Feb. 23, 2000
PLAY BALL!!: The No. 23-ranked Notre Dame baseball team is scheduled to open its season at the Service Academies Classic this week, with four games slated for the USA Baseball Stadium … the Irish open versus Air Force on Thursday, Feb. 23 (3:30 p.m. CST), followed by games versus Ohio State (Feb. 25, 5:00) and Memphis (Feb. 26, 6:00) … the six-team tournament will conclude on the 26th, with the top service team facing the top “civilian” team, etc. (seeding based records in the first three games).
IRISH BASEBALL ON THE AIR: South Bend-based WJVA radio (1580 AM) is scheduled to broadcast 46 of Notre Dame’s regular-season during the 2000 season … all games are available via the internet, with a link from the Notre Dame website (www.und.com).
QUICK TOURNEY NOTES: ND has made three previous appearances at the Service Academis Classic, winning in 1992 (wins over Army, Navy, Air Force and Memphis) before losing to Memphis in the ’96 title game (4-2) … ND opened the ’97 SAC with an 8-0 win over Army before downing 25th-ranked Arkansas, 8-5 (the rest of the tournament was rained out) … ND, Ohio State and Navy all advanced to the NCAAs in 1999 (ND and OSU served as hosts to the regional round) … ND has a 30-13 record in regular-season tournaments during the Paul Mainieri era, including a win over perennial power Florida State to open the 1998 season … during its first 107 years of varsity play, Notre Dame baseball faced 264 different opponents, with Akron and North Florida set to join that list during the 2000 season (at the upcoming Kennel Club Classic).
AROUND THE HORN: Notre Dame’s returners accounted for 87 percent of the team’s stolen bases in 1999 (73 of 84), plus 81% of the hits (501 of 617), 76% of the RBI (278 of 366) and 64% of the home runs (73 of 84) … the probable starting lineup includes three seniors, junior shortstop Alec Porzel, four sophomores and freshman righfielder Brian Stavisky … the starting lineup includes five lefthanded hitters: senior 1B Jeff Felker, sophomores 3B Andrew Bushey, sophomore C Paul O’Toole, sophomore Steve Stanley and Stavisky … the veteran infield includes two seniors – Felker and 2B Jeff Perconte – plus junior Porzel and sophomore Bushey … the 1999 Notre Dame baseball team reached 30 victories in the 39th game of the season, tying the team record for quickest season to the 30-win plateau (the ’90 and ’94 Irish teams also opened 30-9).
Notre Dame’s Probable Starting Lineup
* – lefthanded hitter, # – switch hitter
|C/DH||*Paul O’Toole||So.||6-2/210||Lakewood, OH|
|CF||*Steve Stanley||So.||5-9/150||Upper Arlington, OH|
|3B||*Andrew Bushey||So.||6-0/200||Boardman, OH|
|SS||Alec Porzel||Jr.||6-0/190||Lisle, IL|
|RF||*Brian Stavisky||Fr.||6-3/230||Port Allegany, PA|
|LF/C||Matt Nussbaum||Sr.||6-0/180||South Bend, IN|
|1B||*Jeff Felker||Sr.||6-5/190||Ellicott City, MD|
|DH||Matt Strickroth||So.||6-5/230||Mission Viejo, CA|
|or||#Matt Bok||So.||5-11/185||Akron, Ohio|
|or||Kris Billmaier||Fr.||5-11/185||Woodinvale, WA|
|2B||#Jeff Perconte||Sr.||5-11/190||Arlington Hts., IL|
|UTIL||#Ben Cooke||Jr.||5-9/170||Bay Village, OH|
|1B||Ken Meyer||So||6-0/210||Fort Myers, FL|
|IF||Jesse Delcamp||Fr.||6-2/165||Tierra Verde, FL|
|IF||Elliot Pope||Fr.||5-10/175||Memphis, TN|
|1B||Mike Holba||Fr.||6-7/215||Lombard, IL|
Probable Starters (final two are TBA)
|RHP||Scott Cavey||Sr.||6-5/200||Omaha, NE|
|RHP||Aaron Heilman||Jr.||6-5/210||Logansport, IN|
|RHP||Drew Duff||So.||6-0/175||Sevierville, TN|
|RHP||Mike Carlin||Jr.||6-5/210||Manhattan, KS|
|RHP||J.P. Gagne||Fr.||6-0/190||Bloomington, MN|
|LHP||Mike Naumann||Jr.||6-0/180||Tucson, AZ|
|RHP||John Corbin||Sr.||6-3/200||Hollywood, FL|
|RHP||Tom O’Hagan||Sr.||6-3/180||Crystal Lake, IL|
|RHP||Matt Buchmeier||So.||6-0/190||Greenwood, IN|
|RHP||Danny Tamayo||Jr.||6-2/225||Miami, FL|
|RHP||Matt Laird||Fr.||6-1/190||Bellaire, TX|
|RHP||Brandon Viloria||Fr.||5-11/215||Wailuku, HI|
QUICK INDIVIDUAL NOTES: Sophomore C Paul O’Toole (Lakewood, Ohio) carries a four-game HR streak into the Air Force game and became the first Notre Dame player ever to hit a home run in four straight postseason games (in ND’s final game of the 1999 BIG EAST Championship and in all three games of the ’99 NCAAs) … first-game starter Scott Cavey has averaged just 1.8 walks per 9 IP during his Notre Dame career, including a six-game, 26-inning stretch in 1999 that saw him total 20 strikeouts and just one walk … senior 1B Jeff Felker failed to crack the 1999 all-BIG EAST teams, despite ranking eighth in the league with a .414 conference batting avg. (each of the top seven earned BIG EAST honors) … the current Irish baseball coaching staff has been a part of 2,008 games in 38 combined NCAA seasons as players and coaches, with an average of 33 wins/season and 14 with 40-plus wins.
HOMECOMING: Two Notre Dame players are Tennessee natives: sophomroe RHP Drew Duff (Sevierville/Sevier County HS) and freshman IF Elliot Pope (Memphis/Memphis University HS) … sixth-year Irish head coach Paul Mainieri is very familiar with Millington and the Service Academies Classic, as he coaches at Air Force for six season (1989-94) before accepting the Notre Dame position.
IRISH IN SEASON OPENERS: Notre Dame has won its last two season openers, after losing the first three in the Paul Mainieri era … the Irish opened the 1998 season with a 10-1 win over perennial power Florida State, at the ACC/Disney Blast in Orlando, Fla. … ND won its 1999 opener, 8-4 over James Madison, in a game played at Florida International … the first three season openers of the Mainieri era yielded losses to three national powers: 10-6 to Texas at the 1995 Anaheim Classic, 12-4 at Georgia Tech in 1996 and 10-8 versus Long Beach State at the 1997 LBSU Classic …
THE AIR FORCE SERIES: Notre Dame has won all five of its previous game versus Air Force, with Paul Mainieri involved in each of those games (the first four as Air Force’s head coach and the most recent one as Irish head coach) … the first games of the series came in the 1990 College Baseball Classic at the Seattle Kingdome (a pair of 4-3 Irish wins) … the teams met again at the 1991 CBC (a 9-6 Irish win) before facing off at the 1992 Service Academies Classic (Notre Dame win, 12-4) … the teams last met in the 1996 SAC, with the Irish winning 12-8 … in that game, the Irish lost a 7-2 lead but bounced back with a five-run fifth inning … five Irish hitters had two hits, with a home run, triple and two walks from George Restovich and a triple and double from J.J. Brock (each of those players drove in four runs) … Rich Sauget picked up the win, tossing 2.1 innings of one-hit relief.
THE OHIO STATE SERIES: The Irish and Buckeyes have met 41 times previously, with Notre Dame holding a 24-17 series edge … the teams have not met since early in the 1990s, at the 1991 Oakland A’s Tournament (OSU won a pair of games from ND in that event, 6-1 and 12-11 in 11 innings) … OSU was one of the first opponents in Notre Dame history (23rd overall), dropping a 7-0 game in South Bend on May 15, 1902 … the series continued with single games in 1903 and ’04 before taking an 18-year break … the Irish and Buckeyes then played a slew of games from 1933-55, with that stretch accounting for 34 of the 41 games in the series (the teams met twice during 10 of those seasons and three times in 1952 and ’55 … the only games between the team from 1956-90 came at the 1976 Joe Sewell/Alabama Classic (a 3-0 OSU win and 4-2 ND win) … Notre Dame also played NCAA tournament games at OSU during the 1970 season, losing the first game of those District IV playoffs to Southern Illinois (10-2) before beating Minnesota (6-2) and losing again to SIU (1-0).
THE MEMPHIS SERIES: Notre Dame owns a slight edge (9-8) in its series versus Memphis, with the Tigers winning the last meeting (4-2 at the 1996 Service Academies Classic) … Craig Allen surrendered a pair of home runs in the first two innings of that game while the Irish rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the bottom of the sixth, behind Mike Amrhein’s bases-loaded double, but Tiger closer Chad Harville struck out George Restovich and Rowan Richards to end the threat … Alex Shilliday kept the Irish in the game, allowing one hit over three innings of relief.
THE ARMY SERIES: Notre Dame has won five of its previous six games versus Army, including an 8-0 win at the 1997 Service Academies Classic … Darin Schmalz picked up his 22nd career win in that game, with a complete-game effort (7 IP, 2 H, 8 Ks, 0 BB) … Schmalz allowed Bryan Price a leadoff double in the fourth before Mike Scioletti picked up a single in the seventh … Jeff Wagner hit a fourth-inning solo shot over the scoreboard in left field in that game while Brant Ust batted 2-for-2, with an RBI single, triple and run scored … the Notre Dame baseball team began exploring east-coast games in the early 1910s, prompting the Notre Dame football team to schedule similar games that later became historic matches (namely the games versus Army at Yankee Stadium) … the Notre Dame baseball team played games at Army in 1913 (losing 3-0) and 1914 (9-3), with the latter team being coached by Jesse Harper (who went on to coach the Knute Rockne-led football teams later that decade) … the Irish also played at Army in 1940 (a 6-2 win), which marked the last game between the teams for 51 years … the teams then met at twice in the SAC, with the Irish winning in 1992 (2-1) and ’96 (12-3).
THE NAVY SERIES: Notre Dame holds a 6-3 series edge versus Navy, including a 1-0 win at the ’96 service Academies Classic … Darin Schmalz was masterful in that win, tossing a complete game five-hitter (7 IP, 4 Ks, 0 BB) … Mike Amrhein gave the Irish all the offense it needed in the bottom of the first in that game, homering with two outs … the ND-Navy series has a similar beginning to the Army series, as ND played at Navy in both the 1913 (7-1 loss) and 1914 (4-2 win) seasons before losing a home game to the Middies in 1915 (5-2) … the teams also met at Notre Dame at the end of the ’29 season (6-4 ND win) and late in ’31 (a 5-2 ND win) … the Irish won at Navy in 1940 (5-4) but lost to the Mids at home in ’41 (5-4) … ND pulled out a 7-6 win over Navy at the 1992 SAC.
IRISH AMONG NUMEROUS PRESEASON PICKS: The Notre Dame baseball team is set to embark on its 2000 season with a national ranking in two of the three major polls – the only school from the Midwest or Northeast in either poll – while several Irish players have received preseason honors from various publications and organizations:
Notre Dame was ranked 20th in the Baseball America preseason poll – marking the highest preseason ranking for the Irish since 1994. Notre Dame currently occupies the 23rd spot in the latest BA poll (Feb. 21), heading into the season-opening game versus Air Force (Feb. 24 in Millington, Tenn., with a start time of 3:30 central).
The Irish were ranked 25th in the Collegiate Baseball magazine preseason poll and have maintained that spot in the latest poll.
Notre Dame received the 26th-most votes in the preseason USA Today Baseball Weekly Coaches Poll and received the 30th-most votes in this week’s version of that poll.
Junior righthander Aaron Heilman (Logansport, Ind.) was named a first team preseason All-American by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Heilman and Stanford’s Jason Young were the only pitchers named first team by both publications (each listed five first-team pitchers).
BA lists Heilman as the No. 9 professional prospect among draft-eligible college players (he is listed 15th overall, including high school seniors). Heilman ranks fourth on that list among draft-eligible college pitchers.
Heilman also was tabbed by both Baseball America and the BIG EAST Conference coaches as the preseason BIG EAST pitcher of the year.
BA lists Heilman and Young among the three pitching prospects with the best breaking ball (both throw sliders). The magazine also singled out Heilman and Young as the pitchers who are “closest to the major leagues.”
Baseball America lists Notre Dame freshman rightfielder Brian Stavisky (Port Allegany, Pa.) as the top newcomer in the BIG EAST Conference and the preseason BIG EAST freshman of the year. The magazine also projects Stavisky as the nation’s No. 5-rated prospect among current college freshmen, behind Clemson shortstop Jeff Baker, Florida third baseman Pat Osborne, Texas A&M first baseman Travis Wong and Stanford outfielder Jason Cooper.
Baseball America’s list of the “best tools” among BIG EAST players includes four from Notre Dame: Stavisky (“best raw power”), Heilman (“best fastball”), sophomore centerfielder Steve Stanley (“fastest runner”) and senior Jeff Felker (“best defensive first baseman”).
Baseball America picked Notre Dame to win the 2000 BIG EAST regular-season title, followed by Rutgers, St. John’s, Seton Hall, West Virginia and Pittsburgh. The BIG EAST coaches preseason poll forecasted Rutgers as the 2000 champion (76 voting points, five first-place votes), narrowly edging Notre Dame (74, 3), followed by St. John’s (69, 2), Seton hall, West Virginia and Pittsburgh.
PROSPECTS: Notre Dame junior Aaron Heilman is listed ninth on Baseball America’s annual list of the top professional prospects in college baseball (15th among all players, including high schoolers). Heilman ranks fourth on that list among draft-eligible pitchers, behind Arizona sophomore Ben Diggins (3rd), Auburn’s Chris Bootcheck (4th) and Stanford’s Jason Young (7th). Others on that list include California third baseman Xavier Nady (1st), Clemson outfielder Patrick Boyd (2nd), North Carolina outfielder Tyrell Godwin (5th), Texas A&M outfielder Daylon Holt (6th) and Pepperdine catcher Dane Sardinha (8th). Heilman’s teammates on the USA national team during the summer of 1999 included all of the above players, except for Bootcheck and Boyd. Heilman and Young were the only pitchers that were tabbed as preseason first team All-Americans by both BA (which also included Bootcheck, Diggins and UCLA’s Josh Karp) and CB (which also included Miami’s David Gil, Florida State’s Jon McDonald, Oklahoma State’s Matt Smith and Cal State Fullerton’s Adam Johnson).
PROSPECTS, PART II: The BIG EAST Conference placed two players among the top 25 of Baseball America’s list of class of 2000 prospects, with St. John’s righthander Kevin McGerry checking in at No. 21. Only three conferences had more players among the top 25 prospects while the BIG EAST’s three players among the top 35 was tied for the second-most by any conference in the nation (Rutgers outfielder David DeJesus is rated 32nd). All told, eight BIG EAST players are listed among the top 150 prospects – ranking the BIG EAST behind just four conferences for most players in the top 150.
PORZEL KEEPS MOVING: Junior Alec Porzel (Lisle, Ill>) is scheduled to open the season at a different starting position for the third straight year (left field in 1998, second base in 1999, shortstop in 2000) … ND’s starting infield includes three high school shortstops (senior 2B Jeff Perconte, Porzel and sophomore 3B Andrew Bushey) while senior 1B Jeff Felker played third base as a prep.
ACADEMICS: The Notre Dame baseball squad posted a 3.10 team GPA in the ’99 fall semester – the program’s best semester in the six-year tenure of head coach Paul Mainieri. Eleven players turned in a Dean’s List semester (3.4 or higher) in the fall of ’99, with 19 at 3.0 or higher. Irish baseball players have earned GTE Academic All-America honors 11 times since 1982, with top candidates in 2000 including senior second baseman Jeff Perconte (3.73 cumulative GPA, double major in economics and government) and junior lefthander Mike Naumann (3.95, pre-professional science, three 4.0 semesters).
ALL-AMERICANS: Notre Dame baseball players have combined for 13 major All-America awards, including 11 since 1989 and five in the last two seasons. Junior pitcher Aaron Heilman was named a third team All-American by Collegiate Baseball magazine as a freshman and sophomore while also earning 1999 third-team honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association. Infielder Brant Ust was tabbed by the ABCA and Baseball America magazine as a third team All-American following his sophomore season (’98).
BIG EAST RECORD BOOK: In four seasons as a member of the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame already has made its mark in the league’s baseball record book. Notre Dame in 1999 became the first BIG EAST team ever to win more than 18 conference games (20-5) while the ’99 Irish pitching staff set a BIG EAST record with 199 strikeouts in conference play. Four former Notre Dame players rank among the top 16 players on the BIG EAST list for career batting average in conference games (min. 150 at-bats): second baseman/centerfielder Randall Brooks (3rd, .418, 69-for-165, 1996-97), infielder Brant Ust (5th, .413, 100-for-242, ’97-’99), infielder J.J. Brock (11th, .399, 89-for-223, ’96-’98) and catcher/DH Jeff Wagner (16th, .390, 98-for-251, ’96-’99). Ust is the only player ranked in the BIG EAST career top 10 for conference batting average, home runs (5th, 19), RBI (7th, 71) and hits (9th, 100), plus 11th in runs scored (70). Wagner’s 24 home runs in BIG EAST regular-season play trail only former Seton Hall great Mo Vaughn (26) in BIG EAST history while he is tied for first with 83 career RBI in BIG EAST play.
BE RECORD BOOK, PART II: Current Irish junior Aaron Heilman ranks seventh in BIG EAST history with a 2.67 ERA in BIG EAST regular-season play (min. 70 innings). Former Irish pitcher Darin Schmalz (’96-’97, 2.74) ranks ninth on that list and ninth with 10 career BIG EAST complete games, while Alex Shilliday (’96-’99) ranks third in conference wins (14), fourth in starts (22) and seventh in strikeouts (119).
THE COMMISH: Former Notre Dame baseball player Rick Chryst was named commissioner of the Mid-American Conference on May 11, 1999. Chryst spent the previous seven years at the Atlantic Coast Conference, last serving as assistant commissioner in charge of marketing, television, corporate programs, legal affairs, special events and outreach programs. He earlier spent three years as an assistant commissioner with the Southwest Conference. Chryst – a native of Plateville, Wis. – was an all-conference outfielder for the 1983 Irish baseball team before graduating magna cum laude with a degree in economics. He received his law degree from Duke in 1989.
CONFERENCE WINNING PCT.: Over the course of its first four seasons in the BIG EAST Conference (1996-99), Notre Dame ranks first in the 10-member conference with: a .701 overall winning percentage (169-72, Rutgers is second at .618), a .741 BIG EAST regular-season winning pct. (63-22, Rutgers is second at .692) and a .709 winning pct. in combined BIG EAST regular-season and tournament games (73-30, Rutgers is second at .665). St. John’s owns the best BIG EAST Tournament winning pct. during the past four seasons (.625, 9-6), followed by Notre Dame at .556 (10-8). In fact, the double-elimination tournament has been the ultimate bugaboo for Notre Dame, with the same team providing the Irish losses during each of the first three seasons (WVU in ’96, Villanova in ’97, RU in ’98) before the Irish were beaten by complete game-efforts from Seton Hall and Providence in ’99.
THE ECK: Notre Dame has enjoyed great success at Frank Eck Stadium (see pp. 54-55), located on the southeast corner of campus. The Irish won nearly 85 percent of their games at ?The Eck? during the facility’s first six seasons (149-33, .819, ’94-’99), highlighted by a 25-2 mark in ’97 and a 120-26 home record (.822) during the first five years under head coach Paul Mainieri. The Irish head into 2000 with victories in 76 of their last 91 games (.835) at Eck Stadium (since late in the ’96 season), including a 35-5 mark in home BIG EAST games during that stretch.
(ALMOST) FIFTY STATES: The Notre Dame list of all-time monogram winners includes players that have hailed from 42 different home states. Current freshman pitcher Brandon Viloria (Wailuku, Hawaii) could became the first Irish baseball letterwinner from the island state, with the other states that have not produced Notre Dame baseball letterwinners including: Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina and Vermont. Freshman pitcher Brandon Viloria
FIVE HUNDRED WINS: Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri reached the 500-win milestone early in the 1999 season, when Notre Dame posted a 14-11 win at the University of New Orleans (209 of his wins have come with the Irish). The milestone held special significance for Mainieri, who played on two Sun Belt Conference championship teams during his playing career at UNO.
FORTY-WIN SEASONS: Notre Dame has posted 11 straight seasons with 40-plus wins, including 48 wins in 1989 and ’92, 46 victories in three seasons (’90, ’93 and ’94), 45 wins in ’91 and 44 in ’95. Notre Dame’s active streak of seasons with 40-plus wins ranks fifth in Division I baseball, trailing only Florida State (22), Wichita State (22), Oklahoma State (20) and Clemson (14).
FRESHMEN PHENOMS: Notre Dame has produced two of the last four BIG EAST rookies of the year – DH Jeff Wagner (’96) and infielder Brant Ust (’97) – while current freshman Brian Stavisky has been tabbed by Baseball America as the 2000 preseason BIG EAST rookie of the year. Wagner set the Irish freshman home run record (10) only to see Ust best that mark with 11 shots over the fence in 1997. Ust became the first freshman middle infielder ever named first team all-BIG EAST and was a consensus Freshman All-America pick by BA and Collegiate Baseball magazine. Despite not winning the ’98 BIG EAST rookie award, righthander Aaron Heilman was a second team all-conference selection, a consensus Freshman All-American and was one of three players named co-national freshman of the year by CB. Centerfielder Steve Stanley was named second team all-BIG EAST in 1999, the only freshman on the BIG EAST first or second team. His classmate, catcher Paul O’Toole, became the seventh Notre Dame player ever to earn first team Freshman All-America honors in the 1990s, as one of three catchers named to the Collegiate Baseball team.
K CREW: The Notre Dame pitching staff has posted the team strikeout record each of the past three seasons: 399 in 1997, 456 in ’98 and 478 in ’99. The Irish have averaged 444 Ks in the past three seasons (1,333 total), with the ’99 staff averaging 8.38 strikeouts per nine innings – best by an Irish staff since 1963. The top contributors have included current junior Aaron Heilman (196 Ks in 176 IP with a team-record 118 in ’99), first-round draft pick Brad Lidge (’96-’98, 143 Ks in 129.2 IP, 93 in ’98), ’99 graduate Alex Shilliday (third in Irish history with 265 career Ks) and lefty Tim Kalita (214 Ks in 214 IP, ’97-’99).
THE NINETIES: Notre Dame posted the seventh-highest winning percentage among Division I baseball teams during the 1990s (.724, 440-168), behind Wichita State, Miami (Fla.), Clemson, Florida State, LSU and Delaware.
OPPONENTS: Notre Dame has faced 265 different opponents entering its 108th year of varsity baseball. James Madison, Florida International, Missouri and Oakland were first-time opponents in ’99 while the Irish are scheduled to face North Florida and Akron for the first time in 2000. The most common opponents include Northwestern (129 games), Michigan State (125), Wisconsin (118), Purdue (113) and Michigan (108). Noteworthy teams that Notre Dame has yet to face: Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and UC Santa Barbara.
THREE THOUSAND GAMES: The Notre Dame baseball program has amassed 2,982 official games in 107 seasons as a varsity sport and is on pace to reach the 3,000-game milestone on Sunday, March 26, in the first game at Villanova.
TRAVEL: Notre Dame’s schedule regularly takes the baseball team to several top-notch facilities and noteworthy cities throughout the country. In Paul Mainieri’s six seasons, cities that the Irish have visited include: Fullerton, Calif., Seattle, Wash. (Kingdome), San Antonio, Texas, Miami, Fla., Atlanta, Ga., New Orleans, La., Boston, Mass., Washington, D.C., Long Beach, Calif., New York City, N.Y., Orlando, Fla., Jacksonville, Fla., and Minneapolis, Minn. (Metrodome).
HOME RUNS: Notre Dame has flirted with the team home run record each of the past three seasons, including a record 66 long balls in 1997. The Irish then posted a new record of 73 home runs in ’98 before surging late in ’99 for a season total of 70, with 12 different players leaving the yard in that near-record season. Notre Dame totaled 209 home runs in the past three seasons and averaged 66 during the first five seasons of the Paul Mainieri era (’95- ). Mainieri’s first five Irish teams have posted a combined .315 batting average (high of .334 in ’97, tying the team record) and a .498 combined slugging percentage (high of .529 in ’97). Notre Dame enters 2000 looking to replace a pair of players who rank atop the Irish career home run charts: catcher/DH Jeff Wagner (’96-’99, 49) and infielder Brant Ust (’97-’99, 46). Both of those players made a run at Frank Jacobs’ season record (20, 1991) but came up short, with Wagner hitting 17 in ’97 while Ust hit 18 in ’98 and 17 in ’99.
TESTED BY FIRE: Notre Dame’s wild 1999 season prepared the Irish for the pressure cooker that was the NCAA double-elimination tournament … Notre Dame’s last-minute magic in ’99 included 19 come-from-behind wins and 13 victories in Notre Dame’s final turn at bat (seven when the Irish scored the winning run in the final inning, six in the second-to-last inning) ? the 43 Irish wins have included only 11 by five-plus runs (32 by 1-4 runs), with 10 wins by one run, seven by two runs, 10 by three runs and five by four runs.
NUSSBAUM SEIZES THE MOMENT: Senior Matt Nussbaum – a South Bend native and former walk-on who was 0-for-16 his first two seasons – was named a tri-captain for the 2000 season, alongsid senior 2B Jeff Perconte and junior RHP Aaron Heilman … Nussbaum, who started 57 games in 1999 at mostly DH and LF, posted a .314 season average (seventh on the team), while also ranking first on the team in runners advanced (33) and fifth in RBI (33), two-out batting average (.328) and home runs (5) … a steady contact hitter (team-high 10 double plays), Nussbaumstruck out just 13 times in ’99 (only three Ks in the final 25 games) … he averaged a team-best 16.5 plate appearances per strikeout in ’99.
THE X FACTOR: Based on his comparative batting averages, junior 1B Jeff Felker played one of the biggest roles in determining Notre Dame’s wins and losses during the 1999 season … heading into the 1999 NCAAs Felker owneda .406 batting average during the team’s 42 wins (second to Brant Ust’s .413) but had hit just .216 in the 16 losses – a difference of 190 batting points (the largest discrepancy among the Irish hitters).
RARE DOUBLE FOR IRISH BASEBALL, SOFTBALL: Notre Dame posted an .878 (36-5) combined BIG EAST regular-season winning pct. in baseball (20-5) and softball (16-0, first unbeaten season in BIG EAST history) … that .878 combined winning pct. ranks first in BIG EAST history, since the conference started sponsoring softball in 1992 (Notre Dame held the previous record of .800, set by the baseball and softball teams of 1996 and ’98) ? Notre Dame also became the first BIG EAST school ever to post the top conference regular-season winning percentages in baseball and softball during the same season.
HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI: Sixth-year Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri owns a 541-372 (.593) record in 17 seasons as a college head coach, surpassing the 500-win milestone in the Feb. 27, 1999, win at New Orleans (14-11) … in addition to his 209-93 (.692) mark with the Irish, Mainieri was 180-121 in six seasons at St. Thomas (Fla.) and 152-158 in six seasons at Air Force … Mainieri experienced two noteworthy homecomings in ’99, making his third return to the University of New Orleans (where he played) with the Irish baseball program and his third return to his hometown of Miami as the Notre Dame coach … Mainieri coached his 800th career game on Feb. 20, 1998, at the University of Miami, after a Feb. 15 game at UNO was rained out … he notched his 499th career win in the 1999 season opener versus James Madison, in a game played in Miami at Florida International (Feb. 19) … Mainieri’s 208 wins rank third at Notre Dame, behind Pat Murphy (318, ’88-’94) and Jake Kline (558, ’34-’75) … Mainieri has seen 20 of his Irish players go on to pro baseball, with 14 selected in the major-league draft … 15 of Mainieri’s players at St. Thomas went on to pro baseball, including three – Joe Klink, Dane Johnson and Dan Rohrmeier – who have played in the major leagues … Mainieri and his father Demie are the only known father-son combo in college baseball history to each top 500 career coaching wins … Demie won 1,018 games in his 30-year career at Miami-Dade North CC … Mainieri picked up his 200th win at Notre Dame in the 7-6 win over Oakland on April 30 ,1999 … he coached his 900th college game in the opener at Georgetown on May 8, 1999.