March 13, 2004

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2004 NOTRE DAME BASEBALL – March 12 vs. Texas Tech, at Round Rock (Texas) College Classic

The 8th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team (11-1) looks to continue one of the best starts in the program’s 112-year history as its annual Spring Break trip nears its end, with an early Saturday game (11:00 a.m. CST) vs. Texas Tech (13-4) at Dell Diamond … sophomore LHP Tom Thornton is slated to take the mound for the Irish while the Red Raiders are expected to counter with junior LHP Dallas Braden (4.74, 1-0, 4 GS, 25 Ks/5 BB, 21 H/.280 in 19 IP; transfer from American JC) …ND has scored in 96 straight games and has been shut out just once in the last 326 games.

Tom Thornton CAREER STATS and 2004 GAME-BY-GAME (see PDF)

RADIO, LIVE-STATS & HOTLINE – All of Notre Dame’s 2004 regular-season and postseason games again will be broadcast by South Bend-based ESPN Radio 1580 AM (WDND, which recently switched from 1620, and its sister station WNDV 1490) … the broadcasts are available via the internet at (College Sports Pass subscription required) … also provides links to GameTracker livestats on the website’s main page, for all home games and – as a bonus offering – at select road games (including the Round Rock Classic) … call the ND Sports Hotline at 574-631-3000 for schedule and result information for all varsity sports currently in season (from the main menu, select “4” and then select “1” for baseball information).

STRONG OUT OF THE GATE – Notre Dame is 11-1 for the seventh time in the program’s 112-year history (plus two 10-0 starts, last in 1908) … the 1960 and 2004 teams are the only ND squads to start 11-1 in the last 68 seasons … a win in the next game would give ND the fourth 12-1 start in the program’s history (plus two 13-0 starts) and the best 13-game start since the 1910 team started 19-1 … here’s a look at the top starts in ND baseball history:

Longest One-Loss Starts by ND Baseball Teams

1. 20-1 – 1908 (started 13-0)

2. 19-1 – 1907 (started 17-0) and 1910

4. 13-1 – 1902

5. 12-1 – 1909

6. 11-1 – 1915, 1936, 1960 and 2004 (active)

SCOUTING TEXAS TECH (see – Texas Tech posted a 4-1 win over Arizona on Friday and has jumped out to 13-4 while playing mostly at home, with other games vs. Campbell (18-1, 19-4, 9-4), #1 Rice (6-9), Houston (12-7), Ohio State (9-4), Northern Illinois (10-9, 5-7, 19-3), TCU (4-6, 5-8, 19-9), Air Force (8-4, 11-0) and Harvard (18-6, 30-8) … the Rice, Houston and OSU games were played in Houston at Minute Maid Park … the Red Raiders headed to Round Rock with a .355 team batting avg., a 202-89 scoring edge (12.6 runs/gm), 30 home runs, 50 doubles, 97 walks, 103 strikeouts and 42-of-46 stolen bases, plus a .963 team fielding pct. (23 errors, 10 double plays) … the Texas Tech pitchers own a 4.38 staff ERA, a .270 opp. batting avg., 136 Ks, 36 walks and 156 hits allowed in 144 innings … top hitters include junior OF Michael Mask (.413, 27 RBI, 7 HR, 5 2B, 9 BB, 5-5 SB), junior OF Madison Edwards (.400, 17 RBI, 4 HR, 4 BB, 3-3 SB), senior IF Josh Haney (.393, 17 RBI, 3 HR, 6 2B, 8 BB, 7 HBP, 4-5 SB), junior OF Josh Brady (.391, 33 RBI, 6 HR, 8 2B, 10 BB, 10-10 SB) and junior IF Cameron Blair (.378, 30 RBI, 4 HR, 10 2B, 6 BB, 4-5 SB) … Texas Tech returned 14 of 21 letterwinners from its 2003 team that went 30-25 and finished 9th in the Big 12 Conference (8-18) … top returners included senior IF Josh Haney (.338, 6 HR, 50 RBI), junior OF Cody Fuller (.326, 2 HR, 30 RBI), senior RHP Steve Gooch (4.00, 4-5, 58 Ks), junior C Cooper Fouts (.275, HR, 30 RBI) and senior RHP Juan Razo (6.02, 2-4, 32 Ks).

TEXAS TECH SLATED TO BECOME OPPONENT #282 – Notre Dame has faced 281 different opponents in 112 seasons of Division I baseball, with Winthrop and Florida Memorial joining that list at the ’04 FAU Classic (as did San Diego State, at the USC Classic) … another upcoming opponent, Texas Tech, is among the more noteworthy teams not on ND’s all-time opponent list (as is Oklahoma State) … the Irish are 15-2 in their last 17 games vs. first-time opponents, dating back to a win over Akron in 2000 … recent losses to first-time opponents have been to South Florida (’01) and Jacksonville (’03), with other recent wins over first-time opponents Florida Atlantic (’00), New Mexico, Pacific, Sam Houston State and UC Santa Barbara (all in 2001), Fairfield, Sacred Heart, Arkansas-Little Rock, Rochester College and Rice (all in ’02) and ’03 opponents Newman and IPFW during that stretch.

VS. THE BIG 12 – Notre Dame owns a winning all-time record (17-13-1) vs. teams that currently comprise the Big 12 Conference (2-4 in the 10-year Paul Mainier era), with previous games versus: Nebraska (10-2/1-1 in Mainieri era), Texas (3-3), Texas A&M (1-1), Missouri (1-1 in Mainieri era), Baylor (2-3/0-2), Kansas State (0-2) and Oklahoma (0-1) … the Irish never have faced current Big 12 teams Kansas or Oklahoma State (Colorado and Iowa State no longer sponsor baseball).

PLENTY-O-RUNS – Notre Dame has posted 9-plus runs in five of its last six games: 19-6 vs. Winthrop, 12-3 vs. Florida Memorial, 19-7 vs. Minnesota, 12-11 vs. SIU and 9-17 vs. UTSA.

TOURNEY-TESTED – The Irish are 17-2 in their last 19 regular-season tournament games and have avoided an 0-and-2 start in 22 of the last 23 regular-season tournaments. IRISH POST 400th WIN OF MAINIERI ERA – Tenth-year Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri – now in his 22nd overall season – already was averaging 40 wins per season with the Irish just one game into the ’04 season, as ND posted the 400th win of the Mainieri era in the opener vs. San Diego State (now 408-161-1/.717) … Mainieri picked up his 700th career coaching victory vs. Georgetown on March 29, 2003, just 135 games removed from his 600th win (ND’s 99 combined wins in ’01 and ’02 were third-most in nation, behind Florida State’s 107 and South Carolina’s 106) … Mainieri’s 739-440-2 career record (.627) includes 179-121-1 at St. Thomas (’83-’88) and 152-158 at Air Force (’89-’94) … his ND career includes five BIG EAST titles and six NCAA trips with the Irish (’96, ’99-’03), the program’s first No. 1 ranking (in ’01) and first CWS trip since ’57 (in ’02) … he was the nation’s only coach to repeat as ABCA regional coach of the year (Mideast), in 2002, and his squads have extended ND’s streak of seasons with 40-plus wins to 15 (nation’s 3rd-longest active streak) … 35 of his ND players have moved on to pro ball, including 12 drafted in the first 10 rounds and a pair of first-round pitchers (Brad Lidge in ’98, Aaron Heilman in ’01) … every ND player in the Mainieri era who has completed his eligibility with the Irish has graduated from Notre Dame (53 of 53) while the eight who were signed after their junior seasons have returned to complete or near completion of their graduation requirements (including two-time Academic All-American Brian Stavisky) … Mainieri owns the best BIG EAST winning pct. in the conference’s history (.741, 137-48) … in 73 BIG EAST series spanning eight seasons, the Irish have won 55 series with nine splits and only nine series wins by the opponent (just two of them being 3-game sweeps) … the Irish have been swept just four times in 71 all-time BIG EAST doubleheaders (42 ND sweeps, 25 splits) … Mainieri’s first nine ND teams averaged 45 wins per season.

ONE YEAR LATER … Notre Dame’s impressive start takes on added significance when comparing the current team’s 11-game stats (prior to the Arizona game) to the 2003 squad at the 11-game mark (when that ’03 team was 6-5) … the most notable offensive improvements include a 55-point boost in the team batting avg., 46 more runs (+4.2 per game), an 87-point jump in on-base pct. and 22 more walks … the Irish offense also has a combined walk+hit-by-pitch total (66) that is two more than the team’s strikeout total of 64 (the ’03 team was -41 in that ratio, at the 11-game mark) … ND already has posted five games with double-digit runs (2 after 11 games in ’03) and has scored 4-plus runs 8 times this season (4 at the 11-game point in ’03) … noteworthy pitching improvements include an ERA that is nearly one full point lower (0.97), an opponent batting avg. that is 25 points lower, 19 fewer walks and a K-to-walk ratio that has more than doubled from the 11-game point in 2003 (see PDF)

2004 Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic All-Tournament Team (see PDF)


* Early Leaders – Notre Dame shook off its early-game offensive struggles by scoring 7 runs in the 1st-3rd innings vs. Penn State (8-2) and then 8 early runs vs. Texas-San Antonio in the title game (13-5) … the first eight games of the 2004 season saw the Irish bat just .214 (19-for-89) with only 12 runs scored in the 1st-3rd innings of those eight games – compared to .455 (15-for-43) with 15 runs in the 1st-3rd innings of the final two games in San Antonio

* Irish Claim AC-IBC Title – Notre Dame totaled 24 baserunners en route to beating UTSA for the Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic title … four players – senior 2B Steve Sollmann (3 RBI, R), sophomore RF Cody Rizzo (3 R), junior 3B Matt Macri (2 RBI, 3 R, 2 2B) and sophomore LF Craig Cooper (3 RBI, R) – contributed two hits to the Irish 12-hit attack … ND sent 10 batters to the plate in the 5-run top of the 3rd …

* Tournament Stats – Notre Dame hit .340 in the Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic, scoring 42 runs in four games with two home runs, 12 doubles and a +3 ratio of walks plus hit-by-pitch (14+10) minus strikeouts (21) … the other teams had similar offensive numbers: Penn State (.313, 25 R), UTSA (.303, 32 R), and SIU (.293, 30 R) … the Irish totaled eight errors with a .952 tournament fielding pct. … the Irish pitchers combined for a 7.15 staff ERA and .296 opponent batting avg. (48 H, 13 BB, 22 Ks in 39 IP, 1 WP, 4 HB).

* Home Away From Home – The Irish are 15-1 in their last 16 San Antonio tournament games.

* No Average Joe – Senior LHP Joe Thaman (7 IP, 2 R, 5 H, BB, 7 Ks) – ND’s starting 1B the past three seasons – logged seven strong innings for an impressive first win of his young college pitching career in the 6-2 win over Penn State … freshman RHP Derik Olvey was scratched from his scheduled start due to illness while junior RHP Grant Johnson threw the 1st inning as part of a planned rotation (he is being eased back into action after returning from ’03 shoulder surgery and a recent bout of tonsillitis) … junior 3B Matt Macri did not play vs. PSU due to back spasms, with senior C Javi Sanchez turning in a strong defensive game at the hot corner (it was Sanchez’s first start at third in an official spring game with ND since March 3, 2002) … senior 2B Steve Sollmann (2-for-5, 2 RBI, R) snapped out of his early hitting slump …

* Two-Out Terrors – Notre Dame opened the week by batting .500 with two outs vs. SIU and UTSA (19-for-38), compared to just .286 (14-for-49) with 0-1 outs while 12 of the team’s 17 RBI in the tournament have come with two outs.

* Never Say Die – In the 12-11 win over SIU, ND twice was down to its final out with no runners in scoring position but responded with a game-tying run in the bottom of the 9th and two more runs in the 10th to again tie the score, before winning in the 11th.

* Last-Out Heroes – Five Notre Dame batters delivered hits vs. SIU with the Irish down to their last out … ND faced a 9-8 deficit in the 9th when junior 3B Matt Macri sent a 2-out, 0-1 pitch up the middle … P.J. Finnigan then worked ahead to an 0-2 count on Steve Andres but the lefthanded DH was not fooled on a third straight changeup, slicing an opposite-field double into the left-center gap (Macri was running on the play and motored all the way around to force extra innings) … SIU answered with two in the top of the 10th but ND again fought back with 2 outs, this time with Steve Sollmann on first … clutch singles from junior first baseman Matt Edwards (a first-pitch shot up the middle) and senior catcher Javi Sanchez (a 2-1 ball hit to the left side) loaded the bases before sophomore rightfielder Cody Rizzo – who had struck out in the ninth – gained redemption versus Finnigan by sending the first pitch he saw into left field for a two-run single.

* Game-Winner – Sophomore Craig Cooper was an unlikely hero in the 11th vs. SIU, after enduring a case of the flu that had limited him to earlier pinch-runner duties … in the game as a righthanded DH, Cooper greeted righthander Tyler Norrick with a double to right-center (on a 1-1 pitch) … SIU then misplayed a sacrifice bunt from Greg Lopez and Cooper scampered home moments later with the winning run, on a wild pitch.

HEFTY HIT TOTALS – Notre Dame now has posted 20, 19 and 18-hit games in the young ’04 season.

BIG INNINGS – The Irish have dominated ’04 scoring in the 7th-8th innings (28-5 combined; 14-3 in 7th, 14-2 in 8th).

WINNING THE TIGHT ONES – The Irish are 11-1 in their last 12 one-run games (spanning the ’03 and ’04 seasons).

SUPER TROOPERS – Notre Dame, which is slated to spend just five of 15 weekends at home this season (including a bye weekend), truly has enjoyed its 9-1 start despite the various challenges that come with spending the first month of the season away from home … the Irish opened the ’04 season by playing on both coasts (in Los Angeles and Boca Raton) before heading to Texas for the current Spring Break trip (followed by a pair of games at Southern Illinois, two midweek home games, and the first BIG EAST series at West Virginia) … Notre Dame’s emphasis on student-athlete class attendance (teams can only miss three Tuesday/Thursday classes and three Mon./Wed./Fri. classes, for a total of six class misses per season) poses some unique challenges for several Irish teams, including the baseball program … the Irish players wrapped up midterm week by attending classes on Friday, then were delayed out of Chicago by heavy winds – with the team arriving in San Antonio at 1:00 a.m. (the players then headed off with their respective host families and were due at Wolff Stadium at 10:00 a.m., with the staff set to arrive at 8:30 a.m. to set up the Irish locker room for the four-day stay) … the upcoming schedule includes another long day, as the Irish are slated to wake up at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday before facing Illinois at 10:00 and returning to campus by approximately midnight … the Irish also headed into midterm week following a long day that stretched 21 hours … after playing a pair of games in Boca Raton on Saturday, Feb. 28, the Irish had a 6:00 a.m. wakeup call on Sunday the 29th and headed back to FAU Stadium for the final game of the weekend, vs. Minnesota at 11:00 a.m. … the team then flew to Chicago Midway on Sunday night and pulled into campus at 2:00 a.m., with most players and staff reaching their beds at 3:00 a.m. (a full 21 hours after waking up the previous day).

TOURNEY TERRORS – Since opening 0-2 at the 2003 Minnesota DQ Classic (ND’s only 0-2 start in the last 21 regular-season-tournaments), the Irish have gone 17-2 in their last 19 games at regular-season tournaments … that run includes a win over Wake Forest to close the DQ Classic, a 6-1 showing at the ’03 Kennel Clubs Classic (in Jacksonville, Fla.) and the unbeaten ’04 efforts at the USC (2-0) and FAU (3-0) Classics and 5-1 on the Texas trip… the only loss in that stretch came in extra innings, vs. homestanding Jacksonville.

FAR & WIDE – The 11 players listed below as potential starters include three California natives and two each from Florida and Ohio, plus one each from Virginia, Iowa, New York and Colorado.

NOTRE DAME PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP (see PDF for notes/stats on each player, in chart form


ALL-AMERICAN DUO – Notre Dame boasts multiple returning All-Americans – senior 2B Steve Sollmann and junior RHP Chris Niesel – for the second time in the program’s history, with the 1999 squad also featuring a returning All-America position player (junior IF Brant Ust) and pitcher (sophomore RHP Aaron Heilman) … five other ND seasons have featured returning All-Americans: 1957 (senior C Elmer Kohorst), 1961 (RHP Nick Palihnich), 2000 (Heilman’s junior season), 2001 (Heilman’s senior season) and 2002 (senior CF Steve Stanley) … Sollmann has the chance to follow Kohorst and Stanley as the third ND position player to be a multi-year All-American (Heilman is the program’s only other player to hold that distinction, as a rare four-year honoree).

A QUICK LOOK AT THE IRISH (also see recap notes from USC and FAU Classics later in release) – Notre Dame owns the nation’s No. 6-rated freshman class (per Baseball America) while returning the bulk of its offense (each of top nine hitters, eight of nine position starters) and several top pitchers from the 2003 squad that repeated as BIG EAST Tournament champions (first team to do so since 1986), fashioned a 45-18 record and advanced to the final of the NCAA Fullerton Regional … the pitching staff also is set to welcome back Grant Johnson (missed all of ’03 due to shoulder injury) but his fellow junior RHP John Axford will miss the ’04 campaign after undergoing “Tommy John” reconstructive elbow surgery … the 14 returning position players combined to make 89% of the offensive starts in ’03 while combining for 99% of the stolen bases (83 of 84), 96% of the triples (25 of 26), 90% of the hits (597 of 664) and runs scored (391 of 433), 87% of the walks (178 of 204), and 84% of the home runs (26 of 31) and doubles (97 of 115) … the 2004 staff’s eight returning healthy pitchers (including Johnson, with his ’02 stats) combined for a 3.23 ERA and 28-8 record in their previous season with the Irish, with their other combined stats from the past season including two saves, 290 strikeouts, 115 walks and 318 hits allowed in 334 innings … ND closed 2003 by batting a combined .353 (103-for-292) in eight 2003 postseason games (followed by the current .352 average after six games in ’04).

ND IN TEXAS RESULTS – Notre Dame has made 17 trips to Texas in the last 27 seasons (see p. 97 of media guide for full list), with a 70-47 all-time record in Texas during those games (.586) … the Irish have posted a 35-16 combined record in eight Texas swings during the Mainieri era, with all of those games in San Antonio except for the 2002 and ’04 Round Rock Classics.

TEXAS NATIVES – The 2004 Notre Dame baseball roster includes players from 19 states, with two from Texas: junior RHP Tyler Jones (Arlington/Martin HS) and freshman RHP Jeff Manship (San Antonio/Reagan HS) … 13 other former players join Jones among the program’s 816 all-time monogram winners (from 43 different states) … two of the program’s first all-time monogram winners were Texas natives: LF Joseph Combe (Brownsville; 1892) and 1B Angus McDonald (Houston; 1897-1900) …. brothers Samuel (SS; ’13) and Harry (3B; ’13-’14) Newning then made the journey to Notre Dame from their native Houston … other early ND baseball players who hailed from Texas include C/OF William Allison (Georgetown, ’17) and pitcher George Murphy (Oaklawn; ’16-’17), who tossed a no-hitter vs. St. Viator in 1917 … just two Texans lettered with ND baseball in the 72-year stretch from 1918-1989: RHP Leo Linbeck (Houston/St. Thomas HS; ’54) and LH and P John Ebert (Dallas/Marion OH Catholic HS; ’82) … three early-90s players were Texas natives: C Matt Krall (Bedford/Trinity HS; ’90-’91), OF Dan Bautch (Houston/Stanford HS; ’90-’92; 68 career SB) and OF Edwin Hartwell (Forth Worth/Country Day HS; ’90-’93; .354 career hitter, 18 HR, 100 RBI) … the program’s most recent players from Texas include LHP Pat Davis (San Antonio/Texas Military Inst.; ’96, ’98) and RHP Matt Laird (Bellaire HS; ’00-’03) … Davis – whose father Ben serves as tournament coordinator for the Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic – now serves as the baseball coach and athletic director at TMI.

WINNING BIG & SMALL – Notre Dame was 9-1 in 2003 one-run games (including 4-3 NCAA loss to Cal State Fullerton) while posting 24 “big wins” (margin of five-plus runs) … by comparison, ND’s 2002 College World Series team was 9-8 in one-run games and totaled 21 wins by 5-plus runs … the 2003 trend has continued in ’04, as the Irish already own twp one-run win (3-2 at FAU and 12-11 vs. SIU, making ND 11-1 in its last 12 one-run games) while posting five”big wins” in the young ’04 season (7-1 vs. San Diego State, 19-6 vs. Winthrop, 12-3 vs. Florida Memorial, 19-7 vs. Minnesota, 13-5 vs. UTSA).

TOURNAMENT-TOUGH – Notre Dame is 80-27-1 in regular-season tournaments during the Paul Mainieri era, highlighted by a 1998 win over Florida State, wins in 2000 over Wake Forest, Georgia and Illinois (2), 2001 wins over Mississippi State (2), Fresno State and Illinois, another win over Wake Forest in 2003, and the ’04 wins at USC and Florida Atlantic … the Irish are 15-2 in their last 17 regular-season tournament games and have not had a losing record in 18 of their last 20 regular-season tournaments (58-15-1 record in those events), dating back to a 1-2 showing at the ACC Disney Blast early in 1998 … here are the regular-season tournaments during the Mainieri era (see PDF):

THREE-YEAR TEAR – Notre Dame racked up a 144-49-1 record during the ’01-’03 seasons (49-13-1 in ’01, 50-18 in ’02, 45-18 in ’03), with only four teams totaling more wins over that three-year span: Florida State (161), Rice (157), South Carolina (151) and Stanford (149).

PRESEASON RESPECT – Notre Dame is one of seven teams that have been in the Baseball America preseason top-20 every season since 2000 … the others include Rice, LSU, Cal State Fullerton, Georgia Tech, Stanford and Baylor … Notre Dame checked in at 20th in BA’s 2000 preseason poll, followed by 9th in 2001, 5th in ’02 and 12th in ’03.

SOUTH FLORIDA CAPTAINS – Notre Dame’s 2004 squad includes two of three team captains who hail from south Florida: senior C Javi Sanchez (Miami/Columbus HS) and junior RHP Chris Niesel (Plantation/Aquinas HS) … it marks the first time that multiple Florida natives have served as captains of a Notre Dame baseball squad … in fact, just two previous Florida natives ever have served as ND baseball captains: IF Joe LaRocca (Ft. Lauderdale/Gibbons HS) in ’72 and OF Henry Valenzuela (Tampa/Jesuit HS) in ’82.

BIG BOYS – Notre Dame’s 2004 roster includes some big bodies, with nine players checking in at 6-4 or taller – led by a pitching staff that averages 6-foot-4, 215 pounds … topping the charts are the lofty sophomore tandem of RHP Ryan Doherty (7-1/220) and LHP Tom Thornton (6-6/215), plus junior RHPs Grant Johnson (6-5/215) and John Axford (6-5/180), junior LHP Scott Bickford (6-5/170), freshman 1B/LHP Mike Dury (6-5/225), freshman RHP Dan Kapala (6-5/210) and senior LHP/1B Joe Thaman (6-4/210).

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON – Seven current Irish players are second-generation college baseball players: junior Chris Niesel (Rudy Niesel, Spring Hill), junior 1B/3B Matt Edwards (Norm Edwards, Stetson), junior LHP Scott Bickford (Mark Bickford, Salisbury State), sophomore C Nick Mainieri (Paul Mainieri, New Orleans), freshman 1B Mike Dury (John Dury, N.C. State), freshmen RHP Jeff Manship (John Manship, Arizona) and freshman RHP/1B Chris Vasami (Ralph Vasami, NYU).

NOTRE DAME’S 2004 STARTERS – By Position (see PDF)