The Chicago Cubs picked up their first win of the season on Sunday, thanks to a strong performance on the mound from former Notre Dame wide receiver/pitcher Jeff Samardzija. The righty from Vaparaiso, Ind. pitched 8.2 innings, allowing four hits and three runs, while striking out eight.
This is the Cubs we're talking about, so naturally, the game was more dramatic than expected. Samardzija looked poised for a complete game one-run performance, before a two-out error and a two-run home run made it a 4-3 game.
Here's an excerpt from Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. See the entire article on the South Bend Tribunewebsite:
As Wrigleyville held its breath, closer Carlos Marmol came in and walked the first batter, conjuring up memories of the first two blown games by the Cubs' bullpen.
But Marmol induced Xaver Nady to pop out, ending a dramatic 4-3 win before 31,973 at Wrigley Field.
For Samardzija, the nail-biting win was about as sweet as it gets.
"I really feel like I have a chip on my shoulders, because I've talked a big game about wanting to start and made it public," Samardzija said. "I don't want to look like an idiot."
Samardzija is expected to start again on Friday when the Cubs open a weekend series at the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.
Ninth-ranked Notre Dame returns to the field this evening at 7:00 pm ET when it takes on #2 Syracuse in a BIG EAST conference game at Arlotta Stadium.
The game will be broadcast on CBS College Sports Network, but Irish UNDerground will also have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today's game too. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation, as the Fighting Irish look to bounce back from last week's loss at Loyola.
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Since the Irish wore the throwback uniforms last week - and I wore the throwback fedora - let me share a throwback moment with you.
Prior to my first season as a hockey broadcaster 20 years ago, I had stopped in to chat with Notre Dame hockey coach Ric Schafer. I wanted to know the sport I would be broadcasting better, so I asked him "what's the one thing every hockey fan should know that they don't?"
Ric didn't hesitate. He replied quickly "It's a very simple game. It's a race to four. If you get to four, you win 95 percent of the time."
In hockey, it's four. For Notre Dame's baseball team, the magic number is six.
When the Irish hold teams to five runs or less this year, they are 14-1. Let me repeat that ... 14-1 when the opponent scores five or less. That's 93 percent of the time, and good enough for me.
The staff earned run average is 3.97, so it stands to reason if the Irish don't give the other team help, an average outing should be enough to earn a win. And another stat backs that up. When Notre Dame makes one error or none, they are 15-5.
In fact, there are very few innings where the other team is scoring without some help from the Irish. Over the last 10 games, there have been 25 different innings when the opponent has scored. 20 of those innings featured at least one walk or error.
And at the risk of deluging you in statistics, here's one from the Irish offense that bears mentioning. When the Irish are successful, it's because the bottom of the order helps the cause. Over those last 10 games, the bottom third of the Irish order (usually Alex Robinson, Charlie Markson and the shortstop of the day) is 21-for-69 (.304) in seven wins and 5-for-29 (.172) in three losses. When those 7-8-9 hitters do something, Notre Dame's lineup is formidable.
As Durham Bulls manager Joe Riggins once told his lollygagging team, "This is a very simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball." When the Irish do those things, they are tough to beat.
That's good news heading into a weekend series with Seton Hall, a team that has really struggled at the plate this year. The defending Big East tournament champs are 13-14 overall, 2-4 in league play. They can beat good teams, as evidenced by a 5-2 win at Virginia. They can lose to bad teams, such as a 3-1 home loss to St. Peter's.
The inconsistency is mainly because the Pirates are batting .237 as a team. Seton Hall plays in the biggest park in America east of Yellowstone (it's about an eighth of a mile to right center) so Rob Sheppard's team plays small ball to manufacture runs ... bunting, stealing bases. That means the Irish bunt defense, which has been everywhere from nifty to non-existent, needs to be ready.
On the mound, Seton Hall has a bonafide ace in Jon Prosinski, but relies heavily on the bullpen after that. With a staff ERA even lower than Notre Dame's (3.73), the Pirates would like to make this a low-scoring series.
A Notre Dame team much worse than this one swept the Pirates in South Orange two years ago. A series win is definitely doable, and a must if the Irish have conference title aspirations.
The race to six is on.
It's a very simple game.
- Chuck Freeby ('86)
Tim Andree ('83) played basketball for head coach Digger Phelps from 1979-83.
Today, Andree works in TriBeCa where he leads global operations for Dentsu. Headquartered in Japan, Dentsu is one of the largest advertising agencies in the world.
His son, Tim Jr. ('10) followed in his footsteps, attending Notre Dame and earning a walk-on spot on the basketball team.
Andree was recently featured in a profile by Kunur Patel for Advertising Age. The article focuses on the work he has been doing with Dentsu, but also includes some background on his basketball career. Here's an excerpt:
He no longer plays ball because of a bum knee, but his love for the sport is palpable on a rainy Wednesday evening at Madison Square Garden, where a somewhat damp Mr. Andree miraculously folds himself into a stadium seat. (He travels without an umbrella. He says he's never found one big enough.)
Tim Jr., 23 and the oldest of six, is also at the game. He too played basketball for Notre Dame, and his college roommate Luke Harangody, now a Cleveland Cavalier, is playing the home team. Spectators making their way to their seats eye the elder Mr. Andree curiously, searching his face, trying to determine whether he's a retired basketball star.
Twice each year, Notre Dame students suit up for the career fair at the Joyce Center. Today, nine former Fighting Irish football players had their own job fair, except instead of business attire and resumes, it was adidas shorts, spandex and agility drills.
Robert Blanton, Taylor Dever, Darius Fleming, Michael Floyd, Gary Gray, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, David Ruffer and Harrison Smith worked out at the annual Notre Dame Football Pro Day at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex and Loftus Sports Center. The day began at approximately 11 a.m. in the Haggar Fitness Complex at "the Gug," where height and weight measurements, vertical jump, broad jump and bench press were all conducted.
Afterwards, Pro Day moved to Meyo Field in the adjoining Loftus Sports Center, where the 40-yard dash, pro agility (20-yard shuttle), 60-yard shuttle, three-cone drill and position-specific drills took place.
Representatives from 27 of 32 NFL teams were in attendance, including several position coaches, coordinators and scouts, as well as two general managers and two head coaches.
This afternoon, I spoke with Notre Dame director of football media relations Brian Hardin, who provided me with a few notes on the Irish:
- Robert Blanton posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds, a time that would have ranked as the fourth-fastest by a safety at the NFL Combine this year. Among cornerbacks, Blanton's 4.53 time would have tied for 12th. Of note is that the top two cornerbacks on most NFL mock drafts - LSU's Morris Claiborne and Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick - ran similar times to Blanton at the NFL Combine. Claiborne ran the 10th fastest time (4.50) while Kirkpatrick was right behind him and barely ahead of Blanton at 4.51 seconds.
- Taylor Dever's broad jump distance of 8'9" would have tied him for sixth at the NFL Combine. Dever, who attended the NFL Combine, improved his times in the 40-yard dash (from 5.46 at the Combine to 5.34) and pro agility (from 4.90 to 4.71).
- Darius Fleming posted two very quick times and helped his draft stock at the Pro Day. Fleming's 40-yard dash time of 4.54 seconds would have ranked third among linebackers at the NFL Combine and his 11.58 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle would have been the fourth-fastest among LBs. He also ranked in the top seven in bench press, pro agility (20-yard shuttle) and the three-cone drill at the Combine.
- Jonas Gray improved his bench press numbers from 20 at the NFL Combine to 22 today. Even more impressive was the fact Gray ran and cut on the practice field while catching passes, despite being less than five months removed from knee surgery.
- Trevor Robinson made the most of his opportunity as he recorded numbers that would have placed him among offensive linemen in the top 10 in four different categories. Robinson would have been the only offensive lineman at the NFL Combine to have ranked in the top 10 in vertical jump (30"; t-8th), broad jump (8'9"; t-6th), bench press (31; t-8th) and 40-yard dash (5.22; 8th).
- David Ruffer made 13 of 15 field goals and many of his kickoffs landed in the endzone.
- Harrison Smith's 60-yard shuttle time of 11.52 seconds would have been the fastest time by a safety at the NFL Combine.
- NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock attended the Pro Day and offered his thoughts: "I think the two guys that really helped themselves in terms of 40 times and measurables are Blanton and Fleming. They both ran in the mid-4.5. I've been a believer for a long time."
- Mayock on the draft prospects of Michael Floyd: "In my book he is (the best receiver in the Draft). If you take the off-the-field stuff away from Michael Floyd and just watch the tape, I think he compares very, very favorably to Justin Blackmon. In my opinion, I think Jacksonville at [No.] 7 starts his interest. I don't think he gets past 16 with the Jets. I think there are some teams like Chicago hanging down there at 19 that would love to have Michael Floyd."
- Mayock on the draft prospects of Harrison Smith: "I think Mark Barron, the safety from Alabama, is in the top 20. Harrison should be the next safety. I see him late first round, but probably the top half of the second round. He's 6-foot-2, 215 pounds with great movement skills. Somebody's going to get a steal with Harrison Smith."
- The quarterback that threw passes to Floyd and Jonas Gray during the position drills was former Notre Dame QB and current Carolina Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen.
The 2012 NFL Draft begins with the first round on Thursday, April 26. Rounds two and three will held on Friday, with rounds 4-7 on Saturday.
Notre Dame returns to the diamond this evening, in a non-conference matchup against Toledo.
UND.com will stream the game live at 5:35 pm ET, but Irish UNDerground will also have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today's Irish baseball action. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.
Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.
Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.
One more. It all comes down to this, the final college basketball game of the season. Notre Dame and Baylor will clash in Denver, in what has all the makings of a memorable finale. Two No. 1 seeds, one looking to close out an undefeated and historic season, the other hoping to take care of some unfinished business, dating back to this time last year. Get excited.
Here are ten things to know before the big game:
Tuesday, April 3. 6:43 pm MT (8:43 ET).
Tale of the Tape
#4 Notre Dame (#1 seed in Raleigh Region) - 35-3 overall, 15-1 BIG EAST
#1 Baylor (#1 seed in Des Moines Region) - 39-0 overall, 18-0 Big 12
TV - ESPN/ESPN3. Dave O'Brien (play-by-play), Doris Burke (color), Holly Rowe (sideline) and Rebecca Lobo (sideline).
Radio - Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) and UND.com. Bob Nagle (play-by-play).
Baylor leads, 2-0. The Lady Bears defeated the Irish in Waco, Tx. back on Nov. 20 in the Preseason WNIT championship game, 94-81.
What's at stake?
Greatness. Glory. A national championship.
The Irish are seeking to avenge last year's title game loss against Texas A&M, and earn their second championship in program history. The first came in 2001, when head coach Muffet McGraw's team defeated Purdue, 68-66 in St. Louis. Baylor, on the other hand, is looking to become the first NCAA team to ever go 40-0. The Lady Bears are also in search of a second national championship (the first came in 2005).
Opposing Players to Watch
Brittany Griner, Jr., F (23.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG), Odyssey Sims, Soph., G (14.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG), Destiny Williams, Jr., F (10.1 PPG)
The early-morning high school practices, the AAU tournaments, the summer camps, the long, late trips back to campus from mid-week away games - all of that preparation and each of those sacrifices was made in the hope of getting to this point where the Notre Dame women's basketball team finds itself this evening - on the verge of an NCAA championship.
The undefeated Lady Bears are the favorite, that is certain. But perhaps that's not a bad thing for the Fighting Irish. To steal a quote from Kansas head coach Bill Self's pre-game speech, "All the pressure is in that locker room."
Sure, the Jayhawks comeback fell short against Kentucky. But Notre Dame has a tremendous opportunity to take a similar approach - to just go out and play its game. If the Irish can do that, Skylar, Nasty, Dev & Co. very well could be the ones cutting down the net at the end of the night.
- Josh Flynt ('11)
Nine former Notre Dame football student-athletes will be participating in tomorrow's Pro Day activities, but as reported in the South Bend Tribune, another past Irish player will also be making a return to South Bend. See the story excerpt below:
The most prominent of the pro prospects, ND's all-time leading receiver Michael Floyd, is getting a boost from a teammate out of his past - former Irish standout quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
Clausen left ND after his junior season in 2009 to enter the draft and has spent the past two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Of Floyd's school-record 37 touchdown receptions with the Irish, the first 16 were thrown by Clausen. And Clausen will be throwing passes to Floyd Tuesday at the Loftus Center during the position drills portion of Pro Day.
And while we're on the subject of Clausen passing to Floyd, here's a quick look back at one of their three touchdown connections from the 2009 opener:
In addition to Floyd, the other Irish players taking part in Pro Day are S Harrison Smith, CB Robert Blanton, RB Jonas Gray, OL Taylor Dever, OL Trevor Robinson, LB Darius Fleming, K David Ruffer and CB Gary Gray.
Notre Dame's Pro Day begins tomorrow at 11 am in Loftus Center. The event is closed to the public, but check back to UND.com and Irish UNDerground for coverage afterwards.
- Josh Flynt ('11)
As she has done many times before, Skylar Diggins almost broke Twitter last night. @skydigg4 as she is known by her 189,333 followers, is one of the most popular athletes on the ubiquitous social networking website.
But during and after the Final Four game against Connecticut, it was about more than just the Irish point guard. Brittany Mallory was trending, Notre Dame was trending, it seemed everyone was talking about the Fighting Irish.
My feed was full of congratulatory tweets mentioning @NotreDameWBB and post-game reaction from fans, friends, alumni and celebrities. Here are a few (read: many - more like 35, I think) tweets from last night...
Tweeting is a hobby that some people love, while others loathe. There is little doubt in my mind however, that Twitter was invented for nights and games like yesterday's. Where else can you feel like you're watching the tournament with millions of other fans?
- Josh Flynt ('11)