April 16, 2008
IN THE BATTERS BOX — Notre Dame returns to action Wednesday night against Northern Illinois. First pitch with the Huskies at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT. All proceeds from the game will be donated to the Northern Illinois February 14th Scholarship Fund. The game can be heard on ESPN Radio 1490 AM as well as UND.com.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS INSIDER — The Huskies, led by sixth-year head coach Ed Mathey, enters the game with Notre Dame owning a 15-16 record. Northern Illinois is coming off a weekend sweep (three-games) at Akron. The Huskies have captured six of their last eight contests.
Northern Illinois, who has an 0-5 record on neutral fields in 2008, is averaging 6.1 runs per game and hitting .286 with a .365 on-base percentage. The Huskies have also totaled 52 stolen bases in 66 attempts.
Jeff Thomas is batting a team-best .336 with four doubles, nine stolen bases and 25 RBI, while Bobby Stevens is hitting .336 with 10 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 11 RBI. Danny Reed leads the Huskies in RBI with 29, while also smacking three home runs. Justin Rehm has slugged a team-best six home runs and driven in 25. Stevens is the team-leader with 17 steals.
The pitching staff has a 5.31 ERA and .288 opponents’ batting average along with 200 strikeouts and 135 walks in 271.0 innings pitched. Dan Atkenson is 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA in 17 relief appearances over 31.1 innings, while Andy Deain (3-0, 3.04) and Dave Nykiel (0-1, 5.31) are also options out of the Northern Illinois bullpen. Deain serves as the Huskies’ closer and has two saves. He has fanned 31 in 23.2 innings of work. Atkenson has whiffed 33 and walked just nine. Northern Illinois is fielding at a .962 clip as well.
THE STARTING PITCHERS — Freshman righty Ryan Sharpley (2-1, 3.00 ERA) will take the mound against Northern Illinois. Sharpley has made four appearances and three starts for a total of 12.0 innings pitched. The Marshall, Michigan native has allowed six hits and seven walks with 10 strikeouts. He has allowed just one home run and opponents are batting .158 against him. Sharpley made his first career start against Lehigh on March 6. He went 3.0 innings and allowed three earned runs on three hits. Sharpley struckout three and walked two. Sharpley has picked up victories in each of his last two starts against Wisconsin-Milwaukee (March 26) and Manchester College (April 9).
Senior southpaw Matt Jernstad (0-4, 7.89 ERA) will take the mound against the Irish. Jernstad has made six starts for a total of 29.2 innings pitched. He has allowed 31 hits and 27 walks with 17 strikeouts. He has allowed six home runs and opponents are batting .284 against him. Jernstad has gone at least 5.0 innings in five of his six starts. In his last outing on April 6 against Kent State, he lasted just 2.1 innings and was charged with four earned runs on four hits (also walked four without a strikeout).
SERIES NOTES – Notre Dame has won six of the eight all-time meetings with Northern Illinois. The Irish and Huskies last faced one another during the 2005 season in Evansville, Indiana. Ironically, current Notre Dame head coach Dave Schrage was the skipper for Evansville that season and was the last head coach at Northern Illinois before current head man Ed Mathey was hired six years ago. The Huskies led the Irish, 6-3, in the bottom of the eighth inning before Notre Dame staged a late seven-run rally for the victory in that 2005 meeting. Five other meetings took place during the 1995 season, the first under then head coach Paul Mainieri. The Irish and Huskies split a four-game series in DeKalb, but Notre Dame captured the meeting in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament. The Irish swept a doubleheader from Northern Illinois during the 1976 season.
TICKET INFORMATION – All tickets are $10 lower level reserved seating and available through the Ticketmaster website, phone lines at (312) 559-1212, and Chicagoland outlets. All Ticketmaster fees have been waived for this event. Tickets can also be purchased at the NIU campus box office and the U.S. Cellular Field box office. Gates to the ballpark will open at 6 p.m. Parking is free in Lots A (bus parking), B and C and concessions stands will be open during the game.