Oct. 5, 2001

The Notre Dame baseball program’s current class of freshman baseball players has been ranked as the nation’s third-best recruiting class, according to Collegiate Baseball magazine. The honor ranks as the latest for a Notre Dame baseball program that has emerged as one of the nation’s top programs.

Southern California and Louisiana State were listed first and second on the Collegiate Baseball list, followed by Notre Dame, Miami (Fla.) and Stanford.

Baseball America magazine also will be releasing its ranking of the nation’s recruiting classes later in the month (the rankings were delayed until the start of the school year, in order to account for signees that signed professional contracts).

Notre Dame’s talented group of newcomers is led by shortstop/pitcher Matt Macri (Dowling, Iowa) and righthander Chris Niesel-who some consider to be the nation’s top incoming freshmen at their respective positions. Righthanders Martin Vergara (Paterson, N.J.) and Grant Johnson (Burr Ridge, Ill.) joined Macri by earning Gatorade player-of-the-year honors for their respective states while another righthander, John Axford (Brantford, Ontario), elected to attend Notre Dame rather than signing as the seventh-round pick of the Seattle Mariners.

The other newcomers include righthander Tyler Jones (Arlington, Texas), shortstop Matt Edwards (Mechanicsville, Va.), catcher Jay Molina (Moline, Ill.) and lefthander Scott Bickford (Owings, Md.).

The all-around talent of the 11-player class-which includes two recent additions in outfielder/catcher Brent Weiss (Cockeysville, Md.) and infielder Geoff Millsom (New York, N.Y.)-stands as a tribute to the diligent recruiting effort of head coach Paul Mainieri, associate head coach/recruiting cooridanator Brian O’Connor and assistant coach Dusty Lepper.

Five of the current freshmen were selected in the 2001 Major League draft, with most slipping down (or out of) the draft due to their strong commitments to attend Notre Dame. The signees who were selected in the 2001 draft were led by Axford (7th round, Seattle), Vergara (15th round, Cleveland) and Macri (17th round, Minnesota). Jones-who joined Axford as Notre Dame’s pair of spring signees-was a 30th-round pick of the Atlanta Braves while Niesel’s strong commitment to Notre Dame dropped him to the 47th round (where he was picked by the Chicago Cubs). Johnson’s firm position on attending Notre Dame resulted in Johnson not being selected during the 50-round draft (he was one of the top pitchers on the 2001 U.S. Junior National Team).

Notre Dame’s wide-reaching roster base is evident in the fact that the 11 freshmen hail from nine different states/provinces-Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ontario, Texas and Virginia-with the 2002 Irish roster now set to include players from at least 20 different states or provinces (also Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington).

See the Aug. 29 release on the Notre Dame website (www.und.com) for detailed and updated information on the 11 newcomers.

Notre Dame Baseball Freshman Class

Player (Pos., Ht./Wt., Bats) Hometown (Previous School)
John Axford (RHP, 6-4/180) Brantford, Ontario (Assumption College HS)
Scott Bickford (LHP, 6-4/160) Owings, MD (Northern HS)/tr
Matt Edwards (SS/OF, 6-2/180) RMechanicsville, VA (Lee-Davis HS)
Grant Johnson (RHP, 6-6/205) Burr Ridge, IL (Lyons Township HS)
Tyler Jones (RHP, 6-5/190) Arlington, TX (James Martin HS)
Matt Macri (SS/RHP, 6-2/195, R) Clive, IA (Dowling HS)
Geoff Milsom (IF, 6-1/195, L) New York, NY (Poly Prep HS)
Jay Molina (C, 5-11/195, R) Moline, IL (Moline HS)
Chris Niesel (RHP, 6-0/185) Plantation, FL (St. Thomas Aquinas HS)
Martin Vergara (RHP, 6-1/180) Paterson, NJ (DePaul Catholic HS)
Brent Weiss (OF/C, 6-1/225, R) Cockeysville, MD (St. Paul’s HS)