June 2, 2004
Notre Dame senior second baseman Steve Sollmann – on the heels of posting a 4.0 GPA in his final undergraduate semester – has earned the prestigious honor of first team Academic All-America, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Sollmann, who graduated in mid-May with a 3.44 cumulative grade-point average as a business marketing major (his final 4.0 term actually was not considered in the Academic All-Ameica selections), is the sixth Notre Dame baseball player ever to earn Academic All-America in multiple seasons and is the third to repeat the honor during the last four seasons.
Sollmann’s stellar four-year career saw him complete the rare double of All-America and Academic All-America honors as a junior. The Cincinnati native currently ranks second in the Notre Dame record book with 297 career hits, plus fourth in stolen bases (83) and runs scored (208), ninth in triples (12) and 10th with a .360 career batting average. His inspiring return from a fractured-jaw injury has sparked the Irish to a 14-1 record since his return (the team was just 15-6 during his absence that spanned most of April).
The 11 other players named to the first team Academic All-America squad include just four others from teams that were selected for the upcoming NCAA Tournament: pitchers Wade Townsend (Rice) ad Garrett Broshius (Missouri), infielder Jim Burt, Jr. (Miami) and outfielder Mark Johnson (Wichita State).
Notre Dame baseball players now have combined for 22 Academic All-America awards (since 1977), including five other repeat honorees in outfielders John Loughran (’86, ’87), Dan Peltier (’88, ’89) and Brian Stavisky (’01, ’02), first baseman Joe Binkiewicz (’91-’92) and lefthander Mike Naumann (’00-’01).
The Irish baseball program produced an unmatched four-year run of multiple Academic All-Americans that began in 2000 with infielder Jeff Perconte (1st team) and Naumann (3rd team), followed by Naumann (1st team) and Stavisky (3rd team) in ’01 and then Stavisky (3rd team) and third baseman Andrew Bushey (2nd team) in ’02, followed Sollmann (2nd team) and closer J.P. Gagne (3rd team) in ’04.
Two members of the sophomore class – lefthanded pitcher Tom Thornton (Middleboro, Mass.) and leftfielder Steve Andres (Napa, Calif.) – earlier had joined Sollmann as three of the 11 players named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District V honors. They advanced to the Academic All-America ballot but wre not among the 34 total selections to the elite teams.
Thornton, a member of Notre Dame’s weekend rotation who has logged some of the staff’s biggest outings of the 2004 season, carries a 3.49 cumulative GPA as a double major in anthropology and film-television-and-theater. Andres ranks as one of the BIG EAST Conference’s top all-around offensive threats and owns a 3.24 GPA as a business management major.
Two other Irish sophomores-shortstop Greg Lopez (3.36, double major in anthropology and pre-professional studies) and DH Matt Bransfield (3.27, sociology) – also were nominated for the Academic All-District team but were not among elected for that team (each should join Thornton and Andres among the top candidates for 2005 Academic All-America honors).
The Notre Dame baseball squad as a whole just registered a 3.15 team GPA in the 2004 spring semester – matching the 2003 fall term as the highest semester GPAs in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era.
The stellar 2004 spring semester included 22 of 35 players posting a semester GPA of 3.0 or higher, led by 11 with a GPA of 3.4-plus. Sollmann and his five fellow seniors each ended their undergraduate careers with a semester GPA of 3.55 or higher (each had a 3.40-plus in the fall of ’03) while maintaining the program’s 100% graduation rate (59 of 59) during the 10-year Paul Mainieri era, among players who have completed their eligibility (eight others who signed professionally as juniors also have returned to complete degree requirements).
An updated bio. capsule on Sollmann follows below, as do additional notes on the Irish success in the classroom:
Steve Sollmann – winningest four-year starter in ND baseball history, with the Irish winning 76.3% of their games during his ND career (193-67-1) … enters NCAAs ranked 4th in ND history for career hits (297, trailing only the 3rd-highest total in NCAA history, 385 by former teammate Steve Stanley), 3rd in fielding assists (614, five shy of J.J. Brock’s record), 4th in runs (208) and stolen bases (83), 10th in batting avg. (.360) and 9th in triples (12) spanning 217 games played (214 starts) … overcame early ’04 slump to bat 10-for-21 in five-game stretch before fractured jaw in freak collision with teammate (April 3), sidelining him for 21 games (#8-ranked team was just 15-6 in his absence, compared to 32-4 in games he has played)…has hit .314 (16-for-51) since returning from injury (.309 overall), wearing football-style facemask on batting helmet (ND is 14-1 since his return) … leads team with 16 stolen bses, also ranking 4th on ’04 squad with .451 on-base pct., 2nd in 2-out batting (.359), 3rd in hit-by-pitch (11), 4th in walks (25) and 4th batting with runners on base (.352) … also 2nd on team in hits (1.23) and runs (1.07) per game… his +19 margin of walks (25) plus HBPs (11) minus strikeouts (17) is best on the team (the rest of the Irish are +20) … did not make an error in his first 154 chances of the 2004 season before 9th-inning E vs. Central Florida on May 19 (he quickly recovered and threw to third base to catch the runner over-running the bag for the final out) … has totaled just 2 Es in ’04 and 18 during past three seasons … owns a .373 career batting avg. after final exams and is a .382 career hitter at Eck Stadium … hit a combined .487 (38-for-78) during the ’01-’03 NCAA Tournaments to rank as one of the program’s leading all-time postseason performers … converted prep centerfielder who totaled just eight errors during both the 2002 and ’03 seasons (after making 21 Es as a freshman) … in 2003 became Notre Dame’s 11th non-senior (in any sport) ever to couple All-America and Academic All-America honors in the same season … recipient of ND Athletic Department’s 2003 Francis Patrick O’Connor Award, recognizing team spirit, inspiration and courage … preseason 1st team All-America pick in ’04 … MVP of ’02 NCAA South Bend Regional that sparked ND on to College World Series … three-time all-BIG EAST pick and ’01 Freshman All-American … posted 3.73 GPA in ’03 fall term, then 4.0 in spring of ’04 to graduate with a 3.44 as a marketing major.
SUPER SEMESTER – Notre Dame’s 22 players who posted a 3.0-plus GPA during the 2004 spring semester included 19 veterans, led by all six seniors: 2B Steve Sollmann (4.0, management), C Javi Sanchez (3.70, management), LHPs Joe Thaman (3.67, marketing) and Cody Wilkins (3.77, marketing), and IFs Zach Sisko (3.58, double major in history pre-professional studies) and Tim Murray (3.67, mathematics) … other veteran players who posted semester GPAs of 3.0-plus included four juniors RHPs – John Axford (3.29, film-television-and-theater), Grant Johnson (3.83, marketing), Tyler Jones (3.11, accounting) and Chris Niesel (3.24, marketing) – plus nine members of the sophomore class: DH Matt Bransfield (3.06, sociology), OF Craig Cooper (3.33, political science and computer applications), RHP/closer Ryan Doherty (3.21, philosophy), SS Greg Lopez (3.35, anthropology and pre-professional studies), C Nick Mainieri (3.40, English). OF Alex Nettey (3.00), OF Cody Rizzo (3.00, sociology), LHP Tom Thornton (3.81, anthropology and film-television-and-theater) and DH Brent Weiss (3.81, finance) … three freshmen rounded out the players with 3-0-plus semesters GPAs: LHP/1B Mike Dury (3.13), OF/2B Chris Fournier (3.00) and C Sean Gaston (3.60).