May 14, 2002
Notre Dame sophomore first baseman Joe Thaman (St. Louis, Mo.) has been named the BIG EAST Conference baseball player of the week, after playing a lead role from the No. 9 spot in the batting order during last weekend’s series versus Villanova.
Three Notre Dame position starters now have earned BIG EAST player of the week honors in the 2002 season, second-most among any team (behind this week’s opponent Boston College, which has produced five different players of the week).
Thaman hit 4-for-6 in the Villanova series while executing on each of his other five plate appearances, with three walks and a pair of sacrifice bunts – plus a pair of key home runs, four runs scored, three RBI, 10 total bases, a stolen base and his trademark stellar defense around the first-base bag (no errors on 28 fielding chances while also completing three double plays).
In the opening 8-7 loss to VU, Thaman went 0-for-1 with a pair of walks and a 6th-inning bunt that moved Javier Sanchez to second base (he went on to score for a 5-4 ND lead).
The 6-4, 210-pound lefthander then added another sacrifice bunt in the 2nd inning of Game 2, advancing Kris Billmaier and Sanchez (both scored for a 5-0 lead). He went on to launch a solo home run to center field in the 4th and later singled and scored to help cap the 8-1 win.
Thaman’s second home run of the weekend forged a 2-2 score in the 3rd inning of the series finale, with his fourth home run of the season sailing over the opposite-field wall in left-center. He went on to add a single before drawing an 8th-inning walk and run scored vs. ace reliever James Russell (who entered the game with a 1.88 ERA) in three-run 8th that capped the scoring in the 9-5 win.
After early-season struggles that saw him batting just .229 heading into the month of April, Thaman steadily has built his season batting average to .294. He has hits in nine of the last 11 games, including a .469 average (7-for-15) during the last two series vs. Rutgers and Villanova.
Thaman currently ranks third among Irish players in home runs (4) and walks (20) while also ranking fourth on the squad in runs scored (31), on-base pct. (.404) and sacrifice bunts (5). His .349 batting with runners in scoring position (5th-best in the team) is 55 points higher than his overall batting avg. (.294), which ranks 6th-best on the squad (as does his .429 slugging pct.). Thaman also has grounded into just one double play all season while helping complete 37 of the team’s 48 fielding double plays in the 2002 season (12 DPs shy of the team fielding record, set in 1998).
Five current members of the Notre Dame baseball program have been named BIG EAST player of the week during the past three seasons, including a pair of previous 2002 honorees in senior third baseman Andrew Bushey (after his 6-for-9 effort at the 2002 season-opening UNO Classic) and senior catcher Paul O’Toole (April 1, 2002; also March 13, 2000). ND’s other previous BIG EAST players of the week include senior centerfielder Steve Stanley (Feb. 23 and April 23 of 2001) and junior leftfielder Brian Stavisky (April 24, 2000; Feb. 19 and April 2, 2001).