March 8, 2004
NOTRE DAME BASEBALL GAMEDAY NOTES – vs. Penn State (March 8, 2004) … Third Round of Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic
TOURNAMENT TOSSUP – After two days of competition at the Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic, both spots in Tuesday’s title game still are up for grabs … Notre Dame joins today’s opponent (Penn State; 1:30 CST) and Texas-San Antonio as the three teams (each 1-1) that still could play in the title game … PSU can clinch a spot by beating the Irish but also could make the title game with a loss, if Southern Illinois beats UTSA in Monday’s later game … wins by ND and SIU on Monday would ensure an ND-PSU rematch in the title game (those teams also would then play a third straight game on Wed. at the Round Rock Classic) … if ND wins but UTSA also wins, there would be three teams at 2-1 and the tie would be broken by run differential (each would be 1-1 in head-to-head comparisons) … UTSA sits in the run-differential driver’s seat (+7), followed by PSU (+2) and ND (-7) … to simplify ND’s scenarios to reach the title game, the Irish will play in Tuesday’s 4:00 game if: (1) ND wins (by any score) and SIU beats UTSA; or (2) ND beats PSU by 9-plus runs and UTSA wins … under the first scenario, the final would be an ND-PSU rematch (the second scenario would send ND and UTSA back to the field for another matchup).
STARTER SHUFFLE – Notre Dame and Penn State both will be starting different pitchers than the pre-tournament planned rotation … Irish freshman RHP Derik Olvey has been scratched due to a stomach virus, with junior RHP Grant Johnson now slated to make his first start since the 2002 College World Series opener vs. Stanford … Johnson – who went on to earn Freshman All-America honors and pitch for the ’02 Team USA team that set a team record for staff ERA – missed all of the ’03 season while rehabbing from shoulder surgery and has pitched just two innings this season (in the 7-1 opener vs. San Diego State) while being eased back into the rotation (he did not pitch last weekend due to tonsillitis) … PSU was scheduled to start Alan Stidfole in today’s game but the sophomore LHP logged 4.2 innings to win Sunday’s night’s thriller vs. Southern Illinois (8-7, in 10 innings) … SIU had a runner on third with no outs in the bottom of the 9th before Stidfole issued two intentional walks … the next SIU batter then sent a low linedrive that was snagged by the first baseman, who stepped on first for the double play (Stidfole K’d the next batter to complete the escape) … PSU now is set to start 6-3, 200-pound senior RHP Jared Hopewell, who has logged just one inning this season(H, K) for the 5-1 Nittany Lions … Hopewell’s 2003 season included a 3.47 ERA, 4-1 record and 21 Ks).
Grant Johnson Career Stats (See PDF)
TWO-OUT TERRORS – Notre Dame has been a dangerous offensive unit with two outs in the Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic, with the ND hitters combining to bat .500 with two outs vs. SIU and UTSA (19-for-38) … the Irish hitters and batting just .286 (14-for-49) with 0-1 outs while 12 of the team’s 17 RBI in the tournament have come with two outs … ND also is batting .414 (12-for-29) with runners in scoring position for the tournament.
ALL-TOURNAMENT CANDIDATES – Four Notre Dame players have made an early case for Alamo Classic all-tournament honors by batting .400-plus through the tournament’s first two games: sophomore lefthanded DH Steve Andres (.625, 5-for-8, 3 RBI, R, HR), senior C Javi Sanchez (.600, 6-for-10, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 2B, HBP), junior 1B Matt Edwards (.500, 5-for-10, 4 RBI, 3 R, HR, 2B) and freshman CF Danny Dressman (.400, 4-for-10, 2 RBI, R) … ND is batting .379 as a team in the tournament, also reaching base eight times on hit-by-pitch with one walk (to offset nine Ks) … see complete two-game tournament offensive stats below (see PDF):
LEADOFF BATTER – Senior All-America 2B Steve Sollmann has collected just five hits while batting .192 this season but he also has reached base 10 other times, thanks to six walks and 4 times hit-by-pitch (for a .417 on-base pct.).
NEVER SAY DIE – In the 12-11 win over SIU, Notre Dame twice was down to its final out with no runners in scoring position but responded with a game-tying run in the bottom of the 9th and two more runs in the 10th to again tie the score, before winning in the 11th.
STRONG OUT OF THE GATE – Notre Dame has opened 7-0 for the ninth time in the program’s 112-year history and for just the second time in the last 68 years … the last time an ND team started 7-0 was 44 years ago, when the 1960 team started 9-0 … the top undefeated starts in ND history are 17-0 (1907) and 13-0 (’08), with both the 1909 and ’13 teams opening 8-0 (the 1901, ’22 and ’36 teams match the current team with 7-0 starts).
SLOW STARTERS -Notre Dame has hit just .214 (19-for-89) with 12 runs in the 1st-3rd innings of ’04 games, compared to .426 (89-for-209) with 72 runs after the 3rd inning … the Irish have opened the last two weekends with a similar offensive pattern … against Winthrop at the FAU Classic, ND had no baserunners after three innings before erupting for 29 baserunners en route to a 19-6 win over the Eagles … the Irish then opened the Alamo City Classic without a hit in the first three innings with just one baserunner (on a hit-by-pitch) but came alive with 20 hits and 25 baserunners over the final eight innings (SIU had just nine baserunners in that stretch, including only three runners after the 5th inning).
PLENTY-O-RUNS – Notre Dame has posted 9-plus runs in five of its last six games: 19-6 vs. Winthrop, 12-3 vs. Florida Memorial, 19-7 vs. Minnesota, 12-11 vs. SIU and 9-17 vs. UTSA.
OFFENSIVE MACHINE – Notre Dame’s .360 team batting average is nearly 30 points above the team record for season batting average (.334), shared by the 1989, ’93 and ’97 squads … since 1993, only one ND team has hit above .323 for a season (the ’97 team’s .334).
LAST-OUT HEROES – Five Notre Dame batters delivered hits vs. SIU with the Irish down to their last out … ND faced a 9-8 deficit in the 9th when junior 3B Matt Macri sent a 2-out, 0-1 pitch up the middle … P.J. Finnigan then worked ahead to an 0-2 count on Steve Andres but the lefthanded DH was not fooled on a third straight changeup, slicing an opposite-field double into the left-center gap (Macri was running on the play and motored all the way around to force extra innings) … SIU answered with two in the top of the 10th but ND again fought back with 2 outs, this time with Steve Sollmann on first … clutch singles from junior first baseman Matt Edwards (a first-pitch shot up the middle) and senior catcher Javi Sanchez (a 2-1 ball hit to the left side) loaded the bases before sophomore rightfielder Cody Rizzo – who had struck out in the ninth – gained redemption versus Finnigan by sending the first pitch he saw into left field for a two-run single.
GAME-WINNER – Sophomore Craig Cooper was an unlikely hero in the 11th vs. SIU, after enduring a case of the flu that had limited him to earlier pinch-runner duties … in the game as a righthanded DH, Cooper greeted righthander Tyler Norrick with a double to right-center (on a 1-1 pitch) … SIU then misplayed a sacrifice bunt from Greg Lopez and Cooper scampered home moments later with the winning run, on a wild pitch.
HOLDING THE FORT – Senior lefthander Joe Thaman and freshman righthander Jeff Samardzija both logged 2.1 solid innings vs. SIU, in relief of Chris Niesel and Dan Kapala … Thaman retired all seven batters he faced while Samardzija also set down the first seven before walking his final batter … sophomore closer Ryan Doherty (2-0) then recorded the final five outs to complete the multi-comeback day.
AIRTIGHT-D – The Irish defense posted its fourth error-free game of the season vs. SIU, boosting ND’s team fielding percentage to an eye-popping .989 that included just three errors (only one of those by the starting infielders and outfielders) … that fielding pct. dropped all the way to .971 after a six-error game vs. UTSA.
TOURNEY-TESTED – The Irish are 13-2 in their last 15 regular-season tournament games and have avoided an 0-and-2 start in 21 of the last 22 regular-season tournaments … ND now is 22-4 as the host team in San Antonio tournaments, with wins in 13 of the last 14 San Antonio games.
QUALITY PLATE APPEARANCES – In addition to a .360 team batting avg., the ND hitters own another impressive number with more walks + HBP (26+19) than strikeouts (44) … the Irish are averaging 11.1 runs per 9 innings (84 in 68).
HEFTY HIT TOTALS – Notre Dame now has posted 20, 19 and 18-hit games in the young ’04 season..
BIG INNINGS – The Irish have dominated ’04 scoring in the 7th-8th innings (24-2 combined; 12-1 in 7th, 11-1 in 8th).
WINNING THE TIGHT ONES – The Irish are 11-1 in their last 12 one-run games (spanning the ’03 and ’04 seasons).
See PDF for updated career stats on ND’s veteran position players and closer Ryan Doherty.