Feb. 20, 2008
Liberty, Friday (1 p.m.)
Iowa, Saturday (2:30 p.m.)
Albany, Saturday (7:30 p.m.)
Albany, Sunday (1:30 p.m.)
Live Game Coverage
Audio: ESPN Radio 1490 AM (Shawn Lewallen, p-b-p); UND.com
2007 Results: The Irish lost to Iowa last season 8-1 in DeLand, Fla. at the Stetson Invitational.
Series Notes: Notre Dame and the Hawkeyes played four times during the 2006 campaign at Wolff Stadium in San Antonio. The Irish were victorious in three of those four meetings. IN THE
BATTERS BOX - Notre Dame opens the 2008 season this weekend at the Clearwater Invitational. The Irish will play Liberty (Fri., 1:00 p.m.), Iowa (Sat., 2:30 p.m.) and Albany (Sat., 7:30 p.m. and Sun., 1:30 p.m.). All four games can be heard on ESPN Radio 1490 and UND.com.
CLEARWATER INVITATIONAL INSIDER - In addition to Notre Dame, the rest of the field includes Iowa, Liberty and Albany. Each of the four schools will be opening their respective 2008 campaigns due to the mandated NCAA schedule start date. The Irish are making an appearance in Clearwater, Fla. for the third consecutive year and will return for the 2008 BIG EAST Tournament in May.
WARMING UP IN FLORIDA - The Irish baseball team owns a 63-49-1 all-time record (.562) in the state of Florida, but found the Sunshine State to be an especially welcome home-away-from-home over the previous eight seasons, racking up a 41-14 record (.732) in Florida during that 2000-07 span. Notre Dame is opening the season in Florida for just the third time over the last 30 years.
NOTRE DAME IN THE SUNSHINE STATE - The Notre Dame baseball team has made regular visits to Florida, totaling a 63-49-1 record against various top teams in games played in Boca Raton, Ft. Myers, DeLand, Gainesville, Homestead, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Winter Park, Tampa and Clearwater ... in addition to this week's Clearwater Invitational, the Irish will travel to West Palm Beach next week for the Papa John's Classic before returning to Clearwater and Brighthouse Networks Field for the 2008 BIG EAST Tournament in May.
FLORIDA NATIVES - The 2008 Notre Dame baseball roster includes three players from Florida. Senior 2B Ross Brezovsky (Naples/Collier H.S.), senior LHP Wade Korpi (Lake Worth/Santaluces H.S.) and junior 3B/1B Eddy Mendiola (Miami/Palmer Trinity H.S.) all hail from the Sunshine State.
PROBABLE POSITION STARTERS -
* stats are from 2006 season
# stats are from 2007 season at Indiana State
ON DECK - After this weekend's games in Clearwater, Notre Dame returns to the State of Florida for the Papa John's Classic in West Palm Beach. The Irish will play Mount St. Mary's, St. Bonaventure, Boston College, Maine and Lehigh over the week of March 1-5.
RANKINGS - Notre Dame is unranked in each of the four season-opening polls, but the Irish are receiving votes from Collegiate Baseball. Liberty, Iowa and Albany are also unranked.
RECENT SEASON OPENERS - The Irish have captured nine of their last 10 season openers. Notre Dame suffered a tight loss to New Orleans in the 2001 season opener (7-6 at Mississippi State), but have opened season with victories in 1998 (10-1 vs. Florida State in Orlando), 1999 (8-4 vs. James Madison at FIU), 2000 (6-0 vs. Air Force in Millington, Tenn.), 2002 (7-6 vs. Missouri at New Orleans), 2003 (10-9 vs. Dayton at Arizona State), 2004 (7-1 vs. San Diego State at USC), 2005 (19-8 vs. Florida A&M at UCF), 2006 (3-0 vs. Indiana State in Millington, Tenn.) and 2007 (15-8 vs. Prairie View in San Antonio).
OPENING-DAY HOME RUNS - Three members of the 2007 team (A.J. Pollock, Michael Wright and Mike Dury) smacked home runs in last year's season opener vs. Prairie View A&M ... Pollock (3-run) and Wright (solo) homered two batters apart in the 2nd inning (their first career ABs with the Irish) and are believed to be the first Notre Dame freshmen ever to homer in a season opener ... Since 1989, Notre Dame players now have combined for 16 HRs on opening day ... the Prairie View A&M game was the first time since 1993 that the Irish have hit three home runs in an opener (Craig DeSensi, Paul Failla and Eric Danapilis all homered in the 1993 opener, a 11-4 win at Arizona State) ... Notre Dame players now have homered in each of the past six season openers - also Matt Bok in 2002 (vs. Missouri, at UNO), Kris Billmaier in 2003 (vs. Dayton, at ASU), Matt Edwards in 2004 (vs. San Diego State, at USC), Steve Andres and Edwards in 2005 (vs. Florida A&M) and Matt Bransfield in 2006 (vs. Indiana State) ... Edwards is the only player among those listed below to hit multiple opening-day HRs in his ND career ... of the program's 16 opening-day HRs in the past 19 seasons, seven have come from seniors, five from juniors, two from sophomores (none since 1993, when DeSensi and Failla did it) and two from freshmen ... the 16 have also included three first basemen (Edwards twice), three DHs and three leftfielders, plus two catchers, two shortstops, a centerfielder, a rightfielder and a third baseman.
Notre Dame Opening-Day Home Runs Since 1989
OPENING-WEEK LONG BALLS - Notre Dame players combined to hit 31 opening-week home runs during the past 14 seasons (1995-07) ... four players in that span hit multiple opening-week HRs: infielder Brant Ust (two; 1998 and 1999), RF Kris Billmaier (three, in 2003), 1B Matt Edwards (two; 2004, 2005) and LF/DH Steve Andres (two; 2003, 2005) ... Billmaier is the only ND player among those listed below who had a multi-HR game during opening week (vs. Newman, at ASU) ... A.J. Pollock (vs. Prairie View A&M, in San Antonio in 2007) is one of six from this list to homer during the opening week of their freshman season, as did Michael Wright (vs. Prairie View A&M, in San Antonio in 2007), Andres (at Arizona State in 2003), Ed Golom (as a pinch-hitter, at FIU in 1999), OF Brian Stavisky (at Memphis, in 2000) and RF Cody Rizzo (in the second 2003 game at ASU) ... the position breakdown of the opening-week HR hitters since 1995 is as follows: RF (6), 1B (4), DH (4), LF (4), SS (3), C (3), CF (2), 3B (3), PH (1) and 2B (1).
Irish Players Opening-Week Home Runs Since 1995
PLENTY OF WAYS TO FOLLOW THE IRISH - Notre Dame baseball fans will have several options for tracking the 2008 season on a game-by-game basis, through live streaming video (Notre Dame home games only), live-audio broadcasts, GameTracker live stats, free Irish Alert text messages and the ND Sports Hotline:
PHELPS COPS TOP PRESEASON HONOR - Notre Dame junior right-handed pitcher David Phelps - one of two Irish pitchers ever to post 100-plus strikeouts and an ERA under 2.00 during the same season - has been named to the 2008 preseason watch list for the Brooks Wallace Award.
SCHOLARLY STANDOUT - In addition to his impressive accomplishments on the field as a three-time all-BIG EAST performer, senior SS Brett Lilley has reached near-perfection in the classroom during his first three years at Notre Dame. The College Sports Information Directors of America recognized Lilley's excellence as a student-athlete by naming him a first team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American, in recognition of his 3.81 cumulative grade-point average as an accounting major. Lilley - whose older sister Tricia was an Academic All-America shortstop on the 2006 Purdue softball team - quickly returned to campus following the end of Notre Dame's 2007 season, in order to begin taking the first of three summer-school courses that will allow him to graduate one semester early (following the 2007 fall semester). He then intends to enroll in the intensive one-year master's in accountancy program at Notre Dame, with the plan being to start those classes in the 2008 spring semester before concluding sometime later that calendar year (pending a possible stint in pro baseball during the summer of '08).
Lilley has compiled a 3.95 GPA over his past three semesters at Notre Dame, despite taking an overworked load of 21 classes and 60 credit hours in that three-semester span. His stellar run in the classroom began in-season during the 2006 spring semester, as Lilley posted a 4.0 GPA despite taking an 18-credit load. The following fall, he ramped up to 21 credits but still managed to post a 3.95 (with six A grades and a B-plus) before adding a 3.95 in the recently-completed 2007 spring term (again with 21 credits, with all As except for a B-plus in a 1.5-credit course). Lilley's 21 grades over the span of those three semesters includes 19 As and the pair of B-plus marks while his 36 total classes at Notre Dame now have included 25 As, five A-minuses, four B-plus grades, a B and a B-minus. He is the 18th different Notre Dame baseball player to be named an Academic All-American (10th to be on the first team) and in 2008 could become the seventh ever to repeat that honor. Notre Dame baseball players now have combined to earn Academic All-America honors 11 times in the current decade. Lilley was among the youngest players among the 13 who were named to the elite 2007 first team Academic All-America squad that included eight seniors and five juniors, meaning that he could be a leading candidate for Academic All-American of the Year candidates in 2008. Phelps - who took a 3.36 cumulative GPA into the 2007 spring semester (as a double major in psychology and computer applications) - earlier had joined Lilley in earning first team Academic All-District honors and thus advanced to the Academic All-America ballot, which produced only three sophomores among the 39 final Academic All-Americans.
ACE PRODUCTION - Despite playing a minimal role as a freshman on the 2006 Notre Dame squad, junior RHP David Phelps returned for a sophomore surge in 2007 that saw him emerge as the unquestioned leader of the Irish pitching staff. As college baseball headed into NCAA Tournament play, Phelps held the rare distinction of being one of six pitchers in the nation with an earned-run average under 2.00 (1.88; 10th-best in the nation), eight or more victories (8-5) and 100-plus strikeouts (102). He ended up leading the BIG EAST in ERA and strikeouts while ranking second with 110.1 innings pitched, sixth in wins and seventh in low opponent batting average (.236). Phelps picked up three of Notre Dame's top wins of the 2007 season - versus #12 TCU, #7 Nebraska and at BIG EAST leader Rutgers (in the series opener) - but he easily could have totaled 12 or more victories, if not for poor run support (the Irish averaged just 5.4 runs in his 15 starts) and untimely defensive breakdowns that saw 12 of the runs charged to him be unearned (three of his losses were due to unearned runs). His 1.88 ERA ranks eighth-best among Irish pitchers during the aluminum-bat era (since the early 1980s) while his 102 strikeouts rank sixth on the Notre Dame season record book. Phelps allowed 0-2 earned runs in 11 of his 15 starts during the 2007 season and only once yielded more than three earned runs in a game (4, vs. Pittsburgh). His nine-inning averages included a team-best 7.1 innings per start while he totaled nearly a 3.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio (102/30; 3.4), had 15 more innings pitched than hits allowed (96), averaged nearly a strikeout per inning (8.6 Ks per 9 IP) and became one of just four Irish pitchers in the past 12 seasons to post four or more nine-inning complete games in a season (4, plus one in which he pitched 8.0 innings). He joined the elite company of former All-Americans Aaron Heilman ('in '99) and Chris Niesel ('03) as the only Notre Dame sophomore pitchers ever named first team all-BIG EAST (no Notre Dame freshman pitchers ever have been first-teamers).
ONE-TWO PUNCH - Notre Dame featured one of the top hitting duos in the BIG EAST during the 2007 season, as sophomore OF/3B A.J. Pollock (.372) and senior SS Brett Lilley (.371) were one of only two pairs of BIG EAST teammates to each hit above .370. The Irish duo actually had the same number of hits (73) but Pollock had one fewer at-bat to narrowly finish atop the team batting charts. The BIG EAST recognized 41 total players with all-conference honors in 2007 and Notre Dame - with Lilley and Pollock - was the only team in the conference that featured both of its leftside infielders on the all-BIG EAST teams.
ROOKIE REWARDS - After narrowly edging Lilley atop the 2007 team batting charts, Pollock became just the fourth freshman ever to lead the Notre Dame baseball team in season batting average (he and Lilley are the only ones to do so since the early 1990s). Pollock's impressive all-around season - which earned him Freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball magazine - saw him finish with the third-best season batting average ever by a Notre Dame freshman (best since 1994), with that .372 mark ranking fourth best among all of the BIG EAST players in 2007 (behind two senior sluggers and Todd Frazier of Rutgers, the BIG EAST player of the year). Pollock was one of two players in the entire BIG EAST to total 70-plus hits (73), 30-plus walks (32), double-digit stolen bases (11) and 10 or more sacrifice bunts (10) while also finishing first (6) or second (4) on the Irish team in 10 primary statistical categories, including those listed above plus 39 runs scored and 26 multiple-hit games. The right-handed-hitting Pollock also hit a team-best .406 with runners in scoring position and feasted on left-handed pitching in the 2007 season (.509 batting avg.).
ON-BASE REGULAR - Senior SS Brett Lilley will enter his final season in 2008 with the chance to etch his name throughout the Notre Dame record book. The feisty infielder has started all 176 games of his career (just four shy of becoming the fourth-longest streak in Notre Dame baseball history) while owning a .349 career batting average and the second-best career on-base percentage (.485) in the Irish baseball record book. A large chunk of his times on base have come via the hit-by-pitch (78), placing him fourth in NCAA history and 14 back of the record (his former ND teammate Cody Rizzo is second all-time, with 84). Lilley became the seventh Notre Dame baseball player ever to be named all-BIG EAST three or more times, earning third team honors in 2007 while leading the Irish in 11 categories and ranking second in five others. His BIG EAST-leading .512 on-base percentage in 2007 ranked 11th in the nation and is seventh in Notre Dame history (second-best since the early 1990s) while his 27 HBPs ended up being fourth-most among the nation's players in 2007. Lilley also ended up with the sixth-best batting average among BIG EAST players (.371), also ranking ninth in runs (55) and 11th in walks (31), and he reached base in all but three of the 56 games in 2007- including a stretch to end the season that saw him reach in each of the final 20 games.
BIG CROWDS RETURN - One season after setting numerous attendance records at Eck Stadium, the Notre Dame baseball team again played in front of a steady stream of fans that featured an average of nearly 2,000 per game (1,958). The late-April series with West Virginia attracted a total of 9,011 fans to Eck Stadium, representing the second-highest attendance for a three-game series in the facility's 14-year history. The 3,927 who were on hand for the Saturday afternoon game versus the Mountaineers (on April 21) broke the previous Eck Stadium single-game record - set one year earlier, to the day (3,507 saw the Friday-night game versus Rutgers on April 21, 2006).
CAPE COD COMPANY - Six Notre Dame players competed in the nation's premier wood-bat summer league in 2007, as junior 2B Jeremy Barnes and senior RHP Tony Langford headed off to join the Cape Cod League's Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox while four Irish pitchers - junior RHP David Phelps, junior RHP Kyle Weiland, junior LHP Sam Elam and junior RHP Brett Graffy - were prepping for a summer together as members of the CCL's Falmouth Commodores. Notre Dame consistently has produced multiple players each summer who compete in "The Cape," including a 2005 summer that saw Gaston earn Cape Cod League All-Star honors as a member of the Cotuit Kettleers.
IRISH TO FACE SEVERAL TOP OPPOSING PLAYERS - Seven pitchers from Notre Dame's 2008 opponents are on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year watch list, including the Arizona duo of LHP Daniel Schlereth and Jason Stoffel, Southern Illinois RHP Bryant George, Connecticut LHP Matt Karl, Georgetown RHP Dan Kennedy, St. John's RHP Colin Lynch and South Florida RHP Shawn Sanford ... Notre Dame's 2008 opponents also include 23 players who are on the Wallace Award watch list, among them are eight players from the BIG EAST: Cincinnati OF Tony Campana, Connecticut INF Matt Karl, Louisville DH Chris Dominguez, RHP Justin Marks, RHP Zack Pitts, South Florida RHP Shawn Sanford, St. John's OF Brian Kemp and RHP Colin Lynch ... others include the Arizona duo of P Preston Guilmet and OF Jon Gaston, Boston College's trio of 3B Eric Campbell, P Terry Doyle and C Tony Sanchez, Central Michigan C Tyler Stovall, IPFW OF Jared Davis, Michigan's duo of P/1B Zach Putnam and OF Derek VanBuskirk, Purdue's P Matt Bischoff and OF Ryne White, Southern Illinois' trio of P Cody Adams, P Bryant George and C Mark Kelly and Western Michigan P Ethan Hollingsworth ... six players from ND opponents also were named 2008 preseason All-Americans by either Baseball America or the National Collegiate Baseball Writers, including Putnam, Arizona's quartet of Ryan Perry, T.J. Steeler, Guilmet and C.J. Ziegler, as well as Zack Pitts of Louisville.
WEILAND QUICK NOTES - Junior RHP Kyle Weiland returns to the back end of the bullpen in 2008. Due to injuries and lack of depth last year, Weiland was forced to move into the starting rotation. He went 5-3 with a 5.66 ERA over 13 appearances and six starts. As a closer in 2006, Weiland ranked among the nation's elite freshmen, receiving top Freshman All-America honors from Baseball America (one of 14 on the first team), Collegiate Baseball and the The Rosenblatt Report/Rivals.com while also being invited to the annual USA Baseball National Team trials. A second team all-BIG EAST selection that year, the lanky 6-foot-4 righthander finished third nationally with a school-record 16 saves and compiled a 2.37 ERA that ranked fourth-best on the Irish staff. His 30 appearances were one shy of the Irish freshman record (31) set by current big-leaguer Aaron Heilman in 1998 (when he led the nation with a 1.61 ERA). In addition to posting nearly a 2.5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk average (48/20) in 2006, Weiland logged 11 more innings (49.1) than hits allowed (39, with only one home run) and limited opponents to a .224 opponent batting average that ranked third-best ever by a Notre Dame freshman behind Heilman's .198 in '98 and the .201 allowed by Larry Mohs in '94. Weiland converted all but one of his save opportunities en route to nearly doubling Heilman's freshman save record (9) while his 16 saves were three better than the previous overall Irish record (13), set by J.P. Gagne in 2003.
FRESHMAN FORCE - Notre Dame's 2008 opening-day lineup will likely include three seniors, two juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. It would mark the second straight season the Irish would have featured at least two freshman in the starting nine. Notre Dame had three freshman in the starting lineup in last year's season opener (just the third time in the past 13 seasons that Notre Dame featured three or more freshman starters:
Notre Dame Freshman Starters
SUPER SHORTSTOPS - Notre Dame's baseball tradition spans nearly 120 seasons but the shortstop role was not well-represented by elite players, until an impressive run of talent at the position during the past 20 years. Early 1900s player Bobby Lynch and heavy-hitting 1964 All-American Rich Gonski were possibly the most noteworthy shortstops in the first 85 years of the program, followed in the late 1970s by Rick Pullano before an impressive 20-year span that has produced the likes of Tommy Shields, Pat Pesavento, Craig Counsell, Paul Failla, Brant Ust, Alec Porzel, Matt Macri and Greg Lopez at the shortstop position. Senior Brett Lilley has carried the torch each of the last two seasons. Lilley has started 176 games over his career, including 113 straight over the last two seasons at shortstop. He is a career .349 hitter with 150 runs scored, 214 hits and 74 RBI. Lilley has a remarkable .485 career on-base percentage over his career.
FREEBIES UPDATE - Over his years as a head coach, Notre Dame skipper Dave Schrage has utilized a formula to measure how many free bases a team allows during a given year. The formula adds walks allowed, errors, stolen bases allowed, hit batters, wild pitches, passed balls, and balks and divides that total by the number of games played. In 2007, the Irish allowed nearly 8.7 "freebies" per game. By comparison, Notre Dame's 2006 team allowed just 6.2 per game en route to totaling 45 wins while Schrage's 2006 team at Evansville had just 5.6 freebies allowed per game.
HITTING STREAKS - Heading into this weekend's games, only senior SS Brett Lilley has a hitting streak over a game.
LILLEY LITTERED THROUGHOUT IRISH RECORD BOOKS - Notre Dame senior SS Brett Lilley is all over the Irish career record book. Lilley ranks second all-time in career on-base percentage (.485), seventh in sacrifice bunts (28) and eighth in total sacrifices (34). He is also on pace to finish his career among the top time all-time in the following categories: games played, games started, consecutive games started, at-bats, hits, runs scored, walks and assists.
MR. DURABLE - Senior SS Brett Lilley takes the term "everyday player" to another level. Lilley has started 176 consecutive games (every game of his entire Irish career). He has started 113 consecutive games at shortstop. Lilley would move into third place passing Brant Ust on the all-time list for consecutive starts with starts in Notre Dame's first four games of 2008 (trails second place Pat Pesavento by 29 straight starts). Steve Stanley's school record of 256 consecutive starts may never be broken.
NATIONAL FLAVOR - As is usually the case, the Notre Dame baseball roster is made up from players across the United States. This year, however, it's even more apparent as 39 of the 43 players on the roster are from outside the state of Indiana. In fact, 18 different states, including Indiana, are represented. The only Indiana natives on the team are Ty Adams (Indianapolis/Brebeuf Jesuit H.S.), Sean Gaston (Brownsburg/Brownsburg H.S.), Justin Gingerich (Goshen/Northridge H.S.) and Andrew Wiand (South Bend/Riley H.S.).
IRISH PICKED FIFTH BY BIG EAST COACHES - The University of Notre Dame baseball team was picked to finish fifth in the 2008 BIG EAST preseason baseball poll as determined by a vote of the league's 12 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams. The Irish received a total of 80 points.
Winningest Division I Teams of the Decade
Irish Baseball Open Season This Weekend In Clearwater