May 17, 2004

The first game in Notre Dame’s upcoming two-game baseball series vs. Central Florida will be televised live in South Bend on WHME-TV 46, on Tuesday, May 18 (first pitch is set for 6:07 p.m. EST). The game also will be rebroadcast nationally later in the week on College Sports Television, which is available primarily on DirectTV channel 610 in additional to several cable providers (see for details). The CSTV rebroadcasts are slated for Friday, May 21, at 7:00 p.m. EDT (6:00 in South Bend) and later that night on Sat., May 22, at 2:00 a.m. EDT.

Notre Dame (42-9) has secured a spot in the four-team BIG EAST Tournament with an 18-5 conference record, is one five teams left in the nation with single-digit losses and was ranked as high as No. 8 in last week’s national polls, prior to a 5-0 week that pushed the current win streak to nine games (the first poll in this week has the Irish at No. 6, according to Collegiate Baseball magazine).

Central Florida (39-12) also is on the verge of winning its conference regular-season title (they have clinched a share), with a 21-6 record in Atlantic-Sun Conference play.

Both teams are expected to send freshman righthanders to the mound in Tuesday’s game, as UCF’s probable pitcher is Taylor Meier (the staff’s No. 3 starter). Meier owns a 2.38 ERA and 5-2 record in 10 appearances (9 starts), plus 41 strikeouts, 25 walks, 39 hits allowed and a .211 opponent batting average in 53 innings.

Notre Dame is expected to counter with rookie sensation Jeff Samardzija, whose 50.1 innings pitched leave him just shy of qualifying for the national ERA leaders (the minimum is one inning per team game, or 51.0 for ND pitchers). Samardzija was ranked 26th in the nation for ERA last week at 2.14 (now up a tad to 2.15), with his other season stats including a 4-2 record, 31 Ks, 14 BB and 37 H (.201 opp. avg.) in 16 appearances (4 starts).

The Golden Knights are set to start sophomore RHP Mike Billek (4.50, 0-0, 3 GP, 6.0 IP, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 7 H/.304) in Wednesday night’s game vs. the Irish (6:05 p.m. EST) while the Irish have yet to name a starter for the second game vs. UCF. Top candidates for that start would include another freshman righthander – Jess Stewart – who has 8 starts under his belt (3.97, 5-1, 17 Ks, 7 BB, 37 H, .274, 10 GP, 34.0 IP).