April 16, 2003
The 13th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team (26-7, 7-1) is set to return to BIG EAST action with Thursday’s noon doubleheader vs. Pittsburgh (26-11, 7-6) … (see PDF link for game program)
THE SERIES – ND leads the Pittsburgh series 19-3 (14-3 since joining the BIG EAST), including 10-2 in games at ND (8-2 at Eck Stadium) … in last year’s Holy Thursday doubleheader, Paul O’Toole and Steve Stanley flirted with the cycle as ND bounced back from a 7-5 loss to run away with the nightcap, 12-2 … ND broke open a 2-2 second game with a 7-run to make a winner of J.P. Gagne, after John Axford’s five solid innings (2 R/1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 Ks) … Scott Schultz (5.1 IP, 6 R, 7 H, 3 BB) took the loss … Pittsburgh faced a 4-0 deficit in the opener before erupting for six in the 6th, with Eric Ackerman picking up the win (5.2 IP, 5 R, 12 H, 2 BB, 3 Ks) … ND stranded 11 in the opener, with Grant Johnson (5.2 IP, 5 R, 7 H, 5 BB, 7 Ks) taking the loss … Stanley (3-run HR, 2B, 1B, BB in game 2) and O’Toole (HR, 3B, 2 2B, RBI in nightcap) both hit 5-for-8 in the doubleheader … ND posted a pair of 3-0 shutouts (by Danny Tamayo and Aaron Heilman) at Pittsburgh in 2001 … the teams played a wild 22-18 game at ND in 2000 – with Pittsburgh answering ND’s 13 straight runs from the 6th-8th by scoring 10 in the 9th for the win … the teams combined for 49 hits, 65 baserunners, 85 total bases (BIG EAST record), 8 HRs, 38 players, just one error and 4:06 of game time, while the 40 combined runs were the most in an ND game since 1900 (first time in an ND game that both teams scored 17-plus) … ND’s Alec Porzel hit for the cycle in that game, with traditional and inside-the-park HRs (he became the first ND player with six hits in a game, going 6-for-6) … current Panthers player Stuart Rykaceski was 4-for-8 in that game.
PANTHERS NOTES – The Panthers are slated to start RHPs Joe Engel (4.32, 3-3) and Dan Rhoten (3.51,2-2) … Pittsburgh’s earlier BIG EAST results include going 1-2 vs. St. John’s and splitting doubleheaders with Rutgers and WVU … the Panthers narrowly missed the 4-team BE Tournament in ’02 … top returning players include RHP P.J. Hiser (2nd team all-BE), SS Bryan Spamer (3rd tm) and 5th-year player Stuart Rykaceski.
IRISH NOTES – ND’s probable rotation includes RHP Chris Niesel (2.92, 4-1) and LHP Tom Thornton (1.33, 2-0) vs. Pittsburgh, with RHPs John Axford (2.20, 7-00 and Ryan Kalita (3.89, 4-0) then throwing vs. Seton Hall … ND has posted a 49-5 combined record in April during the past three seasons and is 31-2 in its last 33 home games … the Irish faced a daunting early schedule but have won 24 of the last 17, including a 17-game win streak (2nd-longest in ND history) that ended Wed. vs. Eastern Michigan (3-5) … Niesel is 26-2 in his last 28 decisions (since HS senior) … Niesel (8-1), Axford (12-2) and Kalita (11-0) have combined for a 31-3 career record with the Irish … Steve Sollmann has 19 multi-hit games in ’03 … SS Matt Macri (elbow) and 3B/1B Matt Edwards (broken leg) missed most of ’02 due to injury (first-year catcher Javi Sanchez served as the Irish SS in ’02)… J.P. Gagne (24-13,13 SV) has joined Chris Michalak and Aaron Heilman as the only ND pitchers ever to post 20-plus wins and 10-plus saves … head coach Paul Mainieri picked up his 700th career victory earlier this season vs. Georgetown … the Irish own an overall record of 125-38-1 over the course of the 2001-03 seasons … ND has scored 5-plus runs in an inning 10 times during the last 13 games … four freshmen – and now senior Kris Billmaier – have started in center field this season for the Irish (Steve Stanley started at CF in all 256 games from ’99-’02).