June 29, 2002
Several Notre Dame baseball players currently are competing in some of the nation’s premier summer leagues, led by four in the Cape Cod League, one in the Alaska League and three with the Hays Larks of the Jayhawk League – plus righthander Grant Johnson with Team USA.
The Irish again have plenty of representation in the prestigious Cape Cod League, with rising junior second baseman Steve Sollmann returning to the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox (YDR) while three sophomore-to-be righthanders also are playing in the nation’s premier college wood-bat league: John Axford (Hyannis Mets) and Falmouth Commodores teammates Chris Niesel and Martin Vergara.
Rising senior righthander J.P. Gagne also is playing in one of the nation’s top summer leagues, with the (Fairbanks) Alaska Goldpanners of the Alaska League.
Notre Dame’s tradition of having multiple players on the Hays (Kan.) Larks has continued in the summer of 2002, as junior-to-be shortstop Javier Sanchez and two righthanders – rising senior Ryan Kalita and sophomore-to-be Tyler Jones – are the latest ND players to join one of the perennial powers in the Jayhawk League, with the Larks reaching the championship game of the National Baseball Congress World Series in the summers of 2000 and ’01.
Rising sophomore lefthander Scott Bickford is playing in the Great Lakes League with the Delaware (Ohio) Cows, as did Sanchez and former Irish centerfielder Steve Stanley in 2001, while senior-to-be first baseman Mike Holba and rising junior infielder Zach Sisko are back with the Bluff City Bombers in the Central Illinois Collegiate League.
Junior-to-be lefthander Cody Wilkins has returned to the Waynesboro (Va.) Generals of the Shenandoah Valley League. Three other ND players are competing with summer-league teams in their home states: rising senior RHP Matt Laird (Houston College League) and two coming off their rookie seasons, C/OF Brent Weiss (Maryland Orioles) and IF Geoff Milsom (Schenectady Mohawks, New York Collegiate League).
Here are website links for the ND players’ summer-league teams:
Here are some updated notes on some of ND’s summer players and their current teams/leagues (check back later for updates on Johnson and Team USA and for summer diaries from various ND players):
Cape Cod League – Recent ND players who have played in the Cape Cod League include the following: IF Mike Amrhein (’95), CF Scott Sollmann (’95), C Jeff Wagner (Harwich Mariners, ’97 all-star), IF Brant Ust (Harwich, ’97), RHP Alex Shilliday (Harwich, ’98), IF Alec Porzel (Brewster Whitecaps, ’99), CF Steve Stanley (Brewster, ’99-’00), C Paul O’Toole (Brewster ’00, Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox ’01), OF Brian Stavisky (Hyannis Mets ’00, ’01), OF Matt Bok (Bourne Braves, ’01) and 3B/C Andrew Bushey (YDR, ’01).
Steve Sollmann – Overcame nagging quad injury that hampered him for much of the 2002 season … finished second on ’02 squad in hits (77, 5th BIG EAST), runs (53, 5th BE), triples (4, 4th BE), two-out RBI (15) and batting with runners in scoring position (.443) … led team in based-loaded batting (.750, 6-for-8) and batting vs. lefthanders (.429) while ranking third on the team in overall batting average (.362), on-base pct. (.420) and percentage of runners advanced (.583) … finished fourth on squad in RBI (47), sacrifice flies (5) and runners advanced (25), fifth in slugging pct. (.465), total bases (99) and leadoff on-base pct. (.500) …his other stats included 59 games played (57 starts) with 213 at-bats, two home runs, eight doubles, 22 walks, 18 strikeouts, three times hit-by-pitch, six sac. bunts, 6of-6 stolen bases and just eight errors in 261 chances (.969 fielding pct.) … made just one error in final 17 games, with 49 total error-free games … averaged 14.7 plate appearances per K, second-best on team behind Steve Stanley’s 29.3 … grounded into just three double plays (115 Abs with runners on) … helped turn 34 of team-record 66 double plays … led team in all postseason games with a .448 batting avg. (26-for-58, 13 RBI, 17 R, HR, 2 3B, 2B, 4 BB, HP, 2 K, SF, SAC, 4 SB, 1 E in 72 chances, .586 slugging, .484 on-base) … his stellar play in nine NCAA Tournament games included a team-best .561 batting avg. (23-for-41), with 12 RBI, 15 runs, .756 slugging (HR, 2 3B, 2B), .578 on-base (2 BB, HP, 0 K) and a .977 fielding pct. (1 E in 44 chances) … hit 15-for-24 (.625) in the NCAAs with runners on base (including 11-for-12 with runners in scoring position) while reaching on 4-of-6 leadoff plate appearances … scored winning run in BIG EAST Tournament title game (3-2, 10 innings) before earning MVP honors at the NCAA South Bend Regional (13-for-16, 8 RBI, 10 R, HR, 2 3B) and batting 7-for-12 in Super Regional at Florida State (3 RBI, 4 R, 2B) … had record-setting game in 25-1 win over South Alabama (6-for-7, 7 RBI, 6 R, HR, 2 3B) … set NCAA Tournament record for runs scored in a game while tying NCAA Tournament records for hits and triples in a game (also tied ND records for hits, RBI and runs in a game).
Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox – Sollmann’s current teammates several who also played in the 2002 College World Series: Stanford IF/OF and leadoff batter Chris Carter and RHP Chris Hudgins (the opposing starter in ND’s final game); South Carolina LHP Matt Campbell and LHP David Marchblanks; and Georgia Tech IF/RHP Chris Goodman and LHP Jeff Kindel … others on the tem who played for ND opposing teams in 2002 include Boston College IF Ryan Leahy and two Michigan players (RHP Jim Brauer and C Jake Fox) … three players who were slated to play for YDR instead earned a spot alongside ND’s Grant Johnson on Team USA (South Carolina C Landon Powell, Rice RHP Phil Humber and California 3B Conor Jackson).
John Axford – Has pitched in two games (as of June 28) with Hyannis, totaling three shutout innings while allowing two hits and four walks (with five Ks) … his .231 opponent batting average in 2002 ranked 5th among all BIG EAST pitchers and stands 10th in the ND record book (3rd-best ever by an ND freshman) … also ranked 2nd on ND staff for low opponent batting by lefthanders (.230), groundout-to-flyout ratio (1.53) and fewest hits allowed per 9 IP (7.51) … finished 3rd on Irish staff in Ks (64), appearances (17), starts (12), Ks looking (17) and strikeout ratio (8.15 per 9 IP) … his other 2002 stats included a 3.95 ERA and 5-2 record, with 64 Ks, 59 hits and 59 walks allowed in 70.2 innings, plus 7 wild pitches and 6 hit batters … allowed just one home run in 324 batters faced … had three solid postseason outings (one start), with a 3.00 ERA and .199 opponent batting average in 9 IP (6 H, 9 K, 9 BB).
Hyannis Mets – One of the leaders of ND’s 2002 squad, junior LF Brian Stavisky, was a CCL all-star with Hyannis in 2000 and 2001 … Axford’s current Mets teammates include four Stanford players who occupied the opposing dugout at the recent CWS – catchers Ryan Garko and Donny Lucy, RHP Mark Jecmen and OF Danny Putnam – plus Florida State LHP Trent Peterson (ND won at FSU in the NCAA Super Regional round) … former Hyannis players who have gone on the play in the Majors include Rich Aurilia, Kris Benson, Jeremy Burnitz, Pat Burrell, Randy Choate, Josh Fogg, Matt Morris, John Valentin, Jason Varitek and Robin Ventura.
Chris Niesel – Recently made the trip up the coast from his native Florida (had yet to pitch for Falmouth, as of June 28) … missed five weeks due to a midseason bout with mononucleosis before making huge impact upon his return, logging seven “post-mono” outings (four starts) that included a 1.76 ERA, 2-0 record (ND rallied to win his other two starts) and two saves, plus 27 strikeouts, just eight walks, 24 hits allowed and one wild pitch in 30.2 innings (with a .216 opp. batting avg.) …his four NCAA Tournament outings (three starts) included a 2-0 record and 2.11 ERA (21.1 IP, 17 H, 17 K, 7 BB, .218 opp. avg., WP) … allowed just a .128 opp. batting avg. with runners on base in the NCAAs … registered clinching wins in NCAA Regional vs. Ohio State and Super Regionals at Florida State (his strong outing then set up the 5-3 rally past Rice in the CWS) … ranked among the ND staff leaders in several categories for the 2002 season, including a team-best .208 opponent batting average with runners on base … ranked 2nd on staff in K-to-walk ratio (3.4, 7th-best in ND history), Ks “looking” (21) and opponent batting by righthanders (.203) … his 3.35 ERA (6th-best in the BIG EAST) ranked 3rd among ND pitchers with 25-plus innings, while he also owned the staff’s 3rd-lowest walk ratio (2.24 per 9 IP) and allowed just 36.5% of opposing leadoff batters to reach (3rd-best on staff) …his other 2002 stats included a 4-0 record in 14 appearances (11 starts), with a .241 opponent batting avg. (8th-best in the BIG EAST), 62 Ks, just 18 walks and 68 hits allowed in 72.1 IP (2 WP, 4 HB) … averaged 7.71 Ks per 9 IP … opened his college career with 10 Ks in 5 IP vs. Southern Illinois and 9 Ks in 7 IP vs. Fairfield (with just one walk in those 12 IP) … was in line to win three early-season games only to see ND surrender the lead.
Martin Vergara – Promising member of ND’s crop of rookie pitchers who had several solid outings in 2002 … had made two relief appearances with Falmouth (as of June 28), with a 4.50 ERA in 4 IP (4 H, 5 BB, 5 K) … ranked 3rd on 2002 ND staff with a .236 opponent batting average, including just .214 with runners on base (2nd on the staff) and a team-best .100 opponent batting with two outs … his other 2002 stats included a 3.79 ERA and 5-1 record in 12 appearances (five starts), with 33 Ks, 17 walks and 33 hits allowed in 35.2 IP (5 WP, 8 HB) … tossed 3.2 shutout innings to pick up win as ND rallied past USC, 15-8 (3 H, 3 BB, 3 Ks, HB).
Falmouth Commodores – Niesel and Vergara now are teammates with several players from the Rice team that ND eliminated from the CWS: OF/2B Austin Davis (who homered vs. Niesel in that game), 1B Vincent Sinisi and RHP David Aardsma … four other players from CWS teams are on the Falmouth roster, including Georgia Tech OF Jeremy Slayden and three Clemson players: LHP Tyler Lumsden, C Collin Mahoney and RHP Steve Jackson (Boston College RHP Matt Elfeldt also is on the team) … several other top players were slated to play for Falmouth but earned a spot alongside ND’s Grant Johnson on Team USA, including Cal State Fullerton RHP Chad Cordero and OF Shane Costa and Southern IF/OF Rickie Weeks … former Falmouth players who have gone on to the Major Leagues include Darin Erstad, Tino Martinez, Eric Milton and Jeff Weaver.
J.P. Gagne – Recently made his debut with Goldpanners in tougb 1-0 loss to Anchorage Glacier Pilots (6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 Ks) … the ace of ND’s bullpen in 2002, Gagne shifted from a spot in the starting rotation to the role of closer (one of his seven starts was a 1-0, three-hit shutout win vs. BYU in the April 1 home opener) … his busy postseason included pitching in nine of 13 games during the ND’s 9-4 postseason run, with a 5.21 ERA, 3-0 record and two saves in those games (he had 14 Ks and just one walk in the postseason, plus 21 hits, a .288 opp. batting avg. and on hit batter) … allowed just 4-of-17 leadoff batters (.235) to reach base in the postseason … his 3.14 season ERA led all ND pitchers with 25-plus IP (also ranking 5th in the BIG EAST) … also led the BIG EAST with 28 appearances (4th in ND history) … finished 19 of his 21 relief appearances, with six saves (6th in the BIG EAST, 5th-most in ND history) … also led team with a 4.33 K-to-walk ratio (69/16) while his team-best walk ratio (1.52 per 9 IP) ranks 7th in the ND record book … went 9-4 to share team victories lead with Grant Johnson (2nd BIG EAST, 14th ND history) … allowed just 31.5% of leadoff batters to reach base (team-best) … ranked 2nd on the staff in Ks (69) and innings pitched (94.2, 6th BIG EAST) … his .245 opp. batting avg. ranked 9th in the BIG EAST … his other 2002 stats included 86 hits allowed, 4 wild pitches and 12 hit batters … saved both wins in NCAA Super Regional at Florida State (10-4, 3-1) … gave up a pair of hits in first two batters faced at FSU before retiring nine straight to end the game (4 K) … then came on to strike out the side in the 9th inning of the game that sent the Irish on to the CWS … also was the winning pitcher in the 5-3 CWS game vs. Rice (3.1 IP, 3 H, R).
Alaska Goldpanners – Most of the 2002 Goldpanners roster includes players from the West Coast, with three from the Arizona State team that dropped a 9-4 game at ND this season: RHP Ryan Schroyer, IF Jeremy West and OF Ryan McKenna (Ohio State IF Brett Garrard, who played at ND in the NCAA Regional, also is on the Goldpanners) … the Goldpanners’ all-time roster includes 178 players who went on to play in the Major Leagues, including Barry Bonds, Bob Boone, Bret Boone, Terry Francona, Jason Giambi, Tom Seaver and Dave Winfield … recent ND players who have competed with the Goldpanners include: IF Craig DeSensi (’93), OF Ryan Topham (’93), RHP Tim Kraus (’94), RHP Darrin Schmalz (’94-’95), RHP Christian Parker (’95), IF J.J. Brock (’97), RHP Aaron Heilman (’98) and IF Alec Porzel (’98) … other ND players who have been active in the Alaska League in recent years include RHP Alex Shilliday (Kenai Peninsula Oilers, ’97) and LHP Chris McKeown (Kenai, ’98), plus three who played for the Mat-Su Miners: LHP Tim Kalita (’98), OF Matt Strickroth (’99-’00) and RHP Danny Tamayo (’00).
Javier Sanchez – Proved to be one of ND’s most reliable players in 2002, starting at a new position (shortstop) after freshmen Matt Macri and Matt Edwards both suffered season-ending injuries …finished 2nd on team in games played (66), games started (65) and at-bats (231), plus 3rd in runs scored (50, 7th BIG EAST) and walks (24) … his other 2002 stats included a .281 batting avg., .403 slugging pct. (5 home runs, 3 triples, 7 doubles) and a .370 on-base pct. (24 walks, 32 Ks, 5 hit-by-pitch), plus 8 sac. bunts, a sac. fly and a stolen base … posted a .902 fielding pct. (28 errors), with 46 error-free games … combined with classmates Steve Sollmann (2B) and Joe Thaman (1B) to set the ND record for double plays in a season (66), with Sanchez having a hand in 41 of them … hit go-ahead double in 10-6, 10-inning rally at West Virginia … singled and scored to cap 9th-inning rally in 5-4 win over Western Michigan … hit postseason home runs vs. Rutgers and Stanford (3-run).
Ryan Kalita – Surging member of ND pitching staff whose 3.16 ERA ranked 2nd among Irish pitchers with 25-plus innings … allowed just a .215 opp. batting avg. with runners on base (3rd-best on staff) while his 2.6 K-to-walk ratio was 4th-best among the ND pitchers … his other 2002 stats included a 5-0 record in 16 appearances (4 starts), with 36 Ks, 14 walks and 45 hits allowed in 42.2 IP, plus a .278 opp. batting avg. (2 HB, 1 WP) … his signature outing came in the BIG EAST Tournament title game (a 3-2, 10-inning win), as he logged seven shutout innings despite seeing an early linedrive glance off his glove and hit him in the forehead (6 H, 3 BB, 6 Ks) …also threw 1.2 shutout innings in 4-3 CWS loss to Stanford (H, BB, K).
Tyler Jones – Has been key member of Hays Larks strong start (18-3, as of June 28), with a 2.00 ERA, 2-0 record and two saves in 18 IP, plus 21 Ks, 9 walks, 12 hits allowed and a .171 opp. batting avg. … logged just 9 innings on ND’s deep 2002 staff, with a 4.00 ERA (4 GP, GS, SV, 9 H, 9 BB, 6 Ks, .243 opp. avg., WP) … 30th-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2001 who could play a bigger role for the Irish in 2003.
Hays Larks – Most of the players on the 2002 Larks roster hail from schools in the mid-America (such as Baylor, Missouri and Duquesne) …Notre Dame’s five-year streak of having players on the Hays Larks includes the following players: 1B Jeff Felker (’98-’99), IF/OF Ben Cooke (’98-’99), RHP Mike Carlin (’98), C Paul O’Toole (’99), RHP Drew Duff (’99-’00), RHP Matt Buchmeier (’00), 3B Andrew Bushey (’00), RHP J.P. Gagne (’01) and 1B Joe Thaman (’01) former ND LHP Pat Davis – one of many former Irish players who made the trip to Omaha for the CWS – was both a player and later an assistant coach for Hays … several former Hays Larks players have gone on to play in the Major Leagues, including Lance Berkman, Jim Leyritz and Albert Pujols.