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Final Awards Include Honors For Sanchez (Team MVP), Lopez (Student-Athlete Award) And Doherty (ABCA All-American)

June 23, 2004

The final awards for the 2004 Notre Dame baseball team include senior catcher Javi Sanchez receiving team MVP honors and sophomore shortstop Greg Lopez receiving the team’s Rockne student-athlete award – while sophomore closer Ryan Doherty picked up his second All-America honor, as a third-team selection from the American Baseball Coaches Association (see full list of 2004 in-season and post-season awards below).

The team awards mark the first time in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era that a full-time catcher has been named the team MVP. Mike Amrhein was MVP for the 1997 Irish squad while splitting time at DH and catcher.

Sanchez – the first full-time catcher to be named team MVP in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era at Notre Dame – provided immeasurable value to the Notre Dame program throughout his career, due to his tremendous leadership skills and team-centered unselfishness. His value also extended to the field, with the third team all-BIG EAST performer handling an injury-depleted 2004 pitching staff that finished 10th on the national ERA charts (3.36) while also proving to be a reliable and clutch-hitting member of the everyday lineup.

A prep second baseman who made successful conversions to shortstop and catcher during his Irish career, the 6-2, 205-pound Sanchez ranked just ninth among the 2004 regulars with a .278 overall batting average but hit at a much higher clip in key situations. His .320 batting with 2 outs (17 RBI) and .329 with runners in scoring position both ranked fourth on the ’04 team while his .351 batting (14 RBI) in “double-clutch” scenarios of 2 outs and runners in scoring position was nearly 75 points higher than his overall batting average (see more Sanchez notes below).

The Miami native played sparingly as a reserve second baseman/third baseman during his freshman season in 2001, batting 0-for-13 while making just two starts. But when early-season injuries to then-freshmen Matt Macri and Matt Edwards created a void at shortstop in 2002, it was Sanchez who stepped forward to tackle a new position. He went on to become a key contributor and young leader of that 2002 squad that claimed the Irish program’s first College World Series appearance in 45 years.

One year later, the unselfish Sanchez switched to another brand-new position of catcher and ended up catching more than 90% of the innings during the 2003 and ’04 seasons. His hard work under the watchful instruction of Notre Dame assistant coach David Grewe helped build the former prep second baseman (who was undrafted out of high school) into a pro prospect behind the plate, with the Minnesota Twins selecting Sanchez in the 14th round of the 2004 Major League draft.

Lopez (Upper Arlington, Ohio) turned in arguably the best all-around season by a shortstop during the 10-year Paul Mainieri era at Notre Dame, ranking third on the team with a .332 final batting average while posting 42 error-free games and turning in a generally strong season defensively. He carries a 3.36 cumulative grade-point average while majoring in anthropology and pre-professional studies, positioning him for Academic All-America honors in 2005. Lopez narrowly missed advancing to the 2003 Academic All-America ballot, with just four infielders (including his teammate Steve Sollmann) named to the Academic All-District V squad.

No previous full-time shortstop in the Mainieri era had posted a batting average above .330 and a fielding percentage of .930-plus (Lopez finished at .931), with Lopez’s .332 batting finishing 24 points above the average mark of his nine predecessors (.308), who also owned an average fielding pct. of .920.

The stellar sophomore season was all the more noteworthy for Lopez, who hit just .250 while starting 40 games (mostly at third base) as a freshman in 2003. The slick-fielding shortstop doubled his hit total from 2003 (33) to ’04 (66) while seeing a major rise in his batting average (up 82 points), slugging percentage (up 174 points, to .432) and on-base percentage (up 107 points, to .396). (See additional notes on Lopez below.)

Doherty earlier was named a third team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers and combined with third baseman Matt Macri (third team) in making Notre Dame one of just four schools with a full-time position player and pitcher on the NCBWA All-America teams. The other teams with that distinction included South Carolina (catcher Landon Powell, starting pitcher Aaron Rawl and reliever Chad Blackwell), Southern Mississippi (second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir, outfielder Ryan Frith and reliever Austin Tubb) and LSU (outfielder Jon Zeringue and starter Clay Dirks).

Notre Dame players now have been named to the ABCA All-America teams 15 times (by 12 players), with Doherty becoming the program’s first relief pitcher ever to be so honored (two previous ND starting pitchers have been ABCA All-Americans).

Doherty (Toms River, N.J.) will enter his junior season in 2005 with a 2.30 career ERA that is on pace to best the standing Notre Dame record set by fellow All-American Nick Palihnich 33 years ago (2.36, from 1959-61). The 7-foot-1, 205-pound righthander also has compiled 12.93 strikeouts per nine innings while allowing just 5.75 hits per 9 IP – with both stats also on line to break standing Notre Dame records held by Dan McGinn (who averaged 12.66 Ks and 6.27 hits from 1964-65). Doherty’s 4.091 career strikeout-to-walk ratio narrowly leads teammate Chris Niesel (4.088) atop that ND career list, with the standing record held by Alan Walania (4.00, ’90-’93).

Doherty’s All-America season included 12 saves (in 13 chances), just one shy of J.P. Gagne’s ND record (13, in ’03) and good for 8th in nation during 2004, plus a 2.38 ERA that would have ranked 33rd in the nation (his 34 innings left him short of the NCAA minimum of 1 IP per team game). He also posted a 5-1 record, owned a strikeout average (12.18 per 9 IP) that would have ranked 5th in the nation if he met the NCAA innings minimum, and allowed just 19 hits for a .160 opponent batting average. The big closer allowed just 1-of-17 inherited baserunners to score in 2004, stranding 16 straight to close the season (see complete updated bio. on Doherty below), and owned a .227 opponent slugging percentage that ranks better than most pitchers’ opponent batting averages.

See the below link for additional updated bio. notes on Doherty:

Lopez was one of many academic all-stars for the Notre Dame baseball program in 2004, with Sollmann earning first team Academic All-America honors while sophomore lefthander Tom Thornton and sophomore leftfielder Steve Andres each received Academic All-District V recognition. The program’s stellar 2004 spring semester included 22 of 35 players posting a semester GPA of 3.0 or higher, led by 11 with a GPA of 3.4-plus. Sollmann and his five fellow seniors each ended their undergraduate careers with a semester GPA of 3.55 or higher (each had a 3.40-plus in the fall of ’03) while maintaining the program’s 100% graduation rate (59 of 59) during the Mainieri era, among players who have completed their eligibility (eight others who signed professionally as juniors also have returned to complete degree requirements).

Sollmann closed his undergraduate studies with a 4.0 semester GPA (as a business management major) while another first team all-BIG EAST performer, junior righthander Grant Johnson, logged a 3.83 semester GPA as marketing major. Sanchez also closed strong in the classroom, posting a 3.70 semester GPA as a marketing major.

Notre Dame’s previous 14 ABCA All-American selections include the following: catchers Elmer Kohorst (1st team in ’56 and ’57) and Walt Osgood (2nd team, ’62), righthanded pitchers Nick Palihnich (3rd team, ’60) and Aaron Heilman (3rd team in ’99, 2nd team in ’00, 1st team in ’01), shortstop Rich Gonski (2nd team, ’64), the 1st-team centerfielder trio of Dan Peltier (’89), Eric Danapilis (’93) and Steve Stanley (’02), rightfielder Ryan Topham (3rd team, ’95), third baseman Brant Ust (3rd team, ’98) and Sollmann as a 2nd-team honoree in 2003.

Several players from ND’s 2004 opponents were on the ABCA All-America team: Texas Tech 1B Josh Brady (1st tm),Central Florida RHP Matt Fox (2nd tm), Winthrop reliever Jon Wilson (2nd team), Rutgers OF Jeff Frazier (3rd tm), Minnesota LHP Glen Perkins (3rd tm), UC Irvine closer Blair Erickson (3rd tm) and Texas Tech SS Cameron Blair (3rd team). See for the full 2004 All-America list. Here’s a complete list of Notre Dame’s 2004 award winners (updated bio. notes on Sanchez and Lopez follow below):

Matt Macri (3B, Jr.) – second team All-America (Baseball America, USA Today Sports Weekly, Collegiate Baseball magazine), third team All-America (National Collegiate Baseball Writers), first team all-BIG EAST, BIG EAST Tournament MVP, BIG EAST player of the week (April 5, May 17), Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic all-tournament team, 5th-round MLB draft selection of the Colorado Rockies

Ryan Doherty (RHP, So.) – third team All-Americans (American Baseball Coaches Association, National Collegiate Baseball Writers), second team all-BIG EAST

Grant Johnson (RHP, Jr.) – first team all-BIG EAST, BIG EAST pitcher of the week (May 17, 24), 2nd-round MLB draft selection of the Colorado Rockies

Steve Sollmann (2B, Sr.) – first team CoSIDA Academic All-American, first team all-BIG EAST, NCAA South Bend Regional all-tournament team, 10th-round MLB draft selection of the Colorado Rockies

Chris Niesel (RHP, Jr.) – second team all-BIG EAST, Florida Atlantic Classic all-tournament team, 9th-round MLB draft selection of the Colorado Rockies

Craig Cooper (RF, So.) – second team all-BIG EAST,

Javi Sanchez (C, Sr.) – third team all-BIG EAST, ND team MVP, Florida Atlantic Classic all-tournament team, Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic all-tournament team, 14th-round MLB draft selection of the Colorado Rockies

Greg Lopez (SS, so.) – third team all-BIG EAST, Notre Dame baseball Rockne Student-Athlete Award, BIG EAST player of the week (April 19), Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic all-tournament team

Tom Thornton (LHP, so.) – CoSIDA Academic All-District V selection, NCAA South Bend Regional all-tournament team, Florida Atlantic Classic all-tournament team, BIG EAST pitcher of the week (Feb. 23, March 15)

Steve Andres (LF, so.) – CoSIDA Academic All-District V selection, NCAA South Bend Regional all-tournament team, Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic all-tournament team

Matt Edwards (1B, jr.) – NCAA South Bend Regional all-tournament team, Florida Atlantic Classic MVP

Joe Thaman (LHP, Sr.) – Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic all-tournament team

Jess Stewart (RHP, Fr.) – Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic all-tournament team

Sean Gaston (C, Fr.) – national player of the week (College Baseball Writers, Feb. 30), BIG EAST player of the week (Feb. 30)

Javi Sanchez updated bio. notes – First full-time catcher in 10-year Paul Mainieri era to be named ND team MVP (’04) … 8th on ND career hit-by-pitch list (27), 9th in putouts (751) … his .281 career batting avg. matched his ’02 avg. and ended just above his ’04 avg. (.278) … other career stats: 186 hits in 661 ABs, 135 runs, 96 RBI, 8 HRs, 4 3B, 34 2B, 65 BB, 74 Ks, 9 SF, 15 SAC, 9-of-14 SB, .958 fielding (46 Es), .366 OB, .381 slugging … ’03 honors included BIG EAST Tournament MVP (8-for-11, 4 BB, 4 SAC, 6 RBI, 5 R) and spot on NCAA Fullerton Regional all-tournament team (6-for-15, 2 RBI, 4 R) … closed undergraduate studies with 3.70 GPA in ’04 spring semester (business management major) … spirited leader and team tri-captain, earning 3rd team all-BIG EAST honors in ’04 while handling an injury-depleted pitching staff that finished 10th on the national ERA charts (3.36) … 2nd on squad in doubles (14; 11th among BIG EAST players), hit-by-pitch (15; 3rd in ND history) and games started (59), plus 3rd in games played (59), 4th in runs scored (43) and 5th in RBI (41) … his .340 batting vs. LHPs ranked 4th on team … other ’04 stats included 60 H, 41 RBI, 2 HR, 20 BB, 24 Ks, 7 SF, 2 SAC, 2-5 SB, .978 fielding (9 Es), .368 on-base, .370 slugging … 2nd on team with +11 margin of walks (20) plus HBPs (15) minus Ks (24), with rest of the team at +12 … hit .308 in BIG EAST regular season, ranking 8th among BIG EAST players with 8 doubles in conference play … hit 21 points higher on road (.287) than at home (.266) during ND career, with 6 of 8 HRs outside Eck Stadium (including a 3-run blast vs. Stanford at ’02 College World Series) … top ’04 games included batting 3-for-5 in win over #25 Winthrop (2 RBI, 2 R, 2B) and 4-for-6 in comeback win over Southern Illinois (2 R, 2B) … homered on senior day to tie regular-season finale vs. Virginia Tech (ND won, 2-1) … delivered RBI 77% of time (2nd-best on team; 20-of-26) with runner on 3rd and fewer than 2 outs … his other situational stats included .262 leadoff on-base pct. and grounding into 3 double plays … hit .279 in Feb./March (19-for-68, 10 RBI, 13 BB) before ranking 3rd on team with .338 batting in April (27-for-80, 22 RBI, HR, 12 BB) … caught 92 straight innings prior to Virginia Tech series (while freshman Sean Gaston was sidelined with mononucleosis) … made 49 starts behind the plate (4 at DH, 4 at 2B, plus single start at 3B) … logged 32 starts as cleanup batter, plus 10 in 6-hole – also batting in 3rd (4), 5th (8) and 7th (5) spots … hit .292 in ’04 games vs. top-25 teams (6 RBI, BB in 7 GP) … totaled 15 multi-hit games, 12 with multi-RBI (4th on squad).

Greg Lopez updated bio. notes – Earned third team all-BIG EAST Conference honors in 2004 before finishing as team’s 3rd-leading hitter (.332) while batting mostly from the 9-hole … led ’04 team in sacrifice bunts (10) while ranking 2nd in doubles (14, also 11th among BIG EAST players), 3rd in batting avg., hits (66), games played (59) and started (57) and 4th in hit-by-pitch (9) … his other ’04 stats included 39 runs, 2 home runs, 34 RBI, 14 walks, 32 strikeouts, 3 sac. flies, 4-of-5 stolen bases, 20 errors, a .931 fielding pct., a .396 on-base pct., .432 slugging pct. and .828 “OBS” … one of team’s best situational hitters, finishing 2nd on team in batting with runners in scoring position (.373), 3rd in leadoff on-base pc. (.467) and 4th in 2-out RBI (15) … his other situation hitting included .364 with runners on and .286 with 2 outs … hit .365 vs. RHPs (2nd-best on team), .200 vs. LHPs … made big statistical jumps from freshman season that saw him bat just .250 while starting 40 games at third base for the ’03 squad (33 H, 17 R, 26 RBI, .289 OB, .258 slug, .547 OBS) … ranked 12th among BIG EAST players with .353 batting in 2004 conference games only, plus 3rd in doubles (8) … 4th on team with .353 batting in ’04 BIG EAST regular-season action … his stellar defense in ’04 included 42 error-free games, a streak of 16 games without an error (spanning 78 fielding chances), just 4 games with multiple errors and helping turn 43 of the team’s 59 double plays … went hitless in three straight games just twice all season … finished 2nd on team with 19 multi-hit games, plus 7 with multiple RBI … opened season by batting team-best .408 in Feb./March (19 RBI, 21 R, 2 HR, 8 2B, 6 Es) before hitting .258 in April (11 RBI, 10 R, 2 2B, 8 Es) and .321 in post-finals games during May/June (4 RBI, 8 R, 4 2B, 6 Es) … batted 148 points higher (.395, 22 RBI, 26 R) on the road than at Eck Stadium (.247, 12 RBO, 13 R) in 2004 … made all of his starts at shortstop while batting mostly in the 9-hole (32) or 8th spot (24, plus single spot batting 5th) … delivered RBI 62% of the time with runner on 3rd base and fewer than 2 outs … struck out “looking” 5 times … member of surging sophomore class that also includes All-America close Ryan Doherty, RF Craig Cooper (2nd team all-BIG EAST), versatile offensive performer and LF Steve Andres, baserunning (and HBP) specialist CF Cody Rizzo, power-hitting DH Matt Bransfield (who did not receive all-BIG EAST honors despite leading the league in RBI) and LHP Tom Thornton (who joined Andres and two others on the NCAA South Bend Regional all-tournament team) … his top games in ’04 included batting 4-for-6 in win over #25 Winthrop (6 RBI, 2 R, HR, 2B), 6-for-18 while earning all-tournament honors at the Alamo City Classic (4 RBI, 5 R), 3-for-4 at West Virginia to complete 3-game sweep (3 R, 2B, BB), 5-for-6 in split with St. John’s (RBI, 2 R, 2B), 7-for-11 in sweep at UConn (2 RBI, 4 R, 3 2B) … also hit 5-for-11 at BIG EAST Tournament, including 3-for-5 in winners-bracket game vs. St. John’s … first full-time SS in 10-year Paul Mainieri to bat .330-plus and field .930-plus (the previous nine averaged .308 and .920) … Brant Ust hit .372 and fielding .931 in 1997 while splitting time at 2B, SS and 3B … will enter 2005 season with .299 career batting avg. (99-for-331, 190 GP, 97 GS, 45 R, 15 2B, 2 HR, 60 RBI, 18 BB, 13 HBP, 54 K, 5 SF, 18 SAC, 5-10 SB, 28 Es, .354 OB, .363 slug, .717 OBS) … carries 3.36 cumulative grade-point average while majoring in anthropology and pre-professional studies, positioning him for Academic All-America honors in 2005.