March 24, 2001

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Sunday, March 25, 2001 … at Virginia Tech … English Field

PLAY (BIG EAST) BALL: The 8th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team (16-2-1)-picked by the conference coaches, Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball to win the 2001 BIG EAST Conference title-opened BIG EAST play with a pair of 3-0 wins Friday on its first trip to the University of Pittsburgh since 1997 before heading down to Blacksburg, Va., for doubleheader action at BIG EAST newcomer Virginia Tech on Sunday at noon … all the action can be heard live on South Bend-based WJVA 1580 AM (also via the internet, at … the Irish are riding a six-game winning streak and an 11-game unbeaten streak (best since a 13-0 run from April 8-23, 1998) and are off to their best 19-game start in 91 seasons, dating back to the 18-1 start by the 1910 team … ND capped its Spring Break trip by winning Fresno State’s eight-team Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic, with three wins over 2000 NCAA tournament teams (Fresno State, Miami of Ohio and Illinois) and a 3-0 shutout of New Mexico (which won the 2000 Mountain West Conference regular-season title) … the title-game victory over Portland … the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic was the 600th victory in the 19-year head coaching career of Paul Mainieri (now in his seventh season at ND, he is 603-392-1/.606 overall and 271-113-1/.706 at ND).

BEEN A LONG TIME: The Notre Dame and Virginia Tech baseball teams have met just once previously, with the Irish winning an 8-5 game at Virginia Tech 46 seasons ago (April 12, 1955).

FIRST-LOOK GAMES: Notre Dame has won 74 percent of its all-time BIG EAST regular-season games (83-29) but the Irish have won just five of nine games when facing a BIG EAST opponent for the first time on the opponents’ field (ND still has yet to play a game on the campus of Villanova) … the Irish lost their first three “debut games” on a BIG EAST opponent’s field (18-2 at Providence in 1996, 6-3 at Georgetown in ’96 and 5-4 at Seton Hall in ’97), followed by ’97 wins at UConn (7-2) and Rutgers (3-2), a 7-5 loss at West Virginia and an 11-8 win at Pittsburgh … ND then won 5-2 at BC in ’98 (the teams played on Cape Cod in ’96) but lost at St. John’s in ’99 (5-4, with the ’97 series snowed out).

SCOUTING THE HOKIES (see for detailed information): Virginia Tech was predicted to challenge ND and Rutgers for the BIG EAST title in preseason polls, with the BIG EAST coaches picking the Hokies third while Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball tabbed the Hokies second behind the Irish … the Hokies return 18 of 22 letterwinners from their 2000 team that posted a 34-25-2 overall record (16-5 in the Atlantic 10) before advancing to the NCAAs … Virginia Tech returned eight of nine position starters and their top four pitchers from the 2000 season … Virginia Tech heads into Sunday with a 12-10 overall record (4-1 BIG EAST), after splitting with St. John’s on Friday (1-2, 19-6) … the Hokies opened their first BIG EAST season by sweeping BC (10-4, 4-3, 13-5).

3-0 TRIFECTA: Notre Dame has won all of its games this week by the same score (3-0), equaling an 85-year-old team record by registering three consecutive shutouts … the last time that happened for a Notre Dame baseball team, two of the opponents were known by different school names (ND’s athletic teams weren’t even known as the Irish until 1930), with that 1916 team blanking Michigan Agriculture 2-0 (now Michigan State), Purdue 1-0 and Western State 6-0 (now Western Michigan) from April 29-May 6 of that season … the only other seasons to produce three consecutive shutouts came in 1907 (6-0 vs. Indiana, 4-0 vs. Nebraska, 5-0 vs. Oberlin from May 9-15) and in the first three games of 1908 (19-0 vs. Winona, 18-0 vs. Albion and 19-0 vs. Kalamazoo) … 3-0 has been the magic shutout score for ND this season, with all five 2001 shutouts coming by that score (also vs. Florida Atlantic and New Mexico).

A CASE FOR THE DEFENSE: Notre Dame’s stellar .969 season fielding pct. is on pace to best the team record (.965), including a .975 by the four starting infielders-led by just one error each from senior SS Alec Porzel and freshman 1B Joe Thaman … the Irish have totaled just 24 errors (1.26/gm), including an error-free showing Friday at Pittsburgh … ND has posted five error-free games, five with one error and just one with more than two Es (a three-error game in the 3-0 win over New Mexico) … errors have led to just 15 unearned runs for the opponents (seven of those coming in the first two games), with Irish miscues leading to just four unearned runs in the last 11 games … ND has allowed just 3.19 runs per nine innings (when including the unearned scores).

IRISH STEADY IN THE POLLS: ND has earned consensus top-10 status in each of the three major national polls for the first time in the program’s history .. the Irish maintained the eighth spot in the Collegiate Baseball magazine poll while moving up from 11th to 10th in the Baseball America poll and rising from 10th to 9th in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll … Pepperdine dropped from 9th to 13th in the BA poll, from 9th to 18th in the coaches poll and from 6th to 18th in the CB poll (Miami’s rise from 9th to 7th kept the Irish 8th in that poll) … Rice retained the top ranking in the CB and coaches poll while Stanford still holds down the top spot in the BA poll … five other teams are ranked ahead of the Irish in each of the three polls: Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Arizona State, Miami and South Carolina … LSU is ranked ahead of Notre Dame in the BA (8th) and coaches (6th) polls while USC is one spot ahead of the Irish in the BA poll (9th).

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER: Two ND baseball players-junior CF Steve Stanley and junior C Paul O’Toole-were starters in the 2000 Cape Cod League all-star game (as members of the Brewster Whitecaps) while ND sophomore RF Brian Stavisky also was a starter in the Cape All-Star game and played for the Hyannis Mets … Virginina Tech RHP Jason Bush also was a member of that 2000 Hyannis squad … Stanley led the Cape in batting (.329) while ranking 2nd in runs (31), third in on-base pct. (.429) and 4rth in stolen bases (20-of-27, in 43 GP) … O’Toole hit .273 while impressing observers with his wooden-bat power, tying for 5th in the Cape with four HRs, plus three 3Bs, three 2Bs, 24 RBI, 26 runs, 18 BB, 27 Ks and 13-of-18 SBs (41 GP) … Stavisky (.324) was 2nd in the Cape batting race while seeing his Mets lose to Brewster in the title game (6-2) … Stavisky hit three HRs in the Cape, including one as MVP of the all-star game (his West squad lost to Stanley and O’Toole’s East team, 7-6), while ranking 5th in the Cape for slugging (.453), 4th in RBI (26), 2nd in doubles (14) and 5th in hits (55), plus 19 BB, 30 Ks and four SBs (44 GP).

JUMPIN’ JAYHAWKERS: Three other Irish players also experienced summer success on a high level, as member of the Hays (Kansas) Larks team that advanced to the championship game of the annual National Baseball Congress World Series (held in Wichita) … current junior RHP Matt Buchmeier was named all-Jayhawk League, after posting a 1.75 ERA and 6-3 record in 70 IP during the summer of 2000 … Buchmeier handed the potent Santa Barbara Foresters an 8-1 loss in the late rounds of the NBC World Series (7-inning CG, 7 Ks, BB, 4 H, UER) … current junior 3B Andrew Bushey also was named first team all-Jayhawk League after leading the Larks with a .346 batting avg. (62-for-179) … Bushey likewise was named to the NBC World Series all-Midwest Regional team (he hit .308 and scored seven runs) … junior RHP Drew Duff did his part as well, posting a 4-1 mid-tournament win over the Santa Maria Indians (9 IP, R, 5 H, 2 BB, 6 Ks) and turned in a solid outing in the 3-1 title-game loss to the Liberal (Kansas) Bee Jays.

READY TO ROAR: Notre Dame won eight of its first 10 games for the second consecutive season and is in the midst of a three-year stretch that has seen the Irish win 34 more games than it has lost during the months of February and March (48-14-1), including 16-7 in 1999, 16-5 in 2000 and the current 16-2-1 mark … that early success stands in stark contrast to the starts of the 1995 (11-10) and 1997 (12-11) seasons that saw the Irish forced to rally with strong play in April and May … the current 16-2-1 record is ND’s best after 19 games in 91 seasons, since the 1910 team started 18-1 (that team improved to 19-1 and finished the season with a 19-3 record) … Notre Dame’s athletic teams were not known by the Fighting Irish nickname until 20 years after that 1910 campaign.

BIG EAST OPENERS: Notre Dame now has won five of its six BIG EAST Conference openers, with a 9-0 road victory over Boston College in 1996, a 5-4 loss at Seton Hall in ’97, a 7-6 win over Georgetown in ’98, a 4-1 win at West Virginia in ’99 and a 4-0 win over Villanova 2000 (played in downtown Philadelphia) … the Irish also have posted an 11-4 combined record in their first BIG EAST series of the season (the ’97 team dropped all three games at SHU while the 2000 squad lost the finale with Villanova, 11-5).

PITCHING IN THE CLUTCH: Notre Dame’s pitching staff has allowed 35 percent of leadoff batters to reach base while allowing just a .216 overall batting average by the opponents … more impressively, the Irish pitchers have beared down with runners in scoring position-holding opposing hittters to just .167 batting with runners on second or third base (49 points below the opponents overall batting average) … senior RHP Danny Tamayo (21.4%) has been ND’s top pitcher in terms of keeping leadoff batters off base while four others-Peter Ogilvie (.143), Aaron Heilman (.149), Matt Laird (.125) and Matt Buchmeier (.176)-have posted impressive opponent batting averages with runners on base.

HAWAII 3-0: Sophomore RHP Brandon Viloria (Wailuku, Hawaii) has won all three of his decisions this season and had a productive week out of the bullpen during the spring break trip, picking up a save vs. Eastern Michigan (4-3) before posting tightly-contested wins over Fresno State (5-4 in 10 innings) and Portland (7-6 in the title game of the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic).

NO SPRING CHICKENS: Freshman 2B Steve Sollmann has surged to the team batting lead (.400), thanks to a .519 average during the eight Spring Break games (14-for-27) while the other Steve S.-junior CF Steve Stanley-hit .441 during the Spring Break games (15-for-34) and is batting .377 overall … those two players earned all-tournament honors at the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic, as did senior RHP Aaron Heilman.

WORKING OVERTIME: ND is 8-0-1 in its last nines extra-inning games, since losing 10-7 to Boston College on April 17, 1999 (7-inning game that ended in the 8th) … that streak includes a rare happening at last week’s Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic, with the Irish tying Navy (4-4 in 10) before beating Fresno State (5-4 in 10) and Miami of Ohio (3-2 in 11) … in addition to the 11-inning win earlier this season at Mississippi State (4-2), the extra-inning streak includes wins over Oakland (7-6 in 10, 4/30/99), Villanova (7-3 in 10, 3/25/00), West Virginia (3-1 in 7-inn. game extended to 10, 4/15/00), Michigan (5-4 in 11, 4/26/00) and Pittsburgh (11-8 in 10, 5/6/00) … the VU and WVU games were on the road, the Michigan win was on neutral ground at Old Kent Park (Grand Rapids, Mich.).

NAUMANN RECEIVES SCHOLARSHIP FROM BIG EAST: Notre Dame senior LHP Mike Naumann (Tucson, Ariz.) is one of four BIG EAST baseball players who have been awarded a $2,000 scholarship for use towards postgraduate studies … AEROPOSTALE Stores is the official apparel of BIG EAST Championships and also is the sponsor of the conference’s Post Graduate Student-Athlete Scholarship Program … each BIG EAST school nominated a male and female student-athlete for the scholarship program, with other BIG EAST baseball players that were nominated by their schools including Mike Scott (Connecticut), Matt Irvin (Pittsburgh), (Baseball) and Brian Leighton (Seton Hall) … Naumann earned CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in 2000 and carries a 3.92 cumulative grad-point average as a pre-professional science major (he has been accepted to Baylor’s medical school and plans to attend that prestigious institution beginning in the fall of 2001).

CONFERENCE WINNING PCT. : Over the course of its first six BIG EAST seasons (1996-2001), Notre Dame ranks first in the 11-member conference with: a .715 overall winning percentage (231-92-1, Rutgers was second at .634, heading into 2001), a .741 BIG EAST regular-season winning percentage (83-29, Rutgers was second at .713) and a .723 winning percentage in combined BIG EAST regular-season and tournament games (108-41-1, Rutgers was second at .690 prior to 2001) … St. John’s owns the best BIG EAST Tournament winning pct. during the past five seasons (.600, 10-6), followed by Notre Dame at .524 (11-10) … the double-elimination tournament has been the ultimate bugaboo for Notre Dame, with the same team providing the Irish losses during each of the first three seasons (WVU in ’96, Villanova in ’97, Rutgers in ’98) before the Irish were beaten by complete game-efforts from Seton Hall and Providence in ’99, followed by a pair of losses to Boston College in 2000.

SERIES SUCCESS: In five-plus BIG EAST seasons, Notre Dame owns 35 series wins, five series losses and five series ties. The Irish have won 18 of their last 20 BIG EAST series (’99 series tie at Rutgers, ’99 series loss to St. John’s) and 30 of the last 35 (three ties). Notre Dame has played 43 all-time BIG EAST doubleheaders, sweeping 23 (18 splits, just two opponent sweeps). The Irish have played 34 straight BIG EAST doubleheaders since last being swept (at Seton Hall, March 22, 1997). The only other DH sweep by a BIG EAST team over Notre Dame was by West Virginia in ’96 (at Eck Stadium). The Irish have played 23 BIG EAST series at Eck, winning 19 (one tie) and have won their last nine home BIG EAST series, since dropping one to St. John’s in ’98.

TOP-FIVE CONFERENCE: BIG EAST baseball heads into 2001 with a prestigious ranking from Baseball America, which rated the BIG EAST as the nation’s fifth-best Division I baseball conference, behind traditional power conferences (SEC, ACC, Pac-10, Big 12). Four current BIG EAST teams participated in the 2000 NCAAs: Notre Dame, Rutgers, Seton Hall and newcomer Virginia Tech (formerly of the Atlantic-10). Five other current BIG EAST teams advanced to the NCAAs in the 1990s while the league consistently has produced high draft picks and NCAA statistical leaders (see p. 89).

STRONG STARTS: Senior RHP Danny Tamayo and sophomore RHP J.P. Gagne will be looking to extend the impressive performances by Notre Dame starting pitchers during the 2001 season, as the Irish starters have combined for a 1.80 ERA through the first 17 games … the bulk of those starts (16) have come from the regular three-man rotation-Tamayo, senior RHP Aaron Heilman and junior RHP Matt Buchmeier-with sophomore RHP Peter Ogilvie doing his part vs. Navy in his first collegiate outing (5 IP, UER, 3 H, 2 Ks) before tossing seven shutout innings in Wednesday’s win over Cleveland State (3 H, 2 BB, 3 Ks) … the other combined stats for ND starting pitchers in 2001 include an 11-1 record in 130 innings pitched, with 110 Ks, 26 walks and 89 hits allowed (for nine-inning averages of 8.2 Ks, 1.9 BBs and 6.5 hits) … Tamayo (1.73, 3-1, 41. 2 IP, 42 Ks, 6 BB, 27 H) tossed an impressive three-hit shutout vs. New Mexico last week (3-0) while Gagne had no decision as the starter in the 5-4, 10-inning win over host Fresno State (7. IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 5 Ks) … Heilman (1.34, 6-0, 47 IP, 43 Ks, 9 BB, 29 H) is locked into his fourth All-America season while Buchmeier (2.86, 1-0, 22 IP, 15 Ks, 5 BB, 22 H) had a solid no-decision in last week’s 3-2, 11-inning win over Miami of Ohio (6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, BB, 6 Ks) … ND’s overall 2.42 team ERA includes a 4.19 ERA by the bullpen-led by Brandon Viloria (1.64, 3-0, SV, 11 IP, 3 Ks, 3 BB, 7 H) and his fellow sophomore RHP Matt Laird (2.00, 1-0, 3 SV, 9 IP, 8 Ks, 6 BB, 5 H), who is settling into the closer role occupied the past two seasons by ND all-time saves leader John Corbin (20, including 11 in 2000).

HITTING WHEN IT MATTERS MOST: ND’s team batting average has dipped to .286 but is 17 points lower with runners in scoring position (.269) … by contrast, the Irish batted .299 overall in the 2000 season but hit 14 points higher (.313) with runners in scoring position … the lack of clutch hitting has seen the Irish total just 60 runs in the last 14 games (4.3/gm), with the Irish breaking the five-run plateau in back-to-back wins over Illinois (9-5) and Portland (7-6) … sophomore Kris Billmaier (.409) has been among ND’s top hitters with runners in scoring position, with Steve Stanley owning the team’s top batting avg. with RBI chances (.467).

CLEARING THE COBWEBS: ND has totaled just 11 runs in the first two innings this season (six in the 1st, five in the 2nd)-with three of those runs coming in timely fashion, vs. Portland in the title game of the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic … the Irish bats typically have awakened in the third (12 runs), fourth (16) and fifth (10) innings … the 7th inning continues to be ND’s most dominant (18-3) while ND’s third-most productive inning has been the 8th (14) … the Irish have yielded 16 runs in both the 8th and 9th innings, compared to just 30 in the first seven innings combined.

SCORING STREAK: By scoring vs. Navy on March 12, Notre Dame set the team record for consecutive games with at least one run scored (141), dating back to a 12-0 loss at Florida International on Feb. 21, 1999 (the streak now stands at 139 games) … ND set the previous record by scoring in the each of the first 133 games of the Paul Mainieri era (Feb. 24, 1995-March 9, 1997) and has scored in of 380 of 385 total games during the Mainieri era (98.7 percent).

SHUTOUT CITY: ND’s last 21 games have including six shutout performances by Irish pitchers … Danny Tamayo tossed a three-hit shutout at Mississippi State in the 2000 NCAA Regional (3-0) before duplicating that feat in last week’s 3-0 win over New Mexico … Aaron Heilman blanked Florida Atlantic on five hits to lead ND’s 3-0 win over the Blue Wave on March 2.

30-30: Senior SS Alec Porzel is on the verge of becoming the first Notre Dame player ever to reach 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in his career … Porzel has 29 HRs and 28 SBs in 193 GP, leaving him on the doorstep of the 30-30 plateau … junior C Paul O’Toole (18 HR, 32 SB, 130 GP) likewise has a shot at the 30-30 distinction.

CAREER STAT NOTES: Notre Dame’s top career batting average belongs to junior CF Steve Stanley (.348) … senior SS Alec Porzel needs one home run and two stolen bases to become the first “30-30” player in ND baseball history … Porzel already ranks 10th in the ND record book for career games started (195) while his 722 career at-bats rank 7th … Porzel has pushed his career double total to 55, good for 5th in ND history and three behind 1996 grad. Mike Amrhein (Eric Danapilis holds the record, with 61 from 1990-93) … his 164 career RBI leave him one shy of cracking that ND top-10 list while his 29 home runs already are tied for 7th … Porzel also picked up his 11th career triple last week (tied for 8th all-time at ND) … Stanley last week swiped his 60th career stolen base (now 62) and already ranks 5th all-time among ND basestealers.

ALL-STATE TEAM: With eight Ohio natives on the 2001 Irish baseball squad, Notre Dame could field an all-Ohio squad that also would include second-year assistant coach Dusty Lepper at SS (he is a native of Findlay and played at Toledo) while the team’s student managers-Ken Kleppel and Katie Furman-would split time in left field (both hail from the Cleveland area) … here’s how the rest of the all-Ohio squad would be aligned: junior C Andrew Bushey (Boardman, suburb of Youngstown), junior 1B Paul O’Toole (Lakewood, outside of Cleveland), freshman 2B Steve Sollmann (Cincinnati), senior 3B Ben Cooke (Bay Village, suburb of Cleveland), junior CF Steve Stanley (Upper Arlington, in Columbus area) and junior RF Matt Bok (Akron) … two freshman RHPs would share pitching duties: Mike Morgalis (Cincinnati) and Nick Colagiovanni (Garfield Heights).

BIG SHADOWS: Several members of the Notre Dame baseball team bring big frames to the ballpark, including All-America RHP Aaron Heilman (6-5, 225 pounds) and two everyday starters: sophomore RF Brian Stavisky (6-3, 220) and freshman 1B Joe Thaman (6-4, 205) … sophomore 1B Mike Holba (6-7, 225) is the tallest member of the Irish squad and was an all-state quarterback as a prep while junior OF Matt Strickroth (6-5, 230) was an all-state football lineman during his high school days.

ROAD WARRIORS: Last week’s Spring Break trip completed a first month that saw ND traverse more than 10,000 miles while playing in four parts of the country (Starkville, Miss., San Antonio, Texas, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Fresno, Calif.) …the well-traveled Irish spent 13 of 17 days on the road from Feb. 16-March 4 (all but Feb. 19-20, 26-27) and were away from home during 19 of 27 days from Feb. 16-March 17 (ND will spend the first six weekends away from home, before a March 31-April 1 series with Seton Hall at Eck Stadium) … despite the travel demands, the Irish players have missed just five class days and are coming off a stellar 2000 fall semester that saw the 33-member squad combine for a 3.19 team GPA.

DOMINO EFFECT: The return of senior RHP Aaron Heilman has done more than just impact the top pitching matchup of a weekend series-in fact, the return of No. 22 could leave a mark on nearly every Irish game during the 2001 season … Heilman’s return transformed classmate Danny Tamayo into potentially one of the BIG EAST’s top No. 2 pitchers while helping junior Matt Buchmeier ease into the role of weekend starter in the No. 3 spot (as opposed to breaking in at No. 2) … sophomore J.P. Gagne also now can be used in a swingman role, as a very capable starter and tough long-reliever … finally, Heilman’s return also could impact the role of sophomore Matt Laird-who may have taken on a role somewhere in the starting rotation without Heilman on the staff but instead has turned in a solid debut as the Irish closer.