Diamond Classic Awaits Irish
Zimont, Ust and Wagner lead team offensively
Of Note: There will be no WHME radio coverage of the Diamond Classic (38 of the final 44 games will be broadcast by WHME 103.1 FM, available via realaudio through the Notre Dame website, at www.und.com).
The Notre Dame baseball team heads to the Diamond baseball Classic in Evansville this week, after posting a 7-5 win over Central Michigan in a makeup game for the Feb. 15 rainout at the University of New Orleans ... junior CF Allen Greene and freshman LF Alec Porzel both hit two-run home runs in the win over CMU while freshman RHP Danny Tamayo allowed just an unearned run over the final four-plus innings ... the Irish are looking to put a forgettable weekend at #7 Miami behind them, after losing 18-3, 27-2 and 17-3 to the potent Hurricanes ... the Diamond Classic will feature each of Indiana's eight Division I teams, half of which were ranked among Baseball America's preseason top-100 teams: Notre Dame (33rd), Evansville (69th), Ball State (90th) and Purdue (99th) ... the Irish open up with host Evansville on Friday, Feb. 27 at approximately 7 PM ... four games are scheduled for each day, with the weekend scheduled to-be-determined based on the previous day's results ... WHME radio will not broadcast the Diamond Classic or the first game vs. Southwest Texas in San Antonio on March 7 ... fourth-year Irish head coach Paul Mainieri is coming off two homecoming weekends ... Mainieri, a 1975 graduate of Miami's Christopher Columbus High School, also played at the University of New Orleans ... the Irish loss a tough 4-3, 11-inning game at UNO before coming back to beat Loyola (La.) 5-2 ... the second game vs. UNO was rained out ... 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), NC State (10th), OSU (14th) and Tennessee (17th) all ranking among the nation's winningest Division I teams during the 1990s ... the top Irish hitters through three weeks: sophomore DH Larry Zimont (.407, 4 RBI), sophomore 3B Brant Ust (.324, 5 RBI, 1 HR), junior C Wagner (.300, 6 RBI, 1 HR) and junior C Allen Greene (.297, 6 RBI, 2 HR) ... junior RHP Alex Shilliday needs 16 more strikeouts to pass Don Wolfe (149, 1956-58) into 10th on the Irish career strikeouts list ... senior SS J.J. Brock last week became the 10th Irish player ever to reach 200 career hits (he now has 201) ... Wagner's 28 career home runs are tied for sixth in Irish history, one behind Eric Danapilis ('93).
QUICK NOTRE DAME NOTES: Notre Dame returns 22 total players and 16 of 26 letterwinners from its 1997 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 ... despite losing 10 letterwinners, the bulk of the program's statistical leaders are back, as 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 strikeouts thrown ... the '97 Notre Dame squad set team records for home runs (66), doubles (127), slugging (.529) and K's thrown (399) while equaling the record for team batting avg. (.334) ... the Irish closed '97 by winning 15 of their final 18 BIG EAST games and 32 of 40 overall, with five of the final eight losses coming by one run ... unearned runs provided the margin of defeat in eight of Notre Dame's 19 losses last season.
THE SERIES: Notre Dame leads six of its seven series vs. the Diamond Classic teams: 12-8 vs. Ball State, 63-16 vs. Butler, 20-9 vs. Evansville (see more below), 67-20-1 vs. Indiana, 72-36-3 vs. Purdue and 58-19 vs. Valparaiso ... Indiana State holds a 7-5 series edge on the Irish ... Notre Dame owns a combined 297-115-4 record (.719) vs. the Diamond Class field ... four of Notre Dame's 10-most common all-time opponents are in the Diamond Classic: Purdue (111 games, 4th-most), Indiana (98, 6th), Butler (79, 9th) and Valparaiso (77, 10th) ... Notre Dame won 6-4 last season at Purdue (April 15) before posting a late 10-6 home win over Valparaiso (April 29) ... Allen Greene's pinch-hit, eighth-inning double won last year's game at Purdue while J.J. Brock was 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored ... last year's win over Valparaiso featured a balanced offense, led by Jeff Felker's (solo home run, two-run double, walk and run scored) and Jeff Perconte (2-for-3, 1 RBI, 3 runs) ... Notre Dame's home game vs. Indiana last season (April 9) was cancelled due to poor weather ... the Irish last played Indiana at the 1996 Irish Baseball Classic in San Antonio, Texas, posting a 10-4 victory behind Dan Stavisky's strong seven innings (1 R, 4 H, 7 K) ... the 1996 Irish team also defeated Indiana State (5-4) in late March, Butler on April 1 (3-0), and Purdue (7-4) and Valparaiso (11-3) on consecutive days in mid-April ... Jeff Wagner was 2-for-3 with two RBI in that win over Indiana State while Brock went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run vs. Purdue ... Chris McKeown picked up the '96 win over Valparaiso, with Greene going 2-for-4 with an RBI ... Notre Dame's last games with Ball State game in a doubleheader on April 4, 1992, with the Irish winning the first game 7-1 and the Cardinals taking the second (3-0) ... Notre Dame has won its last nine games vs. Butler, since dropping a 3-1 game at Butler on April 16, 1994 ... Indiana has not defeated Notre Dame since a 10-0 home win on March 25, 1989, with the Irish winning the last four games with the Hoosiers over the past eight seasons ... Indiana State posted a 12-8 home win over the Irish on March 21, 1995 while Purdue beat Notre Dame 5-2 at home later that season (April 12) ... Valparaiso's last win over Notre Dame was a 2-1 victory on April 27, 1993, with the Irish winning the last four meetings.
THE ND-EVANSVILLE SERIES: Notre Dame leads the Evansville series 20-9, including four straight wins ... Notre Dame and Evansville last met in '94, when both were members of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (Evansville left the next season for the Missouri Valley, Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST in '96) ... the teams played a pair of doubleheaders at Notre Dame on April 23-24 in '94, with the Irish posting three wins (5-2, 7-6, 12-0) while the Aces won the second game (9-5) ... Notre Dame then closed out the '94 CC Tournament, at Eck Stadium, with a pair of wins over Evansville (13-3, 10-2) ... Evansville knocked Notre Dame out of the '88 and '90 MCCs, with the Irish returning the favor in '89 ... the Irish then beat Evansville in the next four MCC title games ('91-'94) ... the teams met 11 times in the MCC tournament, with the Irish holding a 7-4 edge ... Evansville eliminated Notre Dame from the MCC Tournament twice at Covaleski Stadium: 9-6 in '88 and 8-7 in 1990 (after beating the Irish 7-3 the previous day) ... the Irish beat Evansville in three other MCC title games at "the Cov": 12-5 win in '91 (after beating the Aces 12-5 the previous day), 8-1 in '92 and 22-5 in '93 (after a 5-1 Evansville win the previous day) ... Notre Dame's famed run to the '89 MCC title included four games in a 20-hour stretch, with the second win coming 11-2 over Evansville (at the Cov).
SCOUTING THE ACES: Evansville--listed 69th on Baseball America's preseason list of the nation's top-100 teams--opened its season last weekend with a split at Memphis, winning 6-5 and losing 7-5 ... the Aces return 17 of 22 letterwinners from their '97 team that went 29-30 and finished sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference ... the Aces hit .302 last season, with 41 home runs, 127-of-183 stolen bases, a 6.63 team ERA and .955 team fielding pct. (96 errors) ... Evansville returns its top three hitters: senior OF Aaron Pembroke (.360, 38 RBI, 32-45 SB), sophomore SS Ryan Connors (.337, 3 HR, 31 RBI, 12-21 SB) and senior OF Bobby Hodges (.333, 6 HR, 43 RBI, 7-11 SB) ... the only offensive starter lost for Evansville was 2B Ryan Brownlee (.323, 3 HR, 39 RBI, 31-37 SB) ... the Aces top returning pitchers include three juniors--LHP Jeremy Brown (3.67, 8-4, 110.1 IP, 94 K), RHP Jason Edgar (8.33, 4-7, 76.2 IP, 57 K) and RHP John Kremer (9.32, 5-4, 1 SV, 64.2 IP, 75 K)--and sophomore RHP Ryan Miller (6.80, 3-4, 2 SV, 41 IP, 46 K) ... Miller is slated to pitch Friday's game while Kremer is listed as the nation's 39th-best pro prospect by Baseball America ... Evansville's top pitcher lost from '97 was Kyle Ritter (5.84, 5-8, 101.2 IP, 78 K) ... Evansville's top hitters at Memphis were junior OF Brian McMillin (4-for-7, 4 RBI), sophomore 3B Anthony Molina (5-for-9, 4 RBI, 2 2B) and sophomore 1B Phil Broshears (4-for-9, 2 2B) ... Kremer picked up the win over Memphis in relief (1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K) while Brown had the loss (6.1 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 4 K) ... Miller started the second game, earning no decision over six innings (5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 8 K) ... Evansville made four errors at Memphis, hitting .297 with a 5.82 team ERA.
SCOUTING THE BOILERS: Purdue was listed 99th on Baseball America's preseason list of the nation's top-100 teams ... Purdue opened at Louisville, dropping the first two games (14-9, 7-5) before winning the third (15-8) ... the Boilers return 16 of 28 letterwinners from their 1997 team that went 30-25 and finished third in the Big Ten ... Purdue hit .306 last season, with 50 home runs, 66-of-93 stolen bases, a 5.66 team ERA and .966 fielding pct. (66 errors) ... top returning hitters include senior DH Bill Bennett (.327, 6 HR, 38 RBI), senior 1B Mike Rothstein (.346, 8 HR, 41 RBI) and sophomore SS Daryl Hallada (.324, 5 HR, 38 RBI) ... Purdue's top hitters at Louisville included sophomore OF Chris Walker (6-for-10, 3 RBI, 5 R, 4-5 SB), Rothstein (4-for-8, 3 RBI, 3 2B) and Bennett (6-for-15, 4 RBI, 4 R) ... top returning pitchers include sophomore RHPs Jeremy Ballard (4.71, 3-1, 21 IP, 23 K) and Russ Morgan (6.40, 3-3, 52 IP, 42 K) ... freshman RHP Austin Bilke beat Louisville with four shutout relief innings (2 H, 6 K) ... freshman LHP David Gassner lost to Louisville (4 IP, 5 R, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 K), as did senior RHP Phil Davis (in short relief).
SCOUTING VALPO: Valparaiso returns 21 of 24 letterwinners from its 1997 team that went 20-31-1 ... the Commodores hit .276 last season, with 23 home runs, 54-of-78 stolen bases, a 7.03 team ERA and .948 fielding pct. (86 errors) ... Valpo's top returning hitters include junior IF Josh McIntyre (.303, 13 RBI), junior OF Ryan Poepard (.230, 1 HR, 28 RBI, 7-12 SB) and junior IF Paul Stavnes (.277, 3 HR, 14 RBI) ... eight of the top nine pitchers are back, led by Bob Klapperich (5.02, 3-4, 43 IP, 15 K), Tony Flores (5.65, 3-5, 43 IP, 23 K) and Joe Lazewski (6.23, 2-6, 65 IP, 42 K).
SCOUTING THE REST OF THE DIAMOND CLASSIC FIELD: Ball State was listed 90th on Baseball America's preseason list of the nation's top-100 teams ... BSU returns 16 of 24 letterwinners from its 1997 team that went 40-19 and finished second in the Mid-American Conference ... the Cardinals hit .347 last season, with 77 home runs, 121-of-158 stolen bases, a 5.12 team ERA and .960 fielding pct. (81 errors) ... BSU returns six offensive starters, led by sophomore OF Larry Bigbie (.329, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 21-26 SB) and senior 3B Brian Dorrmann (.326, 13 HR, 61 RBI) ... top returning BSU pitchers include sophomore LHP Adam Sheefel (6-5, 4.18, 51.2 IP, 40 K) and sophomore RHP Chad Wells (6-1, 4.76, 39.2 IP, 23 K) ... Butler returns 21 of 30 letterwinners from its '97 team that went 18-32 and finished 6th in the MCC ... Butler hit .298 last season, with 22 home runs, 78-of-125 stolen bases, a 5.20 team ERA and a .950 fielding pct. (93 errors) ... top returning hitters: senior 2B Ryan O'Donovan (.335, 1 HR, 25 RBI, 8-14 SB) and senior 3B Matt Bartley (.327, 4 HR, 32 RBI, 9-12 SB) ... top returning pitchers: senior LHP Jeremy Guler (4-6, 4.28, 80 IP, 41 K) and junior RHP Steve Magill (5-7, 5.05, 71.1 IP, 61 K) ... Indiana returns 11 of 21 letterwinners from its '97 team that went 34-21 ... IU is 2-4, dropping games vs. Kansas State (8-0) and TCI (8-4) in Peoria, Ariz. before winning a home doubleheader vs. Indiana Wesleyan (8-1, 11-0) and losing a DH at Vanderbilt (8-7, 6-5) ... IU is hitting .299, led by sophomore OF Doug Devore (6-for-12, 1 HR, 4 RBI) and senior C Scott Anleitner (7-for-15) ... IU's starting pitchers have been sophomore RHP Chris Wilson (1-1, 1.69, 5.1 IP, 7 K), senior RHP Kyle Boyd (1-0, 2.53, 7.2 IP, 7 K) and junior RHP Chad Smith (0-1, 8.00, 9 IP, 9 K) ... IU hit .309 last season, with 48 home runs, 130-of-173 stolen bases, a 5.92 team ERA and .959 fielding (81 errors) ... top returning hitters: Anleitner (.297, 2 HR, 25 RBI) and senior OF Roger Rodeheaver (.330, 7 HR, 40 RBI) ... Smith was 3-2 last season, with a 6.93 ERA and 36 K's in 37.2 innings while Boyd was 4-1 (4.18, 51.2 IP, 46 K) ... Indiana State returns 19 of 28 letterwinners from its '97 team that went 24-30-1 and finished 9th in the MVC ... the Sycamores hit .301 last season, with 52 home runs, 83-of-113 stolen bases, a 5.65 team ERA and .958 fielding (85 errors) ... top retuning hitters: senior OF Tyler Thompson (.317, 13 HR, 40 RBI) and senior 1B Kip Provines (.365, 11 HR, 44 RBI) ... top returning pitchers: junior LHP Mark Bernhardt (5-4, 3.36, 83 IP, 70 K) and senior RHP Tony Harden (2-7, 6.13, 69 IP, 52 K).
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI experienced two noteworthy homecomings during the past two weekends, 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 completed his playing career at UNO, as a second baseman in '78 and '79, playing for current UNO athletic director and Baseball Hall of Famer Ron Maestri ... UNO won the Sun Belt Conference title in both of Mainieri's seasons ... Mainieri graduated in 1975 from Miami's Christopher Columbus High School, where he also began his coaching career as an assistant baseball and football coach for two years in the early 1980s ... the Irish dropped two games at Miami, 9-4 and 12-4, in Mainieri's first season ('95) before beating the Hurricanes 5-2 ... Mainieri is in his 16th season as a college head coach, with a record of 459-343 (.572), including 127-63 (.668) in three-plus season with the Irish ... Mainieri fittingly coached his 800th game on Feb. 20 at Miami, ironically after the Feb. 15 game at UNO was rained out ... he is 41 victories away from the 500-win plateau ... Mainieri's 127 wins rank fourth 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 (four in the first 10 rounds) ... Mainieri and his father Demie, the legendary coach of Miami-Dade North Community College, 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 ... prior to Notre Dame, Mainieri coached six seasons at Air Force, after coaching six seasons at St. Thomas (Fla.) University ... 15 of Mainieri's players at St. Thomas went on to pro baseball, including three--Joe Klink, Dane Johnson and Dan Rohrmeier--who have played in the major leagues ... ... 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.
AROUND THE HORN: Prior to the Jan. 30 game vs. FSU, Notre Dames 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 ... senior SS J.J. Brock recently moved past Bob Lisanti (96, 182) into seventh on the Irish career games started list (now 188) ... Brock also has moved past former teammates Randall Brooks (97, 640) and Scott Sollmann (1994-96, 643) into eighth on the Irish career at-bats list (667), just four behind Joe Binkiewicz ('92) ... Brock, Brooks, Sollmann and Mike Amrhein (3rd with 745 career ABs) all joined the Irish program in 1993-94 ... Notre Dame's 32-player roster includes players from 17 states ... Notre Dame has posted nine straight seasons with 40-plus wins and is 406-157 during the past nine-plus seasons (average record of 45-17).
READY TO SHIFT IN THE CLUTCH: Notre Dame continues to struggle with two-out hitting and with runners in scoring position ... the Irish are hitting .254 with runners in scoring position but .182 with two outs and .224 with runners in scoring position ... the opponents are hitting .307 with two outs and .371 with runners in scoring position (38 pct. points higher that the .333 overall opponent batting avg.) ... the opponents have 35 two-out RBI while the Irish have just 13, with four of those coming on Jeff Wagner's grand slam vs. NC State ... junior CF Allen Greene again is the team's top two-out hitter (5-for-12) and is 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position ... Wagner has totaled just seven at-bats (three hits) with runners in scoring position, from his cleanup spot ... players looking to improve with two outs include sophomore 3B Brant Ust (1-for-17), senior SS J.J. brock (0-for-8) and sophomore RF Jeff Felker (1-for-8) ... players looking for better RBI opportunity production are senior 1B Dan Leatherman (0-for-6), sophomore utility player Jeff Perconte (2-for-10), Felker (1-for-12) and Brock and freshman LF Alec Porzel (both 1-for-9) ... the team's leading hitter, sophomore DH Larry Zimont, is 3-for-9 with two outs and 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
GREENE SHIFTS TO LEADOFF: Senior SS J.J. Brock served as the Irish leadoff hitter in the firs five games but that role has been filled in the last four games by junior CF Allen Greene, who has smacked home runs in his last two games as the Irish leadoff hitter (at Miami and vs. Central Michigan) ... Greene continues to hit the ball hard, batting .297 with two doubles, a triple, six RBI and six runs scored.
IRISH DOWN CENTRAL MICHIGAN, 7-5, IN HOME OPENER (2/25): Allen Greene and Alec Porzel both hit two-run home runs while Danny Tamayo shut the door over the final four-plus innings ... Tamayo picked up the win in relief of Aaron Heilman, striking out seven while allowing one unearned run and two hits over 4.1 innings ... CMU (0-1) outhit the Irish 12-9 but stranded eight ... both teams held the lead twice, with CMU scoring first in the second inning ... the Irish surged ahead with three runs in the second, after a leadoff single from Larry Zimont, a fielding error, an RBI groundout by Todd Frye and a two-out, two-run homer to left by Greene ... CMU chipped away with a run in the third and two in the fifth but the Irish reclaimed the lead in the sixth, after a leadoff infield single by Zimont and the first career home run for Porzel, a shot over the leftfield fence ... Notre Dame tacked on two insurance runs in the eighth, behind a leadoff double by Brant Ust, a run-scoring double by Porzel, a single by Frye and a sacrifice fly from Dan Leatherman.
Games Started (since '89) 6. Joe Binkiewicz (1989-92)197 7. J.J. Brock (1994- ) 189 At-Bats 7. Joe Binkiewicz (1989-92)671 8. J.J. Brock (1994- ) 667 Hits 9. Joe Binkiewicz (1989-92)224 10. J.J. Brock (1994- ) 201 Runs Batted In 10. Tim Hutson (1985-88) 128 J.J. Brock (1994- ) 122 Jeff Wagner (1996- ) 120 Home Runs 1. Frank Jacobs (1989-91) 37 Mike Amrhein (1994-97) 37 3. Ryan Topham (1993-85) 34 5. Eric Danapilis (1990-93)29 6. Tim Hutson (1985-88) 28 Dan Peltier (1987-89) 28 Jeff Wagner (1996- ) 28 Triples 1. Scott Sollmann (1994-96) 24 2. Shaun Fitzmaurice (1963-64) 14 George Restovich (1994-96) 14 Randall Brooks (1994- ) 14 5. Paul Failla (1992-94) 13 Ryan Topham (1993-95) 13 J.J. Brock (1994- ) 13 Doubles 7. Greg Layson (1991-94) 36 8. Frank Jacobs (1989-91) 35 Matt Haas (1991-94) 35 Paul Failla (1992-94) 35 Craig DeSensi (1992-95) 35 Jeff Wagner (1996- ) 32 Times Hit-By-Pitch 6. Mike Amrhein (1994- ) 24 7. J.J. Brock (1994- ) 18 8. Rowan Richards (1993-96)17 9. Allen Greene (1996- ) 16 Strikeouts Thrown 10. Don Wolfe (1956-58) 149 Alex Shilliday (1996- ) 134 Batting With Runners in Scoring Position 1. Allen Greene .453 2. Mike Amrhein .450 3. Jeff Wagner .416 4. Randall Brooks .415 5. Brant Ust .350 6. J.J. Brock .347 7. Todd Frye .313 8. Jeff Perconte .261 9. Jeff Felker .243 TEAM .342 Batting With Two-Outs (Two-Out RBI) 1. Allen Greene .458 (30/57%) 2. Jeff Wagner .413 (27/43%) 3. Mike Amrhein .406 (25/37%) 4. Brant Ust .349 (18/38%) J.J. Brock .349 (17/37%) 6. Randall Brooks .333 (12/33%) 7. Todd Frye .326 (8/50%) 8. Jeff Felker .262 (10/37%) 9. Jeff Perconte .176 (2/22%) TEAM .333 (160/40%)