Former Notre Dame first baseman Craig Cooper is swinging a hot bat in his first season of professional baseball.

Pro Baseball Update: Samardzija Promoted To Peoria; Sollmann Named FSL All-Star; Thornton's Team Plays 26-Inning Marathon

July 22, 2006

The Chicago Cubs recently moved former Notre Dame pitcher Jeff Samardzija from the Boise Hawks to the Peoria Chiefs and the righthander is slated to make two starts for the Chiefs before returning to campus for the start of Notre Dame’s preseason football practice. Samardzija will start the July 23 road game versus the Lansing Lugnuts (1:05 EDT) and then will make a Friday-night appearance at Peoria’s O’Brien Field, on July 28 versus the Dayton Dragons (7:00).


Jeff Samardzija’s 2.37 ERA with the Boise Hawks ranked among the best in the Northwest League.



In other recent news among the 19 former Irish players currently active in professional baseball: lefthanded pitcher Chris Michalak has put up some strong numbers in triple-A with the Louisville Bats (Reds affiliate); first baseman Craig Cooper has emerged as one of the top hitters in the short-season Northwest League (with the Eugene Emeralds, a Padres affiliate); second baseman Steve Sollmann was named to the double-A Florida State League all-star game (with the Brevard County Manatees, affiliate of the Brewers); RHP Ryan Doherty has been on a roll just down the road from Notre Dame, with the South Bend Silverhawks (part of the Diamondbacks system); first baseman Matt Edwards is tearing it up as an all-star in the independent Frontier League (with the Evansville Otters) as he looks to latch on with a major-league franchise; and LHP Tom Thornton witnessed one of the longest games in the history of professional baseball, as his Oneonta Tigers defeated the Brooklyn Cyclones in 26 innings.

Three former Notre Dame players – infielder Craig Counsell (rib injury; Arizona Diamondbacks) and RHPs Danny Tamayo (shoulder; Omaha Royals) and Chris Niesel (elbow; Kinston Indians) – recently were placed on the disabled list. Two others – catcher Javi Sanchez (Minnesota Twins organization) and shortstop Greg Lopez (Toronto Blue Jays organziation) – have yet to play this season due to injuries and may not return to action in 2006.

Samardzija compiled a 2.37 ERA in Boise and would have ranked 8th among the Northwest League ERA leaders if he had pitched a few more innings to meet the league minimum (he joined the team two weeks after the season started). His other stats in Boise included a 1-1 record, 13 strikeouts, 6 walks, 5 hit batters and 18 hits allowed in 19.0 innings. His fifth and final start with the Hawks featured five shutout innings in a win over the Everett Aquasox.


Chris Michalak – pictured during his 2001 season with the Toronto Blue Jays – currently is one level away from another return to the big leagues.



In addition to catching the road series at Lansing and the home series with Dayton, Notre Dame fans wishing to see Samardzija also could do so in Grand Rapids when Peoria faces the West Michigan Whitecaps on July 24-27. Samarzija is not scheduled to pitch versus the Whitecaps but is familair with the stadium, which serves as the site for Notre Dame’s annual “Baseball Bash” game with Michigan.

The 19 Notre Dame alums currently active in pro baseball include three Major League players – Counsell, Houston Astros closer Brad Lidge and versatile New York Mets RHP Aaron Heilman – plus three others who have played on the triple-A level this season: Michalak, Tamayo and outfielder Brian Stavisky (now with the double-A Midland Rockhounds, after playing for the Sacramento River Cats in the A’s organization). The past 12 years have seen 49 different Irish players be selected in the Major League draft (36) or sign as free-agents (13), with 37 of those 49 players developing into pro prospects at Notre Dame after having gone undrafted out of high school.

All-America righthanded pitcher Jeff Manship was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 2006 Major League draft but has yet to sign with the Twins. Manship did not pitch as a freshman in 2004 (due to injury) and thus has two years of college eligibility remaining. The Twins would maintain his rights until he attends his first class back at Notre Dame in the fall of 2006.

Michalak – whose 14-year pro baseball career has included Major League stints with several teams (the ’98 Diamondbacks, ’01 Blue Jays and ’01/’02 Rangers) – currently ranks 5th on the International League’s wins list (8), 6th in ERA (2.61) and 11th in innings pitched (110.1). Cooper’s strong start includes ranking among the Northwest Leage leaders in eight offensive categories: 4th in on-base pct. (.417), 5th in walks (16), 6th in batting avg. (.315), 7th in RBI (18), doubles (8), hits (35) and runs (19), and 10th in OPS (.858, OB plus slugging).


Ryan Doherty is 6-0 with 4 saves, a 1.96 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 42 innings as a member of the South Bend Silverhawks.



Doherty’s 1.96 ERA would rank 2nd in the Midwest League (he does not meet the inning minimum) while his 0.92 “WHIP” (walks plus hits, divided by innings) would be tops on that Midwest League list.

Edwards – who played in the Frontier League All-Star game and competed in the home-run contest – ranks 2nd in the league with a .438 on-base pct., a .610 slugging pct., 17 doubles and 29 extra-base hits, also ranking 4th among the league’s players in batting avg. (.335), home runs (9) and hits (61), plus 5th with 37 RBI.

Counsell’s 11-year Major League career includes appearing in 1,022 games, spanning stints with the Rockies, Marlins, Dodgers, Diamondbacks (twice) and Brewers.


FSL all-star Steve Sollmann (pictured) and former Notre Dame teammate Grant Johnson currently are playing in the Florida State League.



Former Notre Dame players who currently are competing in the same pro baseball league include: Stavisky and 3B Matt Macri (Tulsa Drillers/Rockies org.) in the Texas League; Sollmann and RHP Grant Johnson (Daytona Cubs) in the Florida State League; Samardzija and Doherty in the Midwest League; and Edwards and utility player Matt Bransfield (Gateway Grizzles) in the Frontier League.

Oneonta’s 26-inning win over Brooklyn on July 20 ranks as one of the longest games in the history of professional baseball (Thornton had started a few days earlier and did not pitch in the record-setting game). The previous longest game in New York-Penn League history had been a 22-inning battle between the Batavia Muckdogs and Auburn Doubledays during the 2005 season. That game started on July 7 and was suspended after 20 innings before being completed on Aug. 14. Thornton’s former Notre Dame teammate Edwards was a member of the 2005 Batavia team.

The longest game in minor-league history remains the Pawtucket Red Sox’s 33-inning victory over the Rochester Red Wings that began on April 18, 1981, and ended two months later on June 23. The longest in MLB history – based on game time – was played during the 1984 season on May 8 and 9, a game won by the Chicago White Sox over the Milwaukee Brewers in 25 innings (7-6). The most innings ever played in a Major League game was a 26-inning, 1-1 tie between Brooklyn and Boston in 1920.

Oneonta centerfielder Deik Scram was 0-for-11 before hitting a two-run single that ended up being the winning hit. Brooklyn had run out of pitchers and sent outfielder Mark Wright to the mound (he never pitched during his college career at Mississippi but was a pitcher in high school).

Oneonta used eight pitchers, with the seven relievers combining for 20 scoreless innings. Former Kentucky first baseman Ryan Strieby – who joined his current Oneonta teammate Tom Thornton in recently watching one of the longest games in NCAA Tournament history (the College of Charleston’s 16-inning, 5-4 win over Notre Dame at the Lexington Regional) – had tied the game with an RBI single in the top of the 4th inning but the pitching staffs then combined to put 43 consecutive zeroes on the scoreboard.


In the span of just two months, former Notre Dame pitcher Tom Thornton (now with the Oneonta Tigers) has watched his teams play in two of the longest games in NCAA Tournament and professional baseball history.



Brooklyn and Oneonta combined for 34 hits (just five for extra bases), 14 walks and left 43 runners on base in the 6:40 marathon. The game featured 684 pitches thrown by 15 pitchers, who combined for 36 strikeouts. Brooklyn manager George Greer watched most of the lengthy game from the clubhouse, after being ejected in the bottom of the 1st for arguing a force play at second base.

The MLB record-setting 1984 matchup between the White Sox and Brewers spanned 8:06 of game time and was halted after the 17th inning (due to the MLB curfew rule) before being resumed the next day. Milwaukee took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th but an aging Rollie Fingers could not hold the lead, as Chicago scored to force extra innings. On the second day, Carlton Fisk struck out with the bases loaded for the White Sox in the 18th while Ben Ogilvie delivered for the Brewers in the 21st, on a three-run blast into the upper deck. The game was set to end but the home team matched the Brewers output, thanks to Fisk’s RBI single and a two-run hit from Tom Paciore.

Current Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland was the White Sox third-base coach for that game and played a role in the 23rd, when Dave Stegman stumbled rounding the base and brushed against Leyland (Stegman was called out and would have scored on the ensuing single). The game mercifully ended when Harold Baines homered over the center-field fence. Tom Seaver, making his first relief appearance in eight years, picked up the win and then pitched 8.1 innings in Chicago’s regularly-scheduled game that night, earning his second victory of the day.

The 33-inning game between Pawtucket and Rochester featured future big-league all-stars Wade Boggs (4-for-12) and Cal Ripken, Jr. The low-scoring duel between the Triple-A affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox began April 18, 1981, at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. The score was 1-1 after nine innings. Rochester outfielder Dallas Williams, now hitting coach for the triple-A Ottawa Lynx, was 0-for-13 in the game. At one point, Pawtucket power hitter Sam Bowen belted a ball that sailed out of the park and looked to be a home run – until it was blown back onto the field and caught.

Rochester scored in the 21st to go up 2-1 but the home team tied it in their turn at bat. To keep warm, players built a bonfire in a metal trash can with wood from broken bats.


Former Notre Dame infielder Craig Counsell’s 11th Major League season recently was interrupted by a rib injury.



The game was suspended shortly after 4:00 a.m., after 32 innings, on the orders of the International League president. The game resumed in Pawtucket on June 23 when the Red Wings returned to town. With Major League Baseball interrupted by a players strike, little Pawtucket became the focus of the sports world. Steve Grilli – whose son Jason later would pitch at Seton Hall and in the big leagues – wasn’t even with the Red Wings when the game began but he came in to pitch the 33rd inning. Grilli loaded the bases and the pitcher who relieved him threw a 2-2 curveball to Dave Koza that was lined into left field, as Marty Barrett came home with the game-winning run (3-2).

The Pawtucket-Rochester game included 882 pitches, 8:25 of game time and 60 strikeouts. Future Red Sox pitcher Bruce Hurst was the sixth relief pitcher ued by Pawtucket in the game. At the time, the previous record in the minor leagues was 29 innings (set in 1966) while the record for a major league game still is 26 innings, established in the 1920 tie between Boston and Brooklyn.


Brian Stavisky



Former Notre Dame Players Currently Active in Pro Baseball (stats as of July 21)

Craig Counsell, IF (Arizona Diamondbacks; currently on DL) – 74 GP, 306 AB, 46 T, 85 H, 12 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 19 BB, 41 K, 11-17 SB, .334 OB, .366 slug, .278 batting avg.

Brian Stavisky, OF (Midland Rockhound/Texas League; A’s, AA) – 43 GP, 164 AB, 30 R, 51 H, 9 2B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 34 BB, 27 K, .435 OB, .402 slug, .311 batting avg.

(Sacramento River Cats; A’s, AAA) – 33 GP, 109 AB, 16 R, 26 H, 6 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 16 BB, 23 K, .333 OB, .349 slug, .239 batting avg.

Brant Ust, 3B (Altoona Curve/Eastern League; Pirates, AA) – 44 GP, 138 AB, 13 R, 26 H, 3 2B, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 12 BB, 31 K, 0-1 SB, .261 OB, .296 slug, .188 batting avg.

(Lynchburg Hillcats; Pirates, high-A) – 7 GP, 18 AB, R, 3 H, 2B, RBI, 4 BB, 9 K, .375 OB, .222 s;ug, .167 batting avg.


Brant Ust



Matt Macri, 3B (Tulsa Drillers/Texas League; Rockies, AA) – 83 GP, 288 AB, 35 R, 67 H, 12 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 22 BB, 66 K, 2-6 SB, .294 OB, .372 slug, .233 batting avg.

Steve Sollmann, 2B (Brevard Country Manatees/Florida State League; Brewers, High-A) – 87 GP, 310 AB, 43 R, 87 H, 13 2B, HR, 34 RBI, 39 BB, 33 K, 12-14 SB, .390 OB, .332 slug, .281 batting avg.


Matt Macri



Javi Sanchez, C (Fort Myers Miracle; Twins High-A) – injured

Craig Cooper, 1B (Eugene Emeralds/Northwest League; Padres, Low-A) – 28 GP, 111 AB, 19 R, 35 H, 8 2B. 2 HR, 18 RBI, 16 BB, 23 K, 1-1 SB. .417 OB, .441 slug, /315 batting avg.

Greg Lopez, IF (Pulaski Blue Jays; Blue Jays Low-A) – injured

Matt Edwards, 3B (Evansville Otters; Independent Frontier League) – 49 GP, 182 AB, 31 R, 61 H, 17 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 37 RBI, 26 BB, 32 K, 1-4 SB, .438 OB, .610 slug, .335 batting avg.

Matt Bransfield, UTIL (Gateway Grizzlies; independent Frontier League) – 9 GP, 33 AB, 5 R, 5 H, 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI,

Brad Lidge, RHP (Houston Astros) – 0-3, 5.60 ERA, 46 GP, 22 SV, 45.0 IP, 29 R, 28 ER, 6 HR, 24 BB, 2 HB, 64 K, .259 opp. avg.


Brad Lidge



Aaron Heilman, RHP (New York Mets) – 0-3, 4.28 ERA, 43 GP, 54.2 IP, 51 H, 28 R, 26 ER, 5 HR, 19 BB, 2 HB, 43 K, .251 opp. avg.

Danny Tamayo, RHP (Omaha Royals/Pacific Coast League; Royals, AAA; currently on DL) – 3-2, 4.21 ERA, 7 GP/3 GS, 25.2 IP, 24 H, 12 R, 12 ER, 4 HR, 4 BB, 3 HB, 26 K, .245 opp. avg.


Aaron Heilman



Chris Michalak, LHP (Louisville Bats/International League; Reds, AAA) – 8-4, 2.61 ERA, 19 GP, 18 GS, 110.1 IP, 119 H, 44 R, 32 ER, 15 HR, 22 BB, 9 HB, 47 K

Grant Johnson, RHP (Daytona Cubs/Florida State League; Cubs high-A) – 4-5, 4.79 ERA, 19 GP, 10 GS, SV, 67.2 IP, 74 H, 43 R, 36 ER, 5 HR, 30 BB, 2 HB, 42 K


Danny Tamayo



Chris Niesel, RHP (Kinston Indians/Carolina League; Indians, high-A; currently on DL) – 3-0, 4.65 ERA, 17 GP, 31.0 IP, 35 H, 17 R, 16 ER, 6 HR, 15 BB, 4 HB, 34 K, .285 opp avg.

Ryan Doherty, RHP (South Bend Silver Hawks/Midwest League; Diamondbacks, low-A) – 6-0, 1.96 ERA, 26 GP, 4 SV, 41.1 IP, 28 H, 13 R, 9 ER, HR, 10 BB, HB, 51 K

Tom Thornton, LHP (Oneonta Tigers; Tigers, low-A) – 0-1, 2.45 ERA, 5 GS, 18.1 IP, 17 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 13 K


Grant Johnson



Jeff Samardzija, RHP (Boise Hawks/Northwest League; Cubs, low-A) – 1-1, 2.37 ERA, 5 GS, 19.0 IP, 18 H, 5 R, 5 ER, HR, 6 BB, 5 HB, 13 K


Chris Niesel