May 21, 2004
The Notre Dame baseball team has maintained the program’s standards of excellence throughout the 2004 season and that level of elite accomplishment certainly extends to the classroom, as three players currently are on the Academic All-America ballot while the Irish squad as a while just registered a 3.15 semester team GPA – matching the 2003 fall term as the highest semester GPAs in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era.
Senior second baseman Steve Sollmann – a 2003 All-American and Academic All-American double honoree – headlines the baseball student-athletes, closing his undergraduate studies with a 4.0 semester GPA while graduating with a 3.44 cumulative GPA as a business marketing major.
Sollmann (Cincinnati, Ohio) joined two members of the sophomore class – lefthanded pitcher Tom Thornton (Middleboro, Mass.) and leftfielder Steve Andres (Napa, Calif.) – in recently receiving CoSIDA Academic All-District V honors, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America. They now advance to the Academic All-America ballot, with those honorees to be announced in late May.
Notre Dame has produced two Academic All-Americans in each of the previous four seasons, a stretch of high-level academic achievement that is unmatched in all of Division I baseball.
Thornton, a member of Notre Dame’s weekend rotation who has logged some of the staff’s biggest outings of the 2004 season, carries a 3.49 cumulative GPA as a double major in anthropology and film-television-and-theater. Andres ranks as one of the BIG EAST Conference’s top all-around offensive threats and owns a 3.24 GPA as a business management major.
Tom Thorton carries a 3.49 cumulative GPA as a double major in anthropology and film-television-and-theater.
Notre Dame’s three Academic All-District V selections matched Bradley for the most from any one school among the 11 honorees, with Ball State, Minnesota, Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Indiana each placing one player on the elite team. Thornton was one of two pitchers selected, with Sollmann part of the four-man infield and Andres one of three outfielders.
Two other Irish sophomores-shortstop Greg Lopez (3.36, double major in anthropology and pre-professional studies) and DH Matt Bransfield (3.27, sociology) – also were nominated for the Academic All-District team but were not among the 11players selected for the team (each should join Thornton and Andres among the top candidates for 2005 honors).
The ND baseball program’s stellar 2004 spring semester included 22 of 35 players posting a semester GPA of 3.0 or higher, led by 11 with a GPA of 3.4-plus. Sollmann and his five fellow seniors each ended their undergraduate careers with a semester GPA of 3.55 or higher (each had a 3.40-plus in the fall of ’03) while maintaining the program’s 100% graduation rate (59 of 59) during the 10-year Paul Mainieri era, among players who have completed their eligibility (eight others who signed professionally as juniors also have returned to complete degree requirements).
See more below on the three Academic All-America candidates, a list of the program’s previous Academic All-Americans and a rundown of the 23 players who posted a GPA of 3.0-plus:
Steve Sollmann – winningest four-year starter in ND baseball history, with the Irish winning 76.3% of their games during his ND career (188-58-1) … enters Virginia Tech series ranked 4th in ND history for career hits (292), 3rd in fielding assists (591), 5th in runs (204), 8th in batting avg. (.364) and 9th in triples (12) spanning 211 games played (209 starts) … overcame early ’04 slump to bat 10-for-21 in five-game stretch before fractured jaw in freak collision with teammate (April 3), sidelining him for 21 games (#8-ranked team was just 15-6 in his absence, compared to 27-3 in games he has played)…had his .414 (12-for-29) since returning from injury, wearing football-style facemask on batting helmet…ranks 3rd on ’04 team with .458 on-base pct. (9th among BIG EAST players), also 1st on team in SBs (12), 2nd in 2-out batting (.371), 3rd in hit-by-pitch (8), 4th in walks (21) and batting with runners on base (.371), and 5th in overall batting avg. (.325) … also 2nd on team in hits (1.23) and runs (1.07) per game… his +16 margin of walks (21) plus HBPs (8) minus strikeouts (13) is best on the team (the rest of the Irish are +9 … did not make an error in his first 154 chances of the 2004 season before 9th-inning E vs. Central Florida on May 19 (he quickly recovered and three to third base to catch the runner over-running the bag for the final out) … owns a .391 career batting avg. after final exams and a .386 career hitter at Eck Stadium … hit a combined .487 (38-for-78) during the ’01-’03 NCAA Tournaments to rank as one of the program’s leading all-time postseason performers … converted prep centerfielder who totaled just eight errors during both the 2002 and ’03 seasons (after making 21 Es as a freshman) … in 2003 became Notre Dame’s 11th non-senior (in any sport) ever to couple All-America and Academic All-America honors in the same season recipient of ND Athletic Department’s 2003 Francis Patrick O’Connor Award, recognizing team spirit, inspiration and courage … preseason 1st team All-America pick in ’04 … MVP of ’02 NCAA South Bend Regional that sparked ND on to College World Series … three-time all-BIG EAST pick and ’01 Freshman All-American … posted 3.73 GPA in ’03 fall term, then 4.0 in spring of ’04 to graduate with a 3.44 as a marketing major.
Tom Thornton – member of staff that owns nation’s 19th-best team ERA (3.46) … ranks 1st in BIG EAST Conference for wins (7-2), 6th in innings (79.1) and 11th in low opponent batting avg. (.258) … owns nearly a 3-to-1 K-to-walk ratio (60/21) … 2nd on ND staff in strikeouts … two-time BIG EAST pitcher of the week … his primetime ’04 efforts include rare 9-inning shutout (at West Virginia; 6 H, 2 BB) plus wins over USC (6 IP, UER, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 Ks), hot-hitting Texas Tech (8 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 3 BB, 7 Ks), Boston College (6.2 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, O BB, 2 Ks) and Rutgers (8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, BB, career-best 8 Ks) … also battled Florida Atlantic All-American Randy Beam to 2-2 standoff (7 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 0 BB, 7 K’s; ND won 3-2) … posted 3.73 GPA in ’03 fall semester and then 3.81 in 2004 spring, yielding 3.49 cumulative GPA as double major in anthropology and film-television-and-theater.
Steve Andres – dangerous all-around offensive player whose .472 on-base pct. ranks 5th in BIG EAST Conference while his 1.005 “OBS” (combined on-base and slugging pct.) ranks 9th among all BIG EAST players…also ranks 2nd in BIG EAST for walks (38) and 13th in home runs (7) …has 2nd-best margin on team (+7) for walks plus hit-by-pitch (6) minus strikeouts 937) … ranks 4th on team in slugging pct. (.543)…tripled and scored for 15-inning win over Ball State … owns 3.24 cumulative GPA as business management major.
Steve Andres ranks as one of the BIG EAST Conference’s top all-around offensive threats and owns a 3.24 GPA as a business management major
ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICA HISTORY – Notre Dame baseball players have combined for 21 Academic All-America awards (since 1977), including five repeat honorees in outfielders John Loughran (’86, ’87), Dan Peltier (’88, ’89) and Brian Stavisky (’01, ’02), first baseman Joe Binkiewicz (’91-’92) and lefthander Mike Naumann (’00-’01) … ND’s four-year run of multiple Academic All-Americans began in 2000 with infielder Jeff Perconte (1st team) and Naumann (3rd team), followed by Naumann (1st team) and Stavisky (3rd team) in ’01 and then Stavisky (3rd team) and third baseman Andrew Bushey (2nd team) in ’02, followed by 2B Steve Sollmann (2nd team) and closer J.P. Gagne (3rd team) in ’04.
SUPER SEMESTER – Notre Dame’s 22 players who posted a 3.0-plus GPA during the 2004 spring semester included 19 veterans, led by all six seniors: 2B Steve Sollmann (4.0, management), C Javi Sanchez (3.70, management), LHPs Joe Thaman (3.67, marketing) and Cody Wilkins (3.77, marketing), and IFs Zach Sisko (3.58, double major in history pre-professional studies) and Tim Murray (3.67, mathematics) … other veteran players who posted semester GPAs of 3.0-plus included four juniors RHPs – John Axford (3.29, film-television-and-theater), Grant Johnson (3.83, marketing), Tyler Jones (3.11, accounting) and Chris Niesel (3.24, marketing) – plus nine members of the sophomore class: DH Matt Bransfield (3.06, sociology), OF Craig Cooper (3.33, political science and computer applications), RHP/closer Ryan Doherty (3.21, philosophy), SS Greg Lopez (3.35, anthropology and pre-professional studies), C Nick Mainieri (3.40, English). OF Alex Nettey (3.00), OF Cody Rizzo (3.00, sociology), LHP Tom Thornton (3.81, anthropology and film-television-and-theater) and DH Brent Weiss (3.81, finance) … three freshmen rounded out the players with 3-0-plus semesters GPAs: LHP/1B Mike Dury (3.13), OF/2B Chris Fournier (3.00) and C Sean Gaston (3.60).