March 24, 2000
The 24th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team (13-3) opens defense of its BIG EAST Conference regular-season title with a three-game road series versus Villanova, with the games to be held March 25-26 (noon doubleheader on Sat., single game at noon on Sun.) at Richie Ashburn Field (located in a public park, near Philadelphia’s Veteran Stadium) … the first game will be the 3,000th official game in 108 years of varsity baseball competition at Notre Dame … the teams played at the same site in 1999, with the Irish posting a pair of wins on March 27 (4-0, 10-8) … due to the unavailability of phone lines, no radio broadcasts will be available for the Villanova series (postgame wrapups will provided on the Notre Dame website at www.und.com, with possible in-game updates as well) … the Irish won seven of their eight games during spring break at the Kennel Clubs Classic (in Jacksonville, Fla.) before posting a 10-3 victory at home over Detroit on March 22.
ON A ROLL
ND has won 10 of its last 11 and is off to the best start by an Irish baseball team in 37 years, since the 1963 team also started 13-3 (that team stretched to 15-3 before losing its 19th game) … the last time an ND team posted a 16-game record that was better than 13-3 was the vaunted 1910 team, which opened 19-1 before dropping its next two games … if the Irish win their next five games, they will have raced out to the best 21-game start by a Notre Dame team since that 1910 season (19-2) … the ’59 team went 17-3 before losing its next outing.
ACES ALL AROUND
Notre Dame’s eye-popping 2.36 team ERA is well below the team record of 2.60, set by the 1957 College World Series team and equaled in 1960 … in the 39 seasons since 1960, the ND pitchers have posted just five team ERAs of 3.20 or lower: 3.12 in 1963, 2.95 in ’69, 2.83 in ’75, 3.00 in 1990 and 3.06 in ’92 … since 1975, the 1990, ’92 and ’94 (3.25) Irish pitching staffs have posted the only ND team ERAs under 3.81 … other noteworthy facts on the Irish pitching include the following (more individual notes later in release):
- The ND pitchers have allowed 0-2 earned runs in nine of the last 10 games (16 total, in 89 innings), for a 1.62 ERA during that stretch.
- One of the hidden keys to ND’s pitching success has been effectiveness vs. leadoff batters, as just 21.7 percent of opposing leadoff batters have reached base safely this season (compared to 37.2 percent in 1999) … the top ND pitchers versus leadoff batters have included junior LHP Mike Naumann (.067, 1-for-15), sophomore RHP Matt Buchmeier (.091, 1-for-11) and junior RHP Aaron Heilman (.061, 2-for-33).
- Several ND pitchers have been tough with runners on base, as the opponents are hitting just .250 with runners on and .220 with runners in scoring position … senior righthanded closer John Corbin has allowed just one hit in 18 ABs with runners on (.056) while other top ND pitchers with runners on include senior RHP Scott Cavey (.154, 1-for-13), Buchmeier (.150, 3-for-20) and freshman RHP Matt Laird (.179, 5-for-28).
- The ND pitching staff’s ratio of 3.21 strikeouts per walk would blow away the 37-year-old team record of 2.40 (set in 1963) … the top ratios belong to Naumann (9.0, 9/1), Heilman (8.0, 40/5), Buchmeier (5.0, 10/2) and Cavey (3.2, 16/5) … the team’s leaders in Ks per 9 IP include Corbin (13.5), Heilman (10.7), Cavey (8.5) and Buchmeier (8.4) … the Irish pitchers have totaled just 39 walks in 137 innings, for another record-setting pace of 2.56 BBs per 9 IP (the existing ND record of 2.82 was set in 1994) … the lowest nine-inning walk ratios belong to Naumann (0.6), Heilman (1.3), freshman RHP J.P. Gagne (1.3), Buchmeier (1.7) and Cavey (2.6) … the ND pitchers have racked up nearly an 11-to-1 K-to-BB ratio during the last four games (32 Ks/3 BBs).
- ND’s 13-3 start has included victories from seven different pitchers, with four owning multiple wins: Cavey (3-0), junior RHP Heilman (3-1), Buchmeier (2-0) and Gagne (2-0).
- Pitchers with the biggest groundout-flyout ratios include Gagne (23/6), Naumann (20/10), Laird (20/11), Cavey (20/13) and Heilman (34/22).
- Three Irish pitchers have yet to hit a batter or throw a wild pitch: Cavey (17 IP), Naumann (14 IP) and Gagne (14 IP) … Laird also has yielded a low total of extra-base hits (one double, one triple, no home runs and 13 singles).
Notre Dame owns an 8-2 all-time record versus Villanova, with the teams first meeting in 1996 (ND’s first BIG EAST season) … the Irish have won the last four games in the series, since dropping a pair to VU in the 1997 BIG EAST Tournament … sophomore CF Steve Stanley batted 5-for-9 in last year’s sweep at Villanova (4-0, 10-8), with 2 runs scored and 2 SBs … senior 2B Jeff Perconte owns a .348 career batting avg. vs. VU (8-for-23, 3 R, 2B, 3B, 4 RBI, 4 BB/6 K) while junior SS Alec Porzel is hitting .333 in his career vs. the Wildcats (5-for-15, 3 R, 5 RBI, 2B, 3B, 2 BB/4 K) … junior RHP Aaron Heilman is 1-0 with a save in three career appearances vs. VU, with 13 Ks, no walks and 9 hits allowed in 10.2 IP.
Notre Dame’s Probable Starting Lineup
|CF||*Steve Stanley||So.||5-9/150||Upper Arlington, OH||.414, 9 RBI, 7 R, 2 2B, 8 BB, 6 K, 8-12 SB, 2 SAC, SF||Hormel Foods Classic All-Tour. Team|
|RF||*Brian Stavisky||Fr.||6-3/230||Port Allegany, PA||.302, 11 RBI, 12 R, 4 HR, 2 3B, 3 2B, 3 BB, 10 K, 0-1 SB||Eight-game hitting streak|
|SS||Alec Porzel||Jr.||6-0/190||Lisle, IL||.288, 14 RBI, 6 R, 2 HR, 3 3B, 5 2B, 4 BB, 9 K, 1-4 SB, SF||6 RBI in Hormel Foods Classic|
|1B||*Jeff Felker||Sr.||6-5/190||Ellicott City, MD||.271, 4 RBI, 11 R, HR, 3B, 5 2B, 2 BB, 3 K, 1-2 SB||Team-best .414 in ’99 BIG EAST gms|
|C/LF||*Paul O’Toole||So.||6-2/210||Lakewood, OH||.327, 12 RBI, 13 R, 2 HR, 3B, 2 2B, 5 BB, 4 K, 5-5 SB, SF||Hitting .412 with run. in scoring pos.|
|3B||*Andrew Bushey||So.||6-0/200||Boardman, OH||.356, 6 RBI, 8 R, 3 2B, 5 BB, 4 K,||Hitting .429 with runners on base|
|DH||#Matt Bok||So.||5-11/185||Akron, Ohio||.321, 6 RBI, 7 R, 2 2B, BB, 6 K, 1-1 SB, SAC, SF||7-for-13 (.538) with runners on base|
|or||Matt Strickroth||So.||6-5/230||Mission Viejo, CA||.226, 7 RBI, 6 R, HR, 3 2B, 1-1 SB, SF||’99 BIG EAST gms: .318, 12 RBI|
|LF/C||Matt Nussbaum||Sr.||6-0/180||South Bend, IN||.245, 4 RBI, 7 R, 2B, 4 BB, 4 K, 1-1 SB, SF||Led ’99 team with 33 runners advanced|
|2B||#Ben Cooke||Jr.||5-9/170||Bay Village, OH||.226, 3 RBI, 8 R, 2 2B, 2 BB, 9 K, 2-5 SB, 3 SAC||Two 1Bs, 2 R in win over Georgia|
|or||Kris Billmaier||Fr.||5-11/185||Woodinvale, WA||.280, 3 RBI, 3 R, BB, 2 K||Hitting 6-for-15 (.400) with runners on|
|or||#Jeff Perconte||Sr.||5-11/190||Arlington Hts., IL||.429, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2B, BB, 4 K, 2 SAC||DNP last 11 games (shoulder)|
|Other Top Reserves|
|1B||Ken Meyer||So.||6-0/210||Fort Myers, FL||3-for-6, RBI, 2 R, 2B, K||Hit first career HR vs. Miami (’99)|
|IF/OF||Ed Golom||So.||5-9/175||Lockport, IL||0-for-1 (K) vs. Detroit||?|
|RHP||Aaron Heilman||Jr.||6-5/210||Logansport, IN||1.87, 3-1, 6 GP/4 GS, 33.2 IP, 40 K/5 BB, .213 opp. avg.||Last 3 GS: 3-0, 0.72, 25 IP, 31 K/3 BB|
|RHP||Scott Cavey||Sr.||6-5/200||Omaha, NE||1.06, 3-0, 3 GS, 17 IP, 16 K/5 BB, .145 opp. avg.||Last 7 GP: 7-0, 1.54, 41 IP, 38 K/8 BB|
|RHP||Matt Laird||Fr.||6-1/190||Bellaire, TX||1.98, 1-0, 4 GP/2 GS, 13.2 IP, 8 K/4 BB, .273 opp. avg.||Played for nation’s No. 1-ranked HS tm|
|RHP||Drew Duff||So.||6-0/175||Sevierville, TN||7.50, 0-1, 5 GP/3 GS, 12 IP, 7 K/7 BB, .423 opp. avg.||Win in ’98 fall exhibition vs. MSU|
|LHP||Mike Naumann||Jr.||6-0/180||Tucson, AZ||1.29, 1-1, 9 GP/14 IP, 9 K/1 BB, .278 opp. avg.||Has retired 14 of 15 leadoff batters|
|RHP||J.P. Gagne||Fr.||6-0/190||Bloomington, MN||3.21, 2-0, 5 GP/1 GS, 14 IP, 8 K/2 BB, .304 opp. avg.||2 relief wins in Jack. (8 shutout IP)|
|RHP||John Corbin||Sr.||6-3/200||Hollywood, FL||0.96, 1-0, 4 SV, 8 GP/9.1 IP, 14 K/5 BB, .167 opp. avg.||Holds ND record for career saves (13)|
|RHP||Danny Tamayo||Jr.||6-2/225||Miami, FL||2.45, 0-0, 2 GP/1 GS, 3.2 IP, 4 K/3 BB, .214 opp. avg.||“Tommy John” surgery (March ’99)|
|RHP||Matt Buchmeier||So.||6-0/190||Greenwood, IN||1.69, 2-0, 4 GP/2 GS, 10.2 IP, 10 K/2 BB, .227 opp. avg.||.250 opp. avg. w/ runners on (3-for-20)|
|RHP||Mike Carlin||Jr.||6-5/210||Manhattan, KS||9.00, 0-0, 2 GP, 3 IP, 4 K/5 BB, .273 opp. avg.||?|
* – lefthanded hitter, # – switch hitter
Villanova single-handedly ended Notre Dame’s 1997 season with a pair of wins in the BIG EAST Tournament (10-5, 5-4 in 11 inn.) but the current Wildcat roster doesn’t include any players who appeared in either of those games … the only active Notre Dame players who saw time in those 1997 playoff games are the current rightside infielders: senior 2B Jeff Perconte and senior 1B Jeff Felker … Perconte was the starting RF in those ’97 games and batted second in the lineup (he was 1-for-4 with a walk in the first game vs. VU, 1-for-5 with a triple and 4 Ks in the second game) … Felker batted seventh in those games, going 0-for-4 in the first game (3 Ks) and 2-for-5 in the second (2 RBI, R, 2B, 2 Ks) … Perconte also was part of an unusual happening in the second game, when he was moved from right field and inserted as a fifth infielder in the bottom of the 11th … the ploy by head coach Paul Mainieri worked to force the second out, as Augie Grove grounded out to shortstop Brant Ust, with the runner holding at third (Brian Fili then won the game with a dipping 0-2 single to left).
MORE IRISH PITCHING NOTES
- The ND pitching staff posted an impressive 1.65 ERA during the eight-game stretch in Jacksonville, allowing just 18 total runs (13 earned) in 71 innings, with 57 Ks, 18 walks and 69 hits allowed (.255 opp. batting avg.) … the ND pitchers allowed just 7 extra-base hits during the trip (6 doubles, 1 triple, 0 home runs).
- Senior RHP Scott Cavey is 3-0 as the No. 2 starter, with a 1.06 ERA, 16 Ks, 5 walks and 8 hits allowed in 17 IP … he has registered a win in each of his last 7 appearances, with a 1.54 ERA in those games, plus 38 Ks, 8 BB and 35 hits allowed in 41 IP … his career walk average now sits at 1.94 per 9 IP … he has boosted his career record to 12-1 (.923), which puts him above the ND record for career winning pct. set by Herb Kelly from 1912-14 (22-2, .917) … Cavey’s career K-to-walk ratio now sits at 3.88 … opposing baserunners have attempted just one stolen base versus Cavey in 17 innings this season (it failed)
- Senior RHP John Corbin saved 3 wins in Jacksonville: vs. Central Michigan (5-0), Illinois (5-1) and Butler (3-2 … he also saved the 6-4 win over Georgia the week before (at Minnesota’s Hormel Foods Classic) and now stands first on the ND career saves list, with 13 (three players have 12, including Heilman). .. Corbin owns an 0.96 season ERA in 9.1 IP, with 14 Ks, 5 BB and 8 H (he also picked up the 4-3 season-opening win over Air Force) … during the past two seasons, he has had a hand in 22 Irish victories (13 saves, 9-3 record), with a 3.95 ERA and 58 Ks in 57 innings during that stretch.
- Junior All-American Aaron Heilman’s season ERA now sits at 1.87, with 40 Ks, 5 BB and 26 hits allowed in 33.2 innings … his last 3 starts each have gone 8-innings plus, with an 0.72 ERA and 3 wins in those games (25 IP, 31 Ks, 3 BB, 14 hits) … he has boosted his career record to 21-6 (the 10th-most wins in ND history and the 8th-best winning pct. among ND pitchers with 16-plus decisions, at .778) while lowering his career ERA to 2.45 (2nd-lowest in ND history, behind Nick Palihnich’s 2.36, from ’59-’61) … Heilman is tied with Al Walania (’90-’93) for 5th on the ND career strikeout list (236, in 209.2 IP) … last week’s Iowa game marked Heilman’s 6th career outing of 8-plus innings (he threw several 7-inning complete games in ’99) … his 19 career starts have yielded 12 games with 8-plus Ks (4 with 10-plus) … he is averaging 10.13 Ks per 9 IP for his career.
- Freshman RHPs Matt Laird (1-0, 1.98, 8 Ks, 13.2 IP) and J.P. Gagne (2-0, 3.21, 8 Ks, 14 IP) have provided a needed lift to the Irish pitching staff, with Laird emerging as the No. 3 starter while Gagne has picked up both his wins in the crucial middle relief role … their combined stats include a 3-0 record and a 2.60 ERA, with 16 Ks in 27.2 IP.
Notre Dame’s reliance on balanced offense for most of the 2000 season has resulted in the Irish players combining for just six games with 3-plus hits … freshman RF Brian Stavisky had a 4-for-5 game in the 12-3 win over Akron while sophomore 3B Andrew Bushey has two three-hit games this season … sophomore CF Steve Stanley, sophomore C Paul O’Toole and senior 1B Jeff Felker own the other three-hi games for the Irish this season … Irish players also have combined for just four games with 3-plus RBI, as O’Toole, Bushey and junior SS Alec Porzel each have produced one three-RBI game while Stavisky drive in four runs versus Akron.
Sophomore CF Steve Stanley owns the longest hitting streak by an ND player this season, stretching 10 games from the 5-4 loss to Ohio State on Feb. 25 to the 6-1 loss to North Florida on March 13 (he failed to register a hit in the 3-2 win over Butler) … freshman RF Brian Stavisky carries an eight-game hitting streak into the Villanova series … the only ND players to play in all 16 games this season are sophomore 3B Andrew Bushey, Stanley and Stavisky … each of those players has opened at the same position in all 16 games.
The Irish have tried several lineup combinations in recent weeks, with several players’ versatility allowing for greater flexibility (sophomore C Paul O’Toole already has hit leadoff, second, cleanup and fifth … just three players have hit in the same spot for 10-plus games this season: O’Toole (11 in leadoff), sophomore CF Steve Stanley (12 games as No. 2 hitter) and junior SS Alec Porzel (12 games in No. 3 spot).
Despite a five-error game in the narrow win over Butler (3-2), the ND defense has been solid for most of the 2000 season … the Irish own a .966 season fielding percentage (21 errors in 16 games), which would best the team record set in 1982 and ’92 (.965) … the Irish have posted five error-free games in 2000, plus five with one error, four with two errors and just two with three-plus Es … the Irish defense is averaging nearly one double play per game (15 in 16 games), putting them on pace to challenge the team record of 60 DPs set in 1998.
Notre Dame continues to struggle with its early-game scoring, as the Irish have been outscored 6-3 in the first inning this season and own just a 29-19 scoring edge during the first four innings … the middle and late innings are a different story, as ND owns a 65-29 scoring edge from the 5th-9th innings, including 17-5 in the seventh and 19-4 in the eighth.
IN THE CLUTCH
Despite hitting just .307 as a team, the ND offense has performed noticeably better with runners on base (.350) and in scoring position (.325) … top Irish hitters with runners in scoring position have included sophomore CF Steve Stanley (.444) and sophomore C Paul O’Toole (.412) … Stanley also is hitting .500 overall with runners on base while sophomore DH Matt Bok checks in at .538 with runners on (sophomore 3B Andrew Bushey is .429 while O’Toole and freshman 2B/DH Kris Billmaier both are .400) … the Irish also have grounded into just four double plays (one every four games), compared to one every 1.5 games in 1999 (41 total).
The Notre Dame offense has managed just 10 home runs in it first 16 games of the 2000 season, with freshman RF Brian Stavisky (four, accounting for nearly half of them … the Irish traditionally have rolled up more home runs later in the season (they had 16 after 16 games in 1999) but currently are on pace for just 35 HRs in the 56-game regular season (compared to 60 last season) … the loss of the team’s top two career home run leaders (Jeff Wagner, 49, and Brant Ust, 46) has left a void in the Irish lineup but several players are capable of double-digit HR seasons, including Stavisky, senior 1B Jeff Felker, junior SS Alec Porzel, sophomore 3B Andrew Bushey and sophomore C Paul O’Toole.
After a slow start in terms of batting average, freshman RF Brian Stavisky has collected hits in each of the last eight games while boosting his average to .302 (fourth-best on the team, among players with 30-plus ABs) … Stavisky also leads the team in home runs (4) and total bases (38) while ranking second in slugging pct. (.603) and third in RBI (11) … nine of his 19 hits have gone for extra bases, including three doubles and two triples … he has yet to make an error, in 24 fielding chances.
ND has seven different Big-10 teams on its 2000 schedule: Ohio State, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, Michigan and Northwestern … the Irish have played several games versus Penn State during the past few years (in San Antonio) and faced Michigan State in a 1998 fall exhibition game … ND last faced Indiana at the 1998 Diamond Classic in Evansville (Wisconsin no longer sponsors varsity baseball).
HEILMAN EARNS BIG EAST WEEKLY AWARD
ND junior RHP Aaron Heilman (Logansport, Ind.) was named BIG EAST pitcher of the week, after turning in one of the more dominating performances by an Irish pitcher in recent memory … Heilman rolled up a career-high 12 Ks over IP in a 6-4 win over Georgia on March 4 … his 120-pitch outing included four hits allowed, an unearned run and no walks to go along with his 12 Ks-11 of them on called third strikes … Heilman equaled the mark for most strikeouts in a game by an Irish pitcher since 1980 and is one of just three to reach 12 Ks during that 20-year span, joining Darin Schmalz (12 in nine innings, at Georgetown in ’96) and Brad Lidge (12 in seven innings vs. Pittsburgh, at Three Rivers Stadium in ’98) in that distinction … He also served as the closer in an 8-5 win over No. 24 Wake Forest two days earlier, allowing three hits and two runs in the ninth inning of that game (with one K). … his totals for the week included 9 IP, 13 Ks, three runs (two earned), six hits and no walks.
MORE ON HEILMAN’S 12-K GAME
Heilman faced just four batters over the eight-inning minimum (28), with a hit-batter, a dropped fly ball, a runner thrown out stealing and a double-play ball … just three Georgia batters reached three balls in their counts (they all struck out) … his 120-pitch outing included five groundouts, five flyouts and a per-inning pitch range of 11-25: 14-14-11-25-14-17-11-14 … his 12 Ks included one on an 0-2 count, five on 1-2 counts, three on 2-2 counts and three on 3-2 counts … he had Ks in every inning but the seventh (two in the second, three in both the fourth and eighth) … Heilman’s first seven Ks were ?looking” … eight different Georgia batters were K’d by Heilman … his first 12 outs included seven Ks, with three in the fourth inning … he closed by striking out each batter he faced in the eighth (on 14 pitches) … the last Notre Dame pitcher to post 13-plus Ks in a game was Bob Bartlett (13 at Bethel in 1980) … the last to do so versus a Division I team was Frank Carpin, who set a still-standing Irish record with 19 Ks in 10 innings vs. Indiana in 1958.
CAVEY EARNS BIG EAST AWARD
ND senior RHP Scott Cavey (Omaha, Neb.) was named co-BIG EAST Conference pitcher of the week, after allowing just one hit in 6 IP of the 6-0 win over Air Force on Feb. 24 … Cavey-who shared the award with Rutgers junior Jim Wilson-turned in a 78-pitch outing that included six Ks, eight groundouts, one hit and one walk over 20 batters faced (the game was seven innings) … he retired the final 10 batters he faced, after yielding a two-out double to leadoff hitter Brian LaBasco in the third.
EARLY HOME OPENER
ND cashed in on the unseasonably-warm weather by adding a March 7 home opener vs. Manchester, at Eck Stadium (a 5-1 Irish win and the third-earliest home game in ND baseball history) … sophomore RHP Matt Buchmeier (1-0) was credited with the first win of his Irish career, after opening the game with three scoreless IP in a planned rotation (1 H, 1 BB, 2 Ks) … the highlight of the day came in the top of the ninth, as junior RHP Danny Tamayo made his first appearance in more than two years … sophomore DH Paul O’Toole hit a solo home run in the third (his fourth straight game at Eck Stadium with a home run) while freshman RF Brian Stavisky ended his early slump with two hits in four at-bats … third-earliest
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, alongside 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 in ’99 (sixth on the team), while also ranking first on the team in runners advanced (35) and fifth in RBI (33), two-out batting average (.371) and home runs (5) … a steady contact hitter (team-high 11 double plays), Nussbaum struck out just 13 times in ’99 (only three Ks in the final 25 games) … he averaged a team-best 15.7 plate appearances per strikeout in ’99.
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, the 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).
IRISH AMONG NUMEROUS PRESEASON PICKS
The Notre Dame baseball team embarked 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 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. The Irish were ranked 25th in the Collegiate Baseball magazine preseason poll and received the 26th-most votes in the preseason USA Today Baseball Weekly Coaches Poll.
- Junior RHP 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).
- BA lists Heilman as the No. 9 professional prospect among draft-eligible college players (15th overall, including high school seniors). Heilman ranks fourth on that list among draft-eligible college pitchers.
- Heilman also was tabbed by both BA and the BIG EAST Conference coaches as the preseason BIG EAST pitcher of the year.
- BA lists Heilman and Young among the three 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.”
- BA lists ND freshman RF 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.
- BA’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”).
- BA picked ND 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 1st-place votes), narrowly edging ND (74, 3), followed by St. John’s (69, 2), Seton Hall, WVU and Pittsburgh.
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 Collegiate Baseball (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 placed two players in the top 25 of Baseball America’s list of class of 2000 prospects, with St. John’s RHP 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 OF David DeJesus is rated 32nd) .. . 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.) opened the season at a different starting position for the third straight year (LF in ’98, 2B in ’99, SS in 2000) … ND’s season-opening starting infield included three HS shortstops (senior 2B Jeff Perconte, Porzel and sophomore 3B Andrew Bushey) while senior 1B Jeff Felker played 3B as a prep.
ND baseball 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 … 11 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 ’82, with top candidates in 2000 including senior 2B Jeff Perconte (3.73 cumulative GPA, double major in economics and government) and junior LHP Mike Naumann (3.95, pre-professional science, three 4.0 semesters).
BIG EAST RECORD BOOK
In four seasons as a member of the BIG EAST Conference, ND already has made its mark in the league’s baseball record book … Notre Dame in ’99 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 Ks in conference play … four former ND players rank among the top 16 players on the BIG EAST list for career batting average in conference games (min. 150 ABs): 2B/CF Randall Brooks (3rd, .418, 69-for-165, 1996-97), IF Brant Ust (5th, .413, 100-for-242, ’97-’99), IF J.J. Brock (11th, .399, 89-for-223, ’96-’98) and C/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 avg., 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).
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.
Notre Dame has enjoyed great success at Frank Eck Stadium, located on the southeast corner of campus … the Irish have won nearly 85 percent of their games at ?The Eck? during the facility’s first six-plus seasons (151-33, .821, since ’94), highlighted by a 25-2 mark in ’97 and a 122-26 home record (.824) during the first five-plus years under head coach Paul Mainieri … ND has posted victories in 78 of its last 93 games (.839) at Eck (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
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.
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 (201 Ks in 182 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).
Notre Dame posted the seventh-highest winning percentage among Division I baseball teams during the 1990s (.724, 440-168), behind Wichita State (.790), Miami, Fla. (.765), Florida State (.751), LSU (.737), Delaware (.734) and Clemson (.728).
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 (at the Kennel Club Classic) … ND’s 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 2,999 official games in 108 seasons as a varsity sport and is on pace to reach the 3,000-game milestone on Saturday, March 26, in the first game of the doubleheader at Villanova.
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.
RARE DOUBLE FOR IRISH BASEBALL, SOFTBALL
Notre Dame posted an .878 (36-5) combined BIG EAST regular-season winning pct. in 1999 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 553-375 (.596) record in 17-plus 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 221-96 (.697) mark with the Irish, Mainieri teams were 180-121 in his 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 210 wins rank third at ND, 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.