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Irish Shortstop Greg Lopez Named BIG EAST Player Of The Week

April 19, 2004

Notre Dame sophomore Greg Lopez (Upper Arlington, Ohio) – in the midst of possibly the best all-around season by a Notre Dame shortstop in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era – has been named the BIG EAST Conference baseball player of the week, after batting .526 (10-for-19) in six games during the week of April 12-18.

Lopez’s week included 6 RBI, 4 runs and a .579 slugging pct. while helping the Irish go 5-1 (3-1 in BIG EAST action) to become the quickest ND team to 30 wins in the program’s 112-year history (30-5). He also reached on a walk and hit-by-pitch, executed a sacrifice bunt, stroked his team-leading 10th double of the season and posted four error-free games during the week (pushing his season total to 26 games without an E).

A total of 18 Notre Dame players – including freshman catcher Sean Gaston and junior third baseman Matt Macri earlier this season – now have combined to earn 30 BIG EAST player-of-the-week awards, since ND joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96 (ND’s total is more than double that of any other school in the last nine seasons, with Rutgers earning 14).

Notre Dame is the only school to produce three different BIG EAST players of the week this season and leads the conference with five total BIG EAST weekly awards in 2004 (also two-time pitcher of the week Tom Thornton).

With five weeks left in the regular season, Lopez has joined Macri as two of the top players in the BIG EAST (and certainly one of the league’s elite shortstop/third base combos). Lopez currently owns the best season batting average among BIG EAST shortstops (team-best .373, good for 7th among all BIG EAST players) while ranking 6th on the BIG EAST overall stat charts in doubles (10) and 9th in RBI (28, already besting his ’03 total), runs (30) and hits (44, including a pair of home runs). The 6-0, 185-pound righthanded hitter also owns the top shortstop batting avg. in BIG EAST action (.370), ranking 6th among all BIG EAST players for both avg. and hits (17) in conference play.

Virginia Tech’s Sean O’Brien is the BIG EAST’s only other player ranked among the top seven in both overall (3rd) and conference batting avg. (2nd) while just five BIG EAST players are ranked in more overall categories than Lopez (6): Macri (9), the Rutgers tandem of Jeff Frazier (10) and Graig Badger (8) and Pittsburgh teammates Ben Copeland (8) and PJ Hiser (7).

Lopez – who hit just .250 with 26 RBI and only one extra-base hit (2B) in 132 at-bats as a freshman – continues to deliver from the 8th/9th spots in the lineup while helping the Irish overcome the absence of injured senior second baseman and 2003 All-American Steve Sollmann. The slick-fielding Lopez helped the Irish turn seven double plays last week (including three in each game of the doubleheader at Georgetown) and opened the week by batting 5-for-6 in the near-sweep of BIG EAST contender St. John’s (the rest of the ND team totaled just 11 hits in those two games vs. SJU). He then played sparingly in the midweek win over Oakland before batting 5-for-12 in the three-game sweep at Georgetown (completing a week in which ND outscored its six opponents 63-25).

The Academic All-America candidate (3.36 GPA, as an anthropology and pre-professional studies double major) currently leads the ’04 Irish in five categories (.373 batting, 10 doubles, 5 sac. bunts, 34 games played and 32 starts) while ranking second in hits (44) and runs scored (30). His .438 on-base pct, and 7 HBPs both rank 3rd on the team, with his 29 RBI and 60 total bases ranking 4th.

His .393 batting with runners in scoring position would be good enough to lead most teams but instead ranks 2nd on the ’04 ND squad (behind the king of clutch Javi Sanchez’s .442) while Lopez’s other situational stats include 11 two-out RBI (3rd on team), a .417 leadoff on-base pct. and .333 two-out batting avg. (both 5th-best on the squad).

LOPEZ ON PACE FOR BEST ALL-AROUND SEASON BY A NOTRE DAME SHORTSTOP IN MAINIERI ERA – Greg Lopez currently leads Notre Dame in defense while playing stellar defensively, with just 10 errors in 34 games played and 26 error-free efforts (he has just one ’04 game with multiple errors) … Alec Porzel (.957, in ’01) is the only shortstop among ND’s previous nine with a better fielding pct. than Lopez’s current .940 but Porzel hit just .295 in that 2001 season (inverting his 2000 numbers, when he hit .342 with just .919 fielding at SS) … on the offensive side of the comparisons, Brant Ust (.372) is the only Mainieri-era shortstop to post a season batting avg. within 10 points of Lopez’s current .373 (Ust also split time at 2B and 3B in the ’97 season) … ND’s nine previous SS in the Mainieri era have combined to bat just .308 (65 points lower than Lopez’s current avg.) … the previous Irish shortstops averaged 44 RBI, with Lopez’s current total (28) projecting out to 51 in a 64-game season … he also is on pace for 18 errors, below the previous SS avg. of 22 … (Porzel, with 12 Es in ’01) is the only Mainieri-era SS to finish with fewer Es than Lopez’s projected 18 … Lopez’s current .940 fielding pct. is a full 20 points better than his nine predecessors avg. (.920) … it’s also worth noting that the first four players on the below list (J.J. Brock twice, Paul Turco and Ust in one season) played before the NCAA’s changes in the bat restrictions (starting in ’99) … Lopez is the fourth sophomore (third straight, after Javi Sanchez and Matt Macri), to start at short in the Mainieri era, with the others including two freshmen, two juniors, one senior and one graduate student … here’s a look at the last 10 Notre Dame shortstops and their statistical production:

1995 – J.J. Brock (So.), .238, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 4 SB, 28 Es (.899 fielding pct.)

1996 – Paul Turco (Fr.), .247, 0 HR, 18 RBI, 4 SB, 28 Es (.895 fielding pct.)

1997 – Brant Ust (Fr., also played 2B/3B), .372, 11 HR, 54 RBI, 4 SB, 18 Es (.931 fielding pct.)

1998 – J.J. Brock (Gr.), .341, 13 HR, 54 RBI, 4 SB, 21 Es (.927 fielding pct.)

1999 – Brant Ust (Jr.), .359, 10 HR, 58 RBI, 10 SB, 19 Es (.921 fielding pct.)

2000 – Alec Porzel (Jr.), .342, 9 HR, 58 RBI, 10 SB, 25 Es (.919 fielding pct.)

2001 – Alec Porzel (Sr.), .295, 8 HR, 59 RBI, 6 SB, 12 Es (.957 fielding pct.)

2002 – Javi Sanchez (So.), .281, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 1 SB, 28 Es (.902 fielding pct.)

2003 – Matt Macri (So.), .294, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 6 SB, 19 Es (.933 fielding pct.)

2004 – Greg Lopez (So.), .373, 2 HR, 28 RBI, 3 SB, 10 Es (.940 fielding pct.) … Lopez’s projected numbers (over 64-game season): 4 HR, 51 RBI, 6 SB, 18 Es ND’s combined average SS stats from 1995-2003: .308 batting, 44 RBI, 7 HR, 5 SB, 22 Es, .920 fielding pct.

GREAT GLOVE MEN – Notre Dame’s previous 19 seasons include 12 in which an ND shortstop earned all-conference honors (’85-’94 MCC, ’95-’03 BIG EAST), led by eight 1st-teamers: Tommy Shields (’86), Pat Pesavento (’88, ’89), Craig Counsell (’92), Paul Failla (’93), Brant Ust (selected as 2B, ’97), J.J Brock (’98), Ust (’99) and Alec Porzel (’01) … the program’s 2nd team all-conference SS have included Shields (’85), Mike Coss (’90), Counsell (’91) and Porzel (’00, behind player of the year Darren Fenster of Rutgers) … Lopez is on track to become ND’s 13th all-conference SS and first since ’01.

ND’s BIG EAST PLAYER-OF-WEEK HISTORY – Notre Dame’s previous BIG EAST player-of-the-week recipients include three three-time honorees – RF Brian Stavisky (4/24/00, 2/19/01, 4/2/01), SS Alec Porzel (5/0/00, 4/15/01, 5/7/01) and 2B Steve Sollmann (2/24, 3/17 and 5/19 in ’03) – plus five other two-time recipients in 1997 catcher Jeff Wagner (4/7, 5/5), IF Brant Ust (4/3/98, 3/29/99), ’99 junior 1B Jeff Felker (4/15, 5/12), catcher Paul O’Toole (5/13/00, 4/1/02) and ’01 junior CF Steve Stanley (2/26, 4/23) and current junior 3B Matt Macri (4/21/03; 4/5/04) … the other eight ND position players who have received weekly BIG EAST honors include catcher Mike Amrhein (3/17/97), OF Allen Greene (4/28/97), SS J.J. Brock (3/16/98), catcher Mike Knecht (5/4/98), 3B/C Andrew Bushey (2/25/02) and three other current players: 1B Joe Thaman (5/13/02), 3B/1B Matt Edwards (4/7/03) and C Sean Gaston (3/1/04).