The Notre Dame baseball team (32-5-1, 12-2 BIG EAST), ranked as high as 2nd in the national polls, resumes its 12-game homestand at Eck Stadium this weekend (April 21-22) with a three-game BIG EAST Conference series versus Villanova (Saturday doubleheader, single game on Sunday’starting at noon each day) … the Irish own the nation’s longest winning streak (11 games) and have won 16 of their last 17 since losing a pair of late-inning leads at Virginia Tech on March 25 …
Saturday’s doubleheader will feature ND’s dynamic duo of senior RHPs Aaron Heilman (9-0, 1.32 ERA, 60 Ks) and Danny Tamayo (5-1, 1.65, 63 Ks) while sophomore righthander J.P. Gagne (3-2, 3.89, 28 Ks) will look to add another strong outing in the series finale …
Villanova (16-18-1, 7-10) also is expected to send three RHPs to the mound, with sophomore Tom Kandybowicz (3-2, 6.04, 26 Ks) set to counter Heilman in the 7-inning game, junior Bob Grzenda (1-5, 5.91, 33 Ks) slated to throw Game 2 and sophomore John Yeager (4-2, 3.31, 18 Ks) on deck for the series finale.
South Bend-based WJVA radio (1580 AM) is scheduled to carry live broadcasts of Notre Dame’s entire 56-game schedule in 2001 (plus all postseason action) … a real-audio link to internet broadcasts of the games may be accessed at www.und.com while real-time stats’including updated play-by-play’likewise can be accessed at und.com.
AROUND THE BIG EAST
Notre Dame (12-2) now owns a four-game lead in the loss column of the BIG EAST standings, after 2nd-place St. John’s (12-6) dropped a 6-4 game to 5th-place Seton Hall (11-6-1) on Friday night … other teams in the hunt for one of the four BIG EAST Tournament spots include defending champ Rutgers and Connecticut (both 11-6) and newcomer Virginia Tech (10-7-1) …
SJU concludes its series at SHU this weekend while VT continues play at 7th-place West Virginia (the Hokies won Friday night’s game, 14-4) … UConn is playing a series at last-place Georgetown while Rutgers is home for a series with 8th-place Boston College.
WIN STREAK HITS 11
ND has pushed its winning streak to 11 games’the program’s longest win streak since an 11-game run early in the 1999 season’while becoming the quickest Irish team ever to reach the 30-win plateau (the 1990, ’94, ’99 and 2000 teams all started 30-9). … the Irish also have tied the team record for consecutive BIG EAST wins in a season (10), matching the run by the 1998 team the longest winning streak of the Paul Mainieri era (since 1995) is a 13-game run from April 8-23 with wins over Chicago State, Villanova (3), Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Manchester (2), Purdue, Pittsburgh (3), Michigan, Valparaiso (2) and Toldedo ND’s longest streaks of the 1990s were an 18-game run from April 7-April 28 in 1991 and a 14-game streak from April 7-21 in 1993 … if ND sweeps Villanova, the Irish will have matched the program’s longest winning streak since that 18-game run in 1991.
IN THE POLLS
Notre Dame baseball team continues to accumulate the highest national rankings in the history of the program, as the Irish have moved up two spots to No. 2 in the Collegiate Baseball magazine poll while also rising from 7th to 5th in the Baseball America poll and maintaining a No. 6 ranking in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll … each of the three rankings is the highest ever for the ND program in the respective polls … the baseball squad becomes the fifth different Notre Dame team to be ranked first or second during 2000-01, with the women’s soccer, men’s fencing and women’s basketball teams each previously holding the No. 1 ranking while men’s lacrosse rose to No. 2 in late March …
ND also now sits atop the national charts for team earned-run average (2.63) and winning percentage (.855) … Stanford (31-9, after two losses this week) was the consensus No. 1 and had 476 poll points in the CB poll, followed by ND (469) and LSU (467) … LSU (27-13-1, after two losses this week) and fourth-ranked Florida State (34-10, with a loss this week) both dropped two spots in the CB poll … the top four in the BA poll include Stanford, LSU, Nebraska (32-8) and Rice (34-12, after two losses this week), with the Irish moving past FSU and Georgia Tech for the No. 5 ranking in that poll …
Stanford received 40 of 41 first-place votes in the coaches poll and owns 1,024 total voting points, followed by Rice (926), FSU (879, one first-place vote), LSU (860), Nebraska (840) and ND (807) … the Cornhuskers jumped from the No. 9 spot in last week’s coaches poll but the Irish moved past Georgia Tech to retain the 6th spot in the coaches poll.
ND owns a 10-3 all-time record versus Villanova, with the teams first meeting in 1996 (ND’s first BIG EAST season) … the Irish have won six of the last seven games in the series, since dropping a pair to VU in the 1997 BIG EAST Tournament … the 1999 (4-0, 10-8) and 2000 (4-0, 7-3, 5-11) games between the teams were played at Richie Ashburn Field in downtown Philadelphia … junior CF Steve Stanley is the only veteran ND player whose career batting avg. vs. VU is above .310, as he has collected seven in hits in 20 previous ABs vs. the Wildcats (.350, RBI, 4 R, 5-5 SB) … senior RHP Aaron Heilman posted 4-0 shutouts vs. VU in each of the past two seasons (the game last year was the 3,000th in the history of ND baseball) …
Heilman’s four career outings vs. VU have yielded a 2-0 record and a save, with 18 Ks, just 2 walks and 10 hits allowed in 17.2 IP.
Villanova ended ND’s 1997 season with a pair of wins in the BIG EAST Tournament (10-5, 5-4 in 11 inn.) but the Wildcats have yet to return to the postseason since ’97 … the second loss to VU included an unusual happening the 11th inning, when Irish RF Jeff Perconte was moved from right field and inserted as a fifth infielder … the ploy by head coach Paul Mainieri worked to force the second out, as Augie Grove grounded out to SS Brant Ust, with the runner holding at third (Brian Fili then won the game with a dipping 0-2 single to left).
THE 2000 SERIES
ND swept the doubleheader at Richie Ashburn Field (4-0, 7-3 in 10) but VU won the series finale (11-5) … the first game was the 3,000th in the history of ND baseball and Aaron Heilman delivered a 1-hit shutout (5 Ks, 2 BB) while Brian Stavisky hit a 2-run HR … Jeff Felker delivered the winning RBI in the extra-inning nightcap while Scott Cavey tossed 7 solid innings (3 R, 4 H, 5 BB, 5 Ks) …
Matt Laird struggled the next day in his first start while four unearned runs hurt the Irish chances (Stavisky tripled and scored while Alec Porzel had two RBI and scored another ND run).
SO MANY STRONG STARTS
Senior RHPs Aaron Heilman and Danny Tamayo will be looking to extend the impressive performances by ND starting pitchers in 2001, as the Irish starters have combined for a 1.97 ERA through the first 38 games … the bulk of those starts (18) have come from the lethal combination of Heilman (1.32, 6th in the nation) and Tamayo (1.65, 12th) while sophomore RHP Peter Ogilvie (0.72) has turned in four strong midweek starts junior RHP Matt Buchmeier (3.81) has logged five decent starts while J.P. Gagne (3.89, 2.70 as starter) has turned in solid efforts in each of his six starts and his fellow sophomore RHP Ryan Kalita (1.13) has won both his midweek starts … senior LHP Mike Naumann has gotten into the act with two solid starts of his own (2-0, 0.60, 2-0) … the other combined stats for ND starting pitchers in 2001 include a 25-2 record in 247 IP (54 earned runs), with 197 Ks, 53 walks and 170 hits allowed (for 9-inning averages of 7.2 Ks, 1.9 BBs and 6.2 hits) ND’s overall 2.63 team ERA includes a 4.45 ERA by the bullpen’led by sophomore RHP Matt Laird (0.96, 3-0, 4 SV).
ND is 9-0 this season vs. teams it lost to in 2000, with wins over Mississippi St.(2-0), Pittsburgh (2-0), Rutgers (3-0) and West Virginia (2-0) … the Irish still have chances to avenge 2000 losses to Villanova, St. John’s, UConn and BC (3) but have been rained out twice vs. Western Michigan and once vs. Purdue (both teams beat ND in 2000, with a May 2 makeup scheduled vs. WMU).
PENCIL HIM IN, OR USE PEN
Junior Steve Stanley has started all 163 games of his ND career (all in center field) while logging all but 11 innings in CF during his three seasons … in fact, during the 1999-2001 seasons, the familiar #2 has patrolled center field for the Irish in 99.1 percent of the innings (1,320 of 1,331)’including all but two out of 513.2 during his freshman season (his classmate Paul O’Toole played the final two innings in a 20-10 loss at Northwestern on April 6, 1999) …
Stanley then played in CF for the final 267.2 innings of ’99 and the first 497 of his sophomore season’a span of 764.2 consecutive innings in center field’before being replaced by current senior Ben Cooke for the final five innings of the 8-1 NCAA Tournament loss at Mississippi State (the Irish fell into an early 7-0 hole and Stanley reluctantly left the game due to illness) … this season, he has patrolled center in all but six of 317.1 innings’with Mike Naumann inserted into CF for the final inning vs. Texas-Pan American (a 14-9 win) while John Heintz played the position for the final four innings vs. Hillsdale (a 9-2 win) and for the final two innings of the 15-3 win over Seton Hall …
Naumann’who had plenty of OF experience as a prep’turned in a play during that brief stint vs. UTPA that Stanley would be proud of, sprinting to the warning track and crashing into the wall while holding on to a flyout off the bat of Caleb Schmidt (who homered earlier in the game) … here’s a breakdown of Stanley’s innings played in center field:
511.2 of 513.2 (final 267.2)
539 of 544 (497 consec. to start)
310.1 of 317.1 Total: 1,319 of 1,331 (99.1 percent)
THE IRON MEN
By starting each of ND’s final 16 regular-season games, Steve Stanley would match former teammate Brant Ust (1997-99) for second place on the ND all-time list for consecutive starts (176) … Ust’s three-year career saw him split starts at 3B, 2B and SS in ’97 before playing primarily 3B in ’98 and SS in ’99 … the Irish record for consecutive starts is held by another former SS, as Pat Pesavento started 204 consecutive games during the 1986-89 seasons (starting with the final 31 games of ’86) … based on research recently conducted by the Arkansas-Little Rock sports information office, Pesavento’s streak would rank as one of the longest in Division I history, with three known to have gone longer than Pesavento’s 204: former Auburn 1B Jay Waggoner (210, ’92-’95) and current Cincinnati teammates Kevin Youkiis (3B) and Craig Tewes (1B), who each have started 210 straight (as of April 20) … other active streaks belong to a pair of shortstops: USC’s Seth Davidson (203) and UALR’s Miguel Miranda (200).
ND has won 15 of its last 16 BIG EAST series while winning 39 of 50 all-time since ’96 (with five series ties and six series losses).
HARD TO TAKE TWO FROM ND
The Irish have played 48 all-time BIG EAST doubleheaders, sweeping 27 of them (with 18 splits and just three opp. sweeps) … prior to Virginia Tech’s pair of wins on March 25 (3-2, 9-8), ND had played 34 consecutive BIG EAST doubleheaders without being swept (dating back to the first BIG EAST weekend of the 1997 season, at Seton Hall).
Notre Dame’s longest active hitting streaks belong to junior CF Steve Stanley (8 games) and senior SS Alec Porzel (6) … junior 3B Andrew Bushey (13) and freshman 1B Joe Thaman (12) own the team’s longest hit streaks for 2001.