April 8, 2003
Notre Dame sophomore infielder Matt Edwards (Mechanicsville, Va./Lee-Davis HS) has received BIG EAST player-of-the-week honors after leading the Irish baseball team to a 4-0 record in last week’s action. Edwards – who has started at first and third base in recent weeks – led Notre Dame in hits and batting average (9-for-14, .643), RBI (10) home runs (3), total bases (21) and slugging percentage (1.500), plus seven runs scored, two walks, a triple, double, stolen base and just one strikeout from his key No. 3 spot in the batting order. He hit 6-for-9 in the doubleheader sweep at St. John’s, with five RBI and a pair of booming home runs to dead-center field.
Edwards – who missed most of the 2002 season with a broken leg – heads into this week’s action with a .385 season batting average and an eight-game hitting streak, plus 32 RBI in 25 games played (14 of his RBI have come with two outs). He is batting .436 (17-for-39) in the current 11-game winning streak, with 19 RBI and an .821 slugging percentage in that stretch (3 home runs, triple, 4 doubles).
Edwards ranks eighth among BIG EAST players in batting average (.385) and is second among the conference’s players in RBI (32) and slugging percentage (.615). Junior second baseman Steve Sollmann also remains among the league leaders in several categories, including sixth in batting (.400), third in hits (44), first in stolen bases (16) and runs scored (32), third in total bases (65) and fifth in slugging (.591). Freshman centerfielder Brennan Grogan continues to lead the BIG EAST with five triples.
Notre Dame’s current three-man rotation likewise rates among the BIG EAST’s bests. Senior Ryan Kalita and sophomore John Axford are tied for the league’s second-best ERA (2.31, with Virginia Tech’s Ryan Kennedy at 1.72) while ND sophomore Chris Niesel is ninth on the league’s ERA charts at 3.11. Kalita also ranks third in low opponent batting average (.208) and fourth in wins (4-0) while Axford is first in wins (5-0), ninth in strikeouts (350 and seventh in opponent batting (.222). Niesel checks in at second in Ks (45, two back of BC’s Chris Lambert), eighth in opponent batting (.225) and third in innings pitched (46.1).
As a team, Notre Dame leads the BIG EAST in overall fielding percentage (.968) while ranking second in both batting average (.315) and staff ERA (3.54). No other team in the conference is even ranked among the top three in all three categories (Virginia Tech is first in ERA and fourth in both batting and fielding).
Notre Dame moved up in the national polls after last week’s 4-0 record, with the Irish now checking in at No. 16 in the Collegiate Baseball magazine poll, 17th according to Baseball America and 21st in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.