April 3, 2004

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2004 NOTRE DAME BASEBALL – Game Notes – vs. Villanova (doubleheader; April 3, 2004)

Chris Niesel CAREER STATS (see PDF)

Chris Niesel’s 2004 APPEARANCES (relief vs. UTSA) (see PDF)

Tom Thornton CAREER STATS (see PDF)

Tom Thornton’s 2004 APPEARANCES (relief vs. SIU)(see PDF)

SERIES NOTES – Notre Dame has won 17 of 22 previous games vs. Villanova (4-1 in last five), with the Irish owning an 8-0 mark vs. VU at Eck Stadium … the Irish beat the Wildcats in a 1996 BIG EAST Tournament elimination game (7-3) but VU posted a pair of tournament wins over ND in ’97 (10-5. 4-4) … ND won 2-of-3 vs. VU last season at Villanova Ballpark in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. (2-3 in 13, 3-2, 5-1), with that series starting a day late due to wet field conditions … the late finish of the first game then pushed the rest of the series to a rare Monday doubleheader … ND lost the ’03 series opener despite totaling 19 baserunners, spoiling a strong outing from Chris Niesel (7.1 IP, 2 R, 5 H, career-best 11 Ks, 0 walks) … VU nearly won in the 11th but Craig Cooper threw out Brian Trotta trying to score from second … ND’s Joe Thaman led off the 12th with a triple but was doubled up when the SS Trotta snared Brennan Grogan’s linedrive … Danny Poydenis hit the game-winning single in the 13th, after a Ryan Cramer single, a passed ball, a wild pitch and a two-out intentional walk … J.P. Gagne took the hard-luck loss (5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 IBB, 4 Ks) … VU starter Tom Kandybowicz had no-decision (6.1 IP, 2 R, 6 H, BB, 7 Ks) while Dan Farino picked up the win (2 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, K) … John Axford (5 IP, R, 2 H, 4 BB, 7 Ks) and Ryan Kalita (8 IP, R, 5 H, 3 BB, 7 Ks) delivered the ’03 doubleheader wins over VU while Grogan factored into most of the ND offense … Cooper (3-for-3, RBI) led the way in the tight 7-inning game, with Brandon Viloria picking up the save (2 IP) … Grogan hit his second triple of the day in the nightcap (3-for-5, 2 RBI, R), after scoring a run and driving in another in the first game (Cooper also scored two runs in the 5-1 win) … Nick Allen lost the 7-inning game (5.2 IP, 3 R, 7 H, 3 BB, K) while John Yeager dropped the nightcap (7.1 IP, 4 R/3 ER, 6 H, 4 Ks) … Trotta and Chris Graziano each had two of VU’s six hits in the series finale.

SERIES STATS – Just two active ND players have logged more than three career games vs. VU: Steve Sollmann (.324, 12-for-37, 14 RBI, 10 R, HR, 2 2B, 4 BB, 2 SB) and Javi Sanchez (.167, 4-for-24, 5 H, 2 BB) … six others saw their first action vs. VU in ’03: Craig Cooper (5-for-10, RBI, 2 R, BB), Cody Rizzo (4-for-11, 3 R, 2 2B), Brennan Grogan (5-for-15, 5 RBI, 2 R, 2 3B, SB), Matt Macri (3-for-11, 3B, 2B, BB), Matt Edwards (1-for-13, 2B, 2 BB) and Greg Lopez (0-for-2) … Chris Niesel’s two career outings vs. VU (1.86, 0-0, 9.2 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 15 Ks) include one start and one save in ’02 when he was returning from a bout with mononucleosis … Grant Johnson started vs. VU in ’02 (5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 3 Ks) … no other active ND pitcher has logged more than one inning vs. the Wildcats.

WILDCATS RESULTS – Villanova is 17-5-1 after a rare extra-inning, scoreless game vs. LaSalle (11 inn.) … VU also has played games at Norfolk State (6-3, 1-0, 19-9) and Georgia Tech (1-5, 1-19, 1-4) before spending spring break in Homestead, Fla., with games vs. St. Francis (5-0), Detroit (9-3, 7-3) and Mainie (4-3), plus a 9-3 win at FIU … VU’s others games have come at home vs. Army (4-3), Cornell (4-2, 2-3, 7-6/11), St. Peter’s (10-4, 6-8) and Temple (11-9), plus a 14-3 win at St. Joseph’s.

IRISH TEAM NOTES – Notre Dame heads into April looking to maintain the program’s success during the month (the ’01-’03 Irish teams combined to go 58-8 in April) … a win in today’s first game would land ND on 20 wins in its 23rd game, with only the 1908 team (20-1) reaching 20 wins faster in the program’s 112-year history (the ’01 team went 20-4-1 en route to the #1 ranking) … ND has posted 11 error-free games, 4 with 1 E … ND’s 24 HRs are just seven shy of the team’s entire total in ’03 … the Irish have hit 14 HRs in the last 9 games and have hit 3 HRs four times in ’04 … the ND pitchers own a 1.97 staff ERA in the last 8 games (with .221 opp. batting) … ND’s quick start is all the more noteworthy due to the absence of two top pitchers (John Axford and Jeff Manship) who are out with season-ending injuries while Grant Johnson has logged minimal innings as he returns from ’03 shoulder surgery … ND is off to a 3-0 BIG EAST start for just the third time in nine BIG EAST seasons … the Irish now have posted 3-0 sweeps of nine different BIG EAST teams but notched the tough 3-0 road sweep just six times in BIG EAST play … ND is 46-7 in its last 53 games at Eck Stadium (since a 7-5 loss to Pittsburgh on April 11, 2002) … the Irish have scored in 106 straight games and have been shut out just once in the last 336 … ND has scored in 99.3% of the games during the 10-year Mainieri era (578 of 582) … Mainieri’s 22-year career record is 749-442-2 (418-163-1/.719 at ND) … the Irish own a 140-48 (.745) record in 8-plus seasons of BIG EAST play, with Mainieri owning the best BIG EAST winning pct. in the league’s history … ND’s 74 all-time BIG EAST series include 56 series wins, 9 even series and just 9 series wins by the opponent … since starting 0-4 in ’02 BIG EAST play, ND is 37-11 in its last 48 BIG EAST games … the Irish have lost just 3 of 38 all-time BIG EAST home series (31 series wins, 4 even) while the last 24 BE series at Eck have seen ND win 21 and split 2.

IRISH PLAYER NOTES – Chris Niesel (16-2, .889) and Tom Thornton (2.04) have combined respectively for the second-best career win pct. and best career ERA in ND baseball history … ND’s infield shifts – Greg Lopez to SS, Matt Macri SS to 3B, Matt Edwards 3B to 1B and Joe Thaman 1B to LHP – have paid bid dividends, with the four starting IF (also 2B Steve Sollmann) combining for just 12 errors … the leftside IFs have combined for 33 error-free games this season (17 for Lopez, 16 for Macri) … Lopez is batting .469 (15-for-32) in his career-best 9-game hitting streak, including six straight games with a double (ended vs. WMU) … since flipping spots with Danny Dressman (now the leadoff hitter), Sollmann is batting .444 as the 2-hole hitter during his last 5 games (8-for-18) … Matt Bransfield had 4 HRs in his 7-game hit streak that ended vs. Hillsdale (.393, 11-for-28) … Sollmann has not made an error in his last 25 games with the Irish (just 16 total Es in last 3 seasons) while ranking 5th on the ND career hits list (238, one behind Alec Porzel) and 6th in runs (194, one behind Mike Amrhein) … Cody Rizzo’s 36 times hit-by-pitch are two shy of the ND career record … Thornton’s 6-hit gem at WVU is just ND’s third 9-inning solo shutout in a BIG EAST game during the last six seasons (Danny Tamayo had two in ’01) … Thornton has posted a 0.78 ERA while winning his last three starts (12 H, 6 BB, 16 Ks in 23 IP).

FAR & WIDE – The 10 players listed below as potential starters include three California natives, two from Ohio, plus one each from Florida, Virginia, Iowa, New York and Colorado.

NOTRE DAME PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP (* indicates lefthander hitter, ** switch hitter) (see PDF for bullet notes, updated career stats and more on each starter)

NOTRE DAME’S 2004 STARTERS – By Position (see PDF)