Oct. 6, 2003

The Notre Dame baseball team will close its 2003 fall practice by holding its annual “Blue-vs.-Gold Baseball World Series,” a slate of three intrasquad scrimmages scheduled for Oct. 7-9 (Tues.-Thurs.) at Eck Stadium. The seven-inning games (one per day) are open to the public, with start times of 4:00 p.m.

First-year Notre Dame assistant coach Terry Rooney will serve as manager of the Blue team while assistant coach David Grewe returns for his second season as the skipper for the Gold, after coaching the Gold to a series win in 2002 over the Blue and former Irish associate head coach Brian O’Connor.

Tuesday’s probable starting pitching matchup will feature Gold junior righthander Chris Niesel – the Blue-Gold Series Game-1 winner in 2001 and ’02 – and Blue 6-foot-4 senior lefthander Joe Thaman, Notre Dame’s starting first baseman during the past three seasons who has been impressive on the mound this fall (he was 7-1 with a 3.42 ERA, 57 Ks and 25 walks in 45 innings as a senior at St. Louis University High School). Niesel’s combined stats from the 2001 and ’02 Blue-Gold Series include a 1.80 ERA, 12 Ks, no walks and six hits allowed in 10 innings (110 pitches).

Starting pitchers will be limited to four innings of work (or 65 pitches).

Rooney’s 16-man Blue roster includes four everyday starting position players from the 2003 team – Thaman, senior catcher Javi Sanchez (who also should see time in the infield or left field), junior shortstop Matt Macri (who also could be used some at third base this season) and sophomore outfielder Cody Rizzo – plus sophomore outfielder Brennan Grogan (who started for much of the ’02 season). Other Blue team infielders include senior infielder Zach Sisko and four newcomers: freshman infielder Chris Fournier, freshman catcher Sean Gaston, freshman first baseman Chris Vasami (who also can serve as a righthanded pitcher) and sophomore catcher Nick Mainieri, son of 10th-year Irish head coach Paul Mainieri. The Blue’s veteran pitchers include junior righthanders John Axford and Tyler Jones and three lefthanders: senior Cody Wilson, junior Scott Bickford and sophomore Tom Thornton. Freshman righthander Dan Kapala rounds out the Blue staff.

Grewe’s 16-man Gold team will counter with just two everyday starting position players from the ’03 team – senior second baseman Steve Sollmann and junior third baseman/first baseman Matt Edwards – plus three others who platooned as starters in ’03: sophomore DH Matt Bransfield (who could play at catcher or left field), emerging shortstop Greg Lopez (who started mostly at third in ’03 and DH Steve Andres (who can see time in the field at catcher, first base or left field). The other Gold position players include senior infielder Tim Murray, sophomore outfielder Alex Nettey, freshman centerfielder Danny Dressman and freshman first baseman/righthanded pitcher Mike Dury. Veteran pitchers for the Gold include Niesel, junior righthander Martin Vergara and sophomore righthander Ryan Doherty while the Gold freshman hurlers include righthanders Derik Olvey, Jess Stewart and Nico Bertucci (a recent walk-on candidate) and lefthander Matt Whittington.

Three veterans and one newcomer – junior RHP Grant Johnson, junior DH/OF Brent Weiss, sophomore OF Craig Cooper and freshman RHP Matt Manship – will not compete in the Blue-Gold series while the team’s final roster for the 2003 spring season will be announced later in the month.

The 2001 Series saw a young Gold team (comprised of many members of the current junior class) win the first and third games (7-4, 3-2) while the veteran Blue squad won Game 2 (19-8), with Sollmann batting 8-for-13 to pace the Blue team (HR, 3B, 3 2B). Axford recorded the Gold’s win in Game 3 (5 H, BB, 5 Ks) while Macri paced the Gold with 5-for-11 hitting (HR, 3B) and the save in Game 3.

The Gold also won the 2002 Series (9-1, 7-6, 1-6), with top hitters including Grogan (4-for-12, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, 2 SB). Nettey hit 4-for-9 (2B, RBI) to lead the ’02 Blue team while three others hit 4-for-10: Sanchez (3R, 3B, RBI, BB, SB), Cooper (3R, 3B, 2 RBI, BB, SB) and Andres (R, 3 RBI, SB). Thornton was in line to win Game 2 for the Blue in ’02 (5 IP, 3 R, 4 H, BB) while Jones (4 IP, K, 2 H, 3 BB) and Vergara (3 IP, 3H, BB, 2 Ks) combined to win Game 3.

BLUE TEAM (manager: Terry Rooney)
C/IF/OF – #15 Javi Sanchez (Sr.; Miami, Florida)
IF – #7 Zach Sisko (Sr.; Belleville, Illinois)
1B/LHP – #21 Joe Thaman (Sr.; St. Louis, Missouri)
LHP – #29 Cody Wilkins (Sr.; Hudson, North Carolina)
RHP – #49 John Axford (Jr.; Port Dover, Ontario)
LHP – #33 Scott Bickford (Jr.; Owings, Maryland)
RHP – #38 Tyler Jones (Jr.; Arlington, Texas)
SS/3B – #5 Matt Macri (Jr.; Clive, Iowa)
OF – #13 Brennan Grogan (So.; Tequesta, Florida)
OF – #17 Cody Rizzo (So.; Temecula, California)
LHP – #30 Tom Thornton (So.; Middleboro, Massachusetts)
IF/OF – Chris Fournier (Fr.; Fairfield, Connecticut)
C – Sean Gaston (Fr.; Brownsburg, Indiana)
RHP – Dan Kapala (Fr.; Royal Oak, Michigan)
C – Nick Mainieri (So.; South Bend, Indiana)
1B/RHP – Chris Vasami (Fr.; Mamaroneck, New York)

GOLD TEAM (manager: David Grewe)

2B – #3 Steve Sollmann (Sr.; Cincinnati, Ohio)
IF – #2 Tim Murray (Sr.; Shrub Oak, New York)
1B/3B – #14 Matt Edwards (Jr.; Mechanicsville, Virginia)
RHP – #10 Chris Niesel (Jr.; Plantation, Florida)
RHP – #23 Martin Vergara (Jr.; Paterson, New Jersey)
LF/C/1B – Steve Andres (So.; Napa, California)
C/LF – Matt Bransfield (So.; Englewood, Colorado)
RHP – Ryan Doherty (So.; Toms River, New Jersey)
SS – Greg Lopez (So.; Upper Arlington, Ohio)
OF – Alex Netty (So.; Dolton, Illinois)
RHP – Nico Bertucci (Fr.; Belleville, Illinois)
1B/RHP – Mike Dury (Fr.; Indianapolis, Indiana)
CF – Danny Dressman (Fr.; San Jose, California)
RHP – Derik Olvey (Fr.; Pelham, Alabama)
RHP – Jess Stewart (Fr.; Manassas, Virginia)
LHP – Matt Whittington (Fr.; Melbourne, Florida)