April 6, 2004
Notre Dame junior third baseman Matt Macri (Clive, Iowa) has been named BIG EAST baseball player of the Week while emerging as one of the top midseason candidates for BIG EAST Player of the Year. Macri was honored for his efforts during last week’s 5-0 showing by the Irish, with the 6-2, 190-pound righthander batting .600 (9-for-15) in four games with 4 RBI, 9 runs scored, a pair of triples and 3 stolen bases (he also reached on 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch).
The impressive week also included errorless play in 16 fielding chances, highlighted by three big-league plays in Sunday’s series finale vs. Villanova in which he made tough stops up the line and finished with a bullet throw to first base. Each play somehow was more dazzling than the previous one, with the last featuring a full dive to his right and a long throw to just nip the runner.
Macri – who had multiple hits in all four games – showed his offensive versatility during the week, batting in his customary spot near the bottom of the lineup vs. Western Michigan and in the opener vs. VU before filling the No. 2 spot for the final two games (following the injury to senior 2B Steve Sollmann).
The BIG EAST weekly award is the second for Macri during his Notre Dame career (also on April 21, 2003), making him one of nine all-time Irish players who have earned multiple BIG EAST player-of-the-week honors (Sollmann, Alec Porzel and Brian Stavisky are ND’s only three-time honorees). A total of 17 Irish players now have combined to earn 29 BIG EAST player-of-the-week awards, since ND joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96 (ND’s total is more than double that of any other school in the last nine seasons, with Rutgers earning 13).
Macri snapped out of his 1-for-12 slump at West Virginia by opening the week with a 3-for-3 effort in the 12-3 win over Western Michigan (BB, R, SB). His pair of triples then helped fuel the 15-7 win over VU (2-for-3, HBP, 2 RBI, 3 R) while his 10th-inning single won the second game of the series, 6-5 (2-for-4, BB, RBI, 2 R, SB). Macri won a two-out battle with Adrian Schau, falling down 0-2 in the count and fouling off three pitches with two strikes before sending a 2-2 pitch into left field to end the game. The converted shortstop then closed the week by batting 2-for-5 in the 13-1 win over the Wildcats (BB, RBI, 3 R, SB).
MACRI EMERGES AS PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATE – ND’s Matt Macri currently ranks among the BIG EAST’s top-10 leaders in seven of 12 offensive categories (his 32 hits ranks 11th while his .356 batting is one point shy of that top-10 list). That all-around offensive performance – not to mention his defensive prowess – places Macri among the frontrunners for BIG EAST Player of the Year. At this point in the season, only two BIG EAST players – the Pittsburgh tandem of sophomore centerfielder Ben Copeland (9) and fifth-year senior DH/righthander pitcher PJ Hiser (8) – are ranked in more BIG EAST categories than Macri.
The BIG EAST stat rankings feature Macri ranking 1st in triples (3), 3rd in RBI (26) and runs scored (28), 5th in slugging pct. (.578) and total bases (52), 8th in walks (15) and 9th in on-base pct. (.454). Macri is one of four BIG EAST players ranked in the top 10 for both RBI and runs scored (the others are Hiser, Rutgers All-American OF Jeff Frazier and Georgetown catcher Andrew Cleary). He also is one of six BIG EAST players who are ranked in the top 10 for both slugging and on-base pct., as are Copeland, Hiser, UConn senior catcher Mike Leonard, West Virginia junior SS Grant Psomas and St. John’s junior catcher Blake Hershelman.
Macri’s other season stats include just five errors in 23 games played, 19 error-free games and just one error in the last 14 games (spanning 49 fielding chances).
Among Notre Dame regulars (min. 1 AB per team game), Macri ranks 1st in runs, hits, RBI, triples (rest of team has 4), total bases and multi-hit games (9), 2nd in slugging, stolen bases (4) and multi-RBI games (7, behind matt Edwards’ 8) , 3rd in doubles (5) and walks, and 4th in batting avg. and home runs (3). Freshman C Sean Gaston (.400, 40 ABs) and sophomore OF Craig Cooper (.362, 58 ABs) both rank above Macri on the batting charts but fall short of the BIG EAST ranking minimums of 2.5 ABs per team game (75). Sophomore LF Steve Andres has the 7th-most plate appearances on the Irish squad (80) but falls short of the AB minimum and thus – in a statistical quirk – is left off of the BIG EAST slugging and on-base leaders (his .538 OB would rank 1st, ahead of RU’s Graig Badgers’ .533, while Andres would be 3rd with .655 slugging, just behind Hershelman’s .656 while Hiser is the runaway leader at .972).
Macri’s situational offense includes a team-best .368 batting with runners in scoring position (compared to the team’s .312) while ranking 2nd on the team in leadoff on-base pct. (.538, well above the team’s .402) and 4th with seven 2-out RBI (despite hitting just .267 with 2 outs, nearly 60 points below the team’s .326). He has yet to ground into a double play, is batting .371 vs. righthanded pitching and has delivered the RBI 7-of-9 times runners a runner on 3rd base and 0-1 outs (only Edwards’ 9-of-11 and Javi Sanchez’s 7-of-8 are better).
Macri’s 2004 stats include batting 83 points above his combined 2002 and ’03 average (.273) while his .578 slugging is 152 points higher than his career slugging entering ’04 (.426) and his .454 on-base is nearly 100 points above his ’02/’03 on-base (.359). He is averaging 1.13 RBI per game (nearly double the 0.62 in ’02/’03) while his five errors project out to 13 in 60 games (he made 19 Es in 60 games last season).
OTHER ND PLAYERS IN THE BIG EAST STAT LEADERS – Sophomore SS Greg Lopez ranks 5th on the BIG EAST batting charts (.372), plus 8th in doubles (8) and 9th in runs (23) … junior 1B Matt Edwards is 4th in RBI (25), 5th in home runs (5, as is sophomore DH Matt Bransfield) and 10th in total bases (49) … sophomore LF Steve Andres ranks 3rd in walks (21) and 8th in HRs (4) while his .538 on-base pct. would be leading the league and his .655 slugging would be 3rd (he does not meet the AB min.) … senior 2B Steve Sollmann ranks 9th in runs (23) … sophomore LHP Tom Thornton leads the BIG EAST with a 2.38 ERA (min. 1 IP per team game) while ranking 2nd in innings (45.1) and 4th in lowest opp. batting avg. (.209) … Thornton and junior RHP Chris Niesel both are 4-1 and are two of six pitchers who sit atop the BIG EAST list for overall wins (ND is the only team with two 4-game winners) … Niesel’s 34 strikeouts rank 9th in the conference … sophomore closer Ryan Doherty leads the league in saves (5) while ranking 2nd in appearances (12), with senior LHP Joe Thaman (11) 6th on this list while freshman RHP Dan Kapala (10) is 8th (Doherty and Thaman are the only BIG EAST teammates with 11-plus appearances) … four members of the ND staff are shy of the IP minimum but would rank on several BIG EAST lists … freshman RHP Jeff Samardzija (0.48, 18.1 IP), Doherty (0.71, 12.2 IP) and senior RHP Grant Johnson (0.82, 11.0 IP) each own impressive ERAs while Doherty (.119, 5-for-42), Samardzija (.131, 8-for-61, no extra-base hits) and Thaman (.176, 15-for-85, 22.2 IP) each own an opponent batting avg. better than the official BIG EAST leader, BC All-American Chris Lambert (.196) … ND leads the conference in team ERA (3.62) while narrowly trailing Pittsburgh in fielding pct. (.973-.972) and Pitt (.322) and St. John’s (.320) in batting (.319).
SAMARDZIJA SCHEDULE – Here’s a look at freshman WR/RHP Jeff Samardzija’s two-sport schedule, through the Blue-Gold intrasquad football scrimmage (he is attending all 14 football practices, with the FB off-days on Wed. fit perfectly with the midweek baseball games): April 6 football practice; April 7 baseball vs. Valparaiso (he could pitch vs. his hometown school), April 8 FB, April 9 baseball practice, April 10 baseball vs. BC, April 11 BASE, April 12 baseball vs. SJU, April 13 FC, April 14 baseball v. Oakland, April 15 off-day, April 16 FB, April 17 FB then fly to D.C., April 18 baseball at Georgetown, April 19-20 FB, April 21 baseball vs. Toledo, April 22 FB, April 23 off, April 24 FB Blue-Gold game then fly to Pittsburgh and rejoin baseball full-time.
Steve Sollmann UPDATE – Notre Dame senior 2B Steve Sollmann – who was injured on April 3, during an in-game collision with a teammate – had April 5 surgery on his jaw in his native Cincinnati … he was released today (April 6) and is slated to return to Notre Dame on April 9 (he will attend the upcoming BIG EAST doubleheaders at Eck Stadium,. vs. Boston College and St. John’s) … Sollmann then is scheduled to attend classes next week and return to Cincinnati on Friday, April 16, for a follow-up with the medical staff in Cincinnati … further information on Sollmann’s rehab status and a possible return to action will be forthcoming, with no additional information available until after April 16 … Sollmann’s 2-for-3 start in the Villanova series opener pushed his career hit total to 280, passing former double-play partner Alec Porzel (279) into 4th on the ND career hits list … he also tied Mike Amrhein for 6th in runs scored (195), in addition to ranking 9th in career batting avg. (.362) and at-bats (774), 7th in triples (13), 5th in stolen bases (72) and 4th in fielding assists (561, just one behind Porzel) in 202 games played/200 starts … Sollmann had pushed his season batting avg. to .294, after hitting 10-for-21 (.476) in his six games played leading up to the injury.
ND’s BIG EAST PLAYER-OF-WEEK HISTORY – Notre Dame’s previous BIG EAST player-of-the-week recipients include three three-time honorees – RF Brian Stavisky (4/24/00, 2/19/01, 4/2/01), SS Alec Porzel (5/0/00, 4/15/01, 5/7/01) and 2B Steve Sollmann (2/24, 3/17 and 5/19 in ’03) – plus five other two-time recipients in 1997 catcher Jeff Wagner (4/7, 5/5), IF Brant Ust (4/3/98, 3/29/99), ’99 junior 1B Jeff Felker (4/15, 5/12), catcher Paul O’Toole (5/13/00, 4/1/02) and ’01 junior CF Steve Stanley (2/26, 4/23).
The other eight ND position players who have received weekly BIG EAST honors include catcher Mike Amrhein (3/17/97), OF Allen Greene (4/28/97), SS J.J. Brock (3/16/98), catcher Mike Knecht (5/4/98), 3B/C Andrew Bushey (2/25/02) and three current players: 1B Joe Thaman (5/13/02), 3B/1B Matt Edwards (4/7/03) and SS Matt Macri (4/21/03).