June 4, 2004
(Note: see above PDFs and URL for full data)
NOTRE DAME BASEBALL – 2004 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP – South Bend Regional
June 4-6 … Eck Stadium … Notre Dame, Ind.
The Notre Dame baseball team (49-10) – ranked as high as 5th in the nation and fresh off becoming the first team ever to win three straight BIG EAST Conference tournament titles – plays host to NCAA Regional action (four teams, double-elimination) this weekend at Eck Stadium, on June 4-6 … the Irish are hosting for the third time in the last four years and the fourth time since 1999, the University of Notre Dame and Frank Eck Stadium will play host to one of 16 NCAA baseball regionals … ND enters the regional as the top seed team and will face the 4th-seeded Kent State Golden Flashes (35-25), winners of the Mid-American Conference tournament … Kent State also played in the South Bend Regional in 2002 but did not face the Irish, losing games to South Alabama and Ohio State … the ND-KSU game will start at 2:05 p.m. (EST, note that Notre Dame is on the same time as Chicago) .. . the second game of the regional will feature the No. 3 seeded Arizona Wildcats (30-24-1) of the Pac-10 versus the 2nd-seeded University of California, Irvine Anteaters (34-21-1) from the Big West Conference (both teams earned at-large bids) … that game will begin at 6:05 p.m. (EST) … the winners then advance to Saturday’s pivotal winner’s bracket bracket game (3:05),to be preceded by an elimination game between the losers of Friday’s games (11:05) … Saturday’s second elimination game will be played at 7:05, with the championship round slated to begin at 1:05 on Sunday (the “if necessary” game would follow 45 minutes later).
HOSTING HISTORY – Notre Dame is playing host to NCAA tournament action for the seventh time in the program’s history and for the fourth time since the field adopted the current 64-team, 16-regional format in 1999 … during the six-year span of the current format, ND now has been a host site four times (’99, ’01, ’02 and ’04) – with only LSU (6), Florida State (6), Stanford (6) and Miami (5) serving as hosts more times during the past six season … ND’s streak of hosting three of the past four years also is bested by just four other teams, as LSU, FSU, Stanford and Rice are the only teams to be regional hosts every year from 2001-04 … the other 15 host sites for the 2004 NCAA Regionals include Arkansas, Cal State Fullerton, East Carolina, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Rice, South Carolina, Stanford, Texas and Virginia … ND’s other two seasons as an NCAA tournament host came in 1949 and 1959, under the old district playoff system.
Regional Hosts Since 1999
6 – Florida State, LSU, Stanford
5 – Miami
4 – Notre Dame, Cal State Fullerton, Georgia Tech, Rice, South Carolina
3 – Arizona State, Clemson, Nebraska, Texas, USC
2 – Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, East Carolina, Georgia, Houston, Mississioopi pate, Ohio State, Oklahaoma, Texas A&M, Wake Forest, Wichita State
1 – Florida, Long Beach State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Minnesota, Mississippi, N.C. State, Rutgers, Southern Miss, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Tulane, Virginia
Regional Hosts Last Four Years (2001-04)
4 – LSU, FSU, Stanford and Rice
3 – Miami, ND, South Carolina, Fullerton, Nebraska, Texas, Ga. Tech
2 – USC, Clemson, ASU, ECU, Georgia
1 – Wake Forest, Alabama, Wichita State, Auburn, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Ohio State, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Tulane, Tennessee, Florida, N.C State, Southern Miss., Long Beach State, Virginia, Mississippi
NCAA HISTORY – Notre Dame is making its 19th all-time appearance in the NCAA baseball tournament and the seventh of the 10-year Paul Mainieri era (’96, ’99-’04).
WHAT’S NEXT – The winner of the South Bend Regional would advance to play the winner of a regional being hosted by Stanford … other teams in that regional include Long Beach State, St. John’s and UNLV
NOTES ON THE REGIONAL FIELD
* Notre Dame and Kent State have not met since April 19-20, 1968, at old Jake Kline Field with the Golden Flashes winning 7-6 and 16-8 … the all-time series is tied, 6-6.
* A potential Notre Dame-Arizona matchup in the tournament would be their third meeting in the last 12 months … the teams met in the opening game of last year’s Fullerton Regional, with the Irish taking a 13-5 decision … on March 12 of this season, Notre Dame won 4-2 versus the Wildcats at the Round Rock (Texas) Classic … Arizona holds a 5-2 edge over Notre Dame in the all-time series … the Irish never have played UC Irvine.
TICKETS – Ticket information for the regional is available by calling the Notre Dame ticket office at (574) 631-9476.
RADIO, TV AND LIVE-STAT COVERAGE – All of Notre Dame’s 2004 regular-season and postseason games again will be broadcast by South Bend-based WDND 1580 AM … the broadcasts are available via the internet at www.und.com (College Sports Pass subscription required) … und.com also provides links to livestats on the website’s main page, for all home games and select road games (including the postseason).
NOTRE DAME QUICK NOTES – The Irish enter the NCAAs with wins in 16 of their last 17 games while the team’s 49 total wins are 2nd in the nation (behind Texas’s 50) and are one shy of the team record set by the 2002 College World Series team (50-18) … ND also has won nine of its last 11 games in the BIG EAST Tournament … the current senior class is the winningest in ND history (193-59-1) … ND posted a shutout in each of its final four series openers of the regular season (4-0 vs. UConn, 1-0 vs. Rutgers, 4-0 vs. UCF, 9-0 vs. VT) … ND’s starting pitchers in the 3-game series vs. Rutgers and the first game vs. #20 Central Florida – Grant Johnson, Chris Niesel, Tom Thornton and Jeff Samardzija – combined for a 0.93 ERA, 24 Ks, 5 BB, 19 H and .190 opp. batting in 29 IP) … ND’s 12-game winning streak was snapped in the second-to-last game of the regular season (11-10 vs. VT) … the Irish own a 27-5 record in all games away from home (22-5 at Eck Stadium) … ND has three double-digit HR hitters for the first time since 1998 (pre-bat restrictions) … the Irish have won nearly 80% of the games during the ’01-’04 seasons when 2B Steve Sollmann has been in the starting lineup (168-46-1; including 32-4 this season, compared to just 15-6 when he was out with a fractured jaw) … seven top ND players have combined to miss 207 games this season due to injury (most notably pitchers John Axford, Jeff Manship and Derik Olvey, plus Sollmann’s 21 games missed due to a fractured jaw) … the Irish have logged over 17,000 travel miles this season … ND owns seven wins over teams that were ranked in the national top-25 at the time (USC, Winthrop, Florida Atlantic, Minnesota, Arizona, UCF twice), also besting a high-powered Texas Tech squad that remains one of the nation’s top offensive squads … ND’s 104 times hit-by-pitch ranks 6th in the NCAA record book (Nevada holds the record with 125 in ’97) … the Irish have won 26 times in ’04 by 5-plus runs, plus 34 double-digit hit games … ND has scored in the 1st inning in 10 of the last 13 games … Sollmann ranks 2nd in the ND record book for career hits (297), plus 4th in stolen bases (83) and runs (210) plus 10th in batting avg. (.360) … 3B Matt Macri (50) and SS Greg Lopez (40) have combined for 90 error-free games (Sollmann has just 2 Es in ’04 while 1B Matt Edwards has 5) … ND is 39 games over .500 for the first time in the program’s history and set the record for regular-season wins (the ’01 team was 45-9-1) … ND is riding the 2nd-longest scoring streak in the program’s history (145 games; also 374 of the last 375) … the ’01-’04 ND teams have combined to go 193-59-1 (ND record for wins in 4-year span) … ND now owns a 55-11 scoring edge in the 2nd inning … the Irish have posted 24 error-free games in ’04 … ND has blasted 63 HRs after hitting just 31 in ’03 … the Irish have hit 3 HRs six times in ’04, plus a 4-HR game at UConn and 5 vs. BC in the BIG EAST title game … Paul Mainieri’s 22-year career record is 779-449-2 (448-170-1/.724 at ND) … the team’s .412 on-base pct. would rank 4th in ND history (best since ’94) while the .247 opp. batting avg. is 3rd-best by an ND staff since 1971 … the ND staff’s low walk avg. (2.7 BB/9 IP) trails only the ’01 staff’s 2.5 in the ND record book … Cody Rizzo’s 48 HBP are an ND career record … the ND baseball program owns a 100% graduation rate during the Mainieri era (59 of 59), among players who have completed their eligibility (eight who signed professionally as juniors also have returned to complete degrees) … all six seniors registered a 2004 spring GPA above 3.55 (led by a 4.0 from marketing major Sollmann, a two-timeAcademic All-American) … the baseball squad just posted a 3.15 team GPA in the ’04 spring term, led by 11 players at 3.4-plus and 22 above 3.0 … ND joins Texas and Rice as the only teams in the top-20 for ERA the past five seasons (ND was 16th in ’00, 5th in ’01, 13th in 2002 and 18th in ’03).
40-SOMETHING – Notre Dame owns 16 straight seasons with 40-plus wins, including 49 in 2001 and ’04, 48 in ’89 and ’92, 46 in ’90, ’93, ’94 and ’00, 45 wins in ’91 and ’03, and 44 in ’95 … ND’s active streak of seasons with 40-plus wins ranks 3rd in Division I, behind Florida State (26) and Wichita State (26; including several seasons with extra games for Hawaii-trip exemption).
NCAA STAT LEADERS – Notre Dame enters the NCAAs postseason ranked 11th in the nation in team ERA (3.36) and 17th in scoring (8.0 runs per game) … junior 3B Matt Macri ranks 11th nationally in runs (72), 24th in triples (7) and 26th in slugging pct. (.701) … the Irish also are 2nd in the nation in wins and win pct. (49-10, .831) … junior RHP Grant Johnson’s 1.54 ERA would rank 2nd in the nation but he is 6.1 innings shy of the minimum (1 IP per team game) … sophomore closer Ryan Doherty is 12th in the nation with 11 saves (his 12.00 Ks per 9 IP would rank 8th but he also is short of the min.) … freshman RHP Jeff Samardzija’s 2.45 ERA would rank 41st but he is just one out shy of qualifying (0.1 IP).
DIFFERENT PATHS – Here’s a comparative look at ND’s pre-NCAA stats in 2003 and ’04 – with the Irish making improvements in 16 of the 24 categories listed below (all numbers in bracket indicate a negative change): (see PDF for chart)
ALWAYS NEAR THE TOP – ND has finished near the top of the BIG EAST regular-season standings or in the postseason tournament during each of its nine seasons in the conference … in 1996, the Irish played their way into the tournament on the last weekend before extending West Virginia to a winner-take-all title game … in ’97, ND posted the best winning pct. in the conference but lost twice to upstart Villanova in the postseason … in ’98, the Irish finished second to Rutgers in both the regular-season standings and the title game … in ’99, ND became the first BIG EAST team ever to win more than 18 conference games (20-5) en route to the regular-season title before finishing 18-7 and tied for second in 2000 (ND went 1-2 in the ’99 and 2000 BETs), followed by first-place regular-season finishes in 2001 (22- 4), ’02 (18-8) and ’03 (20-6) and the 2002-04 tournament titles.
NOTRE DAME REGIONAL PROBABLE STARTING ROTATIONS – here’s a look at the probable rotations, including stats (“WHIP” indicates walks plus hits per 9 IP): (see PDF for listings)
NOTRE DAME STARTING PITCHER NOTES
* Chris Niesel owns a 1.51 career ERA in seven career postseason appearances/six starts with the Irish (BIG EAST and NCAA Tournament), with a 3-0 record, 29 strikeouts, 13 walks and 38 hits allowed in 41.2 innings of postseason action
* Niesel’s career stats in five NCAA Tournament appearances (four starts) include a 2.15 ERA and 2-0 record (22 Ks, 11 BB, 23 H, 29.1 IP) – with noteworthy outings in 2002 at top-ranked Florida State (won 3-1 Super-Regional clincher, 8 IP, 6 H, R, 5 Ks, 3 BB), vs. the new #1 team the next week in the College World Series vs. Rice (no-decision in 5-3 ND win, 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 7 Ks, 2 BB) and last year’s tough-luck no-decision in the 4-3 regional loss at Cal State Fullerton (8 IP, 6 H, 3 R/2 ER, 5 Ks, 4 BB) … he also retired two batters in a brief relief stint vs. Ohio State in the 2002 regional opener at Eck Stadium (8-6; K), returning two days later to beat the Buckeyes in the regional-title round (9-6; 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 4 Ks, 2 BB).
* Grant Johnson missed the 2003 season due to shoulder surgery but owns 2.86 career ERA and 4-2 record in five career postseason starts (two BIG EAST, three NCAAs), with 25 Ks, 12 walks and 29 hits allowed in 34.2 innings … his three NCAA starts during the ’02 CWS season included a 3.92 ERA and 2-1 record in games vs. South Alabama, Florida State and Stanford (12 Ks, 9 BB, 15 H, 20.2 IP).
* Niesel and Johnson also have logged some pretty impressive numbers in the friendly confines of Eck Stadium – combining for a 2.16 career ERA and 14-2 record in home games … Niesel’s 2.94 ERA at The Eck is below his 3.22 career mark but he also owns a 6.7 K-to-walk ratio while pitching in front of the home fans (80 ks, 12 BB, 15 GP/12 GS, 7-1, CG, solo shutout, 79.2 IP, 79 H, 2 WP, 6 HB).
* Johnson has not allowed an earned run at Eck Stadium in five starts this season (4-0, CG, solo and shared shutouts, 26 IP, 8 H, 22 Ks, 10 BB, 2 HB) while his career stats in home games include a stellar 1.09 ERA (compared to 2.81 overall) and 7-1 record (11 GP/9 GS, 57.2 IP, 26 H, 52 Ks, 26 BB, WP, 5 HB).
* Niesel (21-3, .875) owns the 2nd-best career winning pct. in the Notre Dame program’s 112-year history (min. 16 decisions) and has won at a better clip than every ND pitcher in the previous 90 seasons (Herb Kelly went 22-2/.917, from 1912-14) … Niesel also owns the Notre Dame record for career K-to-walk ratio (4.09) while ranking 5th in fewest walks per 9 IP (1.90), 7th in starts (43, one shy of 4th), 10th in innings (265.1), 12th in wins (21) and 7th in strikeouts (229; 7 shy of Tim Kalita).
* Niesel, Johnson (14-5) and Tom Thornton (13-3) have combined to post a 48-11 career record with the Irish (.814).
VS. THE FIELD – Notre Dame went 8-1 during the 2004 season vs. teams in the ’04 NCAA field, posting wins over Florida Atlantic (3-2), Minnesota (19-8), Texas Tech (8-1), St. John’s (7-1, then 9-2 in BET) and Central Florida (4-0, 3-2) … the lone loss came 2-1 vs. St. John’s (both SJU runs were unearned) … ND posted a 56-17 edge in the above games, with one shutout, two games with 1 run allowe and four with 2 runs allowed (7-of-8 held to 0-2 runs).
ELITE INFIELD – Each member of the current Notre Dame infield – including C Javi Sanchez (3rd team, in ”04) – has received all-BIG EAST honors in at least one of the last two seasons … junior 3B Matt Macri and senior 2B Steve Sollmann were 1st team picks this season (Sollmann also was 2nd team in ’03) while sophomore SS Greg Lopez was a 3rd-teamer on the ’04 all-BIG EAST team … junior 1B Matt Edwards was a 1st-team pick in 2003.
MAINIERI STORMING TO WIN NO. 800 – Tenth-year ND head coach Paul Mainieri – now in his 21st overall season – picked up his 700th career coaching victory in the doubleheader vs. Georgetown on March 29, 2003, just 136 games removed from his 600th win (ND’s 99 combined wins in ’01 and ’02 were third-most in nation, behind Florida State’s 107 and South Carolina’s 106) … Mainieri’s 779-449-2 career record (.634) includes 180-121 at St. Thomas (’83-’88), 152-158 at Air Force (’89-’94) and 448-178-1 (.715) at ND (’95-’03), with his 400th win at ND suddenly three Ws away … his ND career includes six BIG EAST titles and seven NCAA trips with the Irish (’96, ’99-’04), the program’s first No. 1 ranking in 2001 and first CWS trip since ’57 (in ’02) … he was the nation’s only coach to repeat as ABCA regional coach of the year (Mideast), in 2002, and his squads have extended ND’s streak of seasons with 40-plus wins to 16 (nation’s 3rd-longest active streak) … 35 of his ND players have moved on to pro ball, including 12 drafted in the first 10 rounds and pair of first-round pitchers (Brad Lidge in ’98, Aaron Heilman in ’01) … every ND player in the Mainieri era who has completed his eligibility with the Irish has graduated from Notre Dame (59 of 59) while the eight who were signed after their junior seasons have returned to complete or near completion of their graduation requirements (including two-time Academic All-American Brian Stavisky) … Mainieri owns the best BIG EAST winning pct. in the conference’s history (.744, 157-54), including the only three seasons in the league’s history with 20-plus wins … in 83 BIG EAST series spanning nine seasons, the Irish have won 61 with 12 splits and just 10 series wins by the opponent (just two of them being 3-game sweeps) … the Irish have been swept just five times in 71 all-time BIG EAST doubleheaders (47 ND sweeps, 28 splits).
BOMBS AWAY – Notre Dame’s current 16-1 run includes a 14-1 mark since returning from finals and the Irish have raked up their 102-42 scoring edge in those 15 games via the long ball, totaling 19 home runs while giving up just 5 HRs … Matt Macri has launched 7 HRs in the post-finals games while Craig Cooper and Matt Edwards have 4 each in that span.
Milestones on the Horizon
Steve Sollmann – 297 hits, 37 doubles, 145 RBI
Javi Sanchez – 93 RBI
Craig Cooper – 98 hits
Matt Edwards – 88 runs
Cody Rizzo – 90 runs, 48 HBPs
Greg Lopez -97 hits
TRIPLE DOUBLES – The Notre Dame offense has been able to explode for big hit and run totals throughout the 2004 season, totaling 34 games with 10 or more hits, 19 with double-digit runs and eight wins by margins of 10-plus runs.
CRANKING IT UP FOR THE BIG GAMES – Senior 2B Steve Sollmann’s .360 career batting avg. includes a .355 regular-season clip, just .245 in the BIG EAST Tournament but then .487 in the NCAAs:
Reg.-season: 246-for-694, 190 GP/188 GS, 178 R, 124 RBI, 90 BB, 73 Ks, 71 SB, 12 HR, 36 2B, 9 33 … .355
BET: 13-for-53, 9 GS. 4 RBI, 9 R, 5 BB, 3 HBP, 8 Ks, 4 SB, 2 SAC, 3 Es … .245
NCAAs: 38-for-78, 18 GS, 21 R, 17 RBI, 7 BB, 6 Ks, HR, 3 3B, 2B, 8-10 SB … .487
Overall: 297-for-825, 217 GP/215 GS, 208 R, 37 2B, 12 3B, 13 HR, 145 RBI, 102 BB, 19 HBP, 87 Ks, 39 Es, 83-110 SB … .360
SILVER STREAKS – The depth of Notre Dame’s batting order can be seen in the fact that all nine starters have posted hitting streaks in 2004 of at least seven games, led by three – sophomore LF Steve Andres (13), junior 3B Matt Macri (10) and junior 1B Matt Edwards (10) – with double digit hitting streaks and four others with nine-game hitting streaks (senior C Javi Sanchez and the sophomore trio of RF Craig Cooper, CF Cody Rizzo and SS Greg Lopez) … sophomore DH Matt Bransfield and senior 2B Steve Sollmann (who missed 21 games due to injury) both have posted seven-game hitting streaks … Andres carries a team-best six-game hitting streak into the NCAAs while Lopez has hit safely in the last five games.
TWO YEARS LATER – Notre Dame’s junior class – rated in 2002 as the nation’s top incoming freshman class (per Baseball America) – has made big impact on Notre Dame’s success during the past three seasons, with the Irish winning 76-percent of their games during the 2002-04 seasons (144-46) while standing two games shy of +100 in games over .500 during that three-year stretch … the headliners of the junior class include a trip of righhanded pitchers – Grant Johnson (14-5, injured in ’03), Chris Niesel (21-3) and John Axford (14-5, injured in ’04) – who have combined for a 49-13 record during their ND careers … 3B Matt Macri and 1B Matt Edwards both missed most of the ’02 season due to injury but have been key starters during the past two seasons … Macri just was named a 2nd team All-American (by USA Today Sports Weekly and then Collegiate Baseball magazine), after earning 1st team all-BIG EAST and BIG EAST Tournament MVP honors … Edwards was a 1st team all-BIG EAST pick in 2002, also earning 2nd team all-region honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association.
FILLING THE VOIDS – Notre Dame’s record-setting 2004 season is all the more noteworthy when considering the fact that seven of the top Irish players have combined to miss 207 games this season due to injury … most notably, two top pitchers – junior RHP John Axford (who started the ’03 season with a 9-0 record) and freshman RHP Jeff Manship (rated the nation’s No. 3 freshman prospect, per Baseball America) – have missed the entire 2004 season due to preseason elbow surgery … another top pitcher, freshman RHP Derik Olvey, logged just 15 innings this season before missing the last 43 games due to a sore forearm (he is out for the rest of the ’04 season) … senior All-America 2B Steve Sollmann missed most of April (21 games) due to a fractured jaw, suffered in a midgame collision on April … others who been sidelined include freshman backup catcher Sean Gaston (17 games due to mononucleosis, April 23-May 19), sophomore OF Cody Rizzo (missed 5 early games duet to wrist injury that has hampered him most of ’04) and sophomore SS Greg Lopez (rested nagging sore back for 3 game prior to finals break) … the Irish were just 15-6 during Sollmann’s absence and made three errors at SS in the loss to Cleveland State (also minus Lopez).
Paul Mainieri ON Grant Johnson – “Grant did not have hit best stuff (vs. BC, in BIG EAST Tournament opener) but he always finds a way to get the job done. He makes the big pitch when he needs to – he’s just a winner. …We’ve got the capability to win 3-2 or 11-10 and our infield defense is outstanding. It has kept us in a lot of games.”
THREE FROM ND EARN FIRST-TEAM ALL-BIG EAST HONORS, FIVE OTHERS ALSO HONORED – Three Notre Dame players – senior 2B Steve Sollmann, junior 3B Matt Macri and junior RHP Grant Johnson – received 1st team all-BIG EAST honors at Wednesday’s tournament banquet … sophomore OF Craig Cooper – the first player ever to lead the BIG EAST in batting avg., on-base pct. and slugging pct. – received 2nd team honors, as did junior RHP Chris Niesel and sophomore closer Ryan Doherty … senior C Javi Sanchez and sophomore SS Greg Lopez were 3rd-team selections … ND’s led the BIG EAST with eight selections, followed by Pittsburgh and Boston College with six each … upcoming opponent BC placed two on the 1st team (co pitcher of the year Chris Lambert and junior OF Jason Delaney), plus 2nd-teamers Ryan Leahy (senior SS) and Drew Locke (junior OF) and 3rd-team picks Garrett Greer (senior C) and Kevin Shepard (junior LHP).
SOLLMANN JOINS ELITE COMPANY WITH FOURTH ALL-BIG EAST HONOR – Steve Sollmann joined two former ND players – DH Jeff Wagner (1st team, ’96-’99) and RHP Aaron Heilman (2nd team in ’98, 1st team ’99-’01) – as the third BIG EAST player ever named to the all-conference team four times … Sollmann also was a 1st team selection in 2001 (when he also earned BIG EAST rookie of the year) before earning 2nd-team honors in 2002 and ’03, when he was edged by Virginia Tech’s Marc Tugwell (the ’03 BIG EAST co-player of the year) … Sollmann also is the fifth ND player ever to be named 1st team all-BIG EAST in multiple seasons, joining Wagner, infielder Brant Ust (’97, ’98 and ’99, at three different positions), Heilman and CF Steve Stanley (’01, ’02) in that distinction … Sollmann’s .444 batting avg. in conference play would have ranked 2nd among the BIG EAST leaders behind teammate Craig Cooper (.470) but he was shy of the minimum 2.5 ABs per team game, after missing half of the BIG EAST season (13 of 26) due to a fractured jaw … since returning after the finals break (starting May 9 at UConn), Sollmann is batting 16-for-40 (.400) while helping the Irish win 13 of the last 14 games (the Irish are 29-4 overall this season with Sollmann in the lineup and were 15-6 when he was out with the injury).
ALL-CONFERENCE PITCHER NOTES – Notre Dame pitchers now have combined for 16 all-BIG EAST honors in the past nine seasons … ND pitchers have been 1st team all-BIG EAST seven times, including three times by Aaron Heilman (’99-’01), plus Brad Lidge (’98), Danny Tamayo (’01), Chris Niesel (’03) and Grant Johnson (’04) … 2nd-team pitchers have included Darin Schmalz (’96, ’97), Heilman (’98), Alex Shilliday (’98), Ryan Kalita (’03), Niesel (’04) and Ryan Doherty (’04) while J.P Gagne was a 3rd-team pick in ’01 and ’03 … Niesel becomes the fourth ND pitcher ever named all-BIG EAST in multiple seasons, joining Heilman, Schmalz and Gagne in that distinction … Lidge earned BIG EAST pitcher of the year in ’98, as did Heilman in ’00 and ’01 and Niesel in ’03.
ND’S ALL-CONFERENCE POSITION PLAYER HISTORY – Notre Dame now has produced an all-BIG EAST second baseman six times in nine BIG EAST seasons, starting with Randall Brooks (’96) and Brant Ust (’97) and continuing the past four seasons with Steve Sollmann … Matt Macri follows Ust (’98) and Andrew Bushey (’01) as ND’s third 3B ever to be 1st team all-BIG EAST (Bushey went on to earn 3rd team honors in ’02) … Craig Cooper becomes ND’s fifth OF ever to earn 1st or 2nd team all-BIG EAST honors, joining 1st-teamers Scott Sollmann (’96), Brooks (’97) and Steve Stanley (’01, ’02, also 2nd team in ’99) plus three-time 2nd-teamer Brian Stavisky (’00-’02) … former RF Kris Billmaier also earned 3rd team all-BIG EAST honors in 2003 … Lopez is the fourth Irish shortstop to earn all-BIG EAST honors and next season will be looking to match the honors of former 1st-teamers J.J. Brock (’98), Ust (’99) and Alec Porzel (’01, also 2nd team in ’02) … Sanchez follows 2nd-teamers Mike Amrhein (’97) and Paul O’Toole (’01, ’02) as the third ND catcher to be an all-BIG EAST pick … in addition to the players mentioned above, ND’s 52 all-time all-BIG EAST picks include four-time 1st-team DH Jeff Wagner (’96-’99), current junior 1B Matt Edwards (1st team in ’03, named as a 1B while also playing 3B) and 3rd-team DH Matt Bok (’01, ’02) … ND’s all-time BIG EAST honorees now include 26 on the 1st team (7 RHPs, 4 2B, 4 OF, 4 DH, 3 3B, 3 SS, 1 1B), plus 18 on the 2nd team (7 RHPs, 5 OF, 3 C, 2 2B, 1 SS) and eight during the four years of the 3rd team (2 RHP, 2 DH, plus single honorees from 3B, OF, SS, C) … the most common recipients have been pitchers (16) and outfielders (10), plus six 2B and DHs, five SS, four C and 3B, and Edwards at 1B.
BIG EAST HONORS YEAR-BY-YEAR – Notre Dame’s eight all-BIG EAST selections are its second-most ever, trailing only the 10 from the 2001 team that fashioned a BIG EAST record-setting 18-game winning streak in conference play (finishing 22-4 to set another league record) … when looking only at 1st and 2nd-team selections (the 3rd team did not begin until ’01), the ’04 team’s total of six on the 1st or 2nd team matches the 2nd-most ever by an ND team (behind the 8 in ’01) … here’s a look at ND’s year-by-year BIG EAST honorees (see PDF):
COOPER RIDES LATE PUSH TO SWEEP OF BATTING STATS – Notre Dame sophomore OF Craig Cooper came on strong at the end of the season to lead the BIG EAST in conference batting avg., on-base pct. and slugging pct. but it was not enough to claim 1st-team honors … Cooper is just the fifth BIG EAST batting champ not to earn 1st team all-BIG EAST honors, with the others including Villanova’s Kevin Cain (’89), BC outfielder Kevin Penwell (’95), Rutgers SS Darren Fenster (’99) and WVU outfielder Lee Fritz (’03) … nine previous BIG EAST batting champs have gone on to earn the league’s MVP award, including former ND players Brant Ust (’98) and Steve Stanley (’02).
BRANSFIELD TAKES RBI TITLE BUT NO HONORS – Sophomore DH Matt Bransfield ranked among the top BIG EAST power hitters all season and ran away with the RBI title (33 in league play) but was overlooked in the all-conference balloting … the 19 previous BIG EAST seasons have featured 26 players who led/shared the lead in RBI during BIG EAST games … 19 of those 26 RBI leaders ended up being 1st team all-BIG EAST selections (led by six players of the year) while three others were 2nd team (the 3rd-team designation began in 2001 and includes one other RBI champ) … that adds up to 23 of 26 previous BIG EAST RBI champs receiving all-conference honors (22 on 1st or 2nd team), with every RBI champ from 1994-2003 earning all-BIG EAST honors … the only previous RBI champs to not earn all-BIG EAST each competed from 1985- 93, when only one team was named: Boston College’s Roger Daley (’85), Joe Hayward (’91) and Chris Taylor (’93).
Chris Niesel RECORD-BOOK NOTES
* Enters 2004 NCAAs ranked 2nd in ND history with an .876 career win pct. (21-3, trailing only the .917/22-2 posted by Herb Kelly from 1912-14)
* Also owns the best career K-to-walk ratio in ND history (4.08) while ranking 4th in lowest career walk avg. (1.88 BB/9 IP), 7th in strikeouts (229, seven behind Alan Walania), 7th in starts (43) and 10th in innings pitched (265.0)
* His 4.61 season K-to-walk ratio in 2004 would rank 7th in ND history (just above his 4.59 in ’03)
BIG EAST TOURNAMENT QUICK NOTES
* Dan Kapala came on for two huge Ks in the 9th vs. BC and now has allowed just 4-of-19 inherited baserunners to score.
* ND now has won the first game in 7 of its last 8 postseason tournaments (all but the 4-3 loss to Stanford in the 2002 College World Series)
* The Irish never have gone 0-2 in a postseason tournament during the 10-year Mainieri era (18 total; 10 conference, 6 regionals, the ’02 Super Regional and ’02 CWS)
* The Irish now are 9-3 in one-run games this season while also posting 26 wins by 5-plus runs
* Grant Johnson’s last five outings include a 0.62 ERA, wins in all four starts, 28 Ks, 11 BB and 15 H in 29 IP
* ND is riding the 2nd-longest scoring streak in the program’s history (145 games; 374 of the last 375)
* ND had gone just 6-7 when being outhit by the opponent prior to beating BC in last week’s BIG EAST Tournament opener, 3-2 (BC held a 6-4 hit edge).
NOTRE DAME’S RECORD WHEN (see PDF)
* Closer Ryan Doherty now has enough innings to rank him near the top of several ND career categories, including the program’s best ratios of Ks per 9 IP (12.85, ahead of Dan McGinn’s 12.66 from ’64-’65) and fewest hits allowed per 9 IP (5.69, well below McGinn’s record of 6.27)
* Doherty also now ranks 1st in ND history for career ERA (2.34, just below All-American Nick Palihnich’s 2.36 from ’59-’61) … he also is tied with Alan Walania for 2nd in K-to-walk ratio (behind teammate Chris Niesel’s 4.08) and ranks 3rd for saves in a season (11, behind John Corbin’s 20 and J.P. Gagne’s 19).
* Doherty’s season K avg. (12.00/9 IP) would rank 4th in ND history (Frank Carpin’s 12.48 in ’58 is the record) while his 4.91 hits/9 IP in 2004 is on pace to challenge Ed Lupton’s standing record of 4.83 in ’63
* The big righthander owns a .157 opponent batting avg. for the 2004 season (would rank 1st in the ND record book, with the stat kept since 1991) … the standing record is held by David Sinnes (.163, in 1992).
* His 29 appearances this season rank 5th in the ND record book
Chris Niesel’s LAST OUTING – avoided the big inning while scattering nine hits and two walks over 7.1 innings, in 9-2 win over St. John’s in the BIG EAST Tournament winners-bracket game … he struck out just two batters but also collected 11 outs via groundballs (including three double plays) while locating 64 of his 100 pitches for strikes … five of Niesel’s seven leadoff batters reached base but he then allowed just 2-for-18 batting with runners on base and 1-for-8 with 2 outs.
READY TO ROAR – Notre Dame had struggled with early offense for much of the season but the Irish now have scored 1st-inning runs during 10 of the last 13 games, including the final two games at the BIG EAST Tournament … the Irish also own a 56-11 scoring edge in the 2nd inning.
TRUE WINNERS – The 2004 team’s current .828 win pct. would rank 4th-best in 112 seasons of Notre Dame baseball team and best since the 1910 team went 19-3 (.864).
DOUBLE DOZEN – Matt Macri is the first ND player in the 10-year Mainieri era to post 12-plus home runs while also swiping a dozen bases or more in the same season (he has 12 of each). OFF DAY – Sophomore SS Greg Lopez’s error last week vs. St. John’s was his first in 17 games and 81 fielding chances while his double-play partner Steve Sollmann made just his second error of the season.
BIG EAST TOURNAMENT LEADING HITTERS – Junior 3B Matt Macri picked up MVP honors at the 2004 BIG EAST Tournament after batting .429 in three games (6-for-14, 5 RBI, 2 R, 2 HR, BB, 3 Ks, SF, SB), to go along with several high-level plays at the hot corner while posting his 48th, 49th and 50th error-free games of the season … other top hitters in the tournament included sophomore SS Greg Lopez (.455, 5-for-11, R, 2 HBP, K, 3 Es), sophomore DH Matt Bransfield (5-for-14, 4 RBI, 2 R, HR, 3B, 2B, K) and junior 1B Matt Edwards (3-for-9, 3 RBI, 4 R, HR, 3 BB, HBP, K, E) … ND hit .269 as a team with a 23-9 scoring edge (.510 slugging, 6 HR, 2 3B, 3 2B, 12 1B, .398 on-base, 14 BB, 9 HB, 20 Ks, .908 OBS, SF, 3 SAC, SB, .953 fielding, 6 Es) … the ND pitchers posted a 1.67 staff ERA and .260 opp. batting avg. in the tournament (16 Ks, 6 BB, 21 H in 27 IP).
HIT-BY-PITCH IS DEFINITELY A PLURAL TERM -The only teams in Div. I history with more times hit-by-pitch HBPs than Notre Dame’s current 2004 total (104) are Nevada (125 in ’97), Long Beach State (124 in ’98, 114 in ’99), Arizona State (115 in ’00) and San Jose State (105 in ’00) … Cody Rizzo’s 20 HBPs are 2nd in the ND record book (behind his 28 in 2003) while Javi Sanchez’s 15 HBPs this season are tied for 3rd in the ND singles-season record book.
PITCHING WITH POISE – The Irish pitching staff has rocketed to 11th in the nation with a 3.36 staff ERA (which would rank 2nd-best in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era, behind the 3.22 in 2001) – all thanks to an impressive surge over the last 11 games while facing several quality opponents (three games vs. both Rutgers and Virginia Tech in that stretch, plus the two-game midweek series with Central Florida, two BIG EAST Tournament games vs. BC and another vs. St. John’s) … the staff’s streak of domination includes a 1.92 ERA and .230 opp. batting avg. in the last 11 games (98 IP, 82 H, 74 Ks, 25 BB).
MACRI NAMED ALL-AMERICAN – Notre Dame junior 3B Matt Macri (Clive, Iowa/Dowling HS) – who made an impressive lateseason push before coming up shy of receiving BIG EAST Conference player-of-the-year honors – has been recognized on a higher level as a second team All-America selection from USA Today Sports Weekly (also from Collegiate Baseball) … Macri finished the regular season ranked among the BIG EAST’s top-10 leaders in 11 of 12 categories (for all games) and became the first player ever to lead the conference in both home runs and triples during BIG EAST games … Macri is just the third Notre Dame player ever named to the exclusive USA Today All-America team, which recognizes a total of just 28 players (14 each on the 1st and 2nd team, with the awards beginning in 2000) … RHP Aaron Heilman was a USA Today 2nd-team All-Amercan pick in 2000 and a 1st-teamer in 2001, when Irish CF Steve Stanley earned a spot on the 2nd team (he then also was a USA Today 1st teamer, in ’02) … the 6-2, 190-pound Macri most recently picked up tournament MVP honors at the BIG EAST Championship, after batting 6-for-14 (.429) with five RBI, two home runs – and several more big-league plays at the hot corner – in a pair of wins over Boston College and a single win over St. John’s … Macri – batting .468 with seven home runs in the month of May (23-for-62), plus hits in 13 of his last 14 games – leads ND in batting average (.380), slugging pct. (.701), on-base pct.(.478), home runs (14), triples (7), doubles (15), runs scored (72), hits (84) and total bases (155) – plus an eye-popping 1.179 “OBS” (combined on-base and slugging pct.’s) … Macri’s 56 RBI are one shy of team leader Matt Bransfield while his 38 walks are second on the squad to Steve Andres’ 42 and his 12 stolen bases trail only Steve Sollmann’s 16 … he also is the first Notre Dame player in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era to total 12-plus home runs and 12-plus stolen bases in the same season … Macri is the 14th ND baseball player to receive All-America honors and is the 8th so honored during the Paul Mainieri era … e is the program’s 10th position player to earn All-America distinction and joins fellow third baseman Brant Ust (’98 honoree) as the only ND corner infielders ever selected to an All-America team.
SOLLMANN NAMED FIRST TEAM ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICAN – Notre Dame senior 2B Steve Sollmann – on the heels of posting a 4.0 GPA in his final undergraduate semester – earned the prestigious honor of first team Academic All-America, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America … Sollmann, who graduated in mid-May with a 3.44 cumulative GPA as a business marketing major (his final 4.0 term actually was not considered in the Academic All-America selections), is the sixth ND baseball player ever to earn Academic All-America in multiple seasons and is the third to repeat the honor during the last four seasons … Sollmann’s stellar four-year career saw him complete the rare double of All-America and Academic All-America honors as a junior .. .the Cincinnati native currently ranks 2nd in the ND record book with 297 career hits, plus 4th in stolen bases (83) and runs scored (208), 9th in triples (12) and 10th with a .360 career batting average … his inspiring return from a fractured-jaw injury has sparked the Irish to a 14-1 record since his return (the team was just 15-6 during his absence that spanned most of April) … the 11 other players named to the first team Academic All-America squad included just four others from teams that were selected for the upcoming NCAA Tournament: pitchers Wade Townsend (Rice) and Garrett Broshius (Missouri), infielder Jim Burt, Jr. (Miami) and outfielder Mark Johnson (Wichita State) … ND baseball players now have combined for 22 Academic All-America awards (since 1977), including five other repeat honorees in outfielders John Loughran (’86, ’87), Dan Peltier (’88, ’89) and Brian Stavisky (’01, ’02), first baseman Joe Binkiewicz (’91-’92) and lefthander Mike Naumann (’00-’01) … the Irish baseball program produced an unmatched four-year run of multiple Academic All-Americans from 2000-03.
OTHER ACADEMIC HONOR NOTES – Two members of the sophomore class – lefthanded pitcher Tom Thornton (Middleboro, Mass.) and leftfielder Steve Andres (Napa, Calif.) – earlier had joined Sollmann as three of the 11 players named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District V honors … they advanced to the Academic All-America ballot but wre not among the 34 total selections to the elite teams … Thornton, a member of the weekend rotation who has logged some of the staff’s biggest outings of the 2004 season, carries a 3.49 cumulative GPA as a double major in anthropology and film-television-and-theater … Andres ranks as one of the BIG EAST Conference’s top all-around offensive threats and owns a 3.24 GPA as a business management major … two other Irish sophomores – shortstop Greg Lopez (3.36, double major in anthropology and pre-professional studies) and DH Matt Bransfield (3.27, sociology) – also were nominated for the Academic All-District team but were not among elected for that team (each should join Thornton and Andres among the top candidates for 2005 Academic All-America honors) … the ND baseball squad as a whole registered a 3.15 team GPA in the 2004 spring semester – matching the 2003 fall term as the highest semester GPAs in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era … 22 of 35 players posted a semester GPA of 3.0 or higher, led by 11 with a GPA of 3.4-plus … Steve Sollmann and his five fellow seniors each ended their undergraduate careers with a semester GPA of 3.55 or higher (each had a 3.40-plus in the fall of ’03) while maintaining the program’s 100% graduation rate (59 of 59) during the 10-year Paul Mainieri era, among players who have completed their eligibility (eight others who signed professionally as juniors also have returned to complete degree requirements).
SUPER SEMESTER – Notre Dame’s 22 players who posted a 3.0-plus GPA during the 2004 spring semester included 19 veterans, led by all six seniors: 2B Steve Sollmann (4.0, management), C Javi Sanchez (3.70, management), LHPs Joe Thaman (3.67, marketing) and Cody Wilkins (3.77, marketing), and IFs Zach Sisko (3.58, double major in history pre-professional studies) and Tim Murray (3.67, mathematics) … other veteran players who posted semester GPAs of 3.0-plus included four juniors RHPs – John Axford (3.29, film-television-and-theater), Grant Johnson (3.83, marketing), Tyler Jones (3.11, accounting) and Chris Niesel (3.24, marketing) – plus nine members of the sophomore class: DH Matt Bransfield (3.06, sociology), OF Craig Cooper (3.33, political science and computer applications), RHP/closer Ryan Doherty (3.21, philosophy), SS Greg Lopez (3.35, anthropology and pre-professional studies), C Nick Mainieri (3.40, English). OF Alex Nettey (3.00), OF Cody Rizzo (3.00, sociology), LHP Tom Thornton (3.81, anthropology and film-television-and-theater) and DH Brent Weiss (3.81, finance) … three freshmen rounded out the players with 3-0-plus semesters GPAs: LHP/1B Mike Dury (3.13), OF/2B Chris Fournier (3.00) and C Sean Gaston (3.60).
Paul Mainieri Quotes Following the BIG EAST Title Game: “That first inning was awesome when Bransfield gave us that early lead and then Cooper stepped up and hit that big home run. You could just sense the relief that it gave our team. … I still don’t feel like we’ve played a great game. We had chances to blow the game open. We strive for perfection and are getting closer. Hopefully, next weekend we’ve saved our best game. It’s a great group of kids who worked hard, played together and listened to the coaches. … (Doherty) has been phenomenal. He has failed to do the job only one time all year. When we lost J.P Gagne, I felt he was the toughest player to replace but Ryan has done a tremendous job, as have our setup men Joe Thaman and Dan Kapala . … I like to have someone who slugs in that leadoff spot and Macri is a pretty good hitter to have in that leadoff spot. I’m so happy for that kid to be playing the way he is playing, with the way it started for him with the injury and then the inconsistency last year. We’ve got enough power in the middle of the order. When a starting pitcher has to face Macri at the top of the order, that’s a pretty challenging thing. You throw a strike to him early in the game and he’s liable to hit it out. … The story of this team has been a different day it’s a different hero. Somebody always seems to pick up the slack and when you have that talent 1-9 there’s no pressure on certain players to carry the team – and I think that’s the definition of a team. … David Grewe , our hitting coach, deserves so much credit. The hitters have a great approach, are very aggressive but also have great discipline. You don’t often see us swinging at a lot of bad pitches. … .”
Matt Macri Quotes: “I do like batting leadoff. I have not done it too much in the past but not I’m up there getting more comfortable. I like to set the tone and be aggressive. … I feel real comfortable at the plate and in the field. A lot of that is because I’ve been able to play every day. I’ve been able to play all year without injury, being able to play without any limitations on what swing you take. I’m able to go out there and play my game. I like to go up there as the first batter and send a message to the pitchers that we are going to be aggressive all day. … Every batter is pulling his weight, with situational batting, hitting for some power, getting on base. There’s no easy out in the lineup. We are driven to get that early lead and then get more. It sets the tempo early in the game.”
Tom Thornton Quotes: “Our guys are coming out and swinging it as well as anyone in the country right now and I’d put our position players up against anybody.”
Ryan Doherty Quotes: “The last outs are some of the most important ones, so you really want to be out there for those. When we hit the ball well, we are a ridiculously good team. If we keep putting up runs like this, I’m going to become obsolete. If we want to keep putting up 11 or 12 runs a game, I will not complain a bit.”
(for lists of season highs in various categories, see PDF)