first time that multiple Notre Dame freshmen have been named to the all-BIG EAST teams while Weiland joins Heilman (2nd team in ’98) as the program’s only freshman pitchers to be named all-BIG EAST.