May 15, 2003

Complete Release in PDF Format
dot.gifspacer.gifDownload Free Acrobat Reader

NOTRE DAME BASEBALL GAME NOTES – at Virginia Tech (May 17, 2003)

The Notre Dame baseball team (39-14, 15-6 BIG EAST) – ranked as high as 23rd in the national polls – looks to finish the regular season on the high note with a three-game BIG EAST series at Virginia Tech (Fri., May 17, DH at noon; third game Sat., May 18 at noon) … per BIG EAST policy, there is no makeup day for this weekend’s series, due to the impending BIG EAST Tournament (seven ND seniors also will graduate on Sunday) … ND entered the week as one of a handful of teams ranked in the national top-20 for staff ERA (15th, 3.37) and fielding pct. (19th, .971).

BIG EAST RACE HITS FINAL STRETCH – Notre Dame likely will finish third in the BIG EAST standings, with the Irish needing to sweep Virginia Tech (33-20, 17-9) and have fifth-place Boston College (11-9) sweep frontrunner West Virginia (17-4) in order to finish ahead of the Mountaineers … in order to pass second-place Rutgers, ND would need to sweep and have RU drop 2-of-3 to 10th-place Villanova (or two ND wins and three RU losses) … the only way ND can finish in the fourth and final BIG EAST Tournament spot would be a VT sweep … Pittsburgh (12-10) and BC still have chances at knocking VT out of the fourth spot (Pitt plays at UConn this weekend) … the WVU at BC and RU at VU series also are Fri.-Sat. formats … ND and RU now have qualified for the last eight BIG EAST Tournament, since joining the league in ’95-’96.

MEDIA COVERAGE – All of Notre Dame’s 2003 regular-season and postseason games again will be broadcast by South Bend-based WDND 1620 AM (and its sister station, WNDV 1490) … the broadcasts are available via the internet at (College Sports Pass subscription required) … also provides GameTracker livestats on the website’s main page, for all home games and select road games (including the VT series).

Probable Pitching Rotations

Game 1

ND – soph. RHP Chris Niesel (2.42, 8-1, 85.1 IP, 79 Ks, 15 BB, 72 H, .224 opp. avg.)

VT – freshman RHP Ricky Bowers (2.59, 4-0, 41.2 IP, 42 Ks, 15 BB, 71 H, .199 opp. avg.)

Game 2

ND – soph. RHP John Axford (3.19, 9-2, 67.2 IP, 65 Ks, 40 BB, 54 H, .227 opp. avg.)

VT – freshman LHP Andrew Wells (4.22, 4-3, 59.2 IP, 34 Ks, 19 BB, 68 H, .293 opp. avg.)

Game 3

ND – sr. RHP Ryan Kalita (3.34, 5-1, 61.1 IP, 50 Ks, 25 BB, 55 H, .246 opp. avg.)

VT – soph. RHP Jeff Landing (4.88, 4-3, 66.1 IP, 52 Ks, 26 BB, 73 H, .282 opp. avg.)

PUSHING 40 – Notre Dame reached 30 wins with single-digit losses (30-9) for just the sixth time in team history, with only two previous ND teams – the 2001 squad (30-5-1, en route to claiming the No. 1 ranking) and the 1989 unit (30-8) – reaching 30 wins quicker than the current Irish squad (the 1990, ’94 and ’99 ND teams also went 30-9) … the Irish program now is on the verge of its 15th consecutive season with 40-plus wins – the fourth-longest active 40-win streak in Division I baseball, behind Florida State (26, including 44-8-1 in 2003), Wichita State (25; 39-23 in ’03) and Clemson (17; now 35-18 in ’03).

QUICK NOTES ON THE IRISH – Senior closer J.P. Gagne has set the ND record for saves in a season (12) and has not allowed an earned run in his last eight outings (17.2 IP) … freshman RHP Ryan Doherty has not allowed on earned run since a rough outing in the season opener, spanning 10 appearances and 18.2 innings … Steve Sollmann’s 30 stolen bases have bested his brother Scott’s freshman-year total (26, in ’94) for 7th on the ND single-season SB list (Scott holds the ND record, with 51 in 1996) … Gagne’s 89 career appearances are just three shy of Chris Michalak’s ND record … the Irish are 9-1 in one-run games this season … ND has been shut out just once in the last 303 games (by RU in 2001, 11-0 at ND) … Gagne’s 2.15 ERA would rank 31st in the nation but he is just shy of the NCAA minimum (one IP per team game, with 50.1) … the Irish posted a 23-5 record at Eck Stadium during the 2003 regular season and now are 43-6 in their last 49 home games … the seven-player senior class has helped ND post a 184-63-1 record during the past four seasons (2000-03), just four wins shy of matching the class of 2002 (188-67-1) as the winningest in ND history … junior 1B Joe Thaman is batting 7-for-11 in the last three games, boosting his season batting average 55 points (from .216 to .271) … the ND defense turned in its 19th error-free game of the season vs. Butler.

(see PDF for Niesel and Axford career and game-by-game stats)

Niesel’s Nine-Inning Averages: 7.6 hits, 1.6 walks, 8.3 Ks, 10.1 groundouts (6.2 IP per outing; 36.5 BF per 9 IP)

Situational Pitching: .203 opp. batting with runners on, .210 with 2 outs, 30% of leadoff batters reached (2.7 per 9 IP)


* Entered week ranked 44th in nation with 2.45 ERA.

* Has won 30 of last 32 overall decisions, dating back to 13-0 record as a senior All-American at Aquinas High School

* Tossed near-no-hitter vs. WVU, allowing bunt single with two outs left in 7-inning opener (23 BF, BB, 9 Ks) … would have been first no-hitter by ND pitcher since 1988 (Brian Piotrowicz vs. Ball State).

* Since suffering the only loss of his ND career (Feb. 28 vs. Nebraska), has dominated in his last 11 outings (8-0) to the tune of a 1.55 ERA, a .206 opp. batting avg. and nearly a 6-to-1 K-to-walk ratio (76/13) in those 11 starts.

* Has allowed just one run, nine hits (.200 opp. avg.) and no walks in the 1st inning this season (13 IP, 17 Ks) while allowing just two runs in the 4th (13 IP, 11 H, .229, 3 BB, 7 Ks) … has averaged nearly 20 outs per 9 IP via Ks (8.3) or groundouts (10.1).

* Owns a 5.3 season K-to-walk ratio that would rank 5th in ND history … his 4.29 career K-to-BB ratio (141/33) is ahead of Alan Walania’s ND record (4.00) … 7-to-1 K/BB in last five outings: 33 IP, 28 Ks, 4 BB.

* His season walk average of 1.58/9 IP would rank 11th in ND history … his 1.88 career walk avg. is 4th in the ND record book, behind Walania (1.64), teammate Brandon Viloria (1.65) and Tom Price (1.86, ’91-’94).

* 79 Ks in ’03, on pace for 91 Ks in 15 starts (would be 9th-best in ND history) … his .224 opp. batting would rank 8th in ND record book (stat kept at ND since ’91).

* 10th all-time ND pitcher with multiple double-digit K games in his career (10 vs. Southern Illinois in ’02, 11 vs. Villanova in ’03) and 5th to do so in the 9-year Mainieri era (the others are Brad Lidge, Tim Kalita, Aaron Heilman an Danny Tamayo) … also owns five 9-K games in his ND career (four in ’03).

* Combines with John Axford (12 Ks vs. WMU) as 10th pair of ND teammates ever to post double-digit Ks in the same season … others: Ron Mottl and Dick Bunker (’55), Jim Sholl and Don Wolfe (’75), the 1977 trio of Sholl, Bob Hughes, and Mike Bobinski, David Sinnes and Al Walania (’93), Darin Schmalz and Christian Parker (’96), the ’98 trio of Brad Lidge, Alex Shilliday and Tim Kalita – and Aaron Heilman with Kalita (’99), Drew Duff (’00) and Danny Tamayo (’01).

* Fourth ND player ever to receive multiple BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-week honors in same season, joining Aaron Heilman (3 in ’99, 4 in ’00, 2 in ’01), Scott Cavey (2 in ’00) and Danny Tamayo (3 in ’01) … joins three-time recipient Chris Lambert of Boston College (the 2002 BIG EAST pitcher of the year) as only pitchers to earn multiple weekly awards from the BIG EAST this season.

* His 12-1 career record with the Irish could include upwards of nine more wins (due to lack of run support or lost leads by the bullpen), with his 2002 season also interrupted by a bout with mononucleosis.

* Had dominating 2002 postseason with 2.05 ERA in five outings (four starts), plus 22 Ks, 7 BB and 23 hits allowed in 26.1 IP (he won the 3-1 clincher at top-ranked Florida State in the Super-Regional and had a strong CWS start vs. Rice).

Axford’s Situational Pitching in 2003: .209 opp. batting with runners on base, .289 with 2 outs, 43% of leadoff batters reached base (3.9 per 9 IP)

Axford’s Situational Pitching in 2002: .237 opp. batting with runners on base, .275 with 2 outs, 46% of leadoff batters reached base (3.7 per 9 IP)

Axford’s Nine-Inning Averages in 2003: 7.2 hits, 5.3 walks, 8.7 Ks, 9.0 groundouts (5.2 IP per start; 38.4 BF per 9 IP)

Axford’s Nine-Inning Averages in 2002: 7.5 hits, 7.5 walks, 8.2 Ks, 9.6 groundouts (4.2 IP per start)


* Second-year RHP John Axford showed no early effects of a sophomore slump but has logged back-to-back rocky outings, with an 0-2 record and 12.16 ERA (9 ER in 6.2 IP) during those starts (8 H, 8 BB, 6 Ks, 2 WP, 2 HB)

* Averaged 7.5 walks per nine innings as a freshman but has dropped his BB average to 5.3 in 2003 (he has 24 BB in his last five outings and 25.2 IP, or 8.4 per 9 IP) … owns a 14-4 career record and nearly has doubled his 2002 win total (5-2 in ’02, 9-1 in ’03) while slicing his ERA from 3.95 in ’02 to 3.19 in ’03.

* After suffering a 13-6 loss in the first BIG EAST weekend of the 2002 season (at UConn), he won his next 13 decisions (4 in ’02, 9 in ’03) before the May 3 loss to WVU … during that 13-0 span of 22 appearances (20 starts), he allowed more than two earned runs only three times … Aaron Heilman (15-0 in ’01) is the only ND pitcher in the last 75 years to post a longer winning streak than Axford’s … Ed Walsh went 17-0 in a 1926-28 span, Frank “Dreams” Scanlan was 16-0 spanning the 1907-09 seasons and Herb Kelly was 14-0 in a 1912-14 stretch.

* Needs one more win to become the 10th different ND pitcher ever with 10-plus wins in a season (Heilman and Tom Price, 12-2 in ’93 and 14-5 in ’94, are the only ND pitchers ever to win 12-plus in one season) … tied for 16th in nation with nine wins.

* Posted a .231 opponent batting average in 2002 (10th-best by an ND pitcher since 1991) and has done even better this season (.227, would be 10th-best since ’91) … opponents are batting just .209 vs. him with runners on base.

* One measure of a quality pitching performance is the combined total of strikeouts and groundball outs (18-plus per 9 IP generally is a solid average) and Axford joins many of his teammates in grading out well in that area – averaging 17.8 outs per nine innings via Ks (8.2) or groundouts (9.6).

* His 12 starts have included just one run allowed in the 2nd inning (0.75, 7 H, .171 opp. batting, 4 BB, 7 Ks) while he has clamped down to allow no runs in the 5th-6th innings this season (18 IP, 20 Ks, 7 BB, 6 H, .109 opp. batting).

* Was one win shy of joining Frank “Dreams” Scanlan (1908, 10-0) and Aaron Heilman (2001, 15-0) as the only ND pitchers ever to start a season 10-0.

* 17th ND pitcher ever to post 12-plus Ks in a game (vs. WMU) and just the fourth to do so since 1980, joining Darin Schmalz (12 in 9 IP at Georgetown, in ’96), Brad Lidge (12 in 7 IP vs. Pittsburgh, at Three Rivers in ’98) and Aaron Heilman in that distinction … Heilman posted 12-K games in 2000 (vs. Georgia in the Metrodome, 8 IP) and 2001 (vs. Rutgers in the BIG EAST Tournament, 9 IP), in addition to an historic 18-K game at West Virginia in 2000 (10 IP).

SERIES NOTES – Virginia Tech handed Notre Dame four of its first 11 losses in the 2001 season (3-2, 9-8 in Blacksburg; 4-3 and 5-2 in the BET) but the Irish swept the Hokies in an April 12 2002 doubleheader at Eck Stadium (2-1 in 11 innings, 4-2) before beating VT in the crucial second game at the 2002 BIG EAST Tournament … Ryan Kalita (6 IP) and J.P. Gagne (5 IP) helped ND outlast VT ace lefthander Joe Saunders last year’s 2-1 game, with Matt Bok delivering a pinch-hit triple and scoring the winning run … Peter Ogilvie, then logged the complete-game win in the 4-2 game.


Kris Billmaier: .400 (8-for-20), 3 R, 8 RBI, 5 Ks

Joe Thaman: .286 (6-for-21), 2 R, 3 RBI, 2B, BB, K, 0-1 SB

Steve Sollmann: .238 (5-for-21), R, RBI, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 0-1 SB

Javi Sanchez: .083 (1-for-12)

J.P.Gagne – 3.86 ERA, 2-2, 4 GP/2 GS, 21 IP, 21 H, 2 BB, 13 Ks, 2 HB

Brandon Viloria – 10.13, 0-1, 2 GP, 2.2 IP, 5 H, BB

Chris Niesel – 1.80, 0-0, 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 6 H, 5 Ks

Ryan Kalita – 0.00, 0-0, 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 6 H, BB, 5 Ks

Peter Ogilvie – 2.00, 1-0, 1 GS, 9 IP, 9 H, BB, 6 Ks, WP

Matt Laird – 0.00, 0-0, 1 GP, 1.2 IP, 4 H, 3 Ks

Virginia Tech Career Stats vs. ND

Marc Tugwell: .464 (13-for-28), 4 RBI, 4 R, 2 Ks, 2-2 SB

Matt Kalish: .400 (2-for-5)

Chris Winterfeldt: .308 (4-for-13), 2 R, 2 Ks

Spencer Harris: .280 (7-for-25), 2 R, 3 RBI, HR, 5 Ks, 1-2 SB

Brad Bauder: .231 (6-for-26), 4 RBI, 3 R, HR, 2 2B, 3 BB, 9 Ks

Chris Stanton: .100 (1-for-10), 1-1 SB

Jed English: .167 (4-for-24), 4 RBI, R, 7 Ks

Wyatt Toregas .077 (1-for-13), 3 Ks

MAINIERI HITS WIN NO. 700 – Ninth-year ND head coach Paul Mainieri – now in his 21st overall season – picked up his 700th career coaching victory in the 6-2 series-opening win over Georgetown on Sat., March 29, just 135 games removed from his 600th win (ND’s 99 combined wins in ’01 and ’02 were third-most in nation, behind Florida State’s 107 and South Carolina’s 106) … Mainieri’s 723-435-1 career record (.624) includes 180-121 at St. Thomas (’83-’88), 152-158 at Air Force (’89-’94) and 391-156-1 (.713) at ND (’95-’03), with his 400th win at ND suddenly nine Ws away … his ND career includes five BIG EAST titles and five NCAA trips with the Irish (’96, ’99-’02), the program’s first No. 1 ranking in 2001 and first CWS trip since ’57 (in ’02) … he was the nation’s only coach to repeat as ABCA regional coach of the year (Mideast), in 2002, and his squads have extended ND’s streak of seasons with 40-plus wins to 14 (nation’s 4th-longest active streak) … 31 of his ND players have moved on to pro ball, including 12 drafted in the first 10 rounds and pair of first-round pitchers (Brad Lidge in ’98, Aaron Heilman in ’01) … every ND player in the Mainieri era who has completed his eligibility with the Irish has graduated from Notre Dame (46 of 46) while the eight who were signed after their junior seasons have returned to complete or near completion of their graduation requirements (including two-time Academic All-American Brian Stavisky) … Mainieri owns the best BIG EAST winning pct. in the conference’s history (.743, 136-47) … in 72 BIG EAST series spanning eight seasons, the Irish have won 55 with eight splits and just nine series wins by the opponent (just two of them being 3-game sweeps) … the Irish have been swept just four times in 70 all-time BIG EAST doubleheaders (42 ND sweeps, 24 splits).

EVEN STEVEN – Notre Dame’s scoring dominance in the 2nd inning this season (58-10) has nearly been matched by the team’s scoring edge two innings later in the 4th (48-20) … the Irish have been outscored in only the 7th (26-35) and the 9th (8-11).

WINNING BIG & SMALL – Notre Dame is 9-1 this season in one-run games while already posting 19 “big wins” (margin of five-plus runs) … by comparison, the 2002 ND team was 9-8 in one-run games and totaled 21 wins by 5-plus runs.

QUICK NOTES ON THE ND HITTERS (see PDF for bullet notes)