May 21, 2003
2003 BIG EAST Tournament Notes
May 22-24 … Commerce Bank Ballpark … Bridgewater, N.J.
The Notre Dame baseball team (40-15, 16-7 BIG EAST) – ranked 25th in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll – is set to make its eighth straight BIG EAST Tournament appearance as the Irish return to Bridgewater, N.J., looking to become the first repeat champion since St. John’s won the conference tournament in 1985 and ’86 (the first two seasons of BIG EAST baseball) … Notre Dame will open postseason play by renewing its BIG EAST Tournament rivalry with West Virginia (35-17, 18-6), which finished second in the regular-season standings … the games again will take place at minor-league Commerce Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, N.J., with the first game on Thursday, May 22, featuring Rutgers (33-18, 19-6) vs. fourth-place Virginia Tech (34-21, 15-10) at 4:00 p.m., followed by the ND-WVU game at approximately 7:00 p.m. … here’s a look at the double-elimination schedule:
2003 BIG EAST Baseball Championship
– – Commerce Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater, N.J. – –
THURSDAY, MAY 22
Game One No. 1 Rutgers vs. No. 4 Virginia Tech 3:30 p.m.
Game Two No. 2 West Virginia vs. No. 3 Notre Dame 7 p.m.
FRIDAY, MAY 23
Game Three Loser Game One vs. Loser Game Two Noon
Game Four Winner Game One vs. Winner Game Two (CSTV) 3:30 p.m.
Game Five Winner Game Three vs. Loser Game Four (CSTV) 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, MAY 24
Game Six Winner Game Four vs Winner Game Five 3:30 p.m.
Game Seven Same Teams as Game Six, if necessary 7 p.m.
RADIO AND LIVE-STAT COVERAGE – All of Notre Dame’s 2003 regular-season and postseason games again will be broadcast by South Bend-based WDND 1620 AM (and its sister station, WNDV 1490) … the broadcasts are available via the internet at www.und.com (College Sports Pass subscription required) … und.com also provides GameTracker livestats on the website’s main page, for all home games and select road games (including the BIG EAST Tournament) while www.bigeast.org also will be providing livestats.
CSTV TO TELEVISE PAIR OF GAMES – College Sports Television, the first 24-hour college sports network, will present a live BIG EAST Baseball Championship Tournament doubleheader on Friday, May 23, from Commerce Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, N.J. … CSTV will telecast its first game at 3:30 p.m. EDT and its second at approximately 7:00 p.m. … Jack Edwards will provide the play-by-play while former Seton Hall star and 18-year major league catcher Rick Cerone will be the analyst … the game also likely will be re-aired on CSTV … for more on CSTV (available to DirectTV SportsPack subscribers, at channel 610) see www.cstv.com … CSTV earlier aired a rebroadcast of Notre Dame’s April 12 game vs. Creighton at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium.
QUICK NOTES ON THE IRISH – ND entered the week as one of five teams ranked in the national top-20 for staff ERA (19th, 3.47) and fielding pct. (18th, .971) … ND joins Texas and Rice as the only teams in the top-20 for ERA each of the past four seasons (ND was 16th in ’00, 5th in 01 and 13th in 2002) … senior closer J.P. Gagne has set the ND record for saves in a season (12) and has not allowed an earned run in his last nine outings (18.2 IP, dropping his ERA to 2.10) … freshman RHP Ryan Doherty has not allowed on earned run since a rough outing in the season opener, spanning 11 appearances and 20.2 innings (his ERA was 68.18 after the opener and now is 2.11) … Steve Sollmann’s 31 stolen bases have bested his brother Scott’s freshman-year total (26, in ’94) for 7th on the ND single-season SB list (Scott holds the ND record, with 51 in 1996) … Gagne’s 90 career appearances are just two shy of Chris Michalak’s ND record … the Irish are 9-1 in one-run games this season … ND has been shut out just once in the last 305 games (by RU in 2001, 11-0 at ND) … Gagne’s 2.11 ERA would rank 26th in the nation but he is just shy of the NCAA minimum (one IP per team game, with 51.1) … the Irish posted a 23-5 record at Eck Stadium during the 2003 regular season and now are 43-6 in their last 49 home games … the seven-player senior class has helped ND post a 185-64-1 record during the past four seasons (2000-03), just three wins shy of matching the class of 2002 (188-67-1) as the winningest in ND history … the ND defense is on pace to set the team record for season fielding pct. (.971) and has posted 20 error-free games.
40-SOMETHING – ND owns 14 straight seasons with 40-plus wins, including 49 in 2001, 48 in ’89 and ’92, 46 in ’90, ’93, ’94 and ’00, 45 wins in ’91 and 44 in ’95 … ND’s active streak of seasons with 40-plus wins ranks 3rd in Division I, behind Florida State (26; currently 47-8-1) and Wichita State (26; 42-24, including 10 extra games for Hawaii-trip exemption) … Clemson (38-18) is on the verge of its 18th consecutive 40-win season.
BACK TO BRIDGEWATER – Notre Dame headed into the 2002 BET with plenty of pitchers who never had pitched in the event but now that youth lies in the position players, as the Irish could start as many as six players who never have done battle in a BIG EAST conference-tournament setting … even the four players who do have BET experience have met with mixed results, as junior C Javi Sanchez (the ’02 SS) is the only veteran with a career batting avg. above .290 in the BET (he did not play in the ’01 event) … ND’s four veteran position players have combined for just 70 career ABs in the BET, with a combined batting avg. of just .243.
CAREER BIG EAST TOURNAMENT STATS
Javi Sanchez – .357 (5-for-14), 4 R, 2 RBI, HR (vs. RU), 2 BB, 2 Ks, 1-1 SB, 4 Es (at SS)
Kris Billmaier – .286 (4-for-14), R, 5 RBI, HR (vs. VT), K, 2 SAC
Steve Sollmann – .250 (4-for-20), 2 R, RBI, 3 BB, 2 Ks, HBP, 2-2 SB
Joe Thaman – .182 (4-for-22), 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 2-2 SB, SAC
Combined BET batting of ND veterans: .243 (17-for-70)
Ryan Kalita – 0.00, 1-0, GP, 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 Ks
Brandon Viloria – 0.00, 2 GP, 2.2 IP, H
Chris Niesel – 1.80, 1-0, GS, 5.0 IP, 6 H, R, 5 Ks (vs. VT)
Peter Ogilvie – 4.50, 0-1, GS, 8.0 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 6 Ks, HB (vs. RU, ’02)
J.P. Gagne – 6.57, 0-1, 4 GP/2 GS, 12.1 IP, 20 H, 10 R/9 ER, 2 BB, 11 Ks
John Axford – 6.00, GS, 3.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 Ks
THE ND-WVU SERIES – Notre Dame has faced West Virginia more than any other BIG EAST opponent, with a 24-13 series edge (15-10 since both began BIG EAST play in ’96) … the Irish have won 11 of the last 15 in the series, including 4-1, 8-1 at The Eck in ’01 and a 2-4, 10-6 (10 inn.) split at WVU in ’02 before WVU won a series at ND this season on May 3-4 (0-1, 7-5, 5-1) … ND holds an 11-5 series edge at home (just 5-5 at Eck Stadium) … the teams were big rivals in the late 1990s, meeting in the BIG EAST Tournament every year from ’96-’99 (including three games in ’96, with WVU winning the 7-4 title game) … ND beat WVU in a ’97 BET elimination game and opened the ’98 BET with a 5-4 win over the Mountaineers – before a 7-2 win over WVU to open the ’99 BET (stretched over two days, due to rain) … four of the last 14 games in the series have gone to extra innings, with ND winning three (including the longest game in Eck Stadium history, a 5-3, 15-inning game in ’98 that ended on an Alec Porzel home run) … ND’s 2001 visit to Hawley Field featured 18 Ks from ND’s Aaron Heilman in the 3-1 opener (stretched to 10 inn.) … the first ND-WVU game came in 1902 (9-5 win at ND) … ND head coach Paul Mainieri was born in Morgantown and his father Demie was inducted into the WVU Physical Education Hall of Fame.
DOUBLEHEADER RECAP (1-0, 5-7) – Chris Niesel (BB, 9 Ks) was two outs away from registering the first no-hitter by a Notre Dame pitcher since 1988, when Lee Fritz converted a bunt single … Shawn Miller (7 IP, UER, 4 H, BB, 2 HB, 3 Ks) suffered the tough-luck loss, with the Irish scoring on a two-out fielding error in the bottom of the 6th … Jason DiAngelo (9 IP, 5 R/4 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 7 Ks) then logged a marathon 150-pitch outing to win the nightcap, tossing 150 pitches while allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits and four walks (with seven strikeouts … John Axford (3 IP, 3 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 2 Ks) saw his 13-decision winning streak come to an end … ND left six men on base and hit into three double plays in the second game … Matt Macri’s leadoff double past the third-base bag sparked the only run-scoring sequence of the opener, followed by a Brennan Grogan sac. bunt, a hit batter, a popup and the two-out error … four WVU batters collected multiple hits in the nightcap, with the big blow coming on Stan Posluszny’s two-run home run in the 6th, yielding a 5-2 lead … ND nearly rallied in the 9th, after a 2-out throwing error, an RBI single by pinch-hitter Joe Thaman and walks by Greg Lopez and Steve Sollmann – but DiAngelo got a called third strike to end the game with tying runs on base.
GAME THREE RECAP – Zac Cline (6 H, BB, HB, 8 Ks) tossed WVU’s third complete game of the weekend while the WVU offense used a pair of solo home runs and three unearned runs to provide enough cushion for the 5-1 win … WVU joined St. John’s as the only teams ever to win two BIG EAST series vs. ND … Ryan Kalita (5-1) logged a solid six innings (5 H, 4 Ks) but suffered the first loss of his ND career (12-1), after allowing an unearned run in the third and solo home runs by Grant Psomas and Jake Serfass in the 6th … ND was guilty of three errors (their most in 26 games), leading to the three unearned runs.
NOTES FROM THE 2003 ND-WVU SERIES – WVU entered the series ranked 6th in the nation with a .360 team batting average (also 28th in scoring, with 7.8 runs/gm) but the ND pitchers held WVU to .215 batting (20-for-92) and just 12 total runs in the series … the three home runs in the series (giving WVU 63 for the season) played key roles in both WVU wins, with Stan Posluszny’s 2-run shot providing the final margin in Saturday’s 7-5 game … the ND offense managed to hit just .200 in the series (17-for-85) with seven runs scored … the Irish had their chances to battle back in various situational hitting opportunities but ND hit 0-for-4 in the series with the bases loaded, 2-for-24 with two outs (.083) and 4-for-21 (.190) with runners in scoring position (the Irish also had a runner on third and less than two outs 10 times, plating the run on just four of those prime RBI chances) … the ND staff posted a 3.24 staff ERA in the series to go along with the .215 opponent batting average (plus 23 Ks and just 5 walks).
STRONG UP THE MIDDLE – The 2003 season has produced some of the BIG EAST’s top middle-infield talent in recent memory, led by the ND tandem of junior 2B Steve Sollmann and sophomore SS Matt Macri (they were the nation’s only pair of middle infielders from the same team to each receive preseason All-America honors) … here’s a look at some of the BIG EAST’s top 2B and SS for 2003:
Steve Sollmann (2B, ND, jr.) – .370, 60 R, 36 RBI, 4 HR, 5 3B, 16 2B, 22 BB, 31-39 SB
Matt Macri (SS, ND, soph.) – .310, 36 R, 27 RBI, 3 HR, 5 3B, 15 2B, 23 BB, 6-9 SB
Marc Tugwell (2B, VT, sr.) – .413, 64 R, 59 RBI, 8 HR, 17 2B, 14 BB, 16-21 SB
Mike Rozema (SS, SJU, jr.) – .408, 44 R, 33 RBI, 2 Hr, 4 3B, 12 2B, 16 BB, 13-19 SB
Matt Wolski (DH, former 2B, RU, sr.) – .395, 33 R, 30 RBI, Hr, 2 3B, 10 2B, 21 BB, 9-11 SB
Graig Badger (2B, RU, jr.) – .302, 56 R, 28 RBI, Hr, 3 3B, 8 2B, 44 BB, 37-43 SB
Bryan Spamer (Pitt, jr.) – .375, 50 R, 45 RBI, 4 Hr, 3 3B, 15 2B, 41 BB, 17-19 SB
Scott Folmar (2B, Pitt, sr.) – .337, 36 R, 17 RBI, 12 2B, 30 BB, 10-13 SB
Eric Grimm (2B, WVU, sr.) – .321, 43 R, 52 RBI, 9 HR, 2 3B, 12 2B, 28 BB, 2-5 SB
Josh DiScipio (2B, BC, jr.) – .317, 35 R, 20 RBI, 2 HR, 2 3B, 10 2B, 18 BB, 13-22 SB
Ryan Leahy (SS, BC, sr.) – .316, 33 R, 24 RBI, 2 HR, 12 2B, 17 BB, 17-24 SB
Brett Burnham (SS, UConn, sr.) – .317, 44 R, 47 RBI, 7 HR, 2 3B, 8 2B, 27 BB, 12-16 SB
POSTSEASON REMATCH? – Thursday’s ND-WVU game could feature a rematch of the classic pitching duel from the May 3 opener at ND’s Eck Stadium … Chris Niesel’s no-hit bid was broken up by a bunt single in the 7th while Shawn Miller took the hard-luck loss with an unearned run in the 6th:
SHUTTING ‘EM DOWN – Two leaders of the ND bullpen – who form an interesting contrast visually and age-wise, in 6-foot senior J.P. Gagne and 7-foot-1 freshman Ryan Doherty – both are riding noteworthy streaks without allowing an unearned run … Gagne’s last nine outings include no earned runs allowed in 18.2 innings, with 11 hits, 4 walks, 12 Ks and 5 unearned runs in that span (dating back to the April 17 Pittsburgh doubleheader) … Doherty’s streak is more impressive as it dates back to the season opener when first-game jitters and a tight strike zone led to a forgettable debut for the big RHP (0.2 IP, 4 H in 5 AB, 5 R, 2 BB) … since that game, Doherty has not allowed an earned run (3 UER) in 12 appearances and 20.2 innings, with a .178 opponent batting average (13-for-73) and nearly a 9-to-1 K-to-walk ratio in that stretch (35/4) … his ERA stood at 68.18 after the opener vs. Dayton but now has dropped all the way to 2.11.
GOING FOR 10 – Sophomore RHPs Chris Niesel (9-1) and John Axford (9-3) have the chance to become just the third set of ND teammates with 10-plus wins in the same season … Brian Piotrowicz (11-4) and Erik Madsen (10-4) led the 1989 staff that helped return the Irish to the NCAAs while three pitchers from the 1993 team – LHPs Tom Price (12-2) and Chris Michalak (11-5) and RHP David Sinnes (10-3) – both notched double-digit wins that season … only four schools in all of Division I – Rice, Florida State, North Carolina State and UC Riverside – entered the 2003 postseason with a pair of 10-game winners.
ON A ROLL – Chris Niesel also is one victory shy of posting a 10-decision winning streak, which would tie for the second-longest in ND history (spanning a single season) … Aaron Heilman holds that record thanks to his 15-0 season in 2001 … Heilman also won 10 straight decisions in 2000 (after starting 0-1) while Frank “Dreams” Scanlan was the first ever to post a 10-game single-season winning streak, doing so back in 1908 … no other ND pitchers are known to have won 10 straight decisions in a season.
DEFENSIVE DUO – Junior 2B Steve Sollmann (47) and sophomore SS Matt Macri (40) have combined for 87 error-free games this season, leading the way for the team-record .971 fielding pct. … Macri heads into the postseason with just one error in his last six games while Sollmann has no Es in his last seven (just two in the last 31 GP) … Sollmann (53 starts) and Macri (52) also have been a reliable and consistent duo up the middle in 2003 and are on the verge of becoming the first ND teammates ever to each total 170-plus assists in the same season (Macri has 161, Sollmann 160).
WINNING WITH CLASS – The current seven-member senior class has helped Notre Dame post 185 wins during the past four seasons … that victory total makes the class of 2003 one of the winningest in the program’s history, trailing only the classes of 2002 (188 wins) and 1992 (187).
BACK IN THE GARDEN STATE – Notre Dame’s list of 805 all-time baseball letterwinners includes 44 New Jersey natives, the fifth-highest state representation behind Illinois (142), New York (80), Indiana (73) and Ohio (62) … the current roster includes players from 19 states, with a pair of RHPs from New Jersey: sophomore Marin Vergara (Paterson/DePaul Catholic) and freshman Ryan Doherty (Toms River/TR East HS) … Vergara and Doherty capture New Jersey player-of-the-year honors in their respective senior seasons … other New Jersey natives to play for the Irish in the Paul Mainieri era include OF Rowan Richards (Bloomfield HS; at ND from ’93-’96) and RHP Larry Mohs (Nutley HS; at ND from ’94-’97).
FROSH FORCE – Freshman LHP Tom Thornton takes a 1.92 ERA into the postseason that would rank as one of the best ever posted by an ND freshman (min. 40 IP) … only David Sinnes (1.05; ’90, 2nd in nation), Aaron Heilman (1.61; ’98, led nation) and A.J. Jones (1.79; ’93) have posted better ERAs as a freshman at Notre Dame.
WHIP IT GOOD – Senior setup man Brandon Viloria leads the ND staff with an 8.1 “WHIP” ratio (walks and hits per nine innings) … sophomore Chris Niesel (9.5) and freshman Ryan Doherty (9.7) also are averaging under 10 runners allowed on base via walks or hits.
DOWN IN THE ZONE – Former ND All-American Aaron Heilman was the master at shutting down opponent with strikeouts and routine groundballs, averaging well over 20 outs per game via Ks or GOs …senior Ryan Kalita leads the current Irish staff in Ks/GOs per 9 IP (20.1)m followed by freshman Ryan Doherty (19.8), senior Matt Laird (19.2) and J.P. Gagne (18.9) and sophomore Chris Niesel (18.1).
NCAA STAT LEADERS – Notre Dame enters the postseason ranked 19th in team ERA (3.47) and 18th in fielding pct. (.971) … only six other teams – Long Beach State, Rice, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Arizona State – currently are ranked among the top 20 in ERA and fielding … ND also owns the nation’s 17th-best winning pct. (.727, 40-15) … junior 2B Steve Sollmann entered the postseason ranked 18th in the nation for stolen bases per game (0.58, 31 total) … sophomore RHPs Chris Niesel (9-1) and John Axford (9-3) are tied for 22nd on the nation’s victory charts … freshman LHP Tom Thornton (1.92, 51.2 IP) would rank 17th on the national ERA charts but he is just shy of the NCAA minimum (1 IP per team game) … senior RHP J.P. Gagne (2.10, 51.1) and freshman RHP Ryan Doherty (2.11, 21.1 IP) also have impressive season ERA (would rank 27th and 28th) while sophomore RHP Chris Niesel’s 2.69 leaves him just shy of the top 50 (2.52 cutoff).
PITCHING IN THE CLUTCH – Several ND pitchers have allowed lower opponent batting averages with runners on base this season (as compared to overall), most notably seniors Brandon Viloria (.125 with runners/.205 overall) and J.P. Gagne (.205/.215) and sophomores Chris Niesel (.217/.233) and John Axford (.219/.237).
CLOSING THE DOOR – Several Irish pitchers also have excelled at getting the third out, with lower 2-out opponent batting average than overall … those pitchers include freshmen Ryan Doherty (.167 with 2 outs/.218 overall; diff. of 51 pts) and Tom Thornton (.227/.272), sophomore Chris Niesel (.207/.233) and senior Ryan Kalita (.203/.244).
DO NOT PASS FIRST – Freshman RHP Ryan Doherty leads the staff with the lowest opponent slugging pct. (.231), allowing 16 singles, one double and no triple or home runs in 78 at-bats … other top opponent slugging pct.’s belong to senior bullpen aces Brandon Viloria (.274) and J.P. Gagne (.277), sophomore Chris Niesel (.303) and freshman LHP Tom Thornton (.351).
LONG BALL LONGING – Notre Dame posted 40 wins in the 2003 regular season (just one shy of the 2002 regular-season total) despite hitting only 28 home runs (compared to 13) … the Irish traditionally have received clutch home runs in the postseason and will looking for more of the same this week, with junior 3B/1B Matt Edwards representing the only player with more than four HRs … senior OF Kris Billmaier is the only ND player with a multiple-HR game this season, doing to vs. Newman in the second game of the year … the Irish had gone seven games without a home run before collecting five in the final seven games of the ’03 regular season.
TRIPLE TRIPLES – Three ND players – freshman LF Brennan Grogan, junior 2B Steve Sollmann and junior SS Matt Macri – each have legged out five triples this season … no ND team ever has produced three players with six-plus triples in the same season … Robbie Kent (9) and Sollmann’s brother Scott (7) made the sprint to third a combined 16 times in 1994 while Sollmann (6) and George Restovich (9) combined for 15 three-baggers in 1996 … J.J. Brock (8) and Randall Brooks (7) had their own high triple totals in 1997.
MISTER CLUTCH – Junior 3B/1B Matt Edwards leads ND with a .372 overall batting avg. but his numbers are even higher with men in scoring position (.436, a full 64 pts higher) and with two outs (.388) … Edwards has totaled 23 two-out RBI, nearly double the total of the next ND player (Cody Rizzo, with 14) … as a team, ND is batting 11 points higher with RBI chances (.313) and two others who have joined Edwards at the top of the lineup likewise have boosted their batting with runners on 2nd or 3rd: freshman LF Brennan Grogan (.370, 71 pts above overall avg.) and junior 2B Steve Sollmann (.403, +33) … freshman 3B Greg Lopez is batting .300 with RBI chances, compared to .254 overall … two freshmen designated hitters have been tough with 2 outs – Steve Andres (.321, 59 pts above overall) and Matt Bransfield (.357, .302 overall) – but the Irish as team are batting 15 points lower with 2 outs (.287) … one other measure of clutch batting is producing an RBI with a runner on third and runner than two outs … ND has delivered the RBI in those situations 64-pct. of the time, led by the freshman RF Rizzo (12-of-16), junior C Javi Sanchez (9-of-11) and Sollmann (11-of-13).
RARE BREED – Notre Dame’s 2003 pitching staff includes the unique commodity of senior J.P. Gagne, whose 90 career appearances include 33 starts, 24 wins and 18 saves … Gagne this season joined former greats Chris Michalak (34-13, 12 SV) and Aaron Heilman (43-17, 12 SV) as the only ND pitchers ever to post 20-plus wins and 10-plus saves … Gagne needs one more win to become the fourth ND pitcher in the last 10 years to reach 25 wins, with the others including Heilman, Darin Schmalz (30-13, ’94-’97) and Alex Shilliday (25-17, ’96-’99).
TALE OF THREE NUMBERS – Freshman DH Steve Andres ranks dead last among ND’s 12 regular in season batting average (.253) but still has made a significant impact on the 2003 season, thanks to a .458 slugging pct. and /407 on-base pct. (both 4th-best on the team).
SLUMP BUSTER? – Sophomore RHP John Axford was cruising along in mid-April with a 9-0 record and a 2.21 ERA but the hard-throwing RHP closed the regular season with three subpar outings … Axford posted an 18.75 ERA while losing all three of those games (vs. WVU, RU and VT), with 12 hits allowed and 11 walks in 7.2 IP (7 Ks).
TOURNEY NOTES – Since joining the BIG EAST concurrently prior to the 1996 season, Notre Dame (137-48, .741) and Rutgers (134-58, .698) have ranked as the winningest teams in BIG EAST regular-season play. ND and RU are the only teams to qualify for each of the last eight BIG EAST Championships, followed by Seton Hall (5), West Virginia (5), St. John’s (4), Providence (3), Virginia Tech (3), Boston College (2), Villanova (2), Pittsburgh (1) and Connecticut (1) … the last eight seasons have seen ND earn the top seed four times (’97, ’99, ’01, ’02) while RU has earned that distinction in 1998, 2000 and ’03 (Villanova was the top seed in ’96) … the 18 previous BIG EAST baseball championships have seen the top seed claim the title just five times: Seton Hall in 1987 and ’90, Rutgers in ’98 and 2000 and ND in 2002 … the Irish went 3-5 vs. the rest of the BIG EAST field (1-2 vs. WVU and RU, 1-1 vs. VT) … 2002 marked just the third time in the 18-year history of the BIG EAST baseball championship – and the first since 1992 – that a team had repeated as the top seed (also Seton Hall in ’89 and ’90 and St. John’s in ’91 and ’92).
GOTTA SWING THE BATS – Improved hit-ting could make the difference if the Irish are to repeat as BIG EAST Tournament champions, as ND’s team batting averages at the previous five conference tournaments has included: .276 in 1996 (35 strikeouts in 6 games), .280 in ’97 (32 Ks in 4 games), .247 in ’98 (41 Ks in 5 games), .238 in ’99 (18 Ks in 3 games), a surge to .295 in 2000 (13 Ks), then .252 in ’01 (18 Ks) and just .208 in the 2002 championship season (25 Ks) … that adds up to a .230 avg. batting effort and 30 Ks per season.
ALWAYS NEAR THE TOP – ND has finished near the top of the BIG EAST regular-season standings or in the postseason tournament during each of its eight previous seasons in the conference … in 1996, the Irish played their way into the tournament on the last weekend before extending West Virginia to a winner-take-all title game … in ’97, ND posted the best winning pct. in the conference but lost twice to upstart Villanova in the postseason … in ’98, the Irish finished second to Rutgers in both the regular-season standings and the title game … in ’99, ND became the first BIG EAST team ever to win more than 18 conference games (20-5) en route to the regular-season title before finishing 18-7 and tied for second in 2000 (ND went 1-2 in the ’99 and 2000 BETs), followed by first-place regular-season finishes in 2001 (22- 4) and ’02 (18-8) and the 2002 tournament title.
THEY’RE BACK – Two regular members of Notre Dame’s starting unit played minimal roles in the 2001 BIG EAST Tournament due to injury … current senior CF Kris Billmaier (the starting LF in 2001) did not play in the 2001 BET due to a nagging back injury but returned the next week for the NCAA South Bend Regional (batting 7-for-16 with 4 RBI, 3 2B, 4 BB and 2 HBP) … Billmaier also played sparingly in the 2000 BET (1-for-3), as a reserve player (although he went on to start in LF and earn NCAA All-Regional honors the next week at Mississippi State) … current junior 2B Steve Sollmann – the 2001 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year – played in the just the opening game of the ’01 BET, when he was hit with a 9th-inning pitch from Virginia Tech’s Chip Runyon … Sollmann stunningly returned from the wrist injury in time for the 2001 NCAAs.
NOT AS GREEN ON THE HILL – Notre Dame’s 11 active pitchers for the BIG EAST Tournament have combined for 43 innings of experience in the BIG EAST Tournament, with 29 of those innings coming in the 2002 tournament … closer J.P. Gagne owns most of those BET innings (17.1) while his fellow senior RHP Brandon Viloria also has made short relief appearances in the conference tournament (2.2 IP) … sophomore RHPs Chris Niesel (5 IP) and John Axford (3 IP) made starts at the 2002 BET, as did senior RHP Peter Ogilvie (8 IP) while his classmate Ryan Kalita logged seven shutout innings of relief to win the ’02 title game … the Irish staff also includes senior RHP Matt Laird, sophomore RHPs Martin Vergara and Tyler Jones and freshmen Ryan Doherty (RHP) and Tom Thornton (LHP).
RECORD BOOK WATCH – Several Notre Dame individual and team records are within reach … here are some career and season record-book updates:
Junior 2B Steve Sollmann
- 80 hits, needs nine more to crack ND season top-10 list.
- 60 runs, needs 10 for that top-10 list … also has scored 165 career runs (needs nine to crack ND top-10)
- 31 stolen bases rank 5th on ND season charts, behind his brother Scott (52 in ’96), Pat Pesavento (38 in ’88 and ’89) and Steve Stanley (32 in ’02) … already 6th in ND history with 60 SBs, eight back of Dan Bautch (’90-’92)
- .365 career batting avg. would rank 8th in ND history, behind his brother’s .372 (4th)
- His 11 career triples are one shy of ND top-10 (three back of 3rd)
- 6th in career fielding assists (480), just 13 behind Craig Counsell (’92)
Freshman CF Brennan Grogan
- 12 sacrifice bunts rank 9th (two shy of ND record held by three players)
Sophomore 3B/1B Matt Edwards
- His .361 career batting avg. would rank 9th in ND history.
- 60 RBI, needs nine for ND top-10 (last ND player with 70-plus RBI was Mike Amrhein’s 71 in 1997)
Freshman DH/OF Cody Rizzo
- His 23 times hit-by-pitch already has shattered ND record (15 by Eric Danapilis, ’93) and stands 8th on career HBP list.
Senior RHP J.P. Gagne
- 2.10 season ERA would rank 16th in ND history.
- 26 appearances rank 8th on ND season list, two back of 4th … his 90 career appearances are two shy of Chris Michalak’s ND record (’90-’93)
- His 289.1 career innings rank 9th in ND history, just behind Alex Shilliday (290, ’96-’99), could become 6th with 300-plus IP
- 10th on career wins list (24-14)
- Already has set ND single-season save record (12) while his 18 career saves are two shy of John Corbin’s record (20; ’97-’00).
- 10th on ND career strikeouts list (196).
- His career walk avg. of 2.52 BB per 9 IP is just outside the ND career top 10 (2.48)
- .225 opponent batting avg. would rank 10th in ND season record book.
Sophomore RHP John Axford
- Needs one more win to become 14th ND pitcher with double-digit Ws in a season (9-3), after becoming 6th ND pitchers ever to start a season at least 9-0.
- Posted 13 consecutive winning decisions (5th-best in ND history and 2nd-best in 75 years)
Sophomore RHP Chris Niesel
- Needs one more win to become 14th ND pitcher with double-digit Ws in a season (9-1), after becoming 6th ND pitchers ever to start a season at least 9-0.
- His 82 Ks are nine shy of the ND season top 10
- His season walk average of 1.49/9 IP would rank 6th … his 1.83 career walk avg. is 3rd
- 5.5 season K-to-walk ratio would rank 5th … his 4.36 career K-to-BB ratio (144/33) is ahead of Alan Walania’s ND record (4.00)
- His 2.99 career ERA is just outside the ND top 10 (2.93).
- Next start will be his 15th of ’03 (just 10 previous ND pitchers have made 15 starts, including six with 16-plus).
Senior RHP Ryan Kalita
- 12-1 career record, needs three more decisions to qualify for career win pct. list.
Senior RHP Brandon Viloria
- 2.42 career ERA would rank 2nd in ND history (min. 60 IP) behind Nick Palihnich (2.36, ’59-’61, 148.2 IP).
- His career walk avg. of 1.65 BB per 9 IP is just behind the standing ND record (1.64, by Alan Walania).
- His 1.71 season walk ratio ranks 12th.
- 8th on ND career saves list (7).
- .205 opponent batting avg. would rank 6th in ND season record book.
- 3.47 staff ERA is 2nd-best at ND since 1994 (3.22 in 2001)
- .971 fielding pct. ahead of ND record .965 (’82, ’92, ’00)
- 64 times hit-by-pitch ranks 3rd in ND history (75 in ’93, 69 in ’95)
- 17 saves one shy of matching team record (’02)
- 418 strikeouts thrown just shy of top-5 (420)
- .245 opponent batting average is best since 1992 (.239)
- Pitchers’ 2.28 K-to-walk ratio ranks 4th
ND ALUMS EMBARK ON PRO SEASONS – Three former Notre Dame baseball players were on 40-man rosters for MLB Spring Training: IF Craig Counsell (Arizona), RHP Brad Lidge (Houston) and LHP Tim Kalita (Detroit) … Counsell and Lidge both made the big-league rosters (Kalita is with the double-A Erie Sea Wolves) … three others were non-roster invitees to Big-League Camp: RHPs Aaron Heilman (rated by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in the New York Mets organization; with triple-A Norfolk Tides) and Christian Parker (Yankees; triple-A Columbus Clippers) and LHP Chris Michalak (Colorado Springs Sky Sox) … several other former ND players have embarked on their minor-league seasons: catcher Paul O’Toole (Cubs; single-A Daytona), 3B/C Andrew Bushey (Colorado, single-A Ashville Tourists), Oakland A’s OFs Steve Stanley (double-A Midland, Rockhounds) and Brian Stavisky (single-A Cane County Cougars), IF Brant Ust (Detroit; double-A Erie), RHP Danny Tamayo (Kansas City; double-A Wichita Wranglers) and OF Matt Bok (Los Angeles, single-A Ogden Raptors) … Tamayo and Stanley both are competing in the Texas League while Heilman and Parker both are pitchers in the International League … here’s a look at ND’s alums currently in pro ball (stats as of May 19):
Matt Bok, C (Ogden Raptors, Dodgers single-A, Pioneer League) … season starts June 17
Andrew Bushey, C/IF (Ashville Tourists, Rockies single-A, South Atlantic League):
0-for-8, 4 GP, RBI, 3 BB, K, three starts at C, one at 1B
Craig Counsell, IF (Arizona Diamondbacks, has split time at 2B, SS and 3B)
.276 (32-for-116), 31 GP (DL), HR, 3B, 4 2B, 18 R, 10 RBI, 20 BB, 16 Ks, 5-7 SB, .353 slug, .387 OB, .991 fielding pct. (1 E)
Aaron Heilman, RHP (Norfolk Tides, Mets AAA, International League)
5-2, 3.13 ERA, 10 GS, 60.2 IP, .256 opp. batting avg. (57-for-223), 21 R, 4 HR, 21 BB, 40 Ks (0-fo-2 batting, K)
Tim Kalita. LHP (Erie Sea Wolves, Tigers AA, Eastern League)
0-2, 7.27 ERA, 10 GP/5 GS, 26.0 IP, .330 opp. avg. (36-for-109), 22 R/21 ER, 11 BB, 14 Ks, 4 WP, HB
Brad Lidge, RHP (Houston Astros)
3-0, SV, 3 hld, 1.37 ERA, 21 GP, 26.1 IP, .140 opp.avg. (12-86), 4 R, 11 BB, 28 Ks, 4 HB, .186 opp. slug, .265 opp. OB
Chris Michalak, LHP (Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Rockies AAA, Pacific Coast League)
3-4, 3.31 ERA, 8 GS, 49.0 IP, .259 opp.avg. (48-for-185), 29 R/18 ER, 28 BB, 33 Ks … also has hit 2-for-12 (2 RBI, R)
Paul O’Toole, C/IF/OF (Daytona Cubs, Cubs single-A, Florida State League)
.230 (14-for-61), 20 GP, 7 R, 3 2B, 7 RBI, 3 SAC, 9 BB, 12 Ks, 2 HBP, .279 slug, .347 on-base, 3 E … 7 starts at C, 5 at 1st, 1 at 3rd
Christian Parker, RHP (Columbus Clippers, Yankees AAA, International League)
1-4, 7.86 ERA, 5 GS, 26.1 IP, .356 opp. avg. (41-for-115), 25 R/23 ER, 10 BB, 14 Ks, WP, 2 HR
also 1 GP at single-A Tampa (0-0, 1.80, 5.0 IP, .353 opp. Avg., 6-for-17, 1 ER, 0 HR, BB, 6 Ks)
Steve Stanley, OF (Midland Rockhounds, Athletics AA, Texas League)
.333 (53-for-159), 41 GP, 27 R, 3 2B, 17 RBI, 2 3B, 4 SAC, 22 BB, 22 Ks, 2-3 SB, 3 Es, .377 slug, .412 on-base, 40 starts (all in OF)
Brian Stavisky, OF (Kane County Cougars, Oakland single-A, Midwest League)
.275 (30-for-109), 33 GP, 16 R, 10 RBI, 3B, 4 2B, 3 SAC, 3 HBP, 16 BB, 26 Ks, .360 slug, .383 on-base, E, 8 starts in OF
Danny Tamayo, RHP (Wichita Wranglers, Royals AA, Texas League)
3-4, 3.61 ERA, 8 GS, 42.1 IP, .252 opp. avg. (40-for-159), 21 R/17 ER, 20 BB, 27 Ks, HR, 7 WP, BK
Brant Ust, IF (Erie Sea Wolves, Tigers AA, Eastern League)
.278 (30-108), 31 GP, 14 R, 18 RBI, 4 HR, 9 2B, 7 BB, 17 Ks, 2 SB, .509 slug, .322 OB, 5 Es, starts: SS (12), 2B (10), 3B (3), OF (2)
HERE’S A LOOK AT HOW NOTRE DAME HAS ANSWERED 10 MAJOR PRESEASON QUESTIONS:
Who would emerge as the new leadoff hitter, at a spot held the previous four seasons mostly by Steve Stanley (and fellow 2002 grads Ken Meyer and Paul O’Toole)?
Sophomore SS Matt Macri and freshman OF Cody Rizzo were tried at the leadoff spot in the first seven games before ND moved junior 2B Steve Sollmann up from the 2-hole into the top spot … Sollmann has responded by batting .370 overall, scoring 60 runs and stealing 31 bases – in addition to reaching base on 60-percent of his leadoff plate appearances (best on the team).
Who would fill the gap in center field, where Stanley started all 256 games from 1999-2002?
Freshmen Craig Cooper and Cody Rizzo were tried in center the first two weeks of the season before their classmate Brennan Grogan started 21 of the next 22 games at CF … another freshman, Alex Nettey then started three games in center – with senior RF Kris Billmaier making the shift to CF in the last month.
Who would step into the No. 3 batting order spot, occupied in ’02 by LF Brian Stavisky (signed as a junior 6th-round pick of the Oakland A’s)?
Junior corner IF Matt Edwards has made most of his starts in the 3-hole (also batting cleanup) while ranking as one of ND’s most pivotal players … Edwards – who missed most of the ’02 season with a broken leg – is batting .372 with 60 RBI and 8 home runs in 54 games played, comparable to Stavisky’s ’02 stats (.394, 57 RBI, 9 HR in 50 GP).
How would sophomores Matt Macri (SS) and Matt Edwards (3B/1B) return from the injuries that held them out for most of the 2002 season?
Edwards (see previous note) was arguably the key factor to ND’s first-half success (with Steve Sollmann’s production again meeting his usual high standard) while Macri – who missed most of ’02 with ACL elbow surgery – has overcome a slow start to boost his batting average to .310 while totaling just 15 errors (he made four Es in the first four games and was batting just .211 in late March) … Macri also has showcased his range, glovework and arm strength to throw out several batters.
Who would meet the challenge as the staff’s No. 3 starter, after the preseason surgery to ace Grant Johnson?
Ryan Kalita has stepped up as the No. 3 starter in the past month, helping overcome the loss of Johnson and Kalita’s fellow senior RHP Peter Ogilvie (returned from sore shoulder rehab) … Kalita (12-1 ND career) is 5-1 with a 3.67 ERA and .246 opp. batting avg. in 2003 (50 Ks, 25 BB, 55 H in 61.1 IP).
Would the Irish experience a dropoff in power, most notably due to the loss of O’Toole (11 HRs in ’02) and Stavisky (9)?
The 2003 team’s current home run total (28) is well short of the HR total by the ’02 squad (53) and the Irish may not have a double-digit HR hitter on the ’03 squad, with Matt Edwards (8) the current long-ball leader while the team’s only multi-HR game of the season came in game #2 vs. Newman (2 HRs by Kris Billmaier).
Would the Irish have speed and good basestealing ability, after the loss of Stanley and O’Toole?
The return of sophomore SS Matt Macri and the addition of freshmen Brennan Grogan, Cody Rizzo, Craig Cooper and Greg Lopez has added some quality baserunners to the 2003 lineup – with the current SB total (73) besting the SB total from 2002 (63) … the combination of junior 2B Steve Sollmann (31), Grogan (14) and Cooper (9) gives the 2003 Irish a group of three players who are in the range of swiping 10-plus bases (Stanley’s 32 and O’Toole’s 11 were ND’s only double-digit SB players in ’02).
How would junior Javi Sanchez handle the position switch from the middle infield to catcher?
Sanchez – a prep 2B who filled in at SS in ’02 – has made an impressive transition behind the dish while doing a solid job batting mostly in the 5-hole (.269, 33 R, 19 RBI, HR, 3B, 10 2B) … Sanchez has cut down on his passed balls and has made major strides in throwing out attempted basestealers, due to his strong arm and agility behind the plate.
How quickly and to what degree would the freshman position players make an impact?
Five freshman position players – RF Cody Rizzo, LF Brennan Grogan, 3B Greg Lopez, DH Steve Andres and OF/DH Craig Cooper – played key roles in the first half of the 2003 season, combining to make 99 starts (after 29 games) while batting a combined .318 (114-for-358) … their biggest statistical contributions (at the 29-game mark) included 62% of Notre Dame’s times hit-by-pitch, 50% of the team’s triples, 43% of the stolen bases and 42% of the runs scored (94 of 224) … those players, plus freshman DH Matt Bransfield, have continued to play key roles in the second half of the 2003 season.
Would the offense do its share to complement the talented core of veteran pitchers?
The 2003 team (.302 team batting avg.) – which has taken on a more righthanded slant (after the departure of five lefthanded-hitting position starters) – is lagging behind the 2002 team’s final batting average (.321) but the Irish have been able to bunch together their hits to the tune of 19 “big innings” (5-plus runs) and 20 wins by 5-plus runs (just two shy of the 2002 team’s total of wins by 5-plus).
BIG-GAME BATTERS – Leading hitter Matt Edwards (..372) owns ever better number this season vs. the other three teams in the BIG EAST Tournament field (.407) while freshman DH Steve Andres (.357) and junior 1B Joe Thaman (.333) are bating significantly higher than their overall season averages (.253 and .264, respectively).
MAINIERI HITS WIN NO. 700 – Ninth-year ND head coach Paul Mainieri – now in his 21st overall season – picked up his 700th career coaching victory in the 6-2 series-opening win over Georgetown on Sat., March 29, just 135 games removed from his 600th win (ND’s 99 combined wins in ’01 and ’02 were third-most in nation, behind Florida State’s 107 and South Carolina’s 106) … Mainieri’s 726-436-1 career record (.625) includes 180-121 at St. Thomas (’83-’88), 152-158 at Air Force (’89-’94) and 394-157-1 (.715) at ND (’95-’03), with his 400th win at ND suddenly six Ws away … his ND career includes five BIG EAST titles and five NCAA trips with the Irish (’96, ’99-’02), the program’s first No. 1 ranking in 2001 and first CWS trip since ’57 (in ’02) … he was the nation’s only coach to repeat as ABCA regional coach of the year (Mideast), in 2002, and his squads have extended ND’s streak of seasons with 40-plus wins to 14 (nation’s 4th-longest active streak) … 31 of his ND players have moved on to pro ball, including 12 drafted in the first 10 rounds and pair of first-round pitchers (Brad Lidge in ’98, Aaron Heilman in ’01) … every ND player in the Mainieri era who has completed his eligibility with the Irish has graduated from Notre Dame (46 of 46) while the eight who were signed after their junior seasons have returned to complete or near completion of their graduation requirements (including two-time Academic All-American Brian Stavisky) … Mainieri owns the best BIG EAST winning pct. in the conference’s history (.741, 137-48) … in 73 BIG EAST series spanning eight seasons, the Irish have won 55 with nine splits and just nine series wins by the opponent (just two of them being 3-game sweeps) … the Irish have been swept just four times in 71 all-time BIG EAST doubleheaders (42 ND sweeps, 25 splits).
EVEN STEVEN – Notre Dame’s scoring dominance in the 2nd inning this season (63-11) has nearly been matched by the team’s scoring edge two innings later in the 4th (51-20) and then two later in the 6th (72-41) for a combined edge of 186-72 (+114) in those three frames … the Irish have not outscored the opponent by more than 10 runs in any other inning (1st, 3rd, 5th, 8th) while being outscored in only the 7th (26-35) and the 9th (8-11).
WINNING BIG & SMALL – Notre Dame is 9-1 this season in one-run games while posting 20 “big wins” (margin of five-plus runs) … by comparison, the 2002 ND team was 9-8 in one-run games and totaled 21 wins by 5-plus runs.
QUICK NOTES ON THE ND HITTERS (in probable batting order)
(1) Steve Sollmann (Jr., 2B; Cincinnati…preseason All-American; Acad. All-Am. cand.; tri-captain; all-BIG EAST ’01, ’02)
- Leads team in runs (60), stolen bases (31), hits (80), total bases (118), doubles (16) and triples (5, tied) while ranking 2nd in each of the batting numbers (.370 avg., .546 slugging, .429 on-base), walks (22) and home runs (4, tied) and 3rd in RBI (36) … missed two games with wrist injury (4/23-24), starting other 53 at 2B.
- BIG EAST Rankings: finished regular season ranked 2nd among BIG EAST players in overall stolen bases, total bases and triples, 3rd in runs, 4th in hits and 5th in doubles … in BIG EAST games (despite playing just 23 of max. 26 games), he ranked 3rd in SBs (11), runs (26) and 2Bs (9).
- Situational Hitting: owns team’s best leadoff on-base pct. (.523), 2nd on team in batting with runners in scoring position (.403, 33 pts above overall avg.) and 5th in pct. of baserunners advanced (.581) … also .283 batter with 2 outs (13 RBI), 2-for-7 (.286) with bases loaded … had delivered RBI team-best 85-pct. of time (11-of-13) with runner on 3rd and fewer than 2 outs … has grounded into just one double play (84 ABs with runners on) … 3rd on team for lowest K avg. (0.36 gm, 19 total) … similar success vs. LHPs (.389) and RHPs (.364).
- Recent Trends: hit 10-for-19 (.526, 6 R, 5 RBI) in final week of the regular season.
- 2002 BE Tournament: .176 (3-for-17) 2 R, RBI, 2 BB, 2 Ks, 2-2 SB, 0 E … scored from 1st base on Brian Stavisky hit into LF corner, for winning run in BE title game (3-2 vs. RU, in 10 inn.).
- Career vs. WVU: .150 (3-for-20), 4 R, 0 RBI, 2B, 3 BB, 4 Ks, 0-0 SB.
- 2003 WVU Series: 2-for-11 (.182), 2 R, 2B, BB, 3 Ks, E.
- ’03 BIG EAST Games: .319 (30-for-94), 26 R, 20 RBI, 3 HR, 9 2B, 10 BB, 12 Ks, 11-15 SB, 4 Es.
- Had career-best 15-game hit streak (24 of 25) snapped vs. Oakland (4/30), longest by ND player since Steve Stanley’s 16-game his streak in 2000 … hit .422 in that streak (24-for-57, 5 RBI, 20 R, 3B, 6 2B, 9 BB, 3 Ks).
- Entered week ranked 19th in nation with 0.58 stolen bases per game.
- Joins Brennan Grogan (15/12) and Javi Sanchez (16/15) as ND players with more walks (22) than Ks (19).
- Went 18 games (73 chances) without an error, before E vs. UConn on 4/27 (just six Es in last 70 GP with ND) … heads into postseason with no Es in last 7 games and 29 error-free games in last 31 … has helped turn 34 of team’s 46 double plays.
- Has gone hitless in three consecutive games just once in ’03, hits in 42 of 53 games played.
- Team-best 28 multi-hit games (six 3-hit games; two 4-hit games), nine multi-RBI games (2nd on team).
- ND Career Record Book: 8th with .365 career batting avg. … already 6th with 60 stolen bases (31 in ’03), eight behind Dan Bautch (68; ’90-’92) … also 6th with 480 fielding assists (13 behind ’92 grad Craig Counsell) … his 165 runs are nine shy of that ND career top-10 list … his 11 triples rank 11th in ND history.
- Picked up 200th career hit at St. John’s on 4/6 (now 237, needs six to crack ND top-10 list) … ND record for hits by junior is Steve Stanley’s 267 (’02) … others: Dan Peltier (257, ’89), Brant Ust (243 in ’99), his brother Scott Sollmann (239, ’96) and Brian Stavisky (231, ’03).
- Posted identical batting average of .362 in 2001 and ’02, now .370 in 2003.
- Joined J.P. Gagne on Verizon/CoSIDA Academic All-District V team, now moves on to Academic All-American ballot (3.6 cumulative GPA as marketing major) … also recently became rare junior-year recipient of ND’s Francis Patrick O’Connor Award (recognizing student-athletes who most embody “team spirit, inspiration, courage,” etc.).
- First player ever named BIG EAST player of the week three times in same season (8-for-17 in week one, then 11-for-23 in first six games of Spring Break trip and 10-for-19 in final week of regular season) … another 2B, VT’s Marc Tugwell, is the only other player with 3-plus BE player-of-the-week honors in a career (3, from ’01-’03).
- Shifted to leadoff spot on Spring Break trip (now 46 starts there), after batting in No. 2 spot for most of his ND career.
- Hit 3-run inside-the-park HR in 3-2 win over Eastern Illinois.
- Prep CF who now is rated BIG EAST’s top defensive 2B for 2003 (per Baseball America preview).
(2) Brennan Grogan (Fr., LF; Tequesta, FL)
- Leads team in triples (5, tied) and sac. bunts (12), 2nd in stolen bases (14) and 3rd in runs scored (37).
- Situational Hitting: leads team in pct. of runners advanced (.625), 3rd in batting with runners in scoring position (.370, 71 pts above his overall avg.), 5th in 2-out batting (.302) … also .269 leadoff on-base pct., 1-for-2 with bases loaded … owns team-best low ratio of Ks per game (0.24, 12 total) … batting .328 vs. RHPs.
- Tied for second among BIG EAST players in overall triples (first with four 3Bs in league play).
- Recent Trends: hit 8-for-35 (.229) in 13-game stretch, then 2-for-4 at Virginia Tech.
- 2003 WVU Series: 3-for-8 (.375), R, BB, 2 SAC, 1-1 SB.
- ’03 BIG EAST Games: .295 (23-for-78), 19 R, 12 RBI, 4 3B, 2B, 10 BB, 3 Ks, 6 SAC, 7-9 SB.
- Owns 11 multi-hit and six multi-RBI games.
- Made switch to CF and 2-hole (37 starts batting 2nd) on Spring Break trip, shifted from CF to LF in midseason (25)
- His go-ahead single in 11th inning to plate Steve Sollmann in 3-1 win over Vanderbilt.
(3) Matt Edwards (So., 3B/1B; Mechanicsville, VA)
- Leads team in all three batting stats (.372 avg., .582 slugging, .436 on-base), RBI (60) and home runs (8), 2nd in total bases (114), hits (73) and doubles (15), 4th in walks (21) … has started 54 of 55 games (tied with Kris Billmaier for team-high), with 51 straight starts (dnp at ASU, 2/23).
- BIG EAST Rankings: 1st in RBI, 5th in total bases, 6th in hits and slugging, 8th in doubles 10th in home runs … also 1st in RBI during league play (26) and 10th in slugging (.573), despite playing 23 of max. 26 games.
- Situational Hitting: leads team in 2-out batting (.388), 2-out RBI (23) and batting with runners in scoring position (.436, 64 pts above his overall avg.), 3rd in pct. of runners advanced (.603) and leadoff on-base pct. (.432) … 1-for-2 with the bases loaded … batting .404 vs. RHPs, .280 vs. LHPs.
- Recent Trends: hit 9-for-17 (.529) last week, with 5 RBI
- 2003 WVU Series: led team with 5-for-9 (.556) batting (RBI, R, BB, HBP, 2 Ks, E).
- During month of May: xxxxx
- ’03 BIG EAST Games: team-best .366 (30-for-82), 15 R, 26 RBI, 3 HR, 3B, 6 2B, 10 BB, 14 Ks, E
- lready has surpassed ND’s 2002 leading RBI total (59, by Andrew Bushey).
- Has totaled team-best 19 multi-RBI games, including five 3-RBI games, 4 RBI in second game vs. Georgetown and 5 RBI in third game vs. Creighton.
- Also second on team with 22 multi-hit games, including team-best 10 games with 3-plus hits (eight 3-hit games, two 4-hit games).
- BIG EAST player of the week (3/31-4/6) after leading ND during 4-0 week in hits and batting average (9-for-14, .643), RBI (10) home runs (3), total bases (21) and slugging pct. (1.500), plus 7 R, 2 BB, 3B, SB and just one K … hit 6-for-9 in doubleheader sweep at St. John’s, with five RBI and a pair of booming HRs to dead-center field.
- Has made 32 starts at 1B (20 at 3B), with the first at 1B coming on Spring Break trip … has scooped 25 of team’s 45 double plays … owns 37 total starts batting 3-hole (13 at cleanup).
- Missed most of 2002 season due to broken leg (vs. USC in Round Rock, ninth game of ’02).
(4) Kris Billmaier (Sr., RF; Woodinville, WA … team tri-captain with Steve Sollmann and J.P. Gagne)
- Leads team in sac. flies (6), 2nd in RBI (37), doubles (15, 7th in BIG EAST), home runs (4) and walks (22), 3rd in sac. bunts (6), 4th in hits (53) and total bases, 5th in runs (35) … only ND player to appear in all 55 games (he and Matt Edwards share team-high 54 starts).
- Situational Hitting: 3rd on team in 2-out RBI (13), 5th in leadoff on-base pct. (.426) … also .281 batter with runners in scoring position, .277 with 2 outs, 2-for-6 with bases loaded … has averaged just 0.40 Ks per game (4th-best on team, 22 total) … batting .277 vs. LHPs.
- Recent Trends: hitting just .100 (3-for 30) in last nine games (1 RBI)
- 2002 BE Tournament: .214 (3-for-14), R, 5 RBI, HR (vs. VT), K, 2 SAC
- Career vs. WVU: .040 (1-for-25), R, 0 RBI, BB, 4 Ks
- 2003 WVU Series: 1-for-11 (.091), K
- ’03 BIG EAST Games: .202 (17-for-84), 9 R, 10 RBI, HR, 6 2B, 11 BB, 9 Ks, E
- 15 multi-hit games, tied for 2nd on team with nine multi-RBI games.
- Recently became 16th ND player ever to log 200 career games (now 209).
- Made switch from right to CF in last 23 games … has hit cleanup in 33 games this season (5-hole in 10).
- Home run vs. Seton Hall (4/19) is his only HR since second game of ’03 (2 HR vs. Newman).
(5) Javi Sanchez (Jr., C; Miami, FL)
- Third on team in hit-by-pitch (6), 5th in walks (16), stolen bases (5-of-6) and doubles (10) … 5th on team in games started (49), missing four games (4/10-14) due to injury.
- Situational Hitting: Batting .206 with 2 outs, .255 batter with runners in scoring position … has reached on 38% of leadoff plate appearances, 1-for-4 with bases loaded … has averaged just 0.30 Ks per game (2nd-best on team, 15 total) … also has grounded into just one double play (84 ABs with runners on).
- Recent Trends: ended 0-for-13 slump by batting 2-for-4 in second game at VT.
- Career vs. WVU: .118 (2-for-17), 2 R, 2 RBI, 2B, BB, 3 Ks.
- 2003 WVU Series: 0-for-10, HBP, 2 Ks.
- ’03 BIG EAST Games: .205 (16-for-78), 13 R, 5 RBI, 3B, 2B, 8 BB, 4 HBP, 5 Ks, 3 Es.
- Owns 16 multi-hit games in 2003 (4th-most on team), with four multi-RBI games.
- Has hit five of his six career home runs with the Irish away from home, including 2002 postseason blasts vs. Rutgers (BET) and Stanford (CWS).
- Owns more walks (16) than Ks (15) in 2003.
- Prep 2B who started at SS in 2002 after injuries to Matt Macri and Matt Edwards
- Has logged 84-percent of ND’s innings behind the plate in 2003 (405 of 482), including 91% of the innings in the last 24 games (194 of 214) … has caught every inning in 19 of the last 24 games, including all of the 19-inning finale at Rutgers (after catching 12 innings of the doubleheader) … Cody Rizzo has caught 44 innings (4 starts, 4 reserve) while fellow freshman Steve Andres has caught 33 innings in 14 games behind the plate (3 starts).
(6) Matt Macri (So., SS; Clive, IA … preseason All-American)
- Leads team in walks (23) and triples (5, tied), 2nd in doubles (15) and home runs (4, tied), 3rd in batting (.310), hits (57), slugging (.495) and total bases (91), 4th in runs (36), sac. bunts (5), hit-by-pitch (5) and stolen bases (6), 5th in RBI (27) and on-base (.401) … has made 52 starts (4th on team, 51 at SS) … has helped turn 28 of team’s 46 double plays.
- Situational Hitting: 4th on team in batting with runners on (.348; 38 points above his overall avg.) but just .270 with runners in scoring position and .281 with 2 outs (9 RBI) … owns .304 leadoff on-base pct., 1-for-2 with bases loaded … batting .308 vs. LHPs … has yet to ground into a double play (92 ABs with runners on).
- Recent Trends: hit just 1-for-9 in last three games … one error in last six games (40 E-free gms).
- 2003 WVU Series: 3-for-10, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 BB, 6 Ks, E (after batting 2-for-11 in UConn series).
- ’03 BIG EAST Games: .259 (21-for-81), 13 R, 8 RBI, HR, 2 3B, 8 2B, 11 BB, 21 Ks, 2 SAC, 5 Es.
- Tied for 2nd among BIG EAST players in overall triples, 8th in doubles … also hit 8 doubles in BIG EAST play (ranking 6th), despite playing just 23 of max. 26 games.
- Third on team with 18 multi-hit games, plus four multi-RBI games.
- Has made most of his starts batting in the 6-hole (25, also 14 in 7-hole), after opening season as leadoff hitter.
- 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 preview issue).
(7) Cody Rizzo (Fr., RF; Temecula, CA)
- Leads team in hit-by-pitch (23, ND record), 2nd in runs (44, 11th among BIG EAST players) and home runs (4, tied), 3rd in on-base pct. (.409), 4th in batting avg. (.305), RBI (34) 5th in slugging pct. (.445), hits (50) and total bases (73).
- Situational Hitting: 2nd on team in leadoff on-base pct. (.490) and 2-out RBI (14), 4th in batting with runners in scoring position (.305) … also a .271 batter with 2 outs, 2-for-7 with bases loaded … batting .325 vs. RHPs.
- Recent Trends: hit 2-for-10 last week, with 5 RBI (linedrive HR in opener at VT).
- 2003 WVU Series: 2-for-9 (.222), 2 RBI, 2 HBP, K
- ’03 BIG EAST Games: .284 (21-for-74), 20 R, 14 RBI, 2 HR, 3B, 3 2B, 6 BB, 10 HBP, 12 Ks, 1-1 SB, 2 Es.
- Classic utility player who has made starts at CF (4), LF (13), DH (6), C (4) and now RF (21), also batting in leadoff spot early in season (his most common lineup spot has been 15 games in the 7-hole, also nine each in 5 and 6-spots).
- Tied for second on team with nine multi-RBI games, also 4th with 16 multi-hit efforts.
- Excellent baserunner and rare 2-sport star in soccer/baseball as a prep (California HS soccer is played in the fall).
(8) Steve Andres (Fr., DH; Napa, CA)
- 2nd on team in hit-by-pitch (8) and home runs (4, tied), 4th in slugging pct. (.458) and on-base pct. (.407).
- Situational Hitting: 4th on team in 2-out batting (.312) … also a .273 hitter with runners in scoring position … has reached on 32-percent of his leadoff plate appearances … 0-for-6 as pinch-hitter.
- Recent Trends: Has 6 RBI in last 6 games (5-for-21).
- 2003 WVU Series: did not play.
- ’03 BIG EAST Games: .286 (8-for-28), 6 R, 7 RBI, 2 HR, 9 BB, 2 HBP, 8 Ks, 1-2 SB.
- Owns six multi-hit and four multi-RBI games.
- Sparked offense in first three games vs. Dayton, Newman and ASU (6-for-11, 2 RBI, 7 RBI, HR, 3B, 2B).
or Matt Bransfield (Fr., DH; Englewood, CO)
- Ranks 4th on team in batting (.305), including team-best .423 vs. LHPs … also 2nd on squad in 2-out batting (.357) and pct. of runners advanced (.615), 4th in leadoff on-base pct. (.429), 5th in batting with runners on base (.343) … 4-for-12 as pinch-hitter.
- 2003 WVU Series: 0-for-8, RBI, BB, K, SF … after 6-game hit streak (9-for-17, 6 R, 9 RBI)
- ’03 BIG EAST Games: .348 (8-for-23), 4 R, 3 RBI, 3 2B, 2 BB, 3 Ks
- Owns five multi-hit and two multi-RBI games, despite making just 10 starts.
or Craig Cooper (Fr., DH/OF; Plainview, NY)
- Ranks 3rd on team in stolen bases (9), owns team’s 2nd-best batting avg. vs. RHPs (.378) … 3-for-9 as pinch-hitter.
- 2003 WVU Series: did not play.
- ’03 BIG EAST Games: .345 (10-for-29), 6 R, 4 RBI, 5 BB, 2 HBP, 5 Ks, 2-3 SB
- Owns seven multi-hit and four multi-RBI games.
(9) Greg Lopez (Fr., 3B; Upper Arlington, OH)
- Second on team in sac. bunts (8), 5th in RBI (25) and batting with runners in scoring position
- Situational Hitting: 5th on team in batting with runners in scoring position (..300, 46 pts above his overall avg.) and 4th in pct. of runners advanced (.583) … also owns .259 leadoff on-base pct., .244 batting with 2 outs, 1-for-6 with bases loaded.
- Recent Trends: 1-for-2 in scecond game at VT, after not playing in previous three … just 3-for-23 in team’s last 11 gms.
- 2003 WVU Series: 0-for-8, 2 Ks, E.
- ’03 BIG EAST Games: .278 (10-for-36), 8 R, 9 RBI, 2B, 3 BB, 4 Ks, E
- Effective situational hitter who has 26 RBI, despite totaling just 32 hits.
- Has made 35 starts at third base, with seven multi-hit and six multi-RBI games (5th-best on team).
or Joe Thaman (Jr., 1B; St. Louis, MO)
- Was hitting 7-for-11 in three-game stretch before going 1-for-6 at VT.
- Career vs. WVU: .250 (3-for-12), 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 2 Ks.
- Ranks 3rd on team in 2-out batting avg. (.333) and 4th in sac. bunts (5).
- Has scooped 18 of team’s 46 double plays.
- Has hit 4-or-8 in extra innings this season, including game-winning single vs. Wake Forest (2-1 in 13), leadoff triple at Villanova (he was stranded, with ND losing that 7-inning game, 3-2 in 13) and pair of singles in 19-inning marathon at Rutgers (he also stranded at 3rd in that game).