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Irish Players Head Into 2003 Season With Plenty Of Preseason Honors And Rankings

Feb. 16, 2003

Several members of the 2003 Notre Dame baseball team have received a variety of preseason honors and rankings (see full list below). An unprecedented three Irish players – junior second baseman Steve Sollmann, sophomore shortstop Matt Macri and sophomore righthander Grant Johnson – were tabbed for preseason All-America honors, with Sollmann and Macri earning preseason BIG EAST player-of-the-year recognition from different sources.

Six Irish players also have been listed among national college prospect rankings, as compiled by Baseball America/Perfect Game and Team One Baseball. The Dec. 15 BA/PG list forecasting the top-100 prospects for the 2004 draft included four Notre Dame sophomore RHPs: Johnson (5th), John Axford (19th), Chris Niesel (49th) and Martin Vergara (78th). No other school had more than three pitchers among that top-100 prospects list (Rice had three, Texas and Old Dominion two). Niesel – who is slated to start the season opener vs. Dayton (Feb. 21, at Arizona State) also impressively was forecasted by the Major League Scouting Bureau’s 2002 fall rankings as the No. 1 overall college prospect for the 2004 draft.

Macri (a draft-eligible sophomore) was listed 40th (second among shortstops) on the BA/PG prospects list for the 2003 draft while Sollmann was 124th on that list. Macri also recently was rated 65th by Team Ofrom BIG EAST teams – Boston College RHP Chris Lambert (12th) and Rutgers OF Jeff Frazier (17th) – ne on its list of 2003 draft-eligible college players.

Two other sophomores also are among the top prospects on the BA/PG top-100 prospects list for the 2004 draft. The BIG EAST is the only conference with four-plus schools represented on that top-100 prospect list while the six total BIG EAST players matches the Atlantic Coast Conference for the most from one conference among the top 100 prospects for the ’04 draft.

Notre Dame’s 36 opponents in 2003 include 25 players who were included on Baseball America top prospects lists for the 2003 draft (spots 1-100 are based on a Feb. 13 list, 101-200 based on the Dec. 15 BA/PG list; see more opponent info. at end of release). Those players include six from upcoming opponent Arizona State: OF Rod Allen (39th, 60th in Team One rankings), RHP Ryan Schroyer (42nd, 47th Team One), OF Andre Ethier (84th, 43rd Team One), 2B Steve Garrabrants (173rd), RHP Ben Thurmond (185th) and C Jeremy West (198th); and five from Wake Forest: RHP Kyle Sleeth (2nd, also 2nd Team One), 3B Jamie D’Antona (34th, 32nd Team One), OF Ryan Johnson (111th), OF Adam Bourassa (132nd, 98th Team One) and RHP Adam Hanson (178th).

Other top opponents to watch (from the top 2003 prospects) include Toledo C Mitch Maier (38th, 42nd Team One), Michigan RHP Jim Brauer (61st, 53rd Team One), Navy LHP Matt Foster (68th), Nebraska LHP Aaron Marsden (69th, 94th Team One), OF Jeff Leise (73rd) and 1B Matt Hopper (180th), Ball State OF Brad Snyder (70th, 96th Team One), Western Michigan LHP Pat Misch (86th, 52nd Team One), Creighton LHP Tom Oldham (88th), Eastern Michigan OF Ryan Goleski (96th, 79th Team One), Vanderbilt RHP Robert Ransom (97th), Villanova RHP James Russell (186th) and Minnesota RHP C.J. Woodrow (192nd) and 2B Luke Appert (197th).

NOTRE DAME BASEBALL 2003 PRESEASON HONORS AND RANKINGS (as of Feb. 16; check back to this release for an update of any ND players or opponents who are included on Baseball America’s list of the nation’s “top tools,” i.e. best defensive players at their position, top fastballs, curveballs, etc.).

John Axford (So., RHP) – Nation’s #19 college prospect (11th pitcher) for 2004 draft (Baseball America/Perfect Game, 12/15/02), BIG EAST’s #5 overall prospect (BA)

Craig Cooper (Fr., CF) – BIG EAST’s #2 newcomer (BA)

Grant Johnson (So., RHP) – Nation’s #5 college prospect for 2004 draft (BA/PG, 12/14/02), preseason third team All-American (Collegiate Baseball magazine, National College Baseball Writers), preseason all-BIG EAST (coaches, BA), BE’s #1 prospect and best control pitcher (BA

Matt Macri (So., SS) – Preseason third team All-American (Baseball America), preseason BIG EAST player of the year (Collegiate Baseball magazine), nation’s #40 college prospect (#2 among SS) for 2003 draft (BA/Perfect Game, 12/15/02), preseason all-BE (BA), BE’s #3 overall prospect and best IF arm (BA)

Chris Niesel (So. RHP) – Preseason all-BIG EAST (BA), nation’s #49 college prospect for 2004 draft (BA/Perfect Game, 12/15/02), preseason all-BIG EAST (BA), BE’s #6 overall prospect, best breaking ball (BA)

Steve Sollmann (Jr., 2B) – preseason second team All-American (National College Baseball Writers), preseason BIG EAST player of the year (BIG EAST coaches and Baseball America), #124 college prospect for 2003 draft (BA Prospects Plus, 12/15/02), preseason all-BIG EAST (coaches; BA), BE’s #7 overall prospect (all BA), best defensive 2B (BA)

Joe Thaman (Jr., 1B) – BIG EAST’s best defensive 1B (Baseball America)

Martin Vergara (So., RHP) – Nation’s #78 college prospect for 2004 draft (BA/Perfect Game, 12/15/02), BIG EAST’s #8 overall prospect (BA)

NOTRE DAME BASEBALL 2003 OPPONENTS TO WATCH (listed chronologically)

(national draft rankings indicate Baseball America/Team One; preseason conference honors are from Baseball America)

Arizona State – junior 2B Steve Garrabrants (nation’s #173 prospect for ’03 draft, preseason all-Pac 10 Conference), sophomore SS Dustin Pedroia (preseason all-Pac 10, Pac 10’s best defensive SS), junior OF Rod Allen (nation’s #39/#60 prospect, BA preseason 3rd team All-American and all-Pac 10, Pac 10’s #6 prospect), junior DH Jeremy West (nation’s #198 prospect, CB preseason 3rd team All-American, preseason all-Pac 10), junior RHP Ryan Schroyer (nation’s #42/#47 prospect, NCBWA preseason 2nd team All-American/CB 3rd team, preseason all-Pac 10, Pac 10’s #8 prospect), senior RHP Ben Thurmond (nation’s #185 prospect, Pac 10’s #3 newcomer; Winthrop transfer), junior OF Andre Ethier (nation’s #84/#43 prospect, NCBWA 3rd team All-American)

Nebraska – senior OF Jeff Leise (nation’s #73 prospect, CB preseason 2nd team All-American/NCBWA 3rd team, preseason all-Big 12 Conference, Big 12’s fastest runner and best defensive OF), senior DH Matt Hopper (nation’s #180 prospect, preseason all-Big 12), junior LHP Aaron Marsden (nation’s #69/#94 prospect)

Minnesota – senior 2B Luke Appert (nation’s #197 prospect, preseason all-Big Ten Conference, Big Ten’s #6 prospect and best defensive 2B), senior SS Scott Welch (preseason all-Big Ten, Big Ten’s #5 prospect and best defensive SS), senior pitcher C.J. Woodrow (nation’s #192 prospect, preseason all-Big Ten, Big Ten’s best control pitcher)

Wake Forest – junior RHP Kyle Sleeth (nation’s #2 prospect, preseason 1st team All-American, preseason all-Atlantic Coast Conference/ACC pitcher of the year, ACC’s #1 prospect, best fastball, and 3rd-best breaking ball), junior 3B Jamie D’Antona (nation’s #34/#32 prospect, NCBWA preseason 1st team All-American/CB 2nd team/BA 3rd team, preseason all-ACC, ACC’s #7 prospect, best raw power, best defensive 3B and best IF arm), senior OF Adam Bourassa (nation’s #132/#98 prospect, preseason all-ACC, ACC’s best baserunner and best defensive OF), senior OF Ryan Johnson (nation’s #111 prospect), RHP Adam Hanson (#178 prospect)

Vanderbilt – sophomore LHP Jeremy Sowers (BA preseason 2nd team All-American/CB 3rd team, preseason all-Southeastern Conference, 3rd-best breaking ball in SEC), RHP Robert Ransom (nation’s #97 prospect)

Navy – senior LHP Matt Foster (nation’s #68 prospect, preseason all-Patriot League/player of the year and top prospect), junior RHP Andy Froistad (preseason all-Patriot League)

Jacksonville – senior RHP Darren Truty (best breaking ball in Atlantic Sun Conference)

Eastern Illinois – RHP Jordan Pals (preseason all-Ohio Valley Conference, best fastball in OVC)

Creighton – junior LHP Tom Oldham (nation’s #88 prospect, preseason all-Missouri Valley Conference, MVC pitcher of the year and #2 prospect), sophomore 2B Tony Roth (preseason all-MVC, MVC’s best defensive 2B), junior RHP Steve Grasley (preseason all-MVC relief pitcher)

Villanova – senior RH relief pitcher James Russell (nation’s #186 prospect, NCBWA preseason 1st team All-American/CB 3rd team, preseason all-BIG EAST), senior CF Chris Graziano (BE’s fastest runner, best baserunner and best defensive OF), freshman 1B Freddie Thon (BE rookie of the year and #1 newcomer)

Toledo – junior C Mitch Maier (nation’s #38/#42 prospect, preseason all-Mid-American Conference, MAC player of the year, #1 prospect and best defensive C)

Purdue – freshman RHP Chris Toneguzzi (Big Ten Conference’s #10 prospect)

Valparaiso – senior OF Jeff Mandsager (preseason all-Mid-Continent Conference)

Boston College – sophomore CF Drew Locke (preseason all-BIG EAST, BE’s best pure hitter), senior OF Matt Lederhos (BE’s best OF arm), sophomore RHP Chris Lambert (NCBWA preseason 2nd team All-American, preseason all-BE, pitcher of the year, #2 prospect and best fastball), sophomore 1B Jason Delaney (preseason all-BE), sophomore LHP Kevin Shepard (BE’s #9 prospect), junior C Garret Greer (BE’s #3 newcomer; Georgia State transfer)

St. John’s – catcher Asa Grunenwald (BIG EAST’s best defensive C)

Bowling Green – senior 1B Kelly Hunt (CB/NCBWA preseason 3rd team All-American, preseason all-Mid-American Conference, MAC’s best pure hitter, best raw power and best defensive 1B); junior OF David Barkholz (MAC’s best baserunner and best defensive OF)

Western Michigan – senior RHP Pat Misch (nation’s #86/#52 prospect, preseason all-Mid-American Conference, MAC’s #3 prospect and best breaking ball)

Eastern Michigan – sophomore SS Brian Bixler (CB/NCBWA preseason 3rd team All-American, preseason all-Mid-American Conference, MAC’s #4 prospect, best defensive SS and best IF arm); junior OF Ryan Goleski (nation’s #96/#79 prospect, preseason CB/NCBWA 1st team All-American, preseason all-MAC, MAC’s #5 prospect and best OF arm)

Seton Hall – senior OF Casey Grimm (preseason all-BIG EAST)

Ball State – junior OF Brad Snyder (nation’s #70/#96 prospect, preseason all-Mid-American Conference, MAC’s #2 prospect and fastest runner)

Connecticut – senior utility player Peter Soteropoulos (preseason all-BIG EAST)

Michigan – junior C Jake Fox (preseason all-Big Ten Conference), senior 3B Brock Koman (preseason all-Big Ten, Big Ten’s best defensive 3B), sophomore RHP Michael Penn (Big Ten’s #7 prospect, #3 newcomer; Ball State transfer), junior RHP Jim Brauer (nation’s #61/#53 prospect, Big Ten’s #1 prospect)

Oakland – senior 1B Peter Varon and junior LHP Dominic Carmosino (preseason all-Mid-Continent Conference)

West Virginia – senior 3B Tim McCabe (preseason all-BIG EAST, BE’s best defensive 3B), sophomore LHP Zac Cline (BE’s #10 prospect)

Rutgers – sophomore OF Jeff Frazier (preseason all-BIG EAST, BE’s #4 prospect and best raw power), freshman OF John DeFendis (BE’s #5 newcomer)

Cincinnati – junior OF Aaron Moll (Conference USA’s best OF arm)

Butler – junior 1B Ryan Nance and senior pitcher Aaron Phillips (preseason all-Horizon League)

Virginia Tech – sophomore C Wyatt Toregas (preseason all-BIG EAST), senior DH Jed English (preseason all-BE, BE catcher with best arm), freshman RHP M.J. Hurley (BE’s #4 newcomer), senior SS Spencer Harris (BE’s best defensive SS)