Notre Dame Baseball Takes a Break from Conference Schedule
Irish take on the Wolverines from Michigan.
April 21, 1998
ANOTHER BUSY WEEK FOR IRISH
Notre Dame (29-10, 8-0 BIG EAST)-picked first in the BIG EAST coaches poll-plays four non-conference games this week before returning to BIG EAST play with a series at Seton Hall ... the game with Michigan (4/21) again will be played at Old Kent Park in Grand Rapids, Mich. (home of the West Michigan Whitecaps A squad) ... Notre Dame-which has won nine straight and 19 of the last 20-then will play host to Valparaiso (4/22 DH) and Toledo (4/23) before playing at fourth-place Seton Hall (4/25-26) ... the Irish are 47-5 in their last 52 home games at Frank Eck Stadium and 88-14 (.863) in the four-year tenure of Paul Mainieri but will be hoping to improve on their 66-54 (.550) record away from home during the Mainieri era ... the Irish have won their last eight games away from home.
NOTRE DAME 1998 BASEBALL SCHEDULE (29-10)
* All games on WHME radio (103.1 FM) and realaudio (www.und.com).
SCHEDULE NOTES: Notre Dame-which has seen 13 games cancelled due to weather this season in seven different states-has yet to add a makeup game for last Sunday's rainout vs. Pittsburgh ... this week's schedule includes a doubleheader vs. Valparaiso rather than vs. Toledo ... the April 30 date vs. the University of Chicago also has been changed to a DH (the Toledo game originally was a makeup) ... WHME radio (103.1 FM) will carry the remainder of the schedule but, due to scheduling conflicts, will not broadcast the following games that originally were scheduled for WHME-46 TV: Michigan (4/21) and West Virginia (5/2) ... all WHME radio broadcasts are available on realaudio via the Notre Dame website (www.und.com), as are real-time stats and boxscores for home games.
AROUND THE HORN: Notre Dame's doubleheader sweep of Pittsburgh (11-0, 12-1) saw the Irish pitchers allow just four balls out of the infield while totaling 26 K's * each starter had a hit in both games while Alec Porzel, Dan Leatherman, Allen Greene and Jeff Wagner all homered in the nightcap * the Irish are 25-1 when scoring 5-plus runs * Notre Dame has home runs in 18 of the last 21 games (38 in that stretch) and 56 for the season (on pace for a record 86) * Wagner's HR on April 13 vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee was the 38th of his career, breaking the Irish record * Wagner is averaging 10.3 ABs per K and has just three K's in his last 20 games (78 ABs) * Notre Dame has gone 27-4, with wins in 19 of its last 20, since dropping three games at the University of Miami * Ball State's 4-3 win over Notre Dame on April 7 ended the 10-game Irish win streak
* Notre Dame's offensive highlights have included 23 hits vs. Georgetown--equaling the most by a Notre Dame team in the '90s--and a record seven-home-run game at Boston College on April 5 (Dan Leatherman had two, five others had one) * Notre Dame is 30-6 in its last 36 BIG EAST regular-season games, with 13 straight wins and 19 wins in the last 21 * sophomore 3B Brant Ust's 12 HRs have included six on the road while his .793 slugging would best Dan Peltier's ND record (.783, '89) * freshman RHP Aaron Heilman-who won BIG EAST pitcher of the week and rookie of the week in succession (4/7, 4/13)-owns a 21-inning shutout streak over his last 14 appearances * Heilman's 1.32 ERA would rank 5th in the nation (he is 5 innings shy of the minimum) and represents the 2nd-best ERA at Notre Dame in the last 26 seasons.
Notre Dame's Probable Starting Lineup *-lefthanded hitter; #-switch hitter Pos.Player Yr. Ht./Wt. Hometown CF #Allen Greene Jr. 6-1/195 Seattle, WA .338, 35 RBI, 40 R, 7 HR, 2 3B, 11 2B, 21 BB/27 K, 3-9 SB, 3 E Reached on 40.9% of leadoff ABs
SERIES NOTES: Notre Dame leads its all-time series with Seton Hall, 5-3, including a forgettable series last season at SHU (4-5, 0-16, 10-16) ... the Irish swept the 1996 series (7-1, 15-1, 10-1) while also eliminating the Pirates from the '97 BIG EAST Tournament, behind Alex Shilliday's complete game (2 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 6 K's), Mike Amrhein's 37th career home run and two-hit games from Jeff Wagner (2 RBI) and J.J. Brock (RBI) ... Notre Dame and Michigan have met 106 times, with UM holding a 72-34 series edge ... Notre Dame defeated Michigan 6-4 in 1892, the first varsity game for the Notre Dame program ... UM won last year's game at Old Kent Park, 5-3, before 5,350 fans ... Marlon Wright (2 R, 2 BB, 2 K's) scattered six hits over the first seven innings while fellow Brian Steinbach (2.1 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 2 K's) picked up the save ...
UM Michigan scored five unearned runs in the 7th, after three Irish errors ... Chris McKeown was the hard-luck loser (6.2 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 2 K's) ... Notre Dame's #2-#5 hitters batted just 2-for-17, including an 0-for-4 game by Jeff Wagner and 1-for-4 by Brant Ust ... J.J. Brock, Todd Frye and McKeown made the costly Irish errors in the 7th ... the Irish beat Michigan at Eck Stadium, 8-3, late in the '96 season behind a three-run triple from Scott Sollmann (who went on to play for the West Michigan Whitecaps) and solo shots by George Restovich and Brock ... Mike Balicki pitched two shutout innings to get the win, in front of nearly 1,800 "Turn Back the Clock Night" fans ...
The teams also played at Old Kent Park in 1995, with Michigan winning 7-6 in 14 innings ... Notre Dame leads its all-time series vs. Valparaiso, 58-19 ... Notre Dame 10-6 at home over Valparaiso last season behind a balanced offense, led by Jeff Felker (solo HR, two-run 2B, BB, R) and Jeff Perconte (2-for-3, RBI, 3 R) ... McKeown picked up the '96 win over Valparaiso (11-3), with Allen Greene going 2-for-4 with an RBI ... Notre Dame holds a 29-12 series edge on Toledo, with Mark Lapinskas' shutout relief appearance (2.2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 8 K's) keying last year's 15-9 home run over the Rockets ... Wagner hit a pair of two-run HRs in that game to ignite a middle-inning comeback.
OPPONENT NOTES: Seton Hall returned nine of 15 letterwinners from its 1997 team that went 32-22 and finished 3rd in the BIG EAST Nation Division (13-11) ... the Pirates are currently 4th in the BIG EAST (10-4, 21-13 overall) after sweeping Villanova last week ... SHU's team stats: .306 batting, 34 HRs, 41-58 SBs, 4.65 ERA, .951 fielding ... top SHU hitters: sr. 3B Craig Zimmerli (.373, 8 HR, 43 RBI) and fr. IF/OF John Bravette (.369, 2 HR, 22 RBI) ... top SHU pitchers: soph. RHP Cameron Esslinger (3.35, 4-3, 53.2 IP, 54 K/28 BB) and fr. RHP BJ Benik (4.24, 5-1, 46.2 IP, 33 K/12 BB) ...
Michigan returned 27 of 32 letterwinners from its '97 team that went 36-22 and won the BIG Ten regular-season title (17-9) ... the Wolverines have struggled to a .16-20-1 record .. UM team stats: .301 batting, 31 HRs, 36-of-52 SBs, 7.36 ERA, .966 fielding ... Valparaiso returned 21 of 24 letterwinners from its 1997 team that went 20-31-1 ... Valpo is 21-15-1, with the following team stats: .279 batting, 27 HRs, 37-of-62 SBs, 4.24 ERA, .971 fielding ... Toledo is 11-23, with .282 batting, 21 HRs, 23-of-38 SBs, a 7.86 ERA and .962 fielding.
SHILLIDAY, LIDGE HIGHLIGHT DOMINATING NIGHT AT THREE RIVERS: Junior RHPs Alex Shilliday and Brad Lidge highlighted a dominating 25-strikeout doubleheader by the Notre Dame pitching, 11-0, 12-1, in BIG EAST action April 18 at Three Rivers Stadium ... Shilliday (8-2)-who earned BIG EAST pitcher of the week-and Lidge (6-2) both pitched seven innings while sophomore RHPs Steve Szczepanski and Scott Cavey each pitched an inning to close out the nightcap ... the Irish hurlers' dominating 48 outs broke down as follows: 25 strikeouts, 15 groundouts, 3 double-play balls, 3 infield popups, 1 caught stealing and 1 flyout ... the Irish allowed just nine baserunners on four hits, four walks and one hit batter while facing 53 batters, five over the 16-inning minimum ... Shilliday--who is 14-3 in his last 17 decisions with the Irish, in addition to going 9-0 last summer in the competitive Alaska League--was working on a no-hitter in the sixth inning before Aaron Vicari laid a leadoff, first-pitch bunt down the first-base line ...
Shilliday ultimately needed just 79 pitches and faced just 23 batters, two over the seven-inning minimum, allowing one hit, one walk and one hit batter while totaling nine strikeouts ... the game marked the first solo one-hitter by an Irish pitcher in five years, since David Sinnes posted a 6-0 win at Evansville on April 24, 1993 (9 IP, 1 BB, 1 HP, 5 K's, 31 BF) ... Chris McKeown and Tim Kalita one-hit Bowling Green last season ... the last Irish no-hitter came May 11, 1988, when Brian Piotrowicz posted a 4-0 seven-inning win over Ball State ... Shilliday allowed just one ball to leave the infield--Harry Ciavarella's flyout to center field that ended the game ...
He had two strikeouts in each of the first four innings while serving up eight groundouts and two infield popups to go along with his nine K's (the other out came on a caught-stealing) ... Lidge (109 pitchers) kept things going in the nightcap, racking up a career-best 12 strikeouts and facing just 25 batters over seven innings, allowing two hits and three walks while totaling six groundouts, one infield popup and two double-play balls ... Lidge's 12 K's equal the most by an Irish pitcher--former teammate Darin Schmalz also had 12, in a nine-inning 1996 game vs. Georgetown--since Bob Bartlett totaled 13 K's vs. Bethel in 1980 ... Szczepanski yielded an unearned run on two hits in the eighth, with one K, while Cavey came on to strike out three straight batters in the ninth.
19-1 RUN RANKS 5TH-BEST IN IRISH HISTORY: Notre Dame heads into the Michigan game with victories in 19 of its last 20 games, equaling the fifth-best streak with one loss in the program's 107-year history ... the Irish also turned in 19-1 runs in 1991, 1992 and '94 ... the best one-loss runs in Irish history include a 21-1 streak in 1992 and 20-1 runs in 1980, 1990 and 1991 ... top Irish hitters over the last 20 games include: sophomore 3B Brant Ust (.5-7, 29 RBI, 8 HR, 10 2B), senior 1B Dan Leatherman (.431, 12 RBI, 25 R, 4 HR, 5 2B, 11 2B), junior C Jeff Wagner (.403, 24 RBI, 7 HR, 5 2B) and senior SS J.J. Brock (.403, 28 RBI, 5 HR, 8 2B) ... the Irish are hitting .367 in the current 19-1 run , with a .638 team slugging pct. (37 home runs, 11 triples and 50 doubles), 2.77 team ERA, .233 opponent batting and a .961 team fielding pct. (29 errors).
BOMBS AWAY: Notre Dame set a team record with seven home runs in the 16-6 win at Boston College on April 5 ... the home runs came from senior 1B Dan Leatherman (2), sophomore 3B Brant Ust, junior C Jeff Wagner, senior SS J.J. Brock, junior CF Allen Greene and freshman LF Alec Porzel ... a week earlier, the Irish racked up 23 hits in a 19-7 win over Georgetown, equaling the most hits by an Irish team in the 1990s ... top hitters in that game included Ust and sophomore RF Jeff Felker (both 4-for-6), with Greene, Brock, Leatherman and junior C Mike Knecht adding three hits each.
IMPROVED FIELDING BOOSTS IRISH: One of the question areas heading into the 1998 season was defense-particularly in the infield-and the Irish have responded in strong fashion ... Notre Dame ranked 10th in the BIG EAST last season (.942), after averaging 2.2 errors per game (132 total) and seeing eight of its 19 defeats come as a result of unearned runs ... this season, the Irish fielding has made a big 16-point jump to .958, ranking 2nd in the BIG EAST ... the Irish are averaging just 1.59 errors per game while totaling seven error-free games, 14 with one error and just six with three-plus errors ... sophomore 3B Brant Ust actually has a lower fielding pct. (.891, 13 E) than he did last season (.931, 18) but senior SS J.J. Brock has boosted his fielding from .884 (26 E) to .915 (15 E) ... the other middle infielder, senior 2B Todd Frye, owns an impressive .962 fielding pct. (just 7 E), more than 100 points above his '97 pct. (.860, 22 E) ...
senior 1B Dan Leatherman's fielding numbers (.977, 7 E) are comparable to Jeff Felker's from last season (.981., 8 E), although Leatherman has come up with countless tough plays ... the combined fielding pct. of Ust, Brock, Frye and Leatherman is .947 (42 errors), a full 40 points above the combined pct. of .927 (85 E) posted by Ust, Brock, Frye, Felker and SS Paul Turco (.892, 11 E) last season ... last year's infield averaged 1.42 errors per game, compared to 1.06 this season ... a hidden factor behind the improved fielding is the boost in strikeouts by the Irish pitching staff ... the Irish hurlers are averaging 8.58 K's per nine innings, compared to 7.12 last season ...
strikeouts have accounted for 31.8 percent of the Irish putouts this season, compared to just 26.4 percent last season ... junior CF Allen Greene has made a smooth transition after shifting over from LF ... Greene has a .961 fielding pct. and just three errors, ahead of Randall Brook's .935 fielding in center last season (8 E) ... Greene made five errors in left field last season (.941) but freshman LF Alec Porzel has just one error this season (.970) ... current junior C Jeff Wagner (0) and '97 graduate Mike Amrhein (6) combined for just six errors behind the plate last season, comparable to the totals of Wagner (7) and classmate Mike Knecht (0) this season.
STREAK #2: Notre Dame's recent 10-game win streak ended with a 4-3 loss to Ball State on April 7, leaving the Irish one shy of equaling the longest run in the four-year Paul Mainieri era ... the streak was the longest since the 1996 Irish team also won 10 straight in midseason ... since the BSU loss, the Irish have won nine straight and could push the streak to double digits with a win Tuesday over Michigan ... the Irish turned in three seven-game winning streaks in 1997 ... the longest winning streak during the Mainieri era came in his first season, an 11-game run from April 13-23 of 1995 ...
top hitters in the current nine-game streak are: sophomore 3B Brant Ust (.517, 12 RBI, HR, 3 2B), senior 2B Todd Frye (.483, 5 R), junior C Jeff Wagner (.469, 9 RBI, 2 HR, 3 2B), senior 1B Dan Leatherman (.409, 3 RBI, 11 R, 2 HR) and junior CF Allen Greene (.393, 9 RBI, 12 R, 2 HR) ... the Irish are hitting .377 during the current win streak, with a .620 slugging pct. (12 HR, 6 3B, 21 2B), a 2.41 team ERA and a .959 fielding pct. (13 errors) ... top hitters during the earlier 10-game streak were: Ust (.524, 7 HR, 7 2B 16 RBI), senior SS J.J. Brock (.476, 4 HR, 18 RBI), Leatherman (.455, 9 RBI, 13 R) and sophomore RF/DH Jeff Felker (.436, 2 HR, 15 RBI).
CLEARING THE COBWEBS: Notre Dame has been outscored 30-18 in the 1st inning this season, despite outscoring the opposition 294-204 overall ... Notre Dame's most productive innings have been the 2nd (43), 6th (43), 4th (41) and 5th (41) while the best run differential has been +27 in the 6th inning (43-16) ... the Irish have outscored the opposition by 46 runs from the 6th inning on (120-74) but own just a +11 run differential in the first three innings (92-81).
IRISH GET BEST OF CRAFTY LEFTHANDERS: Notre Dame is 9-1 vs. lefty starters, with wins in games started by Purdue's David Gassner (12-6, 7-1), BYU's Matt Rex (15-4), Georgetown's Randy Erwin (19-7) and Derek Pines (10-2), Boston College's Andy Sullivan (6-4) and David Conley (16-6), Manchester's Erik Fike (11-1) and Pittsburgh's Kevin Lazeski (12-1) ... the Irish lost the Indiana Tech game started by Warriors' lefthander Ken Fischer (2-7), despite totaling nine hits (the Irish were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position) ... Notre Dame is hitting .373 vs. lefthanders, a full 49 points above the team's overall batting average ... the Irish regular starting lineup includes three switch-hitters-senior 2B Todd Frye, junior CF Allen Greene and sophomore RF Jeff Perconte-while freshman reserve Ben Cooke also bats from both sides.
HOME SWEET HOME: Notre Dame is 41-5 at home over the past two seasons, losing last year to Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1-2) and Northwestern (3-12) and this season to Indiana Tech (2-7), Northeastern Illinois (4-10) and Ball State (3-4) ... the Irish were 8-2 during the March 24-April 2 homestand, hitting .349 with 16 home runs, four triples, 25 doubles and 85 runs scored ... the Irish pitching staff posted a 3.45 ERA during those games, with 86 strikeouts in 86 innings and a .227 opponent batting average ... in 19 overall home games, the Irish are hitting .347 with 27 home runs, nine triples, 43 doubles, a .578 slugging pct., a 3.45 ERA and .955 fielding (32 errors)... top hitters at home this season include sophomore 3B Brant Ust (.449, 6 HR, 21 RBI), junior C Jeff Wagner (.397, 6 HR, 20 RBI) and sophomore RF Jeff Felker (.389, 4 HR, 16 RBI).
BIG EAST BULLIES: Three current Notre Dame players rank among the BIG EAST's top-seven all-time leaders for career batting average in regular-season conference games: sophomore 3B Brant Ust (1st, .458/54-for-118), junior C Jeff Wagner (3rd, .422/78-for-185) and senior SS J.J. Brock (9th, .408/75-for-184) ... Irish players also hold down the top-three spots this season for BIG EAST batting avg.-Ust (.590/23-for-39), Leatherman (.516/16-for-31) and Brock (.488/21-for-43)-as part of an Irish squad that leads the BIG EAST with a .404 team batting avg. in conference games ... each of those players also own BIG EAST slugging percentages that are above .900: Ust (1.128/4 HR-1 3B-7 2B-11 1B), Leatherman (1.097/4 HR-1 3B-4 2B-7 1B) and Brock (.930/4 HR-2 3B-3 2B-12 1B) ...
that trio has combined for as many extra-base hits (30) as singles in BIG EAST play, including 12 home runs, four triples and 14 doubles ... Ust's .458 career BIG EAST avg. is ahead of the standing record, held by Seton Hall's Marteese Robinson (.432, 1985-87) ... former Villanova player Dennis McCaffery (.420, 1990-91), former Irish player Randall Brooks (.418, 1996-97) and West Virginia's Jason Frushour (.418, 1996-97) are among the players in front of Brock ... Wagner last week smacked his Irish-record 38th and 39th career home runs while his 19 home runs in 57 career BIG EAST games are 3rd in BIG EAST history, behind Seton Hall's Mo Vaughn (26 in 53 games, 1987-89) and UConn's Jason Grabowski (21 in 70 gms, 1995-97).
A NEW BIG THREE: Jeff Wagner (17), Mike Amrhein (14) and Brant Ust (11) last season became the first Notre Dame threesome each to hit 10-plus home runs in the same season but it appears that--following the graduation of Amrhein--Wagner, Ust and senior SS J.J. Brock could soar past the 42 home runs totaled by last season's big trio ... Ust (12) and Wagner (12) already have hit double digits in home runs while the current trio needs just one more home run from Brock (9) to equal last season's feat of three batters with double-digit home runs ...
Ust (19), Wagner (19) and Brock (14) all are on pace for three of the top-nine home run totals in Irish history, with Frank Jacobs record of 20 ('91) in jeopardy ... Tim Hutson ('88) and Ryan Topham ('95) both turned in 18-home-run seasons while Wagner had 17 in '97 ... a pair of Irish players have each belted 13-plus home runs in the same season three times: Jacobs (20) an Joe Binkiewicz (15) in 1991, Edwin Hartwell (13) and Eric Danapilis (13) in '93 and Wagner (17) and Mike Amrhein (14) last season ... the current threesome is on pace for an impressive 52 home runs, which would best the team totals for all but five seasons in Irish baseball history (66 in 1997, 64 in '93, 62 in '91, 60 in '95 and 58 in '96).
K'S CONTINUE TO MOUNT: The Notre Dame pitching staff last week turned in a season-high 16 strikeouts in last week's second game versus Pittsburgh, after recently totaling 13 K's in the series finale vs. Georgetown (3/29), 14 vs. Western Michigan and 15 vs. Bowling Green ... the staff has totaled 316 strikeouts in 331 and two-third innings, which factors out to 8.58 K's per nine innings--3rd-best in Irish history and best in 25 years, since the 1963 team averaged 8.68 ...
the Notre Dame pitchers are on pace to total 486 K's over a 60-game season, which would blow away the record total of 399 set last season ... freshman RHP Aaron Heilman has 43 K's and just eight walks in 34 innings, for 11.4 K's/9 IP (2nd-best on the squad) and a team-leading 5.4 K-to-BB ratio ... junior RHP Alex Shilliday owns impressive ratios in those areas as well (10.0, 4.7), after totaling 71 K's and just 15 walks in 64 innings ... junior RHP Brad Lidge has 72 K's in 45.1 IP (for team-best 12.2 K's/gm) while sophomore LHP Tim Kalita has 38 in 37.2 (9.1).
PICKING UP THE PACE: After totaling 38 home runs, 51 doubles and a .366 team batting average over the past 21 games, Notre Dame is back on pace to challenge many of the offensive records it set last season ... based on a 60-game season, Notre Dame is on pace for 86 home runs and 132 doubles--both ahead of last year's record totals (66 and 127) ... the Irish are averaging 23.4 at-bats per home run (ahead of the 1991 record, 30.53) and 1.44 home runs per game (the record of 1.10 was set last season) ... the current .541 slugging pct. also would best the record set last season (.529) while the team batting avg. (.324) has surged to 5th in Irish history.
STATS CAN BE DECEIVING: Notre Dame's season ERA still remains somewhat skewed by the three-game series at the potent University of Miami, when the Hurricanes totaled 52 earned runs in 24 innings ... the current team ERA of 4.21 is better than last year's final ERA (4.51) but Notre Dame's team ERA is just 2.87 since the Miami series (over 31 games) and is 2.95 when excluding the Miami series altogether-which would rank ahead of the NCAA leader St. Francis (3.34) ... junior RHP Alex Shilliday has a 2.81 overall ERA but 2.15 when throwing out his Miami game ... another junior RHP, Brad Lidge, would see his ERA drop from 4.22 to 2.77 when not counting his Miami outing ... two lefthanders--junior Chris McKeown (4.23/2.77) and sophomore Tim Kalita (3.58/2.12)--also would see their ERA take a major drop without their Miami outings ... opposing batters are hitting .260 vs. the Irish this season and just .238 when not counting Miami's 58-hit barrage.
THE PRODIGAL SON RETURNS: Sophomore RF/DH Jeff Felker (Ellicott City, Md.) was the only Notre Dame player last season who hit better on the opponents' field (.417) than at home (.318) but this season he has come full circle, hitting .389 in the friendly confines of Eck Stadium but just .239 in all road games (.222 on the opponent's field) ... Felker bounced back from a rocky start to his 1998 season while settling in as Notre Dame's #3 hitter .... after a forgettable 9-for-53 start (.170), Felker has raised his season batting average to .306, including 28-for-68 (.412) during the last 22 games.
BUSTING OUT: Irish 3B Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) has put to rest any notions of a sophomore slump, after garnering consensus Freshman All-America honors and the BIG EAST rookie of the year award in 1997 ... Ust has surpassed his freshman home run total (11) with a team-high 12, including nine in the last 21 games .. his .793 season slugging pct. (16 doubles, 28 singles, one triple) would best the team record set by eventual Major Leaguer Dan Peltier in '89 (.783) while Ust's current .421 batting avg. would rank 6th in Irish history and best since 1993 (when Edwin Hartwell hit .447 and Eric Danapilis .429) ...
Ust leads the BIG EAST this season with a .590 batting average in conference games while his .458 career average in BIG EAST games is ahead of the record held by Seton Hall's Marteese Robinson (.432, 1985-87) ... Ust's other season totals include team-highs in RBI (43), stolen bases (7-of-11) and on-base pct. (.463), plus 37 runs, 12 walks and four sacrifice flies ... he also leads the team in two-out batting (.429) and has reached base on a team-best 60.9 percent of his chances when leading off the inning ... Ust is on pace for 94 hits (3rd in Irish history), 19 home runs (2nd) and 25 doubles (2nd) ... the Irish season home run record is held by Frank Jacobs (20 in '91) ... Peltier's record slugging season included 63 singles, an Irish-record 32 doubles, five triples and 15 home runs in 258 at-bats (202 total bases) ... Ust currently has 115 total bases in 145 ABs.
CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: Senior SS J.J. Brock (Colorado Springs, Colo.) has turned in a senior year that is similar to the final season of another former Irish captain and leftside infielder, Craig Counsell, who earned team MVP honors and NCAA Tournament All-Regional honors for the 1992 team that was a win away from the College World Series ... Brock's nine home runs have surpassed his total (8) from the previous three seasons and he is on pace for a 65-RBI season over 60 games, after totaling 29, 41 and 50 his first three seasons ... by comparison, Counsell hit 12 home runs as a senior--double his total (6) from the first three seasons--while collecting 63 RBI (he had 32, 24 and 37 his first three years) ... Brock has a .627 slugging pct. this season (.430 over his first three seasons) while Counsell posted .604 slugging as a senior (.388 over his first three seasons) ...
Counsell was selected in the 11th round of the '92 draft by the Colorado Rockies and ironically spent several seasons playing in Brock's hometown with the AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox ... Brock heads into the week tied with current Irish assistant Cory Mee (219, '92) for 3rd on the Irish career games played list ... by playing in 18 more games, Brock would pass Mike Coss (235, '91) and Counsell (236) atop the Irish record book ... Brock also trails only Counsell (223) in career starts and could move atop that list during the series at Seton Hall ... Brock has missed just three games in his career (one during each of the past three seasons) ... he also ranks 5th in career hits at Notre Dame (247), 9th in career RBI (162, just four out of 5th), 2nd in career triples (15) and 7th in career doubles (39).
HARD TO BEAT: Junior righthander Alex Shilliday (Dunwoody, Ga.) is 14-3 in his last 17 decisions with the Irish (7-2 this season), in addition to going 9-0 last summer in Alaska with the Peninsula Oilers ... Shilliday's losses this season include a 17-3 game vs. the potent Miami Hurricanes and a 9-4 game vs. Southwest Texas, in which Irish errors led to seven unearned runs ... Shilliday-who has won his last six starts-could prove to be one of the BIG EAST's top pitchers this season, after the conference saw 10 of its pitchers drafted in the first 30 rounds at the end of the '97 season ... Shilliday (71) and classmate Brad Lidge (72) sit atop the BIG EAST strikeout list while Shilliday already ranks 9th in Irish history with 187 career K's, just five behind Pat Leahy (1990-92) and former teammate Darin Schmalz ('97) and 14 behind 1990 graduate Brian Piotrowicz ...
Shilliday needs 39 more strikeouts to total the most K's ever by an Irish player in three seasons, a distinction currently held by David Sinnes, who totaled 325 from 1990-92 (Tom Bujnowski, who played in 1952, '56 and '57, totaled 206 K's) ... based on a minimum of four more starts and his current average of six K's per start, Shilliday would add roughly 24 more K's to move past Bujnowski into 5th on the career strikeout list ... should Shilliday remain healthy throughout his senior season, he could make a run at the top-four Irish strikeout leaders, a formidable group that played together for three seasons: Sinnes (315, '93), Tom Price (276, '94), Chris Michalak (263, '93) and Al Walania (236, '93).
TOUGH OUT: In addition to setting the Irish career home run record (38), junior C Jeff Wagner has developed into a complete hitter ... Wagner is second on the team in batting average (.368), after hitting 21-for-46 (.457) during his current 12-game hitting streak ... Wagner has nearly as many home runs (12) as strikeouts (14) this season, in addition to 17 walks and an average of 10.29 at-bats per K ... he has just three K's in the last 20 games (78 ABs) ... Wagner hit 10 home runs as a freshman but struck out 44 times, every 4.11 ABs ... as a sophomore, Wagner smacked 17 home runs while improving his strikeout ratio to every 7.8 ABs (28 Ks) ... for his career, Wagner is averaging a home run every 13.95 at-bats and 6.40 ABs per K ... during the past two seasons, Wagner has homered every 12.57 at-bats and averaged 8.64 ABs per K.
HEILMAN CREEPS "CLOSER": Freshman righthander Aaron Heilman (Logansport, Ind.) recently earned back-to-back BIG EAST pitcher of the week (4/6) and rookie of the week (4/13) honors while pushing his shutout streak to 21 innings, over 14 appearances ... Heilman's stats during the shutout streak include a 2-0 record, 5 saves, 31 strikeouts, 7 walks, 8 hits allowed and a .114 opponent batting avg ... he owns a 1.32 season ERA that ranks sixth-best in Irish history and second-lowest at Notre Dame since 1962, with David Sinnes' NCAA-leading 1.05 in 1990 standing as the best ERA by an Irish player in the last 36 seasons ... Heilman is just shy of having enough innings he (has 34 but needs 39) to qualify among the NCAA leaders (he would be 5th), as players are required to have pitched one inning per team game ... Heilman leads the staff in opponent batting average (.183) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.4) while ranking second to Brad Lidge (12.2) in strikeouts per nine innings (11.4).
WINNING THE CLOSE ONES: Notre Dame is 6-2 in games decided by one run or in extra innings this season, posting victories over Indiana (6-5), Southern Illinois (4-3), Cincinnati (3-2), Georgetown (7-6), Bowling Green (6-4 in 11 innings) and Manchester (3-2) ... the Irish beat IU when Jeff Perconte's single plated Todd Frye in the bottom of the 9th ... Notre Dame jumped out to a 4-1 lead on SIU--highlighted by J.J. Brock's solo home run in the 1st and single and run scored in the 3rd ... Jeff Wagner brought home Perconte and beat Cincinnati with an 8th-inning home run ... Brock's two-out double in the 6th inning scored Frye to end the seven-inning opener with Georgetown ... Wagner hit a two-out single vs. Bowling Green in the 11th and Brant Ust followed with a game-ending, opposite-field home run ... Allen Greene's 5th-inning, pinch-hit single plated Ben Cooke to beat Manchester ... the Irish lost a 4-3 game in 11 innings at New Orleans and dropped a 4-3 game to Ball State earlier this week.
GREENE STILL MEANS GO: Junior CF Allen Greene has settled in as Notre Dame's leadoff hitter, a spot he has occupied for 25 of the 39 games this season ... Greene has hits in 33 games this season, including a seven-game hitting streak and an 11-game streak (second-longest by an Irish player this season) that ended on April 1 vs. Western Michigan ... Greene led the Irish last season with a .435 batting avg. when runners were in scoring position and ranks 3rd this season with a .379 batting average with RBI opportunities.
BIG EAST ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY: The BIG EAST has changed its baseball alignment for the 1998 season, as the 11 teams are competing as one conference, as opposed to the previous two-division format ... the top six teams will advance to the BIG EAST Tournament, May 13-16 in Norwich, Conn. ... Notre Dame won last year's National Division title with the best winning pct. of any BIG EAST team (15-6) while West Virginia captured the American Division title (17-7) ... three National Division teams--Rutgers, Seton Hall and Villanova--also advanced to last year's BIG EAST Tournament while St. John's joined WVU out of the American ... WVU, Providence and St. John's advanced from the American Division in 1996 while the National entrants were Villanova, Rutgers and Notre Dame.
HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI has experienced two noteworthy homecomings this season, making his second return to the University of New Orleans with the Irish baseball program and his second return to his hometown of Miami as the Notre Dame coach ... Mainieri is in his 16th season as a college head coach, with a record of 486-347 (.583), including 154-68 (.694) in three-plus seasons with the Irish ... Mainieri fittingly coached his 800th game Feb. 20 at Miami, ironically after the Feb. 15 game at UNO was rained out ... he is 22 victories away from the 500-win plateau ... Mainieri's 154 wins rank 4th at Notre Dame, behind Larry Gallo (157, 1981-87), Pat Murphy (318, 1988-84) and Jake Kline (558, 1934-75) ... Mainieri has seen 13 of his Irish players go on to pro baseball, with nine selected in the major-league draft ... Mainieri and his father Demie are the only known father-son combination in college baseball history to each top 400 career coaching wins ... Demie won 1,018 games in his 30-year career at Miami-Dade North CC ... in the Mainieri era, the Irish have visited the following cities: Fullerton, CA, Seattle, WA, San Antonio, TX, Miami, FL, Atlanta, GA, New Orleans, LA, Boston, MA, Washington, D.C., Long Beach, CA, New York City, NY, and Orlando, FL.
QUICK NOTES: Notre Dame went 3-1 during the Spring Break stay in San Antonio, Texas but saw its final three games called off due to the rain ... the Irish turned in a championship performance at the Diamond Classic in Evansville, Ind., which featured the state's eight Division I teams (wins over Evansville, Purdue and Indiana) ... fourth-year Irish head coach Paul Mainieri this season had homecoming weekends at Miami (where he grew up) and at the University of New Orleans (where he played) ... Mainieri fittingly coached his 800th career game on Feb. 20 at Miami (his 800th game ironically was rained out at UNO) ... the Irish won the earliest season-opener in the program's 106-year history, beating then-#23 Florida State 10-1 on Jan. 30 at the ACC/Disney Baseball Blast in Orlando, Fla. ... the Irish then lost a pair of tough two-run games to North Carolina State (10-8) and Duke (3-1) ...
each of that tournament's six teams was listed among the top 50 teams in Baseball America's preseason rankings (Ohio State and Tennessee also took on the ACC teams), with FSU (4th), Notre Dame (7th), NCSU (10th), OSU (14th) and Tennessee (17th) ranking among the nation's winningest Division I teams in the '90's ... freshman RHP Danny Tamayo remains out with an arm injury while sophomore DH Larry Zimont is out with a hamstring pull. .. Notre Dame returned 22 players and 16 of 26 letterwinners from its '97 team that went 41-19, won the BIG EAST Conference national division title (15-6) and went 2-2 in the BIG EAST Tournament ... the Irish return seven of nine offensive starters and five pitchers with starting experience ... the 22 returners accounted for 66% of the hits last season, 68% of the RBI, 70% of the home runs, 54% of the wins, 62% of the innings and 66% of the K's thrown ... the '97 Notre Dame squad set team records for HRs (66), doubles (127), slugging (.529) and K's thrown (399) while equaling the record for team batting avg. (.334).
TEAM NOTES: Prior to the Jan. 30 game vs. FSU, Notre Dame's earliest opener came on an unseasonably warm day on Feb. 5, 1990, when the Irish posted a 3-0 home victory over Goshen ... the 10-1 win over FSU gave Notre Dame its first opening-game win since an 8-2 win at Tulane in 1994, with the recent opening losses coming vs. Texas, Georgia Tech and Long Beach State ... that Irish win also snapped a 16-year FSU winning streak on opening day (Georgia Southern beat FSU in '81, 3-2) ... Notre Dame's 7-5 win over Central Michigan on Feb. 25 was the earliest home opener for the Irish since that 1990 Goshen game ... Notre Dame has posted nine straight seasons with 40-plus wins and is 413-159 during the past nine-plus seasons (average record of 45-17) ... Notre Dame's 32-player roster includes players from 17 states.
Notre Dame's totals of 43 HRs, 130 2Bs and 237 K's thrown have the Irish on pace for records in those categories: 89 HRs, 130 2Bs and 490 K's thrown (the standing records of 66, 127 and 399 were set last season) ... the team's .525 slugging is just off last year's record (.529) ... the Irish are averaging 1.48 HRs per game (record of 1.10 set in '97) and 23.2 ABs per HR (record of 30.53 set in '91) ... the pitching staff's 8.48 K's per nine innings remains 4th-best in Irish history and highest since '63 ...
Ust already is tied with George Restovich for 9th in Irish history with 22 career home runs ... Brock's 209 career starts are tied with Eric Danapilis (1990-93) for 4th in the Irish record books ... Brock's 236 career hits move his past former teammate Randall Brooks (233) and Craig Counsell (235; 1989-92) into 6th on the Irish career hits list, three behind former teammate Scott Sollmann.
JANUARY Fri. 30 j vs. #23 Florida State W, 10-1 Sat. 31 j vs. N.C. State L, 8-10