Irish Baseball Earns BIG EAST Honors
Ust takes player of the year, Lidge tabbed top pitcher.
May 12, 1998
NORWICH, Conn.-- Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) and junior righthander Brad Lidge (Englewood, Colo.) are the third pair of teammates to win the BIG EAST Conference player and pitcher of the year awards, as selected by the conference coaches and announced Tuesday at the annual BIG EAST baseball tournament banquet.
Notre Dame led the 11-team conference with four of the 13 players named first team All-BIG EAST: Ust, Lidge, senior shortstop J.J. Brook (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and junior designated hitter Jeff Wagner (Louisville, Ky.). Junior righthander Alex Shilliday (Dunwoody, Ga.) and freshman righthander Aaron Heilman (Loganport, Ind.) were named to the All-BIG EAST second team, giving Notre Dame the most players (6) on the first or second team. Hellman and leftfielder Alec Porzel (Lisle, Ill.) were named to the 12-player BIG EAST All-Rookie team.
The awards held several levels of significance in the 14-year history of the BIG EAST baseball awards. Ust is the third sophomore ever to be named BIG EAST player of the year, joining Seton Hall first first baseman Mo Vaughn (1988) and Connecticut utility player Jason Grabowski (1996) in that distinction.
Rutgers (17-3), which edged Notre Dame (15-4) for the BIG EAST regular season title, placed three players on the All-BIG EAST first team and four on the first or second team, matching Seton Hall for the second-most All-BIG EAST selections. RU third baseman Jake Daubert edged Hellman and St. John's righthander Kevin McGerry for the BIG EAST rookie of the year while RU's Fred Hill was named BIG EAST coach of the year.
Ust and Lidge are the first teammates to sweep the major BIG EAST awards since Providence junior catcher Bob O'Toole and junior pitcher Mike Macone in 1995. Villanova junior second baseman Jack Stanczak earned 1993 BIG EAST co-player of the year honors while VU sophomore David Herr was '93 pitcher of the year. The only other sweep in the BIG EAST baseball awards came in 1986, by Providence senior third baseman Roger Haggerty and and senior pitcher Jim Navillat.
Notre Dame's four first-team selections are the most by one school since the league expanded to 11-teams in 1995-96 and equal the most since St. John's produced a BIG EAST record six first teamers in 1991. Lidge, Shilliday and Heilman arethe first three pitchers from the same staff to receive All-BIG EAST honors (the conference began awarding second team designation in 1994).
Heilman and SJU's McGerry (also a second teamer) are the fifth and sixth freshman pitchers ever named to AllBIG EAST teams, following the footsteps of UConn first teamers Charles Nagy (1987) and John Kelly (1992) and two 1995 second teamers: Todd Incantalupo (Providence) and Jason Grill (Seton Hall). Wagner claimed first team All-BIG EAST honors for the third straight season as DH, joining Vaughn and SHU outfilelder Dana Brown (both 1987-89) as the only three-time first teamers in BIG EAST history.
Ust, a first team All-BIG EAST second baseman and BIG EAST rookie of the year in 1997, led the BIG EAST in 19 conference games with the BIG EAST batting avg. during the '90s (.493). He alson led the BIG EAST in conference slugging pct. (.960) and on-base pct. (.530) while tying for second with eight BIG EAST home runs and ranking seventhwit h26 conference RBI. Ust, who hits safely in 16 of 19 BIG EAST games this season, also ranks among the following BIG EAST categories for all games: first in home runs (17), second in doubles (20), third in slugging (.769), third in hits (78), eighth in runs (81), 10th in RBI (55) and 13th in batting avg. (.392).
Lidge went 5-0 in seven BIG EAST starts, posting wins over Georgetown, Boston College, Villanova, Pittsburgh and Seton Hall. He totaled 52 strikeouts in 45 BIG EAST innings while ranking 11th in the BIG EAST with a 4.00 ERA and fourth with a .221 opponent batting avg. Lidge's overall season statistics include a 7-2 record, a 4.30 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 73.1 innings (trailing only th 91 K's by UConn's Josh Santos among the BIG EAST leaders). He is just 14 K's shy of equaling Frank Carpin's single-season Notre Dame record (1958). Lidge's overall opponent batting average (.239) ranks seventh in the BIG EAST while his 10.8 K's per inning ranks second on the Irish squad.
Brock ranked third in the BIG EAST with a .427 conference batting average, and 28 BIG EAST RBI, fourth with a .780 BIG EAST slugging pct. and seven conference home runs, and ninth with a .487 BIG EAST on-base pct. He ranks seventh among BIG EAST players for overall hits (74) and 10th in home runs (10). Brock made just 18 errors in 53 games while helping the Irish boost their fielding pct. to .962 from .942 last season. Brock's other overall 1998 stats include a .336 batting avg., 13 doubles and 21 walks.
Wagner hit .361 during BIG EAST play, with four home runs and 18 RBI. His 13 overall home runs ranks sixth in the BIG EAST while his other 1998 stats include a .337 batting avg., 13 doubles, .827 slugging, 44 RBI and 28 walks.
Shilladay posted a 4.09 ERA and a 5-2 mark in the BIG EAST, while totaling 37 K's in 44 innings. His 3.11 overall ERA ranks sixth among BIG EAST pitchers while his 82 overall K's rank third behind Santos and Lidge. Shilladay leads the BIG EAST with nine overall victories this season (9-4) while totaling just 22 walks. He ranks third on the team for K's per nine innings (8.8) and second in K-to-walk ratio (3.7).
Heilman ranks second in the nation with a 1.49 ERA in 50.1 innings. He made 10 BIG EAST relief appearances (24.1 innings) while ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in the following conference categories: first in saves (4), third in ERA (1.85), and sixth in opponent batting avg. (.229). He ranks first among BIG EAST pitchers in overall batting avg. (.200), saves (7), appearances (27) and games finished (26 of 26) while ranking fifth in overall K's (73). Heilman has just 10 walks while leading the team in K's per nine inning (10.9) and K-to-walk ratio (4.1). Heilman's 1.49 ERA ranks second-best at Notre Dame since 1962 and and sixth in Irish history.
Porzel has appeared in 49 games, with 44 starts as the teams regular leftfielder. After totaling just a .237 batting avg., two home runs and eight RBI over his first 24 games, Porzel has elevated his game over the last month to produce a .284 batting avg., 35 RBI and seven home runs (both fifth-most on the team). He has made just one error in 52 fielding chances (.951) while also totaling 11 doubles and two triples.
Player of the year:
Pitcher of the year:
Rookie of the year: Jake Daubert, Rutgers, 3B, 6-2/206
Coach of the year: Fred Hill (Rutgers, 606-402-7, 21 years)