May 29, 2003
Two of Notre Dame’s all-BIG EAST Conference performers – junior second baseman Steve Sollmann (Cincinnati, Ohio) and senior righthanded pitcher J.P. Gagne (Bloomington, Minn.) – have been named to the 2003 Verizon Academic All-America team for Division I baseball, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America. It marks the fourth straight year that Notre Dame has produced two Academic All-Americans, a stretch of high-level academic achievement that is unmatched in all of Division I baseball.
Sollmann was one of 11 players named to the Academic All-America second team while Gagne was one of two pitchers named to the third team. Notre Dame joined three others schools – Nebraska, Columbia and Rice – with multiple players among the 33 honorees (each had two).
Sollmann just posted his second consecutive Dean’s List semester (3.67 GPA) and carries a 3.30 cumulative GPA as a marketing major. Gagne graduated with a 3.40 GPA as a finance major, including a 4.0 during the 2003 spring semester to go along with three previous Dean’s List semesters.
It was another strong showing in the classroom for many other members of the Notre Dame baseball team, with a 2.95 team GPA in the 2003 spring semester including 16 players with semester GPAs of 3.0-plus (seven of them freshmen; see full list of all 16 below), plus nine players with GPAs above 3.20 (seven at 3.40-plus).
Notre Dame is one of eight current NCAA Tournament teams that produced 2003 Academic All-Americans, with the others including Nebraska, Baylor, Lamar, Rice, Miami, Alabama and Wichita State.
Notre Dame’s four-year run of multiple Academic All-Americans began in 2000 with infielder Jeff Perconte (1st team) and lefthander Mike Naumann (3rd team), followed by Naumann (1st team) and outfielder Brian Stavisky (3rd team) in 2001 and then Stavisky (3rd team) and third baseman Andrew Bushey (2nd team) in ’02.
Notre Dame baseball players now have combined for 21 Academic All-America awards (since 1977), including five repeat honorees in outfielders John Loughran (’86, ’87), Dan Peltier (’88, ’89) and Stavisky (’01, ’02), first baseman Joe Binkiewicz (’91-’92) and Naumann (’00-’01).
Sollmann and Gagne also are under consideration for All-America honors and could join Peltier as the only ND players ever to couple All-America and Academic All-America honors.
Sollmann recently became the sixth ND player ever to receive three-plus all-BIG EAST Conference honors, after garnering first-team honors in 2001 and second team in ’02 and ’03. He currently ranks 13th in the nation with 33 stolen bases while leading the BIG EAST in overall runs (64) and ranking second in total bases (126), hits (88) and triples (5, plus seventh with 16 doubles). He also ranks second among ND players in batting average (.370) and slugging pct. (.529), plus third in on-base pct. (.426), walks (23) and home runs (4) and fourth in RBI (37) while totaling more walks than strikeouts (21).
Situationally, Sollmann owns a team-best .532 leadoff on-base pct. (.532) and ranks third on the team in batting with runners in scoring position (.371). He has totaled just eight errors in 57 games played while helping the Irish post a team-record .971 season fielding pct. His .365 career batting average ranks 8th in ND record book while he also ranks among ND’s all-time leaders in stolen bases (6th, 62), fielding assists (6th, 489), hits (10th, 245), runs (11th, 169) and triples (11th, 11).
Sollmann also recently became a rare junior-year recipient of ND’s Francis Patrick O’Connor Award (recognizing student-athletes who most embody “team spirit, inspiration, courage,” etc.) and is the first player ever named BIG EAST player of the week three times in the same season (also tying the BIG EAST career mark).
Gagne – who also has received a $2,000 postgraduate scholarship from the BIG EAST – is the third ND pitcher ever to earn multiple all-BIG EAST honors (third team in ’01 and ’03), after posting the BIG EAST’s second-best ERA in 2003 conference games (1.09). He also has set the ND record for saves in a season (12; 8th in nation) while his 28 appearances in ’03 rank 4th in the ND record book and his 92 career games pitched have tied Chris Michalak’s team record.
Gagne also leads the Irish pitching regulars in lowest opponent batting average by lefthanded hitters (.181) while ranking second in groundball outs per nine innings (12.0), third in lowest opponent slugging pct. (.277, just 2 home runs allowed) and fourth in ERA (2.61), wins (4-5), strikeouts (45) and opponent batting avg. (.236).
Gagne earlier this season joined Michalak and Aaron Heilman as the only ND pitchers ever to post 20-plus wins (25-15; 8th on ND wins list) and 10-plus saves (18, two shy of John Corbin’s record). He also ranks 8th in the ND record book for innings pitched (296.2) and 9th in strikeouts (205).
His 33 career starts include last week’s win over West Virginia in the BIG EAST Tournament opener (his first start since March 6, 2002), when he pushed his streak of not allowing an earned run to 25 innings. Gagne’s excellent control in 2003 includes just 14 traditional walks (plus seven intentional) in 58.2 innings while he has not hit a batter and has totaled just three wild pitches. He has closed 23 of his 27 relief appearances in 2003 while converting 12 of 14 save opportunities.
Notre Dame’s 16 players who posted a 3.0 GPA during the 2003 semester included seven veterans (in addition to Sollmann and Gagne): senior 1B Mike Holba (3.75), senior RHPs Matt Laird (3.17, graduated with a 3.34) and Peter Ogilvie (3.42, graduated with a 3.23), junior IFs Tim Murray (3.67) and Zach Sisko (3.54), junior C Javi Sanchez (3.15) and junior LHP Cody Wilkins (3.19). The seven freshmen who posted a 3.0-plus included DHs Steve Andres (3.40) and Matt Bransfield (3.07), OFs Brennan Grogan (3.17, after 3.67 in fall) and Alex Nettey (3.20), 3B Greg Lopez (3.24) and LHPs Tom Thornton (3.19, after 3.33 in fall) and Matt Arminio (3.13, after 3.53 in fall). Senior RHP Brandon Viloria graduated with a 3.62 cumulative GPA as an electrical engineering major.