April 26, 2005

The Notre Dame baseball team (24-15-1) has added a makeup game for Wed., April 27, vs. Manchester College at Eck Stadium (5:05 EST). The game replaces the third game of the Rutgers series that was lost due to a rainout.

Notre Dame now has restored its 2005 schedule to the maximum 56 games and will conclude its current 13-game homestand this weekend vs. Cleveland State (6:05 game on Friday, April 29; 1:35 on Saturday, April 30).

Freshman lefthander David Gruener is slated to make his first start of the season vs. Manchester, in a planned-rotation setup that should see several Irish pitchers on the mound. Junior lefthander Tom Thornton then is the likely starter on Friday vs. CSU while sophomore righthander Dan Kapala will start on Saturday vs. the Vikings.

The Irish then will have six days off from competition for final exams before a BIG EAST showdown series at St. John’s on May 7-8. The second game of that series recently was shifted to a 6:00 p.m. EDT start to accomodate the national TV broadcast. All three games of the ND-SJU series will be nine innings (per an NCAA rule that prohibits the 7/9 format when the gap is more than 40 minutes) and each game will be telecast live nationally: game-1 by ESPNU (May 7 at noon EDT/11:00 a.m. in South Bend); game-2 by ESPN2 (May 7 at 6:00 EDT)’ and game-3 by CSTV (May 8 at noon).

The current light schedule comes at a good time for an Irish pitching staff that is hoping to get sophomore righthanders Jeff Manship and Jess Stewart back in the mix for the stretch run (the status for both players remains day-to-day). Manship was being eased back from 2004 elbow surgery when he injured a finger on his throwning hand while fielding a ball in the April 17th game vs. UConn. Stewart has thrown just 10 innings this season – and none since March 30 – due to a minor knee injury. He picked up what remains one of Notre Dame’s top wins of the season on opening week, after tossing 5.1 innings to help knock off host Central Florida (2-1; 5 H, UER, 3 BB, K; Feb. 20).

Manship – rated the nation’s No. 3 freshman heading into the the 2004 season – and senior righthander John Axford (a 7th-round draft pick out of high school and a member of ND’s top-ranked freshman class in ’02) both entered the 2005 season looking to come back from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, but each has pitched just a handfull of innings. In fact, Stewart (10.0) – who went 7-1 as a freshman in ’04 – Manship (9.0) and Axford (1.2) have combined to throw just 20.2 innings this season (roughly 6% of the staff’s total IP) for a 2005 staff that already was coping with the loss of its top two starters from the ’04 team (MLB draftees Grant Johnson and Chris Niesel) plus the graduation of key lefthanded setup man Joe Thaman. The 2005 team ERA stood at 6.18 in mid-March but had dipped to 4.77 during the past five weeks, including a 4.30 staff ERA for the month of April (3.72 in the current 10-1-1 streak).