June 3, 2003
Two senior members of the Notre Dame baseball program were selected during Tuesday’s opening rounds of the Major League Baseball draft, as J.P. Gagne (Bloomington, Minn.) was the 14th-round selection of the Colorado Rockies while fellow righthanded pitcher Ryan Kalita (Oak Park, Ill.) was the 17th-round pick of his hometown Chicago Cubs.
The draft continues Wednesday with upwards of 30 more rounds of selections (see the DraftTracker at www.mlb.com for complete coverage).
Gagne and Kalita, who led the way on a 2003 staff that ranked 19th in the nation for team ERA (3.53), continue Notre Dame’s recent trend of producing senior baseball players who have been selected on the first day – with nine Irish seniors in the nine-year Paul Mainieri era now having been drafted in the 1st-17th rounds.
Just two pairs of previous Notre Dame seniors – pitchers Aaron Heilman (1st round, Mets) and Danny Tamayo (10th, K.C.) in 2001 and centerfielder Steve Stanley (2nd, Oakland) and third baseman Andrew Bushey (15th, Colorado) in 2002 – both have been picked higher than Gagne and Kalita (shortstop Alec Porzel also was a 13th-round pick as a senior in ’01).
Gagne and Kalita both joined the Notre Dame program as non-letter-of-intent additions, with Kalita following in the footsteps of his brother Tim (’97-’99) while Gagne had to earn a roster spot as a walk-on third baseman/pitcher. They helped lead the way for the highest four-year victory total in the program’s history (190-67-1, from 2000-03), with four trips to the NCAAs, two BIG EAST regular-season titles and two BIG EAST Tournament titles.
The Kalita’s become the Notre Dame baseball program’s first pair of brothers ever selected in the MLB draft, with Tim currently a lefthanded pitcher in the Detroit Tigers organization (he was a 7th-round pick in 1999 and pitched on the triple-A level in 2002, currently at double-A).
Gagne had a noteworthy career as a starter and reliever, joining former greats Chris Michalak and Aaron Heilman as the only Notre Dame pitchers ever to post 20-plus wins and 10-plus saves. The 6-0, 205-pound tri-captain set ND records for career appearances (94) and saves in a season (13, in 2003; good for 8th in the nation) while also posting a career-best 2.70 ERA in ’03. Twice named third team all-BIG EAST Conference and a Verizon/CoSIDA third team Academic All-American in 2003, his career highlights include saving both wins at Florida State in the 2002 NCAA Super-Regional series.
Kalita’s career winning percentage (14-1, .933) ranks as the best by any Notre Dame pitcher with 15-plus decisions while his 2003 season included a 7-1 record and 3.42 ERA en route to second team all-BIG EAST honors. The 6-2, 210-pounder’s 15 career wins are highlighted by the 2002 BIG EAST title game vs. Rutgers, the 2003 BIG EAST winner’s bracket game vs. RU and last week’s opening win over Arizona at the NCAA Fullerton Regional.
Per NCAA regulations, schools are not allowed to release updated information on recent letter-of-intent signees after the initial signing release, prior to those players’ arrival on campus to begin their college careers (for a list of ND’s 2002 fall signees, see www.und.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/111602aaa.html). Recent ND signees have fallen in the draft due to their strong commitments to attend Notre Dame, most notably current sophomore pitchers Grant Johnson (went undrafted despite being projected as a 2nd-rounder) and Chris Niesel (projected to be picked from 3rd-10th rounds, fell to 46th by the Chicago Cubs) and their classmate, shortstop Matt Macri (projected 1st rounder, picked in 17th).
Gagne follows Craig Counsell (11th round, ’92) and Bushey as the third Notre Dame player ever drafted by the Rockies while the Cubs now have drafted four Irish players in the last seven years, with the others including Mike Amrhein (’97, 10th rd), Brian Stavisky (’01, 33rd rd, returned for junior season) and Paul O’Toole (’02, 21st rd).
NOTRE DAME 2003 MLB DRAFT CAPSULES (day 1; 6/3/03):
J.P. Gagne – Versatile pitcher who was member of weekend rotation for 2-plus seasons before shift to bullpen … set ND records for career appearances (94) and saves in a season (13, in 2003; 8th in nation), also finishing 2nd in ND career record book for saves (19), 7th in innings (298.0), 8th in wins (25-16) and 9th in strikeouts (205) … posted a career-best 2.70 ERA in ’03 that would have ranked 4th in the BIG EAST (he was 3 IP shy of the min.) while 30 appearances (29 relief) ranked 3rd in the ND single-season record book … his other ’03 stats included leading the ND staff in lowest opp. batting by lefthanded hitters (.197) while ranking 2nd in groundball outs per 9 IP (12.0), 3rd in lowest opponent slugging pct. (.278, just 2 home runs allowed), 4th in innings (60.0) and 5th in ERA (2.70), wins (4-6), strikeouts (45) and opponent batting avg. (.242, 55 hits) … his excellent control in ’03 included just 13 traditional walks (8 intentional) while he hit only one batter and totaled just three wild pitches … closed 24 of his 29 relief appearances in ’03 while converting 13 of 15 save opportunities … allowed just 3-of-13 inherited runners to score in ’03 while holding the first batters he faced to .240 batting (6-for-25, 3 BB) … third ND pitcher ever to earn multiple all-BIG EAST honors (third team in ’01 and ’03) … received $2,000 postgraduate scholarship from the BIG EAST … posted the BIG EAST’s second-best ERA in 2003 conference games (1.09) … his 33 career starts included the win over West Virginia in the 2003 BIG EAST Tournament opener (his first start since March 6, 2002), as the Irish coped with the absence of injured BIG EAST pitcher of the year Chris Niesel … earned Verizon/CoSIDA third team Academic All-America honors, graduating with a 3.40 GPA as a finance major, including a 4.0 during the ’03 spring semester to go along with three previous Dean’s List semesters … went 10 appearances and 25 innings without allowing an earned run during second half of 2003 season … posted 2.1 K-to-walk ratio … twice logged six innings out of the bullpen in ’03, picking up extra-inning win over Wake Forest and not allowing an earned run in 19-inning marathon at Rutgers … his 9-inning averages in 2003: 8.3 H, 3.2 BB (2nd-best on staff), 6.8 Ks … situational pitching in ’03: .248 opp. batting with runners on, .262 with 2 outs, 39% of leadoff batters reached … posted 3.14 ERA as a junior, with his 2002 highlights including a 3-hit, complete-game effort in a 1-0 win over BYU, saving both wins at Florida State in the 2002 NCAA Super Regionals and picking up the win over Rice in the College World Series … his ND career stats included a 3.90 ERA, 25-16 record and 19 saves in 94 appearances (34 starts), with 205 Ks, 83 BB and 318 hits allowed in 298 IP (also a .276 opp. avg., 12 WP and 20 HB).
Ryan Kalita – Used sparingly his first two seasons before emerging as key member of staff in ’02 and ’03 … his .933 career win pct. (14-1) is tops in ND history for pitchers with 15-plus decisions … named 2nd team all-BIG EAST in 2003, after finishing 3rd among BE pitchers in conference ERA (2.09), with 4-1 conference record and .214 opponent batting in league play … finished 8th among BIG EAST pitchers in overall ERA (3.42) and opp. batting (.254) and 9th in wins (7-1) and innings 76.1) … classic low-ball pitcher who led staff in groundout per 9 IP (12.3) and groundout-t-flyout ratio (2.5) … averaged nearly 20 outs per 9 IP via Ks or GOs (19.9) …his other 2003 stats included 64 Ks (3rd on team), 31 walks and 71 hits allowed in 13 appearances (12 starts, 3rd-most on staff), plus 6 wild pitches and 6 hit batters … 22 of his Ks came on called 3rd strikes … one of ND’s top situational pitchers in ’03, limiting opponents to .236 batting with runners on (3rd-best) and .217 with 2 outs (4th-best), with 35% of leadoff batters reaching base … his 9-inninng averages in ’03: 8.4 H, 3.7 BB, 7.6 Ks … averaged 6.0 innings per appearance (38.9 batters faced per 9 IP, 5th-best on staff) … posted 2.1 K-to-walk ratio … … posted 3.16 ERA and 5-0 record in 42.2 IP as a junior (’02), when he tossed 7 shutout relief innings to beat Rutgers in BIG EAST title game (the final 6 IP after being hit in the head with a deflected linedrive) … also beat Rutgers in the key 2003 BIG EAST winner’s bracket game before winning opener vs. Arizona at 2003 NCAA Fullerton Regional … his ND career stats: 3.23 ERA, 14-1 record in 34 GP (18 GS), 131 IP, 126 H, 110 Ks, 55 BB, .260 opp. avg., 13 WP, 8 HB.