April 10, 2003

NOTRE DAME BASEBALL GAMES NOTES – vs. Chicago State and Bowling Green (April 10, 2003)

The Notre Dame baseball team (21-6, 7-1 BIG EAST) – riding a 12-game winning streak and ranked as high as 16th in the national polls – is slated to play a split doubleheader at Eck Stadium on Thursday, April 10, vs. Chicago State (4:05 p.m.) and Bowling Green (approx. 6:30, both games seven innings) … sophomore RHP Martin Vergara and freshman LHP Tom Thornton are the likely starting pitchers for the Irish … ND has won 15 of its last 16 and is 19-2 since starting 2-4 vs. a challenging early schedule.

SERIES NOTES – Notre Dame holds a 21-2 series edge vs. Chicago State, winning the last four and 16 of the last 17 (the Cougars posted a 6-4 win at ND in 1999) … the Irish won last year’s meeting 16-7, behind the pitching of Martin Vergara (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, BB, 6 Ks) and Brian Stavisky’s 3-for-4, 3-RBI game … ND owns a 36-22-1 series lead vs. Bowling Green, with the Irish winning the last eight meetings (the last five wins have included two 1-run games and a 6-4, 11-inning win in ’98) … in last year’s ND-BG game, Kris Billmaier’s 6th-inning home run beat the rain as the Irish won a game that was halted after six innings (3-2) … Ryan Kalita picked up the complete-game win in the 2002 BG game (4 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 6 Ks).

BIG-INNING BOPPERS – Notre Dame opened the season by posting three “big innings” (5-plus runs) in the first four games but then went 16 games without 5-plus runs in any inning … that drought ended with a vengeance in the last seven games, as the Irish have erupted for eight big innings (in all but one of those games, the finale of the Georgetown series) … the big innings have included a pair of 9-run eruptions vs. Georgetown and Detroit and 6-run innings vs. Newman and St. John’s … the 2nd inning has produced three “big innings” (all in the last five games), with two each in the 3rd and 6th and one each in the 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th – with the Irish failing to post 5-plus runs in only the 1st and 9th innings this season (ND has totaled just 11 first-inning runs all season) … here’s a look at ND’s big innings in 2003:

Dayton – 5 runs in the 7th

Newman – 6 runs in the 3rd

Arizona State (gm 2) – 9 runs in the 6th

Georgetown (gm 2) – 9 runs in the 6th

Detroit – 9 runs in the 2nd

Valparaiso – 5 runs in the 2nd

Valparaiso – 5 runs in the 5th

St. John’s (gm 1) – 6 runs in the 3rd

St. John’s (gm 2) – 5 runs in the 2nd

St. John’s (gm 2) – 5 runs in the 4th

Western Michigan – 5 runs in the 8th

WIN STREAK HITS 12 – Notre Dame’s 12-game winning streak ranks as the fourth-longest of the 9-year Paul Mainieri era (16 in ’01 and ’02, 13 in ’98) … by sweeping today’s doubleheader, the Irish would equal the 7th-longest single-season winning streak in the program’s history (14) – behind the above two streaks, plus an 18-game run in 1991, a 17-game streak in 1907, a 16-game streaks in ’88 and a 15-gamer in 1910.

EDWARDS SURGES TO TEAM BATTING LEAD – Sophomore 3B/1B Matt Edwards continues to be one of the top comeback stories in college baseball, recovering from the broken leg that sidelined him for most of 2002 to emerge as a key member of the 2003 offense … Edwards is riding a nine-game hitting streak and has surged atop the team batting charts (.390, just ahead of Steve Sollmann’s .386), with team-best totals of 32 RBI and four home runs in 26 games played … Edwards also leads the team in slugging pct. (.620), on-base pct. (.452) and doubles (9), plus 10 walks (two shy of Sollman’s team-leading total) … he is batting .546 (18-for-33) during his nine-game hitting streak, with 19 RBI and a 1.030 slugging pct. in those games (33 total bases; 3 HR, 3B, 4 2B).

STRONG FIRST HALF – The current 21-6 record represents one of the program’s best records at this point in the season … the program’s all-time history includes just two 27-game starts better than the current 21-6 record: 22-4-1 in 2001 and 22-5 in ’59 … ND’s best all-time records after 28 games (currently the midpoint of the 56-game schedule) are 23-4-1 in 2001 and 22-6 in ’59, ’89 and 2000 … the quickest seasons to 30 wins have been in the landmark 2001 season (30-5-1) and 1989 (30-8).

APRIL SHOWERS OF WINS – Notre Dame has dominated in April during the nine-year Paul Maineiri era (164-36, .820), including 44-4 (.917) in April during the past three seasons (20-2 in ’01, 19-2 in ’02, 5-0 in ’03) … ND’s only April losses in that stretch: vs. Ball State (3-4) and Valparaiso (3-7) in ’01, St. John’s (3-4) and Pittsburgh (5-7) in ’02.

WINNING STREAK STATS – The 12-game win streak ranks as the 4th-longest of the 9-year Paul Mainieri (16 in ’02, 15 in ’01, 13 in ’98) … the Irish are batting .341 in the winning streak while averaging 13.0 hits and 11.4 runs per nine innings during the streak (factoring solely by games shortchanges the Irish offense in seven-inning games and home wins in which ND does not bat in the 8th) … the team’s win-streak stats also include a .509 slugging pct. (7 HRs, 12 3B, 22 2Bs) and more walks by batters (52) than Ks (45) … top hitters in the win streak include Matt Edwards (.442, 19-for-43, 19 RBI, 10 R, 3 HR, 3B, 5 HR, .814 slugging, 7 BB) and the freshman duo of Craig Cooper (.387, 12-for-31, 10 R, 3B, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 2 HBP, 2 SB) and Brenann Grogan (.368, 14-for-38, 15 R, 4 3B, 7 RBI, 5 BB, HBP, 3 SB) … the staff ERA in the win streak is 2.03, with a .220 opponent batting average, 3.4 K-to-walk ratio (112/33) and 85 hits allowed in 102 IP … the streak has included seven double-digit hit games by the Irish (6 of last 8) and double-digit runs in six games prior to yesterday’s 7-1 win over WMU (13-12-15-13-11-18) … the staff has allowed one earned run in five games during the streak, with 2 ER in 5 games, 3 in one and 5 in one … the ND pitchers have held the opponent to seven or fewer hits in nine games during the streak.

BIG EAST STAT LEADERS (entering the week)

* Sophomore 3B/1B Matt Edwards entered the week ranked eighth among BIG EAST players in batting average (.385) and second among the conference’s players in RBI (32) and slugging pct. (.615).

* Junior 2B Steve Sollmann also remains among the league leaders in several categories, entering the week ranked first in stolen bases (16) and runs scored (32), third in total bases (65) and hits (44), fifth in slugging (.591) and sixth in batting (.400)

* Freshman CF Brennan Grogan continues to lead the BIG EAST with five triples.

* ND’s current three-man rotation likewise rates among the BIG EAST’s bests … senior RHP Ryan Kalita and sophomore RHP John Axford entered the week tied for the league’s second-best ERA (2.31, with Virginia Tech’s Ryan Kennedy at 1.72) while sophomore RHP Chris Niesel is ninth on the league’s ERA charts at 3.11 … Kalita also ranked third in low opponent batting avg. (.208) and fourth in wins (4-0) while Axford is first in wins (5-0), ninth in strikeouts (350 and seventh in opponent batting (.222) … Niesel entered the week second in Ks (45, two back of BC’s Chris Lambert), eighth in opponent batting (.225) and third in innings pitched (46.1) … senior closer J.P. Gagne ranks fifth among BIG EAST pitchers in saves (4).

EXPECTING ECK’S-ELLENCE – Notre Dame’s 11-0 loss to Rutgers on May 5, 2002, ended ND’s team-record scoring streak at 231 games … the Irish have gone unbeaten (16-0) at Eck Stadium since that loss, outscoring the opponents 194-80 in those games (average score of 12-5) … ND also is 28-1 in its last 29 home games, dating back to the 7-5 loss to Pittsburgh on April 11, 2002 … now celebrating its 10th year of play at Eck Stadium, the Irish own an all-time record of 227-49 in the facility (.822).

HAWAII 0.0 – Senior RHP Brandon Viloria (Wailuku, Hawaii) has logged eight solid relief outings in 2003, allowing just an unearned run, seven hits (.184 opp. batting) and no walks, wild pitches or hit batters in 10.2 innings of work … Viloria also has allowed just 1-of-10 leadoff batters to reach base and teams are hitting just 1-for-12 (.083) vs. him with runners on base.

QUICK NOTES ON THE ND HITTERS (in probable batting order)

Steve Sollmann (Jr., 2B; Cincinnati, OH)

* Saw nine-game hitting streak end vs. WMU, with multiple hits in five of last seven games

* Joins classmate Javi Sanchez (11 BB/8 Ks) as only ND batters with more walks (12) than Ks (9) in 2003

* Has collected hits in 21 of 27 games, with 16 multi-hit games (five 3-hit games, plus 4-for-4 in gm 2 vs. Georgetown)

* Twice BIG EAST player of the week (8-for-17 in week one, then 11-for-23 in first six games of Spring Break trip)

* Hit 3-run inside-the-park HR in 3-2 win over Eastern Illinois

Brennan Grogan (Fr., CF; Tequesta, FL)

* Has hits in 14 of the last 17 games (10 of them 1-hit games)

* Made switch to CF and 2-hole on Spring Break trip

* Hit go-ahead triple in 13th inning of 3-1 win over Vanderbilt

Matt Edwards (So., 3B/1B; Mechanicsville, VA)

* Hit 17-for-29 (.586) in the last eight games, with nearly three RBI per game in that stretch (19)

* Already has totaled 11 multi-RBI games, including four 3-RBI games and 4 RBI in second game vs. Georgetown.

* Riding 9-game hitting streak

* Missed most of 2002 season due to broken leg

Kris Billmaier (Sr., RF; Woodinville, WA)

* Looking to snap out of 6-for-28, 3-RBI slump in last seven games … has just two multi-hit games in last 12, with only one multi-RBI game in the last 13

Javi Sanchez (Jr., C; Miami, FL)

* Has gone hitless in consecutive games just once all season (vs. Detroit and Valparaiso)

* Joins classmate Steve Sollmann (12 BB/9 Ks) as only ND batters with more walks (11) than Ks (8) in 2003

* Prep 2B who started at SS in 2002 after injuries to Matt Macri and Matt Edwards

Matt Macri (So., SS; Clive, IA)

* Went hitless in St. John’s doubleheader, after collecting hits in seven previous eight games (four multi-hit games)

* Missed most of 2002 season due to “Tommy John” reconstructive elbow surgery

* Nation’s No. 2-rated college SS prospect for 2003 draft (per Baseball America)

Cody Rizzo (Fr., DH/LF; Temecula, CA)

* Looking to end 4-for-17 slump in last six games, still scoring 9 runs with 6 RBI in those games.

or Craig Cooper (Fr., LF/DH; Plainview, NY)

* Hit 6-for-10 (6 R, 2 RBI) in three games before WMU (dnp in SJU opener)

* Leads team with .400 batting average in BIG EAST games

or Steve Andres (Fr., DH; Napa, CA)

* Hit 5-for-8 (6 RBI, 5 R, HR) in last four games played (dnp vs. WMU), after collecting just two hits and two RBI in his previous 22 at-bats (dating back to the second game at Arizona State).

Greg Lopez (Fr., 3B; Upper Arlington, OH)

* Hit 6-for-12 (4 RBI, 3 R) in three games prior to St. John’s series (had no ABs vs. SJU, after hit-by-pitch)

or Joe Thaman (Jr., 1B; St. Louis, MO)

* Hit 2-for-4 with pair of 2-run singles in second game at St. John’s, ending 1-for-22 slump