May 19, 2004
The postseason is rapidly approaching for the 6th-rranked Notre Dame baseball team but four regular-season games still remain, starting with Wednesday’s game vs. Central Florida … the Irish are expected to use several pitchers in the game, with freshman RHP Rico Bertucci earning the start … Bertucci owns a 2.31 ERA in spot duty this season, posting 9 strikeouts without a walk in 11.2 innings.
Click on the two PDF links for updated bio. capsules on the ND starting lineup and to view a copy of today’s game program.
Probable Pitching Matchup:
ND – Rico Bertucci (Fr., RHP) … 2.31, 1-0, 11.2 IP, 9 Ks, 0 BB, 8 H, .200 opp. avg.
UCF – Mike Billek (So., RHP) … 4.50, 0-0, 6.0 IP, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 7 H, .304 opp. avg.
tale of the Tape (see PDF, also for BIG EAST standings and stat leaders, full team stats and rosters)
TONIGHT’S GAME – 6th-ranked Notre Dame meets #20 Central Florida in the second of two non-conference midweek games at Eck Stadium … ND has all but clinched at least a share of the BIG EAST regular-season title while UCF has secured at least a share of the Atlantic-Sun title … last night was the team’s first meeting since ’93 and only the second ND-UCF matchup in the last 25 seasons … the Irish dropped a doubleheader at UCF in ’79 3-10, 2-5) while the ’93 ND squad beat UCF in an NCAA regional elimination game at Florida State (12-3) … the 10-year Paul Mainieri era has featured other marquee non-conference games at Eck Stadium, with the Irish splitting vs. Alabama in ’95 (5-3, 1-9), a near-sweep of eventual national champ Miami in ’99 (3-5, 1-0) and a 9-4 win over Arizona State in ’02 … ND held a late lead in the first ’99 Miami game and then was one strike away from handing the Hurricanes a rare no-hitter (it still ended up being Miami’s first shutout loss in 248 games) … UCF athletic director Steve Orsini is a former ND football player and athletic department administrator … Orsini was a team captain and fullback on ND’s 1977 national championship team … ND already has defeated two teams this season – Minnesota (Joel Maturi) and Ball State (Bubba Cunningham) – whose ADs are Notre Dame alums … former ND football player Gene Smith also is an ND alum, with the Irish and Sun Devils meeting in 2002 and ’03.
LAST NIGHT – Jeff Samardzija (7 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 10 groundball outs, 25 BF) picked up the 4-0 win over UCF, following Grant Johnson, Chris Niesel and Tom Thornton to give ND four straight dominant starts (the four starts include a 0.93 combined ERA, 24 Ks, 5 BB, 19 H and .190 opp. batting in 29 IP) … ND’s 2-4 hitters – Steve Sollmann (RBI, 2 R, BB, 2B, Matt Bransfield (R) and Javi Sanchez (RBI) – each had 2 hits … Taylor Meier took the tough-luck loss (7.1 IP, 4 R/2 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 4 Ks) … ND hit 5-for-12 with runners on base (UCF was 0-for-6) … Samardzija’s resulting 1.88 ERA would rank among the top 20 nationally … he held UCF’s lefthanded batters to 1-for-14 hitting.
GREAT GRADUATES – Six Notre Dame seniors – 2B Steve Sollmann, C Javi Sanchez, LHPs Joe Thaman and Cody Wilkins and IFs Zach Sisko and Tim Murray – graduated last Sunday, maintaining the program’s 100% graduation rate (59 of 59) among players who have completed their eligibility (eight others who signed professionally as juniors also have returned to complete their degree requirements) … all six of the seniors posted a GPA of 3.4-plus last fall and just closed with an even better 2004 spring semester as each registered a 2004 spring GPA above 3.55 (led by a 4.0 from marketing major Sollmann, a 2003 Academic All-American) … the entire Irish baseball squad just posted a 3.16 team GPA in the 2004 spring semester, led by 11 players at 3.4-plus and 20 above 3.0 … three ND players – Sollmann (3.44 cum. GPA), sophomore LHP Tom Thornton (3.49, anthropology/film, television and theater) and sophomore LF Steve Andres (3.24, business) – are on the CoSIDA Academic All-America ballot (TBA) … Notre Dame is the only baseball program to produce two Academic All-American in each of the previous four seasons.
GAME NOTES – Notre Dame is riding a 10-game winning streak and currently owns the nation’s longest active streak of seasons with 40-plus wins (16; 34-19 Florida State and 39-13 Wichita State both entered ’04 with 26 straight 40-win seasons) … East Carolina (45-8), Oral Roberts (42-8) and Rice (39-9) are the nation’s only other teams with single-digit losses (out of 287) … the Irish own a 24-5 road record … ND is on the verge of having three double-digit HR hitters for the first time since 1998 (pre-bat restrictions) … the Irish have won nearly 80% of the games during the ’01-’04 seasons when Steve Sollmann has been in the starting lineup (162-45-1; including 26-3 this season, compared to just 15-6 when he was out with a fractured jaw) … ND is 19th in the nation with a 3.49 staff ERA while UCF is 5th (2.87, led by Kyle Bono’s 1.45 and Matt Fox’s 2.02) … the Irish also rank 14th in the nation for scoring (8.2 runs/gm) while Ryan Doherty’s 9 saves (in 10 opp.) rank 18th (4th in ND history) … seven top ND players have combined to miss 185 games this season due to injury … the Irish have logged nearly 16,000 travel miles this season … ND owns five earlier wins over teams that were ranked in the national top-25 at the time (USC, Winthrop, Florida Atlantic, Minnesota and Arizona), also besting a high-powered Texas Tech squad that remains one of the nation’s top offensive squads … ND’s 92 times hit-by-pitch ranks 11th in the NCAA record book (Nevada holds the record with 125 in ’97) … the Irish have won 23 times in ’04 by 5-plus runs … Grant Johnson’s 4-hit shutout vs. Rutgers earned him BIG EAST pitcher of the week while 3B Matt Macri was player of the week (9-for-18, 7 RBI, 2 HR, 2 2B, 5 R, 0 Ks, 2 SB, 0 Es) … Craig Cooper also hit .500 last week (10-for-20, 5 RBI, 5 R, HR, 2 2B, 3 SBs) and has hits in 16 of the last 18 games … ND has scored in the 1st inning in 5 of the last 6 games … Sollmann is batting .444 (12-for-27) since returning from injury … he ranks 4th in the ND record book with 292 career hits, plus 5th in stolen bases (79), 6th in runs (204) and 8th in batting avg. (.364) … Macri (45) and SS Greg Lopez (35) have combined for 80 error-free games (Sollmann has yet to make an error at 2B while 1B Matt Edwards has 4) … ND is 34 games over .500 for the 4th season in the program’s history … ND is riding the 2nd-longest scoring streak in the program’s history (138 games; also 369 of the last 370) … the ’01-’04 ND teams have combined to go 181-63-1 … ND now owns a 52-8 scoring edge in the 2nd inning … the Irish have posted 22 error-free games in ’04 … ND has blasted 53 HRs after hitting just 31 in ’03 .. the Irish have hit 3 HRs six times in ’04, plus a 4-HR game at UConn … ND is 62-10 in its last 72 at Eck Stadium (since mid-’02) … Paul Mainieri’s 22-year career record is 773-448-2 (442-169-1/.722 at ND) … the team’s .415 on-base pct. would rank 4th in ND history (best since ’94) while the .247 opp. batting avg. is 5th-best by an ND staff since 1971 … the Irish have won 24 times by 5-plus runs while totaling 30 double-digit hit games … Brian Stavisky (14, in 2000) is the last ND player to hit more HR in a season than Matt Bransfield’s 11 … Cody Rizzo’s 47 hit-by-pitch are an ND career record (he owns the top season totals: 28 in ’03, 19 in ’04).