Jeff Samardzija - pictured during his key start vs. then-#15 Texas A&M - has rocketed into a spot among the top-40 college prospects for the 2006 Major League Draft (photo by Pete LaFleur).

Week-Six Rotation To Feature Samardzija Making His 2006 Home Debut Friday Night Versus Pittsburgh

March 27, 2006

The Notre Dame baseball team has announced its probable week-six pitching rotation for the five games to be played at Eck Stadium from March 28 – April 2. The five probable starters include three lefthanders, starting with sophomores David Gruener (Tues., March 28, vs. Valparaiso) and Wade Korpi (Wed., March 29, vs. Western Michigan) in the 5:05 midweek games. Jeff Samardzija then will start the Friday night game vs. Pittsburgh (March 31; 6:05), with fellow junior righthander Jeff Manship slated to start the Saturday game (April 1; 1:05) and senior lefthander Tom Thornton again set to pitch on Sunday in the series finale vs. the Panthers (April 2; 12:05).

Here are the probable pitching matchups for this week’s games:

Tues., March 28 – ND soph. LHP David Gruener (2.57 ERA, 0-0, 5 Ks, 3 BB, 5 H/.192 opp. avg., 7 IP, 6 GP/0 GS) and Valpo soph. RHP Dallas Cawiezell (9.72, 1-2, 10 Ks, 2 BB, 20 H/.455, 8.1 IP, 4 GP/1 GS)

Wed., March 29 – ND soph. LHP Wade Korpi (4.15, 1-1, 25 Ks, 6 BB, 20 H/.286, 17.1 IP, 4 GP/3 GS) and WMU soph. RHP Dan Coberley (3.09, 2-1, 8 Ks, 6 BB, 13 H/.289, 11.2 IP, 5 GP/0 GS) OR soph. RHP Bryan French (4.91, 0-2, 9 Ks, 4 BB, 18 H/.316, 14.2 IP, 3 GP/2 GS)

Fri., March 31 – ND jr. RHP Jeff Samardzija (3.72 ERA, 2-1, 10 Ks, 14 BB, 26 H/.245 opp. avg., 29 IP, 5 GS) and Pitt soph. LHP Rob Brant (4.42, 2-3, 37 Ks, 16 BB, 38 H/.266, 36.2 IP, 7 GP/6 GS)

Sat., April 1 – ND jr. RHP Jeff Manship (2.32 ERA, 2-1, 41 Ks, 8 BB, 24 H/.209 opp. avg., 31 IP, 5 GS) and Pitt jr. RHP Paul Nardozzi (3.32, 4-2, 49 Ks, 13 BB, 32 H/.204, 43.1 IP, 6 GS)

Sun., April 2 – ND sr. LHP Tom Thornton (2.38 ERA, 4-1, 24 Ks, 3 BB, 30 H/.240 opp. avg., 34 IP, 5 GS) and Pitt soph. RHP Kyle Landis (3.71, 2-1, 30 Ks, 6 BB, 23 H/.225, 26.2 IP, 9 GP/2 GS)

Each member of Notre Dame’s weekend rotation this season has taken turns as the No. 1 starter, giving the Irish the luxury of entering each series with three ace pitchers at their disposal.

With five starts each already in the books, Manship, Samardzija and Thornton have combined for a 2.78 season ERA and .231 opponent batting average, with a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (75/25) and 14 more innings pitched (94) than hits allowed (80). Adding Korpi’s solid season to the mix yields the following combined stats for the top four starters: 2.99 ERA, .240 opp. avg., 3.2 K/walk ratio (100/31) and +11 innings (111.1) to hits allowed (100).

Manship ranks 8th among BIG EAST pitchers in overall ERA (2.32) and opp. batting avg. (.209) while ranking 4th in strikeouts (41), including 16 Ks “looking” (no BIG EAST pitcher has totaled more KLs this season). Thornton checks in with the league’s 9th-best ERA (2.38) and is one of four tied atop the victories list (4) while his three walks are fewest of any BIG EAST pitcher who has thrown at least one inning per team game.

Samardzija ranks 23rd on the league’s ERA charts (3.72), giving both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh three pitchers who rank among the top- 25 (West Virginia, with four, is the only staff with more pitchers among the top-25).

Nardozzi is tied for the BIG EAST lead in wins (4) and Ks looking (16), also ranking 2nd with 43.1 innings, 3rd in strikeouts (49) and 5th in opp. batting avg. (.204). Brant stands 5th on the BIG EAST strikeouts list (37) and 8th in innings pitched (36.2).

Notre Dame baseball week-5 wrapup notes follow below:

PITCHER OF THE WEEK CANDIDATE – Tom Thornton, LHP, Sr. … Middleboro, Mass.: Narrowly missed posting his second straight shutout when a misplayed double-play ball opened the door for Georgetown in the 9th (he then left the game and the Irish booted another double-play ball, with three unearned runs scoring, two charged to Thornton) … posted the second-highest strikeout total (8) of his career while avoiding the big inning by limiting the Hoyas to five hits and a pair of walks … allowed just two leadoff batters to reach while holding the Hoyas to no hits with runners on base (0-for-9) and 1-for-9 with 2-outs … has held the opposition scoreless in the 1st inning and from the 4th-7th innings during all five of his starts … faced just one batter over the minimum (16) from the 4th-8th innings vs. GU … ran his shutout streak to 17 innings (and 24 of the past 25) before the two errors in the 9th … the 24 outs in his 24th career win included the eight Ks plus eight groundouts, three flyouts, two foulouts, two pickoff rundowns and an infield lineout … located 77% of his pitches for strikes (89 of 116) and now has thrown only 47 balls out of the strike zone in his past two starts, spanning 17 innings (an average of just 2.8 balls out of the zone per inning) … lowered his season ERA to 2.38, with a .240 opponent batting average, an 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (24/3) and four more innings pitched (34) than hits allowed (30) … his 9-inning season walk average (0.79) remains on pace to rank second in Notre Dame history, as does his K-to-walk ratio (another top LHP, Tom Price, holds both of those ND records after averaging 0.49 BB/9 IP with an 8.0 K-to-walk ratio in 1994) … the late runs prevented him from becoming just the second Notre Dame pitcher in the 12-year Mainieri era to post nine-inning solo shutouts in consecutive weeks – a feat turned in by RHP Dan Stavisky during the 1996 season (vs. Pittsburgh and then vs. St. John’s in the BIG EAST Tournament) … it also would have placed him alongside Danny Tamayo as the only Mainieri era pitchers with three nine-inning solo shutouts during their careers … his 44 career starts trail just four pitchers in the ND record book: Price (56; ’91-’94), Darin Schmalz (53; ’94-’97), Brian Piotrowicz (52; ’87-’90) and Chris Niesel (47; ’00-’02).

Wright State 4, Notre Dame 2
Notre Dame 11, Central Michigan 9
Georgetown 8, Notre Dame 3 (series played at Povich Field; Bethesda, Md.)
Notre Dame 12, Georgetown 2
Notre Dame 6, Georgetown 3

The 6-3 win over Georgetown was Paul Mainieri’s 500th win in 11-plus seasons at ND (500-204-2; 831-483-3 in 24 overall seasons) … the Irish played 17 of their first 20 games on the road but now will play 19 of the next 22 at home, with 7- and 12-game homestands separated by a series at South Florida … nearly one-third of ND’s RBI this season (35 of 113; 31%) has come from the #8 and #9 hitters in the batting order, with senior RF Cody Rizzo (19) and senior SS Greg Lopez (18) currently sitting atop the team’s RBI charts … Lopez has collected 14 of his RBI from the 8-hole while all but one of Rizzo’s RBI have come from the #9 spot (Mike Dury’s 3-run home run vs. Oklahoma also came from the 8th spot) … Lopez led ND by batting 6-for-12 (6 RBI) in the Georgetown series and now ranks 4th on the team with a .324 season batting avg. … Rizzo’s 19 RBI are five shy of his entire 2005 total while his .379 batting with runners in scoring position is more than 100 points higher than his overall avg. (.274) … ND scored in the first inning of all five games last week and now owns a 21-5 first-inning scoring margin … senior 1B Craig Cooper has reached in 11-of-12 leadoff plate appearances in the first inning (HR, 2 2B, 3 1B, 4 BB, HBP) and owns a team-best .600 on-base pct. when leading off any inning (15-of-25) … Rizzo had 3 HBP last week and now is tied for 3rd in NCAA history with 74 career HBPs … sophomore 3B Brett Lilley’s 8 HBPs give him 38 in his career, already tied for 2nd in ND history …senior CF Alex Nettey’s BIG EAST-leading 11 HBP put him on pace to be the third ND player to set the team record in the past four seasons (Rizzo had 28 HBP in ’03, Lilley had 30 in ’05) … Cooper opened the series finale at GU with a rare leadoff home run … Rizzo and freshman DH Jeremy Barnes had homered in the first win over GU, giving ND three HRs in a span of 33 ABs (after just 5 HRs in the first 596 ABs of the season) … ND now has opened on the road in nine of its 11 BIG EAST seasons (7-4 in BIG EAST openers) … the Irish have been swept in just nine of 91 all-time doubleheaders … junior RHP Jeff Samardzija continued to round into form while beating the Hoyas in the 12-2 game (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 9 GOs, 2-10 batting with runners on, 0-7 with 2-outs) … ND has posted 15-plus hits four times this season, including twice last week (15 vs. CMU and in game-2 vs. GU) … junior RHP Jeff Manship had allowed just one hit and no runs in the first inning of his four previous starts (GU had 2 R, 4 H, en route to the 8-3 win) … that marked the first time an ND opponent has scored multiple first-inning runs this season … ND had its own multiple-run first inning (7) to spark the win over CMU … Cooper’s nine-game hit streak ended vs. CMU (0-for-1, 3 BB, SF) … ND had 15 baserunners but lost to Wright State (the Irish now are 9-3 in Mainieri-era home openers) … sophomore LHP Wade Korpi has 25 Ks and just 6 BB in 17.1 IP (a big improvement from his 32 Ks and 33 BB in 54.1 as a freshman).