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Jeff Samardzija Earns Freshman All-America Honors After Nearly Finishing Atop BIG EAST ERA Charts

June 14, 2004

Notre Dame righthanded pitcher Jeff Samardzija (Valparaiso, Ind.) has received Freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball magazine, completing an impressive 2003-04 season in which he lettered with both the Irish football and baseball teams.

Samardzija posted a 2.95 earned-run average in 2004 that ranked second-best among BIG EAST Conference pitchers who logged at least one inning per team game, trailing only the 2.65 by West Virginia’s ace lefthander Zac Cline. The Valparaiso High School product also finished with the second-best opponent batting average (.209) on the BIG EAST pitching charts, behind Boston College first-round draft pick and two-time BIG EAST pitcher of the year Chris Lambert (.196).

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound righthander – who lettered last fall as a wide receiver/special teams performer with the Irish football team – compiled a 5-3 record in 2004 while serving as a starter and top long reliever, totaling 42 strikeouts, 17 walks and 50 hits allowed in 64 innings. His season highlights included a 22-inning scoreless streak (second-longest by a Notre Dame pitcher in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era) and an impressive lateseason win over #20 Central Florida in which he held the Golden Knights to a pair of hits in seven shutout innings as the Irish went on to a 4-0 win.

Notre Dame baseball players now have earned Freshman All-America honors in seven of the last eight seasons, including two other members of the 2004 squads (senior 2B Steve Sollmann and junior RHP Grant Johnson).

Samardzija helped salvage the 2004 season as the Irish overcame preseason elbow surgery for two top pitchers (junior John Axford and freshman Jeff Manship) and the sore forearm that limited another top freshman, Derik Olvey, to 15 innings pitched this season. Axford opened with a 9-0 record in 2003 and was considered a top prospect for the 2004 MLB draft (prior to his injury) while Manship and Olvey were 2003 high school All-Americans (Baseball America rated then the #3 and #21 prospects among the nation’s freshmen, prior to the ’04 season).

With Samardzija doing his part, the Irish continually climbed the national ERA charts and currently rank 10th among nearly 300 Division I schools with a 3.36 staff ERA for the 2004 season.

Twice during the 2004 season, Samardzija had to play in a Notre Dame football scrimmage and then fly that night to join the baseball team before starting the next day. That first taste of double duty saw him gut out a 9-6 win at Georgetown, after allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits in 4.2 innings (plus 5 strikeouts and no walks).

One weekend later, Samardzija caught a touchdown in the Blue-Gold scrimmage to cap his full participation in spring football – but he struggled the next day at BIG EAST contender Pittsburgh, taking the loss in an 8-6 game (4 IP, 11 H, 8 R, 2 BB, 4 Ks).

When excluding that tough double-dip weekend in late April, Samardzija posted a 1.95 ERA and allowed just a .180 opponent batting average in his 19 other outings during the 2004 season.

His .209 final opponent average ranks third-best ever by a Notre Dame freshman, behind 1999 national freshman of the year Aaron Heilman’s .198 in 1998 and Larry Mohs’ .201 in ’94. Just four ND freshman have logged more appearances in a season than Samardzija’s 20: Heilman (31, as ’98 closer), another future major leaguer in LHP Chris Michalak (28, in ’90), current freshman RHP Dan Kapala (28, in ’04) and A.J. Jones (21, in ’93).

(Additional bio notes on Samardzija follow below.)

Seven previous Notre Dame players have received Freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball: RHP Pat Leahy (’90), C Dennis Twombley (’94), Heilman (’98), C Paul O’Toole (’99), RF Brian Stavisky (’00), Sollmann (’01) and Johnson (’02).

The Irish baseball program also has featured seven players who were named Freshman All-Americans by Baseball America (TBA fro ’04): five 1st teamers in RHP David Sinnes (’90), 2B Greg Layson (’91), Heilman, IF Brant Ust (’97) and Sollmann, plus a pair 2nd teamers in OF Paul Failla (’92) and Johnson (’02).

Five other previous Notre Dame players were honorable mention Freshman All-Americans, per Collegiate Baseball (which now names just one full team): OF Ryan Topham (’93), CF Scott Sollmann (’94), Mohs (’94),. RHP Alex Shilliday (’96) and CF Steve Stanley (’99).

Eight players from teams that Notre Dame faced in 2004 were included on the Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America list: USC RHP Ian Kennedy, Central Florida RHP Taylor Meier, UC Irvine closer Blair Erickson, Minnesota 1B Mike Mee, Virginia Tech 1B Sean O’Brien, Pittsburgh 2B Jim Negrych, Arizona SS Jason Donald and San Diego State DH Brock Ungricht.

See the below link for CB’s complete list of ’04 Freshman All-Americans:

Additional Samardzija Bio Notes – Capped ’04 season ranked 3rd among ND’s regular pitchers (20-plus IP) in opponent batting avg. (.209), innings (64)and groundouts (85), also ranking 4th among the staff’s regulars in ERA (2.95) and appearances (20) and 5th in victories (5-3) and strikeouts (42) … owned staff’s best opp. batting avg. by lefthander hitters (.160) … his other situational pitching included ranking 4th on staff in opp. 2-out batting (.228) and opp. leadoff on-base pct. (.288) … his 9-inning averages included 11.95 groundouts (2nd on staff), 2.39 walks and 7.03 hits (both 4th on staff), plus 5.91 Ks … averaged 17.9 outs per 9 IP via Ks or GOs, with his 1.5 groundout-to-flyout ratio ranking 2nd on the staff … held unique distinction of ranking 4th on staff in relief appearances (14) and 5th in starts (6) … closed 4 games … 16 of his Ks came “looking” … allowed just 1-of-6 inherited baserunners to score … his other ’04 stats included a save, 3 wild pitches, 3 hit batters and 5 home runs allowed (1 3B, 2 2B) … his other situational pitching included .245 op. batting by righthanders and .26 with runners on base … combined with classmate Olvey to allow just 2 hits and 7 total baserunners in 4-2 win over Penn State at Alamo City Classic, picking up save after tossing final 4 innings (BB, K, retired 12 of 13 BF) … played key role in three-game sweep at West Virginia, with pair of shutout innings …picked up 5-3 win at WVU in 7-inning opener that extend to 10 (5-3; 2 IP, BB, K, retired 6 of 7 BF) … came back the next day to pitch 1.2 shutout innings in 6-2 series finale (2 H, BB, K) … suffered tough-luck loss in first start, as St. John’ scored 2 unearned runs for 2-1 win … retired first 14 SJU batters he faced and took no-hitter into 7th inning while extending his scoreless streak to 22 innings … faced just 4 batters over the minimum (26) in 7.1 IP vs. the Red Storm (2 H, 2 UER, BB, 2 Ks, 11 GOs, 85 pitches) … picked up 7-3 win over Michigan in Grand Rapids, as starter in planned rotation (4 IP, H, R, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 61 pitches) … his impressive win over #20 Central Florida included facing just 25 batters in 7 shutout innings of that 4- 0 win (2 H, 2 BB, 4 Ks, HB, 10 GOs, 2 popups, 65 of 106 pitches for strikes) … took a perfect game into the 4th inning of that game vs. UCF …the UCF lefthanded hitters combined to hit just 1-for-14 vs. him (0-for-4 with runners on, 1-for-9 with 2 outs) … ended regular season with 2.45 season ERA that ranked 47th in the nation … closed season with no-decision in 6-5 NCAA Tournament loss to Arizona, after taking no-hitter into the 4th ( 5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 6 Ks).