March 30, 2001
Saturday’s Notre Dame-Seton Hall baseball doubleheader (March 31) at Frank Eck Stadium has been pushed back to a 3:00 p.m. start, due to weather and travel issues that will prevent Seton Hall from arriving in South Bend until early Saturday morning.
Seton Hall (12-10, 5-2 BIG EAST) has become one of Notre Dame’s top rivals since the Irish (18-4-1, 2-2) joined the BIG EAST in 1996, with the Pirates winning seven of 17 games between the teams during the past five seasons. SHU-picked to finish fourth in the conference-will be the top-rated BIG EAST team to visit Frank Eck Stadium this season, with the Irish facing Virginia Tech (last week) and Rutgers (next week) on the road.
Ticket prices are $2 for adults and $1 for children.
The doubleheader-originally scheduled for a noon start-is expected to feature a marquee matchup in the seven-inning opener, with All-America senior righthander Aaron Heilman (6-0, 1.34 ERA, 47 IP, 43 Ks, 11 BB, 29 hits) slated to go for the Irish while SHU will counter with its own ace, senior righthander B.J. Benik (2-2, 6.67, 28.1 IP, 20 Ks, 9 BB, 39 H).
Heilman is a three-year All-American and 10-time BIG EAST pitcher of the week who earned BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-year honors in 2000 while Benik joined Heilman and Rutgers All-American Bob Brownlie on the 2001 preseason all-BIG EAST first team (Benik was 9-5 in 2000, with a 3.48 ERA and 98 Ks).
Saturday’s second game also will feature a pair of top senior righthanders, with the Irish scheduled to pitch Danny Tamayo (3-1, 1.73, 41.2 IP, 42 Ks, 6 BB, 26 H) while the Pirates are slated to send Mike Wren (2-2, 3.33, 24.1 IP, 20 Ks, 10 BB, 20 H) to the mound in the nightcap.
Sunday’s third game of the series remains scheduled for a first pitch at noon, with the Irish expected to start J.P. Gagne (0-2, 5.82, 21.2 IP, 14 Ks, 8 BB, 25 H) while SHU likely will send its own sophomore righthander to the mound, in Chris Reilly (2-0, 0.00, 14.1 IP, 13 Ks, 5 BB, 9 H).
Notre Dame is ranked as high as 13th in the national polls and is in the midst of one of the most successful seasons in the baseball program’s 109-year history. The early-season success has been built on the strength of its pitching staff (2.65 staff ERA, just shy of the team record 2.60) and air-tight defense, with the Irish making just 29 errors in 23 games while posting a .969 fielding percentage that would rank first in the ND record book.
The Irish offense-which includes four preseason first team all-BIG EAST selections-will be looking to break out of its early inconsistencies (the team batting average recently has risen to .302, with 5.6 runs per game and 12 total home runs).
Seton Hall posted an 8-5 win at defending BIG EAST champion Rutgers last week and sports a 5.13 team ERA and .973 fielding pct. (21 errors). The Pirates are batting .308 as a team, with 7.3 runs per game and 19 total home runs.
Leftfielder Casey Grimm (.393, 3 HR, 16 RBI) leads a group of four SHU batters that are hitting .340 or higher for the 2001 season while second baseman/rightfielder Joe Cuervo (.372, 10 RBI, 2 HR, 10 SB) remains one of the BIG EAST’s top all-around players.