March 13, 2002
NOTRE DAME BASEBALL NOTES
Irish Baseball Classic … March 13-16, 2002
Wolff Stadium (San Antonio, Texas)
The Notre Dama baseball team (5-6) looks to get back on the winning track this week as it again plays host to the four-day Irish Baseball Classic, to be held at Wolff Stadium in San Antonio, Texas (home of the double-A San Antonio Missions, now affiliated with the Seattle Mariners after a longtime affiliation with the Los Angeles Dodgers) … Notre Dame is playing in Texas for the 14th season in the last 19 years while hosting the IBC for the seventh time since 1995 … the Irish open with an immpediate rematch vs. Creighton on Wednesday morning, March 13 (10:00 a.m. CST), after dropping an 8-6 game to the Bluejays on Monday in Round Rock, Texas (at the Express College Classic) … ND then faces another rematch on Thursday, March 14 (1:30 p.m.) vs. a Southern Illinois team that beat the Irish on Feb. 24 at the New Orleans Classic (6-2), before taking on Arkansas-Little Rock on Friday the 15th (5:30) … the tournament consolation (noon) and championship (4:00) games will be held on Saturday the 16th … ND’s planned pitching rotation includes three freshman RHPs – John Axford, Grant Johnson and Chris Niesel – with Saturday’s starter TBA (Creighton sophomore RHP Steve Grasley is slated to face ND) … other games in the IBC include SIU-UALR (Wed., 2:00), Creighton-UALR (Thur., 5:30) and Creighton-SIU (1:30).
RADIO COVERAGE: South Bend’s ESPN Radio 1620 AM (WDND) and its sister station WHLY 1580 AM are slated to broadcast Notre Dame’s entire 56-game schedule in 2002 (plus all postseason action) … a real-audio link to internet broadcasts of the games may be accessed at www.und.com while real-time stats for home games – including updated play-by-play – likewise can be accessed at und.com … any baseball games that conflict with ND hockey or women’s basketball broadcasts on WDND 1620 typically will be shifted to WHLY 1580 (Friday’s game vs. Arkansas-Little Rock will air on WHLY 1580, immediately following the ND-Northern Michigan hockey broadcast that is set to begin at 4:00 EST, two-and-a-half hours before the ND-UALR baseball game).
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP AND ROTATION
CF…Steve Stanley (Sr., Upper Arlington, OH)…11 GS, .471, 6 RBI, 10 R, 5 2B, 9-11 SB, 3 BB…Slated to start 200th consecutive game, hits in all 11 games
LF…Matt Bok (Sr., Akron, OH)…10 GS, .351, 3 RBI, 6 R, 2 2B, HR, 0-1 SB, BB…Third team all-BIG EAST (’01), hit 8-for-14 in Homestead
DH…Matt Macri (Fr., Clive, IA)…7 GS, .242, 8 RBI, 6 R, 2 2B, 1-1 SB, 2 BB…Nation’s #2 prospect among freshmen (BA), could debut at SS in early April
1B…Ken Meyer (Sr., Fort Myers, FL)…9 GS, .417, 5 RBI, 8 R, 3 2B, HR, 4 BB…Riding 6-game hitting streak (10-for-23)
3B…Paul O’Toole (Sr., Lakewood, OH)…10 GS, .243, 6 RBI, 8 R, 2B, 2 HR, 3-6 SB, 5 BB…22 career HRs, 46 SBs, six-game hit streak ended vs. CU
C…Andrew Bushey (Sr., Boardman, OH)…6 GS, .462, 7 RBI, 5 R, 4 2B, HR, 0-2 SB, BB…BIG EAST Player of the Week (hit 6-for-9 at UNO Classic)
RF…Kris Billmaier (Jr., Woodinville, WA)…11 GS, .190, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2B, 1-1 SB, 2 BB…2-for-5 with 3 RBI in 15-8 win over USC
SS…Javier Sanchez (So., Miami, FL)…9 GS, .216, 2 RBI, 5 R, 2 2B, 3 BB…Has started at 2B, SS and 3B in 2002
2B…Steve Sollmann (So., Cincinnati, OH)…7 GS, .207, 2 RBI, 4 R, BB…Preseason All-American, slowed by quad injury
1B…Joe Thaman (So., St. Louis, MO)…4 GS, .133, RBI, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 BB… Returning starter, slowed by shoulder injury
OF…Matt Strickroth (Sr., Santa Margarita, CA)…GS, .200, 2 R, 4 BB
OF…Brent Weiss (Fr., Cockeysville, MD)…3 GS, R, BB
IF…Geoff Milsom (Fr., New York, NY)…1 GS
Probable Starting Pitchers (listed in order, Saturday’s starter TBA)
RHP…John Axford (Fr., Port Dover, ONT)…3 GP, 0-1, 4.70, 7.2 IP, 4K/9 BB, 10 H…7th-round draft pick of Seattle Mariners
RHP…Grant Johnson (Fr., Burr Ridge, IL)…3 GS, 1-1, 4.50, 20.0 IP, 16 K/2 BB, 22 H…Beat Missouri in relief, 7-6 (6 IP, 2 R, 6 H, K)
RHP…Chris Niesel (Fr., Plantation, FL)… 3 GS, 1-0, 4.70, 15.1 IP, 21 K/3 BB, 16 H…First team prep All-American (BA), posted 6-4 win vs. Fairfield (7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, BB, 9 K)
Other Starters and Relievers
RHP…J.P. Gagne (Jr., Bloomington, MN)…3 GS, 1-1, 2.81, 16.0, 15 K/4 BB,11 H…Has made 33 career starts with the Irish
RHP…Peter Ogilvie (Jr., Buffalo Grove, IL)…3 GS, 1-1, 3.95, 13.2 IP, 9 K/3 BB, 21 H…Posted ’01 complete-game wins over Michigan, FIU
RHP…Martin Vergara (Fr., Paterson, NJ)…3 GP, 1-1, 4.15, 8.2 IP, 9 K/5 BB, 10 H…Winner in 15-8 game vs. USC (3.2 shutout IP)
RHP…Brandon Viloria (Jr., Wailuku, HI)…3 GP, 0-1, SV, 4.76, 5.2 IP, 3 K, 5 H…Saved win over USC (2 shutout IP)
RHP…Matt Buchmeier (Sr., Greenwood, IN)…4 GP, 2 SV, 4.15, 4.1 IP, 6 K/2 BB, 6 H…Saved wins over Missouri, Fairfield
RHP…Matt Laird (Jr., Bellaire, TX)…2 GP, SV, 13.50, 1.1 IP, 5 H… Posted ’01 wins at Miss. St. (also SV) and Rutgers
RHP…Drew Duff (Sr., Sevierville, TN)…2 GP, 4.91, 3.2 IP, 2 K/BB, 9 H
RHP…Ryan Kalita (Jr., Oak Park, IL)…2 GP, 6.75, 1.1 IP, 2 H
RHP…Tyler Jones (Fr., Arlington, TX)…1 GP, 0.00, 1.0 IP
LHP…Scott Bickford (Fr., Owings, MD)
* Freshman SS Matt Edwards suffered a season-ending injury during the March 9 game vs. USC (broken fibula and tibia in his lower right leg) … Edwards returned home to Virginia on Tuesday, March 12, after visiting with his teammates on Monday night at Austin’s Brackenridge Hospital.
* Junior LF Brian Stavisky (a preseason 1st team All-American) remains out with a shoulder sprain (suffered in the Feb. 23 game at UNO) that has sidelined him for the last nine games … Stavisky – who could return for next weekend’s BIG EAST series at UConn – has made the trip to Texas, which includes homestays with host families in San Antonio (freshman C Jay Molina, out for the year as he rehabs from elbow surgery, also is making the spring break trip while helping with bullpen duty).
* Freshman SS Matt Macri has started the last seven games at DH (batting in the third spot) but he is not expected to return to the field until early April, due to an elbow strain.
* Notes: senior tri-captain and 3B/C Andrew Bushey (named the BIG EAST Conference player-of-the-week after hitting 6-for-9 at the season-opening UNO Classic) missed four games with a shoulder sprain before returning to action at last week’s Express College Classic … sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann continues to recover from his quad injury suffered in the opener vs. Missouri (he missed the UNO and SIU games and started just two of four games in Homestead) … senior C Paul O’Toole has been relegated to mostly 3B duty, due to a sore left thumb (he had missed just one start) … lefthanded-hitting sophomore 1B Joe Thaman (shoulder) has been limited to four starts this season, with hot-hitting senior Ken Meyer (a righthanded hitter) drawing the other starts … sophomore Javier Sanchez has made nine starts this season while splitting time at SS, 2B and 3B (in place of Macri, Sollmann, Bushey and now Edwards) … another hot-hitting senior, Matt Bok, has been Stavisky’s primary replacement in LF.
NOTRE DAME IN TEXAS: The Irish baseball team is playing in Texas for the 14th time in the last 19 seasons (every year since 1983, except ’86, ’92-’94 and 2000) … ND is playing host to the seventh Irish Baseball Classic (called the Alamo Invitational in ’01, played at Keefe Feild at nearby St. Mary’s), with the Irish now owning a 26-15 record in all games played in Texas during the Paul Mainieri era (since 1995), mostly at Wolff Stadium (20-10) … ND lost the 1995 IBC title game to Baylor (10-4), swept to the title in ’96 and lost to Creighton in the ’97 BC title game (8-5) … most of the ’98 event was rained out, with ND then sweeping to the IBC title in 1999 and ’01 (Alamo Invitational, at SMC’s V.J. Keefe Field) … ND is 17-3 all-time in the IBC/Alamo Invitational (eight straight wins, 15-1 in last 16) while advancing to all four previous IBC championship games (2-2):
1995 Irish Baseball Classic (also 2-2 in non-IBC games, at Wolff)
ND 3, George Washington 0
Baylor 2, ND 1
ND 5, Nebraska 3
Baylor 10, ND 4 (championship game)
1996 Irish Baseball Classic
ND 6, Oral Roberts 2
ND 6, Southern Illinois 2
ND 10, Indiana 4
ND 10, Oral Roberts 6 (championship game)
1997 Irish Baseball Classic (also 2-4 in non-IBC games, at Wolff)
ND 9, Penn State 8
ND 7, Creighton 3
ND 7, Northeastern Illinois 2
Creighton 8, ND 5 (championship game)
1998 Irish Baseball Classic (also 2-1 in non-IBC games, at Wolff)
ND 4, Southern Illinois 3
(other games rained out)
1999 Irish Baseball Classic (also 2-2 in games at Keefe Field)
ND 6, Penn State 3
ND 5, Creighton 4
ND 4, St. Mary’s 3
ND 5, Creighton 3 (championship game)
2001 Alamo Invitational (Keefe Field, St. Mary’s)
ND 8, Texas-San Antonio 3
ND 14, Texas-Pan American 9
ND 7, Sam Houston State 4
SERIES NOTES: Notre Dame leads the Creighton series (4-3), including Monday’s 8-6 win by Creighton in Round Rock … ND posted an 8-1 win over Creighton to open the 1999 NCAA South Bend Regional … the Irish and Bluejays played twice in San Antonio at two previous Irish Baseball Classics in 1997 (7-3 ND win, 8-5 Creighton win in title game) and ’99 (5-4, 5-3 wins for ND) … Creighton won the first game of the series (6-5), in the 1983 opener (played at Oral Roberts) … ND and SIU have split six previous meetings, including SIU’s 6-2 win earlier this season at the UNO Classic … the Irish have posted a pair of wins over the Salukis in San Antonio (6-2 in 1996, 4-3 in ’98) and a 15-5 win over SIU at the 1999 UNO Invitational (SIU beat ND twice in 1970 NCAA District Playoffs at Ohio State, 10-2 and 1-0).
ALL-TIME OPPONENTS: Notre Dame has faced 274 different opponents in 110 years of varsity baseball, with Arkansas-Little Rock set to become the 275th at the Irish Baseball Classic … James Madison, Florida International, Missouri and Oakland were first-time ND opponents in 1999, followed by North Florida and Akron in 2000 and six more first-time Irish opponents in 2001 (Florida Atlantic, New Mexico, Pacific, Sam Houston St., South Florida and UC Santa Barbara) … the Irish added Fairfield to that list earlier this season at the Homestead Challange … ND’s most common all-time opponents include: Northwestern (130 games), Michigan St. (125), Western Michigan (122), Wisconsin (118), Purdue (114) and Michigan (114) … noteworthy teams that ND has yet to face include Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
CREIGHTON CONNECTIONS: Creighton head coach Jack Dahm and Notre Dame associate head coach Brian O’Connor were members of Creighton’s 1991 College World Series team (their head coach was Jim Hendry, the current Chicago Cubs vice president for player personnel) … Dahm and O’Connor had a chance last week to visit with another former teammate from that 1991 squad, J.J. Gotsch (the assistant G.M. of the Round Rock Express) … ND freshman SS Matt Macri played alongside Creighton’s Ryan Fitzgerald at Dowling HS and in American Legion ball, also playing with the Jays’ Mike Sirianni in the Perfect Game Wooden Bat League … ND junior RHP Pete Ogilvie and Creighton’s Keith Hood were teammates at Adlai Stevenson HS … Irish junior RHP J.P. Gagne (who had a solid outing Monday vs. Creighton) was a prep opponent of Wednesday’s likely Bluejays starter Steve Grasely (Gagne homered vs. Grasely in an American Legion title game).
TEXAS NATIVES: Notre Dame’s 2002 roster includes players from 21 states/provinces while the list Notre Dame all-time baseball letterwinners includes players from 43 state (plus Canada and the Canal Zone) … junior RHP Matt Laird (Bellaire/Bellaire HS) and freshman RHP Tyler Jones (Arlington/Martin HS) are part of a ND baseball program that includes 14 all-time letterwinners from Texas, with the more noteworthy including OFs Dan Bautch (Houston/Stratford HS) and Edwin Hartwell (Fort Worth/County Day HS) and brothers Samuel (SS, 1913) and Harry (2B, 1913-14) Newning of Houston … 1B Angus McDonald (Houston, 1897-1900) was one of the top players in the early days of the Notre Dame baseball program.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Creighton: The Bluejays are 4-6, with wins over Michigan State (22-15, at UNLV), Dana (16-7), Nebraska-Omaha (11-1) and Notre Dame (8-6), plus losses at Kansas State (10-9), at UNLV (8-7, 12-6) vs. UCSB (23-10, at UNLV) and last weekend in Round Rock vs. Southwest Texas (5-3) and USC (7-3) … Creighton is hitting .337 as a team, with 12 home runs and 40 stolen bases, plus a .928 fielding pct. (28 errors), 8.31 team ERA, 70 Ks in 87 innings and a .349 opponent batting average … top hitters include senior 2B Chris Hinrichs (.444, 15 RBI, 3 HR, 3 3B, 2 2B, 3 BB, 6 SB) and freshman CF Joe Pietro (.361, 6 RBI, 9 BB, 5 SB) … sophomore RHP Steve Grasley (0-1, 14.85, 6.2 IP, 8 K/2 BB, .400 opp. avg.) is slated to face the Irish … the Bluejays (3-4) returned 15 of 26 letterwinners from their 2001 team that went 21-31 and finished 7th in the Missouri Valley Conference (11-21) … senior 3B Scott Allen hit .341 in ’01 (5 HR, 31 RBI) while Grasley was 3-5 with five saves (4.28, 57 Ks).
Southern Illinois: SIU (9-2) heads to the IBC riding a seven-game winning streak, after sweeping three home games from Eastern Michigan over the weekend (5-2, 5-3, 17-8) … SIU also owns wins over Louisiana-Monroe (8-1, 8-2), over Missouri (8-4) and Notre Dame (6-2) at the UNO Classic, vs. Macmurray College (6-1) and at Tennessee-Martin (12-10) … the Salukis are batting .318 as a team, with 10 home runs and 14 stolen bases, plus a sparkling .981 fielding pct. (just 8 errors), a 3.59 team ERA, 74 strikeouts in 98 innings and a .255 opponent batting average … SIU’s top hitters include junior LF Ross Kowzan (.543, HR, 13 RBI, 6 BB, 4 SB), freshman SS P.J. Finnigan (.436, 7 RBI, 12 R, 6 BB, SB) and senior 1B Jeff Stanek (.405, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 11 R, 9 BB) … SIU’s starting rotation has included (all RHPs) sophomore Jerel Deitering (3-0, 2.22, 24.1 IP, 25 Ks/4 BB, .195 opp. avg.), junior Jake Alley (2-0, 2.25, 24 IP, 17 Ks/9 BB, .283 opp. avg.) and senior Luke Nelson (1-0, 6.05, 19.1 IP, 14 Ks/10 BB, .300 opp. avg.), who also plays 3B for the Salukis … SIU returned 17 of 24 letterwinners from its 2001 squad (19-36 overall, 8th in Missouri Valley Conference at 10-21).
Arkansas-Little Rock: The Trojans are 13-7, after dropping games to Northwestern State (12-4), Lamar (7-4) and Sam Houston State (9-2) … UALR owns wins over Prairie View A&M (26-6, 33-3, 19-5), at Oklahoma (4-2), vs. Mississippi Valley State (5-3), Tennesse-Martin (14-2, 5-1), Jackson State (20-2, 18-2, 23-14), Louisiana Tech (5-4) and Texas A&M Corpus Christi (10-6), with the other losses coming at Oklahoma (10-4, 16-6), vs. Tenn. Martin (8-6) and Northwestern State (9-0) … UALR is batting .340 with 11 home runs and 43 stolen bases, plus a .946 fielding pct. (40 errors), a 5.11 team ERA, 149 Ks in 169 innings and a .286 opponent batting avg. … the team’s top hitters include junior 3B/1B Kevin Kouzmanoff (.408, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 13 BB, 10 SB) and junior OF John Gragg (.406, 21 RBI, 10 BB, 4 SB) … freshman LHP Scott Sharpe (3-0, 3.08, 26.1 IP, 17 K/9 BB, .243 opp. avg.) is slated to start vs. the Irish … Carter (1-1, 8.31, 17.1 IP, 17 K/14 BB, .306 opp. avg.) and Cromer (3-0, 3.33, 27 IP, 31 K/12 BB, .282 opp. avg.) are scheduled to start UALR’s first two games in San Antonio … UALR returned 18 of 30 letterwinners from its 2001 team that went 26-24 and finished 7th in the Sun Belt Conference (12-15).
RECAPPING MONDAY’S ND-CREIGHTON GAME
* Creighton opened the game with a four-run first inning and then held off another 9th-inning rally by Notre Dame, as the Bluejays topped the Irish, 8-6, in final-round action at the Express College Classic.
* ND – which brought the tying run to the plate after scoring twice in the 9th – standed 12 baserunners while hitting into three double plays (the Irish left 39 runners on base during their four games at Dell Diamond, while totaling 29 runs).
* Junior RHP J.P. Gagne allowed just two earned runs in six innings (6 R, 5 H, 3 BB, 6 Ks).
* Senior CF Steve Stanley led the Irish offense with a 4-for-5 day, boosting his season average to .471.
* Freshman RHP Matt Buckingham held the Irish to a pair of runs in 5 IP (5 H, 3 BB, 2 Ks) while junior RHP Mike Perkins notched his first save of the season (4 IP, 4 R, 9 H, BB).
* The Jays cashed in three hits and a pair of ND throwing errors for the big first inning and tacked on two more unearned runs in the second, with Joe Pietro’s double being the only hit of the inning.
* ND then manufactured single runs in the 3rd and 4th and cut the lead to 6-4 in the 7th, thanks to Ken Meyer’s single, an RBI double from Andrew Bushey and Matt Macri’s two-out RBI single to center field.
* Creighton added two key insurance runs in the 8th, vs. junior Matt Laird.
* Meyer’s leadoff single sparked the Irish rally in the 9th, followed by a wild pitch, flyout and groundout before Macri sent an RBI single up the middle … Javier Sanchez then drilled a 1-0 pitch off the wall in left-center for a run-scoring double but Perkins rolled up the game-ending groundout.
OTHER COLLEGE EXPRESS CLASSIC NOTES
* ND was one out away from a hard-fought, 3-2 opening victory over TCU before seeing the Horned Frogs rally for six straight hits and a 7-3 win.
* Freshman RHP Grant Johnson suffered the hard-luck loss despite another impressive outing (8.2 IP, 6 R, 7 H, BB, 8 Ks) … Johnson allowed a pair of 1st-inning hits but held TCU to just one hit in the next seven innings.
* ND tied the TCU game with solo home runs from Paul O’Toole and Ken Meyer.
* One night later, ND overcame the loss of injured SS Matt Edwards (broken lef)by rallying from an 8-4 deficit to beat perennial power USC, 15-8.
* ND began to mount its comeback with three runs in the 6th, sparked by Steve Stanley’s leadoff single to the opposite field and a walk by Javier Sanchez (who had entered the game in place of Edwards) … O’Toole also stroked and RBI double and Meyer added a sacrifice fly, cutting USC’s lead to 8-7.
* The Irish surged ahead in the eighth, with O’Toole leading off by sending a single through the right side on a 2-2 pitch … Meyer then sent a slow groundout to the third baseman and O’Toole – already running on the play – kept going past the second-base bag and beat the return throw to third … with the infield drawn in, Andrew Bushey then drilled a 1-2 pitch up the middle and Kris Billmaier followed by picking a perfect time for his first RBI of the season, sending an opposite-field, first-pitch double down the rightfield line to score Bushey all the way from first for the 9-8 Irish lead.
* ND then put the game out of reach in the top of the 9th, pushing across six runs via four hits, an error, a failed fielder’s choice, two wild pitches and a passed ball.
* Freshman RHP Martin Vergara (1-1) picked up the win with 3.2 shutout innings in relief of classmate Chris Niesel while junior RHP Brandon Viloria closed the final two innings for the save.
* In the 6-5 loss to Texas-Pan American, senior LHP Frank James limited Notre Dame to two runs over the first eight innings before a 9th-inning Irish rally ended with the bases loaded.
* Junior RHP Peter Ogilvie (1-1) took the hard-luck loss (5.2 IP, 4 R/2 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 2 Ks).
* The pivotal top of the 6th saw UTPA surge to a 4-2 lead with three runs on three hits and an error.
* ND’s 9th-inning rally saw O’Toole draw a full-count leadoff walk before Meyer sent the next pitch through the left side … Matt Bok kept the rally alive with a two-out walk and O’Toole scored on a fielding error before Stanley drove a two-run single up the middle, cutting the lead to 6-5 … RHP Jacob Pierce then hit Javier Sanchez with a 1-2 pitch to load the bases, but Pearce induced a foul popup on the next pitch, ending the game.
* ND had opened the scoring vs. UTPA in the 2nd inning, thanks to O’Toole’s leadoff triple to right-center (the seventh triple of his career) and Meyer’s RBI single to center.
SOME STREAKS FOR ALL SEASONS: Senior CF Steve Stanley (199) is on the verge of breaking the Notre Dame record for consecutive games started (204, by Pat Pesavento) but the national player-of-the-year candidate also is riding an 11-game hitting streak (the fifth double-digit hitting streak of his career) … Stanley – who closed the 2001 season by batting 14-for-23 in the NCAAs – already has collected three four-hit games this season, vs. Fairfield, Sacred Heart and Creighton (bringing his career total to 10 four-hit games, plus a 5-for-5 game vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the 2001 NCAAs) … his career-best hitting streak lasted 16 games in the 2000 season, followed by a 12-game hitting streak in 1999 (he also had 10-game hitting streaks in 2000 and ’01) … Stanley’s team-best .471 season batting average includes.400 with runners in scoring position (compared to .254 team average). .391 with runners on base (.265) and a team-best .308 with two outs (.195) … he also has reached base 16-of-21 times (.727) when leading off an inning.
ON THE DOORSTEP: Notre Dame has posted similar numbers to its opponents this season, in terms of team batting average (.292 for ND, .296 for opponents) and team ERA (4.20, 4.09) while owning a better fielding pct. (.947, 23 errors) than the opponents (.927, 33) … hitting in clutch situations has proven to be the key factor in several ND games this season … consider the following:
* Notre Dame (65) and its opponents (67) have scored virtually the same number of runs, but the Irish have stranded 97 baserunners (nearly nine per game) while the opponents have just 84 LOB … ND’s ratio of runs/LOB is just 0.67, compared to nearly a 1-to-1 ratio last season (425 runs, 442 LOB, or 0.96).
* ND’s errors have proven costly, in terms of unearned runs, as 23 errors (2.1/gm) have led to 21 unearned runs for the opposition (1.9/gm) … by comparison, the 2001 team averaged just 1.4 errors (88) and 0.6 unearned runs (40) per game, meaning every two errors produced an unearned run (compated to this season’s 1-to-1 ratio).
* As expected, the Irish are batting just .254 with runners in scoring position (.292 overall), compared to .271 by the opponents, while ND’s .195 two-out batting average is nearly 100 points below the opponent’s two-out batting (.292).
* The Irish are batting 2-for-13 with the bases loaded (.154), compared to 4-for-9 by the opposition (.444).
EARLY-SEASON CHALLENGES: Notre Dame traditionally has struggled during the first weeks of the season before making a big push in the late March and April … ND’s current 5-6 record matches the 11-game starts that were posted by the 1997, ’98 and ’99 teams, while the 1996 team started 6-5 and the ’95 team was 7-4 (the 2000 team opened 8-3, the ’01 squad 9-2).
11-GAME COMPARISON: Notre Dame’s team statistics after 11 games are virtually identical for the 2002 and 2001 seasons, in terms of seven of the below 13 categories (batting average, slugging pct., home runs, stolen bases, runs scored, batters Ks and walks allowed) … following the loss of its top two starters, the ND pitching staff has shown an expected dropoff in ERA and hits allowed … one of the more noteworthy differences has been seven more errors that havs led to 10 more unearned runs in 2002 (21) than in 2001 (11) … the ND batters also have drawn 13 fewer walks while the Irish pitchers have racked up an impressive strikeout total (85) that is 16 higher than the 2001 staff after 11 games … here’s a look at the statistical comparison:
ND Stats After 11 Games (2001 … 2002)
Batting Average (.296 … .292)
Slugging Pct. (.414 … .396
Home Runs (6 … 5)
Stolen Bases (16 … 15)
Runs (62 … 65)
Batters’ Walks (46 … 33)
Batters’ Strikeouts (61 … 66)
Errors (16 … 23)
ERA (2.67 … 4.20)
Walks Allowed (31 … 29)
Hits Allowed (85 … 117)
Strikeouts Thrown (69 … 85)
Unearned Runs Allowed (11 … 21)
AN SB A DAY: Senior CF Steve Stanley has averaged nearly one stolen base per game this season (9-for-11), which puts him on pace to challenge the ND single-season record set by Scott Sollmann in 1996 (52, in 62 GP) … ironically, Sollmann’s brother Steve typically bats with Stanley on base (as the Irish No. 2 hitter) … Stanley’s 93 career SBs rank third in ND history, just one behind Pat Pesavento (’86-’89) and eight shy of Sollmann’s record total of 101 (from ’94-’96) … Stanley also has hit safely in every game this season, including four-hit games vs. Fairfield, Sacred Heart and Creighton.
MORE RECORD BOOK UPDATES: Steve Stanley already has cracked the ND career top-10 list for games started (199, ninth, two behind 1994 grad. Greg Layson) … Stanley also is nearing Pat Pesavento’s ND record for consecutive starts (204, from April 5, 1986 to May 28, 1989) … he has moved into 6th at ND in career at-bats (783, former teammate Jeff Felker is 5th with 792), is 3rd with 290 hits, trailing only Pesavento (296) and Eric Danapilis (295, ’90-’93), and ranks 6th in runs scored (189, 1997 grad. Mike Amrhein is 5th with 195) … Stanley has pushed his career batting average to .370, which would rank 4th in the ND record book (just behind Scott Sollmann’s .372).
HOMESTEAD CHALLENGE NOTES (March 1-3)
*Senior CF and leadoff batter Steve Stanley posted a pair of four-hit games vs. Fairfield (6-4) and Sacred Heart (4-1), hitting 10-for-18 in the four games (also 6-0 win over Duquesne and 13-4 loss to Florida International).
* Senior DH Matt Bok did a solid job filling in as the starting catcher while batting 8-for-14 in the four games (he was 3-for-5 with 2 RBI and a run scored as the No. 2 hitter vs. Sacred Heart).
* Stanley (4-for-5, 2 R) and Bok (3-for-5, 2 RBI, R) combined with freshman SS Matt Edwards for a solid 1-2-3 part of the lineup that accounted for nine of 10 hits vs. the Pioneers … the Irish played with as many as five injured starters in the weekend.
* Junior RHP J.P. Gagne had an impressive shutout outing vs. Duquesne (7 IP, 2 H, 6 Ks in 88 pitches).
* Senior C Paul O’Toole delivered the big hit vs. the Dukes, a three-run HR in the 3rd (2-2 pitch, after falling behind 0-2).
* RHP Chris Niesel held Fairfield to three runs (two earned) on six hits and just one walk while racking up nine strikeouts in his seven-inning, 98-pitch outing (he has 19 Ks and just one walk in 12 IP this season).
* Six Irish errors led to nine unearned runs in the 13-4 loss to Florida International (seven of FIU’s eight runs in the 8th were unearned).
* Freshman RHP Grant Johnson had no decision vs. FIU (5.1 IP, 9 H, 4 runs/2 earned runs, 7 Ks, 1 BB).
* Junior RHP Peter Ogilvie picked up the win vs. Sacred Heart (5 IP, 1 R, 6 H, 4 Ks) while pushing his career record to 6-1.
MACRI MAKES DEBUT: Highly-touted newcomer Matt Macri – the nation’s No. 2 prospect among freshmen, according to Baseball America – had an impressive debut vs. Duquesne, batting 2-for-5 as the DH while hitting in the No. 3 hole … Macri – who likely won’t return to shortstop until early April (elbow strain) – delivered in the second at-bat of his college career, driving a 2-1 pitch from RHP Jim Popp into the leftfield corner for a no-outs double before scoring on Paul O’Toole’s three-run shot for a 3-0 ND lead in the 4th … Macri then collected his first career RBI in the 7th, smacking a 2-1 pitch through the left side of the infield (with speedy Steve Stanley scoring from second for a 5-0 cushion) … Macri added a pair of sacrifice flies later in the Homestead Challenge and ended his slump in Round Rock by collecting three hits and two RBI in Monday’s loss to Creighton (he’s batting .242 overall, with a team-best eight RBI).
TWO DOWN, EIGHT TO GO: Senior Paul O’Toole’s home run vs. Duquesne was the 21st of his career, to go along with 45 stolen bases – easily the most SBs ever by an ND catcher and 7th among all Irish players (just one behind 1993 graduate Eric Danapilis) … O’Toole, who also homered in Round Rock vs. TCU, needs to average roughly one home run every six games for the rest of the 2002 regular season to reach 30 HRs for his career … in the process, he would join former teammate Alec Porzel (37 HRs, 32 SBs) as the only “30-30” players in Notre Dame baseball history … O’Toole hit eight home runs as both a freshman and sophomore and four as a junior (10 of his first 20 home runs came during lateseason games played in May).
‘GOOSE BACK ON THE LOOSE: Senior DH Ken Meyer – nicknamed the Mongoose due to his hustland deceptive speed – could be dialed in for a strong final season, after batting .417 in the first 11 games (including 2-for-2 as a pinch-hitter) … Meyer already has collected three doubles, eight runs (second on team) and five RBI while starting two games at DH and seven at first base … his home run forged a 2-2 tie last week vs. TCU (the Horned Frogs rallied for a 7-3 win) … Meyer saw his batting average dip from .326 in 2000 to .271 in 2001, when he was affected by season-long shoulder problems … he owns a solid .472 career slugging pct., with eight home runs, five triples, 24 doubles and 66 singles (161 total bases) in 341 at-bats.
WHO’S ON FIRST?: Notre Dame’s rotating starting lineups included the following combinations in the first 11 games (senior DHs Ken Meyer and Matt Bok have combined for just two DH starts, due to the Irish needing them at other positions while freshman SS Matt Macri has been relegated to just DH starts):
Catcher … Andrew Bushey (5, shoulder injury), Paul O’Toole (3, hand), Matt Bok (3)
First Base … Ken Meyer (7), Joe Thaman (4, shoulder)
Second Base … Steve Sollmann (7, quad), Javier Sanchez (3), Geoff Milsom (1)
Shortstop … Matt Edwards (8, leg), Javier Sanchez (3)
Third Base … Paul O’Toole (7), Javier Sanchez (3), Andrew Bushey (1, shoulder)
Left Field … Matt Bok (6), Brian Stavisky (2, shoulder), Kris Billmaier (2), Brent Weiss (1)
Center Field … Steve Stanley (11)
Right Field … Kris Billmaier (9), Matt Strickroth (1), Ken Meyer (1)
DH … Matt Macri (7, elbow), Brent Weiss (2), Ken Meyer (1), Matt Bok (1)
LEARNING FAST: Notre Dame’s 14 active field players on the Texas trip include the veteran leadership of six seniors and junior Kris Billmaier, but the Irish contingent also features three freshmen (one in the starting lineup) and three sophomores (with starting SS Javier Sanchez playing sparingly in 2001).
MR. VERSATILITY: Miami native Javier Sanchez (Columbus HS) started at three infield positions in the first four games of the season: at SS vs. Missouri, at 2B vs. UNO and SIU, and at 3B vs. Duquesne … Sanchez has played solid defense (just four errors) while batting .216 with two RBI and five runs scored.
UNO CLASSIC NOTES
* ND’s 1-2 showing at the New Orleans Classic (7-6 vs. Missouri, 7-8 vs. UNO, 2-6 vs. Southern Illinois) marked the first time since early in ’98 that the Irish had a losing record at a regular-season tournament … 2-out hitting proved to be a key at UNO (ND hit .156 with two outs, the opponents .361).
* Freshman RHP Chris Niesel had an impressive debut vs. SIU (5 IP, 5 H, R, 10 Ks, see p. 2), as did his classmate Grant Johnson in picking up the relief win over Missouri (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, K, 12 groundouts, recorded 15 outs in final 16 batters faced).
* The Irish rallied from a 5-1 deficit to beat Missouri, 7-6 in 10 … the 10-inning win over the Tigers pushed ND’s recent extra-inning success to 11-1-1 in the last 13 extra-inning games (dating back to 1997), including a 5-1-1 record in the 2001 season (highlighted by wins over Mississippi State, Fresno State, Rutgers and then UCSB in the NCAAs) – with the lone loss in that stretch coming vs. FIU in the 2001 NCAAs (7-6, in 10).
* ND was one out away from opening 2-0 before UNO smacked two singles and won the game on Gabe Trevizo’s home run (the Irish had rallied to the lead with three runs in the 9th).
* The UNO loss spoiled Andrew Bushey’s 5-for-5 day, including his 6th career home run and first since 2000 (he also homered at UNO in 1999). ND has seen 10 of its last losses come by one run.
* Brian Stavisky’s triple vs. UNO made him the 10th ND player to post 10-plus triples in his career … among those players, only Ryan Topham (34, 1993-95) and Alec Porzel (37, 1998-2001) have totaled more home runs than Stavisky’s 24.
* SIU’S Sal Frisella broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run home run in the 7th, as ND faced the challenge of playing without four of its position starters … both teams stranded 11 baserunners, with the Salukis holding a 13-6 edge in hits.
NIESEL MAKES HISTORY: Chris Niesel’s impressive debut vs. Southern Illinois was noteworthy in several respects:
* His 10 strikeouts equaled the second-most ever by an ND freshman and are the most by an Irish freshman in his first start … LHP Don Wolfe posted 12 Ks in a 10-0 win over Butler on April 20, 1975, while RHP David Sinnes had 10 Ks in a nine-inning win at Xavier on April 16, 1990 (2-0).
* Niesel also became the first Notre Dame freshman pitcher to start an opening-week game Christian Parker’s gem that beat Pepperdine (14-5) at the 1995 Anaheim Classic (Parker started for the New York Yankees in the opening week of the 2001 season and currently is on the Yankees 40-man spring training roster).
* Just two previous Notre Dame pitchers have posted a double-digit strikeout game in February, with Alex Shilliday totaling 10 Ks in a 6-1 win over Evansville on Feb. 27, 1998 (8 IP, at the Diamond Classic) while Danny Tamayo had 10 Ks last season in the 7-4 win over Sam Houston State at the Alamo Invitational (Feb. 25, 6 IP).
FAR & WIDE: Notre Dame’s 2002 roster includes 35 players from 21 different home states/provinces … the top 10 position players and top three starting pitchers hail from eight different states, including five from Ohio and two from Florida, plus one each from Iowa, Pennsylvania, Washington, Missouri, Illinois and Minnesota.
THE SHIFT: Notre Dame’s 2002 lineup includes several position switches, with junior Brian Stavisky shifting from RF to LF (flipping with classmate Kris Billmaier) while seniors Paul O’Toole and Andrew Bushey are slated to split time behind the plate (where O’Toole made 128 starts from 1999-2001) and at third base, where Bushey owns 148 career starts … sophomore Javier Sanchez also could develop into a solid backup option at 1B, after playing mostly at 3B and in the middle infield during previous seasons.
ROAD TRIPPERS: Notre Dame will be playing its first 22 games away from home, in seven different cities: New Orleans, Homestead, Fla., Round Rock and San Antonio, Texas, Storrs, Conn., Morgantown, W.Va., and Washington, D.C. … the Irish then will spend virtually all of April (18 of 22 games) in the friendly confines of Eck Stadium, including the first 14 games of the month (before an April 20-21 series at Seton Hall, plus the April 30 game vs. Michigan in Grand Rapids) … ND’s 12 regular-season games in the month of May will include eight at home, plus a May 11-12 road series vs. Villanova and the May 14 game at Purdue … all told, the Irish will play 26 of their final 34 games at Eck Stadium.
WHO’S BACK, WHO’S GONE?: Notre Dame returned many of the key elements from its landmark 2001 season (49-13-1), including the top five hitters, nine of the top 10 position players and 16 total letterwinners … top losses included starting SS Alec Porzel and the squad’s top starting pitchers, four-year All-American Aaron Heilman and fellow first team all-BIG EAST performer Danny Tamayo … the veteran core includes five senior and two juniors among the top nine returning position players … the ND returning offensive players combined for 91% of the team’s stolen bases in 2001, plus 86% of the walks, 85% of the hits, 82% of the RBI and 81% of the home runs … the returning pitchers totaled 26 of ND’s 49 wins last season while logging 49% of the innings, 30 of 63 starts, 43% of the Ks and all eight saves.
HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI: Eighth-year ND head coach Paul Mainieri owns a 641-409-1 (.610) record in 19-plus college seasons … in addition to his 309-130-1 (.703) mark at ND, Mainieri’s teams were 180-121 in six seasons at St. Thomas (Fla.) and 152-158 in six seasons at Air Force … his 308 wins rank 3rd all-time at ND, behind Pat Murphy (318, ’88-’94) and Jake Kline (558, ’34-’75) … Mainieri has seen 27 of his Irish players go on to pro baseball (19 via the draft), with RHP Christian Parker being the first to reach the Majors (as the N.Y. Yankees No. 5 starter, making his debut vs. Toronto on April 6 at Yankees Stadium -with Mainieri and others from ND on hand) … 15 of his players at St. Thomas went on to pro ball, including three – Joe Klink, Dane Johnson and Dan Rohrmeier – who have played in the Majors … Mainieri and his father Demie are the only known father-son combo in college baseball history to top 500 wins … Demie won 1,018 in 30 years at Miami-Dade North CC.
PENCIL HIM IN, OR USE PEN: Senior Steve Stanley has started all 199 games of his ND career (all in CF) while logging all but 14 innings in CF his three seasons (he has played every inning of the last 48 games, spanning 414.1 innings) … the familiar #2 – who has totaled just seven errors in 458 career fielding chances (.985) – has patrolled CF in 99.18% of the innings (1,692 of 1,706), including all but two of 513 as a freshman (his classmate Paul O’Toole played the final two innings in a 20-10 loss at Northwestern on April 6, 1999) … Stanley then played in CF for the final 267.2 innings of ’99 and the first 497 of 2000 – a span of 764.2 consecutive innings in CF – before being replaced by 2001 grad Ben Cooke for the final five innings of the 8-1 NCAA loss at Mississippi St. (the Irish fell into an early 7-0 hole and Stanley reluctantly left the game due to illness) … in 2001, he patrolled center in all but seven of 547.2 innings – with Mike Naumann inserted into CF for the final inning vs. Texas-Pan American (14-9) while John Heintz played the position for the final four innings vs. Hillsdale (9-2) and for the final two innings of the 15-3 win over Seton Hall.
MLB CONNECTIONS: Several Notre Dame graduates currently serve as top executives in Major League Baseball: Oakland A’s president Mike Crowley (’85), Cleveland Indians CEO and president Lawrence Dolan (’54, also ’56 ND Law School grad.), Arizona Diamondbacks GM Joe Garagiola, Jr. (’72), L.A. Dodgers V.P. of External Affairs Tommy Hawkins (’59), Tampa Bay Devil Rays GM John McHale (’71), Tampa Bay owner and CEO Vince Naimoli (’59) and MLB Director of Special Events Brian O’Gara (’89) … Hawkins, a star basketball player for the Irish, played with the NBA’s L.A. Lakers before going into broadcasting.
TOP PROSPECTS: Notre Dame junior LF Brian Stavisky is listed 25th on Baseball America’s annual list of top pro prospects in college baseball … Stavisky is the 8th position player and 2nd OF on the list, behind Stanford’s Jason Cooper (12) … ND was the only school with multiple outfielders on BA’s list of the top 100 college prospects, with senior CF Steve Stanley listed 80th (he’s the 34th position player and 14th OF on the list) … only seven teams had more than two players listed among the top 80 on that list … ND (7) joined Stanford (10) as the schools with the most players among BA’s top-40 prospects by college class: Stanley (9th among seniors), C/3B Paul O’Toole (31st senior), Stavisky (25th junior), 2B Steve Sollmann (37th sophomore), SS Matt Macri (2nd freshman) and freshman RHPs Chris Niesel (11th) and Martin Vergara (15th).
SCORING STREAK: Notre Dame heads to San Antonio riding the school record for consecutive games with at least one run scored (196) … the Irish scored in the final 58 games of 1999 and in every game of 2000 (64), ’01 (63) and ’01 (11), for a streak that stretches back to a 12-0 loss at Florida International on Feb. 21, 1999 … the previous record 133-game scoring streak began with the first game of the Paul Mainieri era, a 10-6 loss to Texas at the Anaheim Classic, on Feb. 24, 1995 (the Irish were shut out by Auburn, 8-0, in the 1994 NCAA East Regional at Clemson) … the previous record streak ended vs. another Texas team, 2-0 vs. Texas Pan-American in a seven-inning game on March 10, 1997 (at Wolff Stadium in San Antonio) … ND has scored in 98.9 pct. of its games in the Mainieri era (435 of 440), with other shutouts at Seton Hall (16-0, 3/22/97), vs. St. John’s (3-0, 5/9/98) and vs. Rutgers in the BIG EAST Tournament (12-0, 5/16/98) … prior to the Mainieri era, the longest ND scoring streaks were: 121-games (April 23, 1930-May 26, 1937) and 103-games (May 25, 1907-May 17, 1912).
FALL SIGNEES: Notre Dame signed six high school seniors to national letters of intent in the 2001 fall period: C Cody Rizzo (Temecula, Calif.), SS Greg Lopez (Upper Arlington, Ohio), OFs Craig Cooper (Plainview, N.Y.) and Brennan Grogan (Tequesta, Fla.), RHP Ryan Doherty (Toms River, N.J.) and 3B/RHP Matt Bransfield (Englewood, Colo.) … Cooper, Doherty and Grogan have been listed among Team One Baseball’s top 200 high school prospects while Cooper, Doherty and Rizzo are ranked among Baseball America’s list of the nation’s top prospects … Grogan and Cooper are accomplished OFs who should add speed to the lineup while Lopez has been rated as the best infield prospect to come out of talent-rich Ohio in five years (according to The Buckeye Scout) … Rizzo is a talented all-around catcher who could make the biggest contributions as a freshman while Bransfield’s versatility could prove valuable to the 2002 squad … Doherty provides an added dimension to the class, due to his 7-1, 235-pound frame that produced plenty of interest from Division I basketball programs.
TRAVEL: Notre Dame’s schedule regularly takes the baseball team to top-notch facilities and noteworthy cities … in Paul Mainieri’s eight seasons, the Irish have visited: Fullerton and Long Beach, Calif., Seattle, Wash. (Kingdome), San Antonio and Round Rock, Texas, five Florida cities (Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, St. Petersburg and Homestead), Atlanta, New Orleans, Boston, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Minneapolis, Minn. (Metrodome).
BACK-TO-BACK LOSSES RARE: Prior to the Texas-Pan American and Creighton games at the Express College Classic, Notre Dame had not lost consecutive games at a regular-season tournament since the 1998 season-opening ACC/Disney Blast, when the Irish dropped a 10-8 game to North Carolina State and a 3-1 game vs. Duke (after knocking off Florida State, 10-1, in the opener) … ND played 52 consecutive regular-season tournament games without back-to-back losses (39-12-1 in those games)… the Irish lost consecutive games just one in the entire 2001 season (49-13-1), dropping a DH at Virginia Tech, 2-3 and 8-9 (the Hokies rallied in the late innings for both wins) … ND also lost two straight at the 2002 UNO Classic (7-8 vs. UNO, 2-6 vs. SIU) … the last time the Irish dropped three straight came in the first weekend of the current seniors’ careers, when ND was swept in a three-game series at Florida International on Feb. 19-21, 1999 (1-14, 2-3, 0-12).
TWO-OUT TROUBLE: Batting with two outs has proven to be a key situational hitting area in ND’s games this season, as the Irish are batting just .195 with two outs while the opponents are hitting .292 when facing their last out of the innings … ND’s opponents twice have rallied to victory when they were down to their last out of the game (New Orleans hit a pair of two-out singles and then homered for an 8-7 win while TCU used six two-out hits to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 7-3 win) … ND’s top hitter with two outs has been senior CF Steve Stanley (.308).
SPLITTING UP SPRING BREAK: For just the second time in the eight-year Paul Mainieri era, the Notre Dame baseball team is spending several days in multiple cities during its Spring Break trip … ND opened Spring Break in 1996 by playing at the Husky Classic (in the Seattle Kingdome) before flying to San Antonio as the host team for the Irish Baseball Classic … ND played in San Antonio throughout the break in 1995, ’97, ’98 and ’99 before playing at the 2000 Kennel Clubs Classic in Jacksonville, Fla. … the Irish made a short stop in Stockton, Calif., to open the 2001 Spring Break swing (beating UOP and Eastern Michigan) before spending seven days in Fresno at the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic … ND now is 26-16 in Texas during the Mainieri era.