April 7, 2003
JAMAICA, N.Y. – A change of venue did nothing to diminish the recent domination by the 19th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team as the Irish rolled Sunday to a doubleheader sweep at St. John’s, 11-3 and 18-3, in BIG EAST action at SJU Ballpark. It marked possibly the most dominant day in Notre Dame’s eight seasons of BIG EAST play, with the second game representing the largest margin of victory ever for the Irish in a BIG EAST game.
Notre Dame (20-6, 7-1 BIG EAST) – which has won 11 straight, for the eighth double-digit win streak of the nine-year Paul Mainieri era – pounded out 27 hits (five of them home runs) while allowing just three earned runs in the doubleheader. Just two previous Notre Dame teams – the 1959 (21-5) and 2001 (21-4-1) squads – have owned better records at the 26-game point than the current Irish squad, which has won 14 of its last 15 and 18 of the last 20.
In addition to posting its highest victory margin ever in a BIG EAST game, the Irish also registered their second-best all-time totals in BIG EAST play for runs in a game (18, single or DH), runs in a doubleheader (29) and combined margin in a doubleheader (+23, see more below). Each of those marks do rank as the highest ever posted by the Irish in BIG EAST action away from home.
Sophomore righthander Chris Niesel (3-1, 7-1 career) – who lowered his season ERA to 3.11 – was not as sharp as in his usual outings but avoided the big inning in the seven-inning opener, allowing three runs (two earned) on nine hits and two walks, with four strikeouts and 10 groundouts in his 96-pitch outing.
Senior righthander Ryan Kalita (4-0, 11-0 career) then dominated in the first seven innings of the nightcap, averaging just 10 pitches per inning while recording all 21 of his outs via strikeouts (4), groundouts (14), popups (2) or runners caught stealing (1). He allowed three runs (just one earned) on six hits and no walks, with 56 of his 71 pitches going for strikes while his ERA dropped to 2.31.
Sophomore corner infielder Matt Edwards continued to impress in his first full season (he missed most of 2002 with a broken leg), batting 6-for-9 in the doubleheader with five RBI, five runs scored, two home runs and a triple. Both of his home runs were monster shots to dead-center field, a feat accomplished just twice previously in the SJU Ballpark’s three-year history (by a Princeton batter and by a minor leaguer).
Junior second baseman Steve Sollmann also homered in both games, sending both opposite-field shots to right field while totaling seven RBI from his leadoff spot.
Sollmann and Edwards both launched long home runs in the nightcap, with Sollmann’s blast clearing the bullpen behind the rightfield fence and nearly carrying over a higher second fence located behind the bullpen. Edwards then drilled another shot to center, with the shot plunking some 20-25 feet up on the batters eye (above the CF fence). Edwards has homered in three straight games, after hitting just one over the fences in the first 23 games of the season.
The Irish now have hit seven home runs in the last three games – including freshman leftfielder Cody Rizzo’s blast in the opener (his second of the season) – after totaling just eight traditional home runs in the first 23 games.
Notre Dame’s 7-9 hitters – Rizzo, freshman DH Craig Cooper (from nearby Plainview, N.Y.) and junior 1B Joe Thaman – combined to bat 6-for-11 in the nightcap, adding two walks, seven RBI and seven runs scored from the bottom of the lineup.
The Irish broke open game two with five runs in the fourth and then nine in the fifth, yielding a 15-3 cushion. The fifth-inning explosion was capped by nine straight Irish batters reaching base with two outs.
Notre Dame’s dominance was matched by its efficiency, as the Irish stranded just five baserunners in each of the two games (18 of 27 baserunners scored in the nightcap, with two erased on double plays, one on a fielder’s choice and one caught stealing).
The Irish now lead the St. John’s series 14-6 (6-2 at SJU), with ND wins in eight of the last nine meetings.
Pitcher Notes – Niesel is 25-2 in his last 27 overall decisions, dating back to a 13-0 final season at Aquinas HS … since the only loss of his ND career (2/28 vs. Nebraska), Niesel’s last five outings have included a 1.49 ERA, .188 opp. batting avg., 42 Ks, 5 BB and 25 hits allowed in 36.1 IP … he has allowed just one run, four hits and no walks in the first inning this season (7 IP, with 10 Ks) … Kalita’s .208 opp. batting avg. is best among ND pitchers with 12-plus innings (he has allowed just a .248 opp. slugging pct., with six doubles in his 35 IP) … Kalita’s 2.71 career ERA would rank 6th in the ND record book and 3rd-best since 1961 (behind Larry Mohs’ 2.52 from ’94-’97 and Aaron Heilman’s 2.49 from ’98-’01) … since moving to the weekend rotation in place of injured classmate Peter Ogilvie, Kalita has gone 3-0 in three BIG EAST starters with an 0.86 ERA and .171 opp. batting in those games – with his 63 outs in that stretch including 35 groundouts, 17 Ks, five popups, three caught stealing and just three flyouts ( with 8 BB) … Kalita has allowed just one run from the 2nd-5th innings all season (19.2 IP, .136 opp. batting, 9 H, 17 Ks, 8 BB).
Bash Brothers – Junior 2B Steve Sollmann (leadoff) and sophomore 3B/1B Matt Edwards (3-hole) – who each homered in both games at SJU – have turned in strong 2003 seasons while filling key vacancies in the batting order … Sollmann is batting .400 with a nine-game hit streak, hits in 21 of 26 games and 16 multi-hit games (five of the last six) … Sollmann’s home runs were his first “out-of-the-park” HRs this season (his 3-2 inside-the-parker sparked the 3-2 win over Eastern Illinois) … Edwards’ eight-game hit streak has pushed his batting average to .385, with 32 RBI in 25 games played (14 of his RBI have come with two outs) … Edwards is batting 15-for-15 (.600) in the last seven games, with 19 RBI in those games (he owns 11 multi-RBI games, including four 3-RBI games and one 4-RBI effort).
Winning Streak Stats: The 11-game win streak matches the 4th-longest of the 9-year Paul Mainieri (16 in ’02, 15 in ’01, 13 in ’98) … the Irish are batting .349 in the winning streak while averaging 13.4 hits and 11.7 runs per nine innings during the streak (factoring solely by games shortchanges the Irish offense in seven-inning games and home wins in which ND does not bat in the 8th) … the team’s win-streak stats also include a .529 slugging pct. (7 HRs, 12 3B, 21 2Bs) and more walks by batters (49) than Ks (38) … top hitters in the win streak include Edwards (.436, 17-for-39, 19 RBI, 10 R, 3-1-4, .821, 7 BB), the freshman duo of Cooper (.429, 12-for-28, 10 R, 3B, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 2 HBP, 4 K, 2 SB) and Grogan (.400, 14-for-35, 13 R, 4 3B, 7 RBI, 4 BB, HBP, 3 SB) and the ever-reliable Sollmann (.388, 19-for-49, 17 R, 2-1-4, 16 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, 6 SB), staff ERA is 2.13, .220, 96/33 in 93 IP, 78 H … the ND pitchers own a 2.13 ERA in the win streak, with a .220 opp. batting avg., 96 Ks, 33 BB and 78 hits allowed in 93 IP … the streak has included seven double-digit hit games by the Irish (6 of last 7) and double-digit runs in last six games (13-12-15-13-11-18) … the staff has allowed one earned run in four games during the streak, with 2 ER in 5 games, 3 in one and 5 in one … the ND pitchers have held the opponent to seven or fewer hits in eight games during the streak.
Doubleheader Domination – Sunday’s games marked the ninth time (vs. six different teams) that ND has posted double-digit runs in both ends of a BIG EAST doubleheader (at least once every year since ’97) – but just the third that has come on the road … the 29 combined runs are second-most among that group of nine double-digit doubleheader sweeps (behind the 32 vs. Georgetown in a 2001 DH at Eck Stadium) … the 23-run combined margin in the DH also is second-best by an ND team, behind the +24 (14-0, 11-1) vs. GU in 1997 (at ND) … here are ND’s eight previous BIG EAST doubleheaders with double-digit runs: vs. Providence (10-5, 14-10, +9; 4/5/97 at ND) and Boston College (11-6, 16-3, +18; 4/6/97, at ND) on successive days, vs. GU later that in that potent ’97 season (14-0, 11-1, +24; 5/3/97, at ND), vs. Pittsburgh (11-0, 12-1, +22; 4/18/98, at Three Rivers), vs. UConn (11-7, 11-8, +7; 4/3/99, at ND), vs. BC (12-1, 10-6, +15; 4/1/00, at ND), vs. GU (15-4, 17-10, +18; 4/12/01, at ND) and vs. GU (10-6, 12-3, +13; 3/30/02, at Povich Field) … Sunday’s 18-3 win matched the second-most runs ever by ND in any BIG EAST game (behind a 19-7 win over GU in ’97, at ND) … Paul Mainieri’s BIG EAST regular-season record now stands at 128-42 (.753, best in BIG EAST history), with the Irish winning 53 of 67 all-time BIG EAST series (seven splits, seven opp. series wins) while sweeping 40 of 65 BIG EAST doubleheaders (21 splits, just four opp. DH sweeps).
Other Notes – Since falling to 2-4 with the loss to Minnesota on March 1, ND has won 18 of its last 20 games (with both losses coming in extra innings, vs. Jacksonville and Villanova) … in that 20-game span, the ND pitchers own an impressive 2.11 staff ERA and .213 opp. batting avg., plus 181 Ks, 52 BB and 144 hits allowed in 183.1 IP … the overall team ERA now has dropped to 3.54 (better than the 3.57 posted in 2002), including a 2.70 ERA by starting pitchers (.246 opp. batting, 132 Ks, 46 BB, 126 H in 150 IP) … ND is 43-4 in April during the past three seasons (163-36 in the Mainieri era) … the Irish made just two errors vs. SJU, holding the team fielding pct. at .968 with just 34 errors in 26 games (1.3 Es per game, with eight error-free games and nine 1-error) … Javi Sanchez, Brennan Grogan and Edwards each hit triples in the doubleheader, boosting ND’s season total to 18 … Grogan leads the BIG EAST with five triples and has hits in 14 of the last 16 games, including a 3-for-6 effort in Sunday’s nightcap (2 RBI, 2 R) … the ND bullpen now has made 50 appearances and has allowed just .167 batting by the first hitters faced in each bullpen appearance (7-for-42, 5 BB, 15 Ks) … ND’s 2nd-inning dominance (34-4 scoring, .342 batting, 1.38 ERA) included three more runs in Sunday’s opener (yielding a 20-0 2nd-inning edge in a four-game stretch).
Next Up – The Irish return to Eck Stadium – where they have won 27 of their last 28 games – for three scheduled midweek games vs. Bowling Green, Western Michigan and Chicago State … the probable starting pitchers for those games include (in order) sophomore RHP John Axford, freshman LHP Tom Thornton and sophomore RHP Martin Vergara.
Notre Dame 2-3-6 0-0-0 0 – 11 7 0
St. John’s 0-0-1 0-1-1 0 – 3 9 0
Chris Niesel (W, 3-1), Matt Laird (7) and Javi Sanchez.
Jim Wladyka (L, 1-3), Greg Holmes (3), Geno Orsogna (7) and Blake Hershelman, Brett Hardie (7).
Home Runs: Steve Sollmann (ND; 1 on in 2nd, 2nd of season), Cody Rizzo (ND; solo in 2nd, 2nd of season), Matt Edwards (ND; 2 on in 3rd, 3rd of season).
Triple: Sanchez (ND).
Doubles: Derek Sullivan (SJU), Anthony DeRosa (SJU)
Notre Dame 0-0-1 5-9-1 1-1-0 – 18 18 2
St. John’s 0-0-3 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 3 7 2
Ryan Kalita (W, 4-0), J.P. Gagne (8) and Sanchez.
Craig Hansen (L, 1-2), Greg Fregoso (5), Sean Kochon (6), Keith Hansen (7), Tom Klemm (8), Mike Tamulionis (9) and Mike Wagner.
Home Runs: Sollmann (ND; solo in 6th, 3rd of season), Edwards (ND; solo in 7th, 4th of seaason)
Triples: Edwards (ND), Brennan Grogan (ND).
Doubles: Jesus Bravo (SJU), Sollmann (ND).