June 11, 2006
Two members of the Notre Dame baseball team – senior first baseman Craig Cooper (Plainview, N.Y.) and righthanded pitcher Jeff Manship (San Antonio, Texas) – have received early All-America honors for the 2006 season, with most of the top national teams still to be announced later this month. The most noteworthy honors so far have come from Collegiate Baseball magazine, as Cooper was named a second team All-American by the publication while Manship was among the third team All-America pitchers named by CB. Cooper also is one of 30 semifinalists for the Brooks Wallace College Player of the Year Award, as announced by the College Baseball Foundation (CBF), in addition to taking home the corresponding All-America honors from the CBF (one team, 30 total players).
(Note: some quick notes on each player follow below, in addition to more in-depth notes at the bottom of this release; updated career bio. capsules on both players, plus bio’s on ND’s other three 2006 MLB draft picks, will be posted soon on und.com … also look for updates on summer-bal info. for ND’s returning players and current pro players, with both those areas previously included in ND weekly releases throughout the 2006 season).
Jeff Manship is the sixth Notre Dame pitcher – and fifth in the Paul Mainieri era – to receive All-America honors (photo by Pete LaFleur).
Cooper is one of just eight position players in the nation who have received each of the following three honors: among the final-30 candidates for the Brooks Wallace Award; a CBF All-American; and a Collegiate Baseball first or second team All-American. The others among that elite group include fellow first baseman Ryan Strieby of Kentucky, third basemen Emeel Salem (Alabama) and Tyler Mach (Oklahoma State), Troy shortstop Tom King, Lehigh catcher Matt McBride, and outfielders Drew Stubbs (Texas) and Kellen Kulbacki (James Madison).
Cooper and Manship made Notre Dame one of 11 Division I teams that produced a position player and starting pitcher on the Collegiate Baseball 2006 All-America teams. They are the 16th and 17th All-Americans in Notre Dame baseball history, with 11 players now receiving All-America honors during the 12-year Paul Mainieri era (15 total All-America seasons in that 1995-2006 span).
This marks the fifth season in Notre Dame history (all since ’98) – and the fourth time in the past six years – that a Notre Dame pitcher and position player have collected All-America honors. Cooper becomes the first Notre Dame player ever to be named an All-American at first base while Manship is the sixth different Irish pitcher to earn Al-America honors (five ND pitchers now have been tabbed for the top national honors this decade).
Craig Cooper (left) and Jeff Manship received top honors from the BIG EAST before becoming Notre Dame’s fifth all-time position player/pitcher combination to earn All-America honors (photo courtesy of the BIG EAST).
Heading into this week’s NCAA Super Regional action, COOPER ranked sixth nationally with a .425 season batting average that also is sixth-best in Notre Dame history and second-highest in the Mainieri era. North Carolina shortstop Josh Horton (.411) was the only other player from a top-25 team hitting above .400 and is the only player from a Super Regional team that is ranked among the NCAA’s top-50 hitters (.388-plus).
Cooper also entered this week as the national leader in runs scored (79; 4th-most in ND history) and runs per game (1.39) while averaging 16.3 at-bats per strikeout (228/14), placing him 25th on the NCAA’s list of players who are “toughest to strike out.” He is one of just two players ranked among the NCAA top-25 for both season batting average and toughest to K. The BIG EAST Conference’s 2006 player of the year claimed an unprecedented third straight BIG EAST batting title, after hitting at a .481 clip in 2006 conference play.
Craig Cooper kept opposing pitchers on their toes throughout the 2006 season, batting .425 while reaching base in all but two of his 57 games played (photo by Pete LaFleur).
The all-time leader in career BIG EAST batting average (.444), Cooper reached base in all but two of his 57 games played this season, with hits in 50 of those games and runs scored in 48. His 97 hits, 38 walks and 10 times hit-by-pitch yielded a .522 season on-base percentage that ranks third in Notre Dame history.
Cooper ended up leading the Notre Dame offense in 20 different categories, including batting average (.425), slugging pct. (.654), on-base pct. (.522), OPS (1.176 combined on-base and slugging), hits (97), runs (79), home runs (9), doubles (19) and walks (38). The converted outfielder proved to be the team’s top hitter in virtually every situational area, batting .426 with runners on base, .373 with them in scoring position and .327 with 2-outs while advancing runners 62% of the time (all team bests).
An early-season switch to the leadoff spot yielded big results for Cooper, who still ranked 4th on the team with 41 RBI. His overall leadoff on-base pct. was a team-best 57.5% but that number was more impressive in his 1st-inning leadoff at-bats, as Cooper reached 72.2% of the time (39-of-53) when leading off the game for the Irish offense. He batted .644 (29-for-45) as the 1st-inning leadoff batter, also reaching 10 other times via walks (8), hit-by-pitch (1) or errors (1) while scoring 28 of his 79 runs in the 1st inning.
Jeff Manship’s career average of 10.11 strikeouts per 9.0 innings pitched is second-best by a Notre Dame pitcher in the past 40 years (photo by Matt Cashore).
MANSHIP was the only unanimous pick for first team all-BIG EAST Conference honors while also being named the BIG EAST 2006 pitcher of the year. He currently ranks 24th in the nation with 10.5 strikeouts per 9.0 innings pitched and his 111 strikeouts in the 2006 season tied Aaron Heilman’s 2001 total for 3rd-most in Notre Dame history (seven shy of Heilman’s record total, posted in both 1999 and 2000). Manship’s career strikeout rate (10.11 per 9.0 IP) ranks 4th-best in Notre Dame history, with his former teammate Ryan Doherty (12.17) being the only Irish pitcher in the past 40 years with a better strikeout rate for his career.
The final BIG EAST stat rankings include Manship owning the 4th-best overall ERA (3.26) among the “regular” pitchers (min. 1.0 IP/ team game) in the 12-team conference. He led the BIG EAST in wins (9-2), strikeouts (111) and Ks “looking” (48), also ranking 4th in low opponent batting avg. (.223) and innings pitched (94.0) and 8th in games started (14). In 2006 BIG EAST games, Manship led the conference in wins (7-1), Ks (70) and Ks looking (29) while also ranking 3rd in opp. batting avg. (.226) and innings (63.1) plus 5th with a 3.13 ERA in BIG EAST play.
Manship compiled nearly a 4-to-1 season strikeout-to-walk ratio (111/28; 3.96) in the 2006 season while totaling 16 more innings pitched (94) than hits allowed (78). More than three-fourths of his outs in ’06 came via strikeouts (111) or groundouts (102), for a 9-inning average of 20.4 outs via Ks or GOs. He posted 8-plus strikeouts in 10 of his 15 appearances, with his .223 opponent batting average including just .180 by lefthanded hitters.
Cooper (7th round; San Diego Padres) and Manship (14th round; Minnesota Twins) both were selected on the first day of the 2006 Major League draft, with Manship still having two years of college eligibility remaining after missing his freshman season in 2004 due to injury. Just nine previous Notre Dame position players have been drafted higher than Cooper, who became the fourth-highest senior draft pick in the program’s history (second-highest among senior position players). Just one previous pitcher/position player combination in Notre Dame history has been drafted higher than junior RHP Jeff Samardzija (5th round, Cubs) and Cooper while Samardzija, Manship and senior LHP Tom Thornton (21st round, Tigers) produced the first time in the program’s history that three Notre Dame pitchers have been selected in the same draft.
The drafting of Cooper, Thornton and senior shortstop Greg Lopez (33rd round, Blue Jays) marked the fourth time in the program’s history that three seniors have been selected in the same draft. Cooper is the first Notre Dame player (including incoming recruits) ever to be drafted or signed as a free agent by the Padres while six previous players associated with the Irish program have been drafted or signed by the Twins. Notre Dame’s total of five draft picks in 2006 has been bested just once in the program’s history (6, in 2001), with the 12-year Mainieri era now having produced 38 total MLB draft picks and 18 in the top-10 rounds.
COOPER AMONG NATION’S ELITE PLAYERS – Notre Dame’s Craig Cooper is part of an elite group of eight position players and seven pitchers who are: among the final-30 candidates for the Brooks Wallace Award; have been named a CBF All-American; and are among the Collegiate Baseball first or second team All-Americans … the others on that talented short list include fellow 1B Ryan Strieby of Kentucky, 3Bs Emeel Salem (Alabama) and Tyler Mach (Oklahoma State), Troy SS Tom King, Lehigh C Matt McBride, and OFs Drew Stubbs (Texas) and Kellen Kulbacki (James Madison) … the pitchers who have received each of the above three honors include two-way talents Brad Lincoln (Houston) and Sean Doolittle (Virginia), plus UNC’s Andrew Miller, Rice’s Eddie Degerman, Fullerton’s Wes Roemer, Washington’s Tim Lincecum and Nick Schmidt of Arkansas.
Craig Cooper ranks among the nation’s top position players for the 2006 season (photo by Pete LaFleur).
WALLACE AWARD SEMIFINALISTS – In addition to the 15 players listed above, there are 15 other players who comprise the 30 semifinalists for the College Baseball Foundation’s Brooks Wallace national player-of-the-year award … the other include four outfielders – Luke Gorsett (Nebraska), Shane Robinson (Florida State), Chuckie Caufield (Oklahoma), Cole Gillespie (Oregon State) – plus a pair of first basemen (Georgia’s Josh Morris and Clemson’s Andy D’Alessio), the third base duo of Ohio State’s Ronnie Bourquin and Fresno State’s Beau Mills, catchers Matt Wieters (Georgia Tech) and Chad Tracy (Pepperdine), Hawaii pitcher Steven Wright, and two-way talents Scott Cousins (San Francisco), Matt Dobbins (Jacksonville), Heath Rollins (Winthrop) and Joe Savery (Rice) … ND’s Craig Cooper joins Alessio, Morris and Kentucky’s Ryan Strieby, as the 1B among the Wallace Award semifinalists, a group that also includes five other infielders, three catchers, seven outfielders and 11 pitchers … the CBA selection committee will narrow the field to three finalists following the Super Regionals, with the announcement of the finalists to be made on June 15 in Omaha, Neb. … the award banquet then will be held July 3 in Lubbock, Texas, and will be nationally televised on Fox Sports Network and its regional affiliates … the CBF’s 30-player All-America team for the 2006 season included 25 of the Wallace Award semifinalists (all but Savery, Tracy, Mills, Caufield and Gillespie), plus Kansas closer Don Czyz, Tennessee catcher J.P. Arencibia, Stetson infielder Chris Johnson, Wichita State 2B/P Damon Sublett and Rice SS Brian Friday.
ALL-AMERICA PITCHER/PLAYER COMBOS – Senior 1B Craig Cooper and junior RHP Manship make Notre Dame one of 11 Division I teams that produced a position player and starting pitcher on the Collegiate Baseball 2006 All-America teams … the other 10 teams include six that advanced to the NCAA Super-Regional round: CS Fullerton (2B Justin Turner, RHP Wes Roemer), North Carolina (SS Josh Horton, LHP Andrew Miller), Rice (SS Brian Friday, RHP Eddie Degerman), Clemson (1B Andy D’Alessio, RHP Josh Cribb), Alabama (OF Emeel Salem, LHP Wade LeBlanc) and Oregon State (OF Cole Gillespie, RHP Dallas Buck) … others include Washington (OF Matt Hague, RHP Tim Lincecum), South Alabama (3B David Freese, RHP P.J. Walters), Nebraska (SS Ryan Wehrle, LHP Tony Watson) and Winthrop (IF Jacob Dempsey, RHP Alex Wilson).
TOP OPPONENTS – Five players from teams that Notre Dame faced in 2006 were Collegiate Baseball All-Americans, led by two players from the NCAA Lexington Regional: Kentucky 1B Ryan Strieby (1st team) and College of Charleston RHP Nick Chigges (2nd team) … Nebraska LHP Tony Watson was a 2nd-team pick while his teammate Ryan Wehrle (SS) was a 3rd team All-American, as was Pittsburgh 2B Jim Negrych … Chigges and Watson did not face the Irish in the 2006 season … three players from Notre Dame’s 2006 opponents – Strieby, Nebraska OF Luke Gorsett and Oklahoma OF Chuckie Caufield – also was on the College Baseball Foundation’s 2006 All-America team (Strieby and Gorsett are among the 30 semifinalists for the CBF’s Brooks Wallace Award).
Jeff Manship and Craig Cooper are two of 11 players who have earned All-America honors during the 12-year Mainieri era (photo by Pete LaFleur).
ND ALL-AMERICA HISTORY – This marks the fifth season in ND history (all since 1996) and fourth time this decade that an Irish position player and pitcher have earned All-America honors … standout pitcher Aaron Heilman turned in his first of four All-America seasons in 1998 while 3B Brant Ust also was an All-American that season … three years later, Heilman and CF Steve Stanley were named to various 2001 All-America teams … the 2003 season saw 2B Steve Sollmann, ace pitcher Chris Niesel and closer J.P. Gagne all collect All-America honors while the 2004 team also included multiple All-Americans (3B Matt Macri and closer Ryan Doherty) … the ND program now has produced seven different players who have been named to the Collegiate Baseball All-America teams, which made their debut in 1991 … others have included: OF Eric Danapilis (a consensus 1st teamer in ’93); Heilman (3rd team in ’98 and ’99; 1st team in ’00 and ’01), Stanley (1st team in ’02), Niesel (2nd team in ’03) and Macri (3rd team in ’04) … Cooper is the ND program’s first 1B to be named an All-American … four other ND infieders who have been named All-Americans: SS Rich Gonski (1964; American Baseball Coaches Assoc.; 2nd tm); Ust (ABCA and Baseball America 3rd-teamer in ’98); Sollmann (ABCA 2nd team and 3rd team from the baseball writers in ’03); and Macri (2nd team from BA, USA Today and the writers, plus CB 3rd team, in ’04) … the six previous pitchers to be named All-America include four-year honoree Heilman, who was a CB 3rd teamer in ’98, an ABCA and CB 3rd teamer in ’99, an All-America from four different sources in 2000 (CB 1st team; ABCA and USA Today 2nd team; CB; writers 3rd team) before being a consensus 1st-teamer in ’01 (the above four, plus BA) … the other ND pitchers to be All-Americans include (all RHPs): Nick Palihnich (ABCA 3rd-teamer in ’60); Niesel (CB 2nd team, writers 3rd team in ’03); Gagne (writers 3rd team in ’03); and Doherty (ABCA and writers 2nd team, in ’04) … the only ND catchers to be named All-Americans came in the late 1950s/early 1960s: Elmer Kohorst (ABCA 1st teamer in ’56 and ’57) and Walt Osgood (ABCA 2nd team in ’62) … the Irish program has produced four elite All-America outfielders: Dan Peltier (consensus 1st teamer in ’89); Danapilis (consensus 1st teamer in ’93); Ryan Topham (ABCA 3rd-teamer, in ’95) and Stanley (BA1st team and USA Today 2nd team in ’01; then consensus 1st teamer in ’02) … Topham played in RF while the other three were CFs … 17 ND players now have combined for 22 All-America seasons, with Kohorst (2), Heilman (4) and Stanley (2) being the program’s only repeat All-Americans … the ABCA All-America team dates back to 1954 while the BA and writers teams both started in 1981, with CB starting its All-America team in 1991 (USA Today did not debut its All-America team until 2000).
AMONG THE NCAA STAT LEADERS – Craig Cooper likely will finish the 2006 season ranked 6th in the nation with a .425 batting average, as only one player among the nation’s top-50 hitters (UNC shortstop Josh Horton, at .411) still is playing with his team in the NCAA postseason … each of the five players with a better batting avg. than Cooper play for teams that did not advance to the 2006 NCAAs … heading into this week’s NCAA Super Regionals, Cooper was leading the nation in total runs (79) and runs per game (1.38) … there were only three players from teams in the Super Regionals who ranked among the NCAA’s top-35 for runs scored: Oregon State’s Cole Gillespie (1.38; 73); Brendan Duffy of Oral Roberts (1.27; 65) and Miami’s Jon Jay (1.17; 70) … Cooper also ranks 25th among the nation’s players who are “toughest to strike out,” averaging 16.3 at-bats per strikeout … Jackson State’s Joaquin Rodriguez (.457; 17.5) is the only other player ranked among the national top-25 for both batting avg. (3rd; .457) and toughest to K (16th; 17.5) … Cooper’s teammate Jeff Manship ranks 24th nationally in strikeouts per 9.0 innings (10.5), with ND sophomore LHP Wade Korpi 15th on that list (11.1).
Craig Cooper’s .425 batting avg., .522 on-base pct., 97 hits and 79 runs all rank near the top of the ND single-season record book (photo by Pete LaFleur).
COOPER IN THE ND RECORD BOOK – With one of the top offensive seasons ever by an ND player now in the books, Craig Cooper finds himself among several top-10 lists in the Irish program’s record book … his .522 season on-base pct. ranks 3rd-best in ND history (tops in the 12-year Mainieri era), behind the .531 posted by Eric Danapilis in ’91 and Edwin Hartwell’s .529 in ’93 … late 1980s standouts Pat Pesavento (88 in ’89; 81 in ’88) and Dan Peltier (81 in ’89) are the only ND players ever to score more runs in a season than Cooper (79; 4th), who came up three shy of reaching 100 hits for the season (97; 5th) … Steve Stanley (119 in ’02; 102 in ’01), Peltier (115 in ’89) and Cooper’s former teammate Steve Sollmann (98, in ’03) are the only ND players with more hits in a season … Cooper’s .425 season batting avg. is 6th-best in ND history (2nd in Mainieri era), behind Hartwell (.447, in ’93), Dan Peltier (.446, in ’89), Steve Stanley (.439, in ’02) and Danapilis (.438, in ’93; .429 in ’90) … he also ended up with 149 total bases, good for 9th on that ND season list … for his career, Cooper ended up 12th or higher on 12 different ND lists: 7th in on-base pct. (.461); 8th in hits (265) and runs (191); 9th in batting avg. (.361), stolen bases (45), doubles (52), games played (221) and putouts (840); 10th in walks (111) and hit-by-pitch (30); and 12th in RBI (162) and at-bats (734).
MANSHIP IN THE ND RECORD BOOK – Jeff Manship’s 111 strikeouts in 2006 tied Aaron Heilman’s 2001 total for the 3rd-most in Notre Dame history (Heilman had 118 Ks in both 1999 and 2000) … Manship has averaged 10.11 strikeouts per 9.0 innings pitched during his career (131/116.2), the 4th-best strikeout rate in the Notre Dame baseball record book … his former teammate Ryan Doherty (12.17; ’03-’05) is the only ND pitcher in the past 40 years with a better strikeout average (Dan McGinn averaged 12.66 Ks/9 IP from 1964-65 and Rick Rusteck 10/75 from 1961-31) … Manship’s 10.63 Ks per 9 IP in 2006 rank 7th-best in a season ever by an ND pitcher (4th-best since 1965) … his .223 season opponent batting average is 12th-best in the ND record book (stat kept since 1991).
BIG EAST BEAST – Prior to the 2004 season, former ND standout 3B Brant Ust (in ’98) had been the only player ever to lead the league in conference batting avg., slugging pct. and on-base pct. for the same season … Craig Cooper became the second player to lead all three categories in the ’04 season (.470 batting, .573 on-base, .759 slugging) and duplicated the unique feat in 2006 (.481 batting, .573 on-base, .759 slugging) … Cooper also paced the BIG EAST in OPS (1.332), hits (52), runs (43), home runs (7, tied for lead) and total bases (82) during 2006 conference games, in addition to ranking 7th in walks (19) and 8th in RBI (24) … for the overall 2006 season, Cooper ran away atop the BIG EAST batting charts (.425, with West Virginia’s Casey Bowling a distant runner-up at .403) and also ended up leading all BIG EAST players in total runs (79), hits (97) and on-base pct. (.522), plus 2nd in OPS (1.065) and total bases (149), 4th in slugging pct. (.543) and doubles (19), 7th in walks (38), 9th in triples (3) and 11th in home runs (9).
Jeff Manship’s 3.26 ERA ranked 4th-best in the BIG EAST (photo by Pete LaFleur).
NOT MANY BETTER THAN MANNY – Jeff Manship ended up with the 4th-best overall ERA (3.26) among “regular” pitchers (at least 1.0 IP per team game) in the 12-team BIG EAST Conference, behind teammate Wade Korpi (2.00), UConn’s Tim Norton (2.04) and Pittsburgh’s Billy Muldowney (3.16) … Manship led the league in total wins (9-2), strikeouts (111) and Ks “looking” (48), also ranking 4th in low opponent batting avg. (.223) and innings pitched (94.0) and 8th in games started (14) … in 2006 BIG EAST games, Manship led the conference in wins (7-1), Ks (70) and Ks looking (29) while also ranking 3rd in opp. batting avg. (.226) and innings (63.1) plus 5th with a 3.13 ERA in BIG EAST play.
NO-BRAINER FOR TEAM MVP – Craig Cooper completed the 2006season having dominated the team stats possibly like no other player in the program’s history, leading the Irish offense in 20 different categories … most notably, he paced the team in batting avg. (.425), slugging pct. (.654), on-base pct. (.522), OPS (1.176), hits (97), runs (79), home runs (9), doubles (19) and walks (38) … he also proved to be the team’s top hitter in virtually every situational area, batting .426 with runners on base, .373 with them in scoring position and .327 with 2-outs (12 RBI w/2-out) while advancing runners 62% of the time and reaching on 57.7% of his leadoff plate appearances (all team bests) … Cooper also led the 2006 team in total bases (149) and plate appearances (278), owned the team’s best batting averages vs. both RHPs (.4360 and LHPs (.397), had a team-best plate discipline ratio of +34 (38 BB + 10 HBP -14 Ks) and compiled the best clutch-hitting score on the team, at 1,133 (.577 leadoff OB x .75, + .327 with RISP + .373 with 2-outs) … Cooper ended up 2nd on the team in stolen bases (9), triples (3), at-bats (228) and games started (57, one behind team leader Greg Lopez), plus 4th in hit-by-pitch (10) and 5th in games played (57).
MANSHIP AMONG ND STAFF LEADERS – Jeff Manship led Notre Dame’s 2006 staff in wins (9-2), strikeouts (111; 3rd in ND history) and Ks “looking (48) while ranking 2nd on the staff for innings pitched (94.0) and starts (14), and 3rd in low opponent batting avg. (.223), plus 5th in ERA (3.26; among pitchers with 20-plus innings) and appearances (15) … he owned the top groundout-to-flyout ratio on the staff (1.82), with 76% of his outs (213 of 282) coming via Ks or GOS (102; 2nd-most on staff) as he averaged more than 20 outs per 9 IP (20.40) via Ks or groundouts (9.77) … Manship held opposing lefthanded hitters to a .180 batting avg. (3rd-best on staff), also ranking 3rd on the team in opponent batting with runners on (.242), plus 4th in opp. 2-out batting (.222) and opponent leadoff on-base pct. (.313; 2.8 per 9 IP), with RH batters hitting .249 vs. him … he averaged 6.1 innings per outing (2nd on the staff) while his 9-inning averages included 10.63 Ks (2nd on team), 2.68 walks (5th-lowest), 7.47 hits (4th) and 37.44 batters faced … Manship’s other season stats included 6 hit batters, 4 wild pitches and a team-high 7 home runs allowed (the rest of the staff allowed just 11) … he posted 8-plus Ks in 10 of his 15 appearances during the 2006 season.
IRISH COMPLETE RARE SWEEP OF TOP BIG EAST AWARDS – Cooper and Manship’s 2006 honors marked 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 (for outright awards, excluding co-recipients) … former ND standouts Brant Ust (3B) and Brad Lidge (RHP) were the third set of teammates ever to earn the BIG EAST top pitcher and top player awards, a feat matched by Providence OF Keith Reed and RHP Marc DeRoches in ’99 … 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 a co-recipient – including 2001, when ND’s Aaron Heilman was the top pitcher and CF Steve Stanley shared the player-of-the-year award with UConn CF Mike Scott.
BIG EAST HONORS HISTORY – Notre Dame players now have combined to earn the BIG EAST player-of-the-year honor four times in the past nine seasons, with Craig Cooper (2006) joining 3B Brant Ust (1998) and CF Steve Stanley (`01 and `02) in that distinction … the Irish program also has produced five BIG EAST pitchers of the year since 1998: Brad Lidge (’98), Aaron Heilman (’00, ’01), Chris Niesel (’03) and Jeff Manship (’06).
Craig Cooper’s three BIG EAST batting titles corresponded with being named all-BIG EAST in each of his final three seasons (photo by Pete LaFleur).
THREE-TIME BIG EAST HONOREE – Cooper earlier had received all-BIG EAST honors in 2004 (2nd team) and 2005 (3rd team), with his 2006 award making him the sixth ND position player to earn all-BIG EAST recognition in three or more seasons … DH Jeff Wagner was a four-time all-BIG EAST performer in the late 1990s while Cooper joins infielder Brant Ust, CF Steve Stanley, OF Brian Stavisky and 2B Steve Sollmann as the program’s three-time recipients.
POSITION SWITCH POSITIVES – Former 2B/CF Randall Brooks (’96-’97) and Cooper (OF/1B) are the only ND baseball players ever to receive all-BIG EAST honors at distinctly different positions … Brant Ust earned his all-BIG EAST honors at three different infield positions (2B, 3B, SS).
DYNAMIC MOUND DUO – Jeff Samardzija and Jeff Manship joined 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 – ND’s 2001 senior duo of 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.
PAIR OF TOP-10 ROUND DRAFT PICKS – The only ND teammates that have been drafted higher than junior RHP Jeff Samardzija (5th round, Cubs) and senior 1b Craig Cooper (7th round, Padres) include the 2004 junior duo of RHP Grant Johnson (2nd round, Cubs) and 3B Matt Macri (5th round, Rockies) and 2002 outfielders Steve Stanley (2nd round) and Brian Stavisky (6th round), who both went to the A’s … Samardzija and Cooper are the seventh pair of ND teammates to each be drafted in the first 10 rounds (also 1996, ’98, ’99 and ’01) … Johnson and Macri are the program’s only pitcher/position player combination to be drafted sooner than Samardzija and Cooper.
Only one senior position player in Notre Dame history has been drafted higher than Craig Cooper (photo by Pete LaFleur).
SUPER SENIORS – Cooper became the ninth ND senior ever to be selected in the first 10 rounds of the MLB draft, with RHP Aaron Heilman (1st round, ’02, Mets), CF Steve Stanley (2nd round, ’02, A’s) and RHP Steve Whitmyer (6th round, ’83, Indians) being the only seniors in the program’s history to be picked before the 7th round (Stanley is the only senior position player drafted higher than Cooper) … with LHP Tom Thornton picked in the 21st round (Tigers) and SS Greg Lopez going to the Blue Jays in the 33rd round, the ND baseball program now has seen four seasons in which three seniors have been drafted (also ’93, ’01 and ’02) … none of the three (Cooper, Thornton and Lopez) had been drafted at any time previously in their baseball careers.
TALENTED THREE-MAN ROTATION – Each member of ND’s typical three-man rotation during the 2006 season was selected in the MLB draft … that marked the first time in the program’s history (dating back to the start of the draft, in 1965) that three Irish pitchers have been selected in the same Major League draft.
FIVE PICKS AMONG MOST IN ND HISTORY – The five draft picks in 2006 match the second-most in Notre Dame history, trailing only the six Irish players who were drafted in 2001.
LONE PADRE – The 41 previous Major League drafts had seen Notre Dame players (including incoming signees who ended up playing for the Irish) picked in the draft or signed as free agent a total of 120 times … despite that high number of draftees/signees, none of the Irish players had been drafted or signed by the San Diego Padres until senior 1B Craig Cooper became their 7th-round pick in this week’s 2006 draft … all 30 of the current Major League teams now have drafted or signed at least one Notre Dame player (see list below).
TWIN KILLINGS – Jeff Manship follows six previous ND players who were Minnesota Twins drat picks or signees: RHP Robert Bentley (1966; 30th round; returned to ND); SS Joe Theismann (1971; 39th round; did not sign/played in NFL); 1B Dan Leatherman (1998; free agent); RHP Aaron Heilman (2000; supplemental round between 1st and 2nd; returned to ND); IF/RHP Matt Macri (2001; 17th round; HS senior); and C Javi Sanchez (2004; 14th round).
COOPER CLAIMS BIG EAST CAREER BATTING RECORD – It came down to his final at-bat in the final game of the regular season and ND’s Craig Cooper delivered with a ringing single into right field (a 2-run hit, on a 1-2 pitch), completing his 3-for-4 game to claim the BIG EAST record for career batting average in BIG EAST games by finishing at .444 (120-for-270) for the best mark in the 22-year history of BIG EAST baseball … former Rutgers player Joe Cirrone had held the BIG EAST career batting avg. record of .443 but he totaled just 115 career at-bats (with 51 hits) in his BIG EAST career, five fewer than Cooper’s hit total (the BIG EAST min. for the stat is 100 career ABs).
Craig Cooper connects on the hit that clinched his status as the all-time leader in career BIG EAST batting average (photo by Pete LaFleur).
UNPRECEDENTED THREE-TIME BIG EAST BATTING CHAMP – Cooper ended the regular season with a .432 overall batting average while claiming an unprecedented third career BIG EAST batting title (for conference games) … he won his first BIG EAST batting title in 2004 (.470; 31-for-66) and then hit .403 in 2005 BIG EAST games (27-for-67), joining former Boston College player Kevin Penwell (’95 and `96) as the only repeat batting champs in the history of BIG EAST baseball … Cooper’s BIG EAST career had a modest start in 2003, when he hit “just” .345 (10-for-29) while platooning in the outfield.
CLASSIC RUNAWAY -The race for the 2006 BIG EAST batting title was far from close, as Cooper outdistanced runner-up Todd Frazier of Rutgers (.424) by a whopping 57 batting points … Cooper could have gone hitless in 14 more ABs and still claimed his unprecedented third career BIG EAST batting title (would have been 52-for-122/.426) … he also outdistance West Virginia’s Casey Bowling by 22 points (.425-.403) to finish atop the BIG EAST charts for overall 2006 season batting avg.
ONE OF THE BEST THERE EVER WAS – Cooper .481 league batting avg. in ’06 represents one of the highest averages ever turned in by a BIG EAST batting champ … since 1989, only four of the previous 16 BIG EAST batting champs – Rutgers SS Darren Fenster (.505, in ’99), ND infielder Brant Ust (.493, in ’98), UConn CF Mike Scott (.491, in ’01) and ND catcher/ DH Jeff Wagner (.488, in ’97) – have claimed the BIG EAST batting title with a higher avg. than Cooper’s .481.
ALWAYS THERE – Cooper’s 57 games played in the 2006 season saw him reach base in all but two (55), with hits in 50 of those games and runs scored in 49 … he reached base in each of his first 34 games played during the 2006 season.
LEADOFF LEADER – Cooper reached a team-best 58% of the time when leading off any inning but his production was even more impressive when leading off for the Irish in the 1st inning … Cooper reached base 39-of-54 times (72.2%) when leading off the game for the ND offense, batting 29-for-45 (.644) in his 1st-ining leadoff plate appearances, including 4 leadoff home runs (1.089 slugging pct., 8 doubles, 8 walks, also reached on a hit-by-pitch and an error) … his OPS (on-base plus slugging) was an off-the-charts 1.811 as the 1st-inning leadoff batter this season (counting the error as a time on-base, otherwise the OPS would be 1.793)… led by Cooper, the Irish hit .350 as a team this season in the 1st inning while outscoring their opponents 67-35 in the opening frame … Cooper scored 28 of his nation-leading 79 runs in the 1st inning this season.
Cooper’s many impressive stats in 2006 included reaching base on 39 of his 54 trips to the plate (72%) as the 1st-inning leadoff batter (photo by Pete LaFleur).
BREAKING DOWN COOP’S 1ST-INNING MASTERY – Cooper’s 29 hits in the 1st-inning this season included 10 to the opposite (right) field: five to straight RF (HR, 2 2B, 2 1B), three to the right-center gap (2 HR, 1B) and a pair of singles through the right side of the infield … five of his 1st-ining hits went to center field (4 1B, 2B) and five of his 1st-inning singles went up the middle while Cooper pulled eight of his 1st-ining hits to left, with three doubles down the leftfield line, a double to the left-center gap and four hits to straight left (2 1B, 2B, HR) … his other 1st-inning hit in 2006 was a bunt single … Cooper’s low total of 15 outs as the 1st-inning leadoff batter included five flyouts (3 to RF, 2 to CF), five groundouts (3 on 6-3s, plus a 4-3 and 1-4-3), a lineout to the second baseman, only one foulout (to the 1B) and just three strikeouts (only one on a called third strike).
TRADING HRs FOR Ks – Cooper’s many impressive stats this season included totaling nearly as many home runs (9) as strikeouts (14) while having a streak of 44 games played without grounding into a double play.
FLIRTING WITH 30-30 – Cooper was a streaky home run hitter throughout his ND career and he launched nine home runs during the record-setting 23-game winning streak … that long-ball binge left Cooper with 26 career home runs (plus 45 stolen bases) and he was poised to make a run at becoming the program’s third player ever to reach 30-plus HRs and 30-plus SBs in his career … with pitchers steadily becoming more selective versus Cooper, he did not hit any home runs in the final 23 games of the season but still managed to total 37 hits and 17 walks over that final six-week stretch of the season.
HITTING BASEBALLS AND TEXTBOOKS – Craig Cooper rocketed to the top of most All-America projections and narrowly missed a chance at being considered for 2006 Academic All-America honors, entering the 2006 spring semester with a 3.197 cumulative GPA as a political science major (min. 3.20) … Cooper was one of 21 members of the 2006 ND baseball team to post a GPA of 3.0 or higher (3.40) during the 2005 fall semester and then followed with a 3.83 GPA in the 2006 spring semester, graduating with a 3.26 cumulative GPA while being one of 24 Irish players with a 3.0-plus GPA for the 2006 spring term.
OH-SO-CLOSE – Prior to the 0-for-4 game vs. Purdue that snapped his 21-game hitting streak, Craig Cooper had hits in 30 of his previous 31 games and possibly would have been riding a 31-game hit streak if he could have managed another at-bat or two versus Central Michigan on March 22 (when he went 0-for-1, walked three times and added a sacrifice fly) … he now has collected at least one hit in 51 of his 57 games played during the 2006 season (reaching base in all but two), with only four hitless games in which he had at least four ABs (also 0-for-4 vs. Memphis and Seton Hall, 0-for-5 at UConn).
EXTENDED ROLL – Including the final 17 games of his junior season, Craig Cooper collected hits in 65 of his final 74 games (54 of 59 in the regular season) … he ended the 2005 regular season on a 10-game hitting streak, then hit safely in all three games of the ’05 BIG EAST Tournament before enduring a two-game slump at the NCAA Gainesville Regional (he bounced back with hits in ND’s final two games of the ’05 NCAAs) … the current stretch of collecting hits in 65 of his past 75 games played spans the only double-digit hitting streaks of Cooper’s four-year ND career (13 and 21 games, plus a 9-game streak that ended with the 0-for-1 game vs. Central Michigan).
HOME & AWAY – Craig Cooper compiled strong 2006 batting marks both at home (.461, 41-for-89) and on the road (.403, 56-for-139) during his final season with the Irish.
THE X FACTOR – Notre Dame was 43-10-1 with Cooper batting in the leadoff spot and just 4-5 when another player served as the leadoff batter … the Irish dropped four straight games when Cooper was out of the lineup (vs. top opponents Oklahoma, Nebraska, Minnesota and Arizona) but then compiled a 43-12-1 extended streak after Cooper’s return to the lineup (he played in all but two of those games).
PAIR OF LONG HIT STREAKS – Cooper’s 13-game hit streak near the end of the 2005 season and his recent 21-game tear made him the third player in the 12-year Paul Mainieri era to post multiple hit streaks of 13-plus games … centerfielder Steve Stanley had a 16-game hit streak in 2000 and hit safely in 13 straight games during the 2002 season while another former All-American, second baseman Steve Sollmann, had 13- and 15-game hit streaks during the 2003 season.
NATIONAL PLAYER OF WEEK – The third week of April saw Cooper bat over .500 with a slugging percentage of nearly 1.000 while reaching base 15 times over the course of five games (vs. Toledo and IPFW, pus series with Rutgers) and tying the school record by extending his hitting streak to 21 – all en route to receiving national player-of-the-week honors from both Collegiate Baseball magazine and Rosenblatt Report, in addition to being named the BIG EAST Conference player of the week for the second time this season and the third time in his career … the righthanded slugger was named a national player of the week twice in his career … Cooper’s damage in the five victories from April 18-23 included a .526 batting avg. (10-for-19), 13 RBI, 9 runs, a .952 slugging pct. (4 HR, 2 2B), a .654 on-base pct. (5 BB, HBP) and a lofty 1.606 OPS … Cooper joined 1997 catcher Mike Amrhein as the only players in the history of ND baseball who are known to have pushed single-season hit streaks to 21 games … the week included his first career multi-home run game, in the 11-5 win over Rutgers, and 5 RBI (tied career high) in the 14-12 series finale.
COOPER’S TOP GAMES OF 2006 – Craig Cooper did not play in an early-season stretch that saw the Irish lose four straight games to top teams (Oklahoma, Nebraska, Minnesota and Arizona) but then had a pair of top efforts during the Spring Break trip in San Antonio, vs. Iowa (4-for-5, RBI, 3 R, 2B, HBP; 16-2) and Southern Illinois (3-for-5, RBI, R; 12-2) … his 7-for-13 showing in the BIG EAST home series vs. Pittsburgh (3 RBI, 4 R, HR, 2B, 2 BB, SB) included a 3-for-5 game to help fuel the rally in the 9-8 series finale (RBI, 3 R, HR, 2B, BB) … he followed with a 9-for-13 weekend to lead the sweep at South Florida (4 RBI, 7 R, HR, 3B, 2 BB, 2 SB), collecting three hits in all three games … had multiple hits in 11 of 12 games from March 29-April 13 … Cooper continued his impressive career batting vs. rival Rutgers by batting 8-for-1 with 3 HR in another series sweep (9 RBI, 8 R, 2 2B, 4 B, HBP) … he had the first 2-HR game of his career in 11-5 opener vs. RU (4 RBI, BB) before matching career high with 5 RBI in 14-12 series finale (4-for-5, 3 R, 2 2B, HR, BB) … Cooper joined teammates Sean Gaston (in ’04) and Brett Lilley (in ’05) as one of 31 ND players ever to post 5-plus hits in a game, batting 5-for-5 in game-2 win at UConn (RBI, 3 R; 7-3) … he closed his career at Eck Stadium by batting 7-for-11 in series with Louisville (RBI, 6 R, 3B, 4 BB), walking four times in the 11-3 opening win over UL and then hitting 4-for-5 in his final home game (RBI, 2 R, 3B; 6-9) … Cooper hit 3-for-5 to help win game-2 at Seton Hall (3 R, 2B; 14-12) … clinched the BIG EAST record for career batting avg. in conference games after hitting 3-for-4 in road game vs. Villanova (2 RBI, 2 R, HBP; 12-1) … he collected his in final six games of his ND career, including 12-4 BIG EAST Tournament win over West Virginia (2-for-5, 2 R, 2B, BB), elimination-game win over St. John’s (2-for4, 2 RBI, 2 2B, BB; 5-3) and 7-0 title game vs. Louisville (2-for-4, 2 RBI, SF) … Cooper closed career with hits in NCAA Lexington Regional games vs. the College of Charleston (2-for-7, R, BB; 4-5 in 16 innings) and Kentucky (2-for-3, R, BB; 4-10).
Jeff Manship posted 8-plus strikeouts in 10 of his 2006 outings (photo by Pete LaFleur).
MANSHIP 2006 HIGHLIGHTS – Jeff Manship pitched well enough to win his first two starts of the 2006 season, instead picking up no-decisions in losses to Oklahoma (3-4; in Millington, Tenn.; 5 IP, 2 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 8 Ks) and Arizona (0-2, in 10; at Metrodome; 6 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 10 Ks) … he later posted pair of wins in his hometown of San Antonio, vs. Iowa (6 IP, 2 R, 4 H, 0 BB, 6 Ks; 16-2) and Southern Illinois (8 IP, 2 R, 7 H, BB, 8 Ks; 12-2) … Manship beat Pittsburgh in he first home series of the season (7 IP, R, 4 H, BB, 9 Ks; 4-3) before winning 10-1 series finale at South Florida (8 IP, R, 4 H, BB, 4 Ks) and later pitched well but had no-decision in the 7-5 series finale vs. St. John’s (7 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 4 BB, 7 Ks) … he notched his ninth win of 2006 in the final regular-season series, posting a 6-2 road victory over Villanova (7.2 IP, 2 R/1 ER, 5 H, BB, 6 Ks) … Manship also pitched in postseason losses to St. John’s at BIG EAST Tournament (2 IP, 5 R, 6 H, 2 BB, K; 1-10) and vs. Kentucky in the NCAA Lexington Regional (3.2 IP, 6 R/3 ER, 3 H, 7 BB, 8 Ks out of bullpen; 4-10).