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    FIGHTING IRISH

    Feb. 25, 2010

    
    

    THE MATCHUP
    2010 Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge
    February 26-28
    vs. Illinois (Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Fla.) vs. Ohio State (Bright House Networks Field, Clearwater, Fla.) vs. Penn State (Naimoli Complex, St. Petersburg, Fla.)

    Complete Notes in PDF Format

    PROBABLE PITCHERS
    vs. Illinois, Fri., Jack Russell Stadium (4:30 p.m.) RHP Cole Johnson (1-0, 3.38 ERA) vs. RHP Will Strack (6-1, 3.84 ERA)*

    vs. Ohio State, Sat., Bright House Networks Field (4:00 p.m.) RHP Brian Dupra (0-0, 6.23 ERA) vs. RHP Dean Wolosiansky (0-0, 3.86 ERA) or RHP Brett McKinney (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

    vs. Penn State, Sun., Naimoli Complex (10:00 a.m.) RHP Eric Maust (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. LHP Calvin Grumley (2-3, 9.14 ERA)* * stats from 2009 season

    LIVE GAME COVERAGE
    Audio: WHME 103.1 FM (Chuck Freeby, pbp); UND.com
    Video: CollegeBaseball360.com
    Gametracker: UND.com

    SERIES HISTORY
    All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Ohio State, 26-19, and Penn State, 8-3, but trails the all-time series with Illinois, 37-24.
    2009 Results: The Irish played both the Buckeyes and Illini in last year's challenge. Notre Dame lost to Ohio State, 2-0, but upended Illinois the next day, 14-7.
    Series Notes: The Irish and Buckeyes have met only once (2009) since the 2002 NCAA Regional in South Bend. Notre Dame and Penn State last played one another in 2004 and the Irish were victorious in each game. Notre Dame and Illinois have met twice once (2006, 2009) since the 2001 campaign.

    IN THE BATTERS BOX < Notre Dame will compete in the second annual Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge this weekend. The Irish will play Illinois (Fri., 4:30 p.m., Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater), Ohio State (Sat., 4:00 p.m., Bright House Networks Field, Clearwater) and Penn State (Sun., 10:00 a.m., Naimoli Complex, St. Petersburg). All three games can be heard on WHME 103.1 FM and UND.com.

    BIG TEN/BIG EAST CHALLENGE INSIDER < In addition to Notre Dame, nine other BIG EAST schools will participate, including USF, UConn, West Virginia, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Cincinnati, St. John's, Louisville and Villanova. Each of the Big Ten¹s baseball-playing institutions will compete in the second-annual event, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue.

    The Big Ten/BIG EAST Baseball Challenge will be similar in format to the popular conference collegiate basketball challenges that have emerged over the past decade, with participating teams competing against schools from the opposing conference. However, this tournament is unique in that it provides teams from two northern-based conferences with an opportunity to travel to Florida and compete against one another in professional-quality venues located in a warm climate.

    WARMING UP IN FLORIDA < The Irish own a 72-61-1 all-time record (.541) in the state of Florida, but found the Sunshine State to be an especially welcome home-away-from-home site between 2000-07, racking up a 41-14 record (.732). Notre Dame struggled in Florida during the 2008 season, posting a 4-9 mark, including five straight losses to close the season, but rebounded with a 5-3 mark a year ago.

    NOTRE DAME IN THE SUNSHINE STATE < The Notre Dame baseball team has made regular visits to Florida, totaling a 72-61-1 record against various top teams in games played in Boca Raton, Ft. Myers, DeLand, Gainesville, Homestead, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Santaluces, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Winter Park, Tampa and Clearwater. In addition to this week¹s Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge, the Irish will return to DeLand and next weekend's Stetson Classic, as well as Clearwater and Bright House Networks Field for the 2010 BIG EAST Tournament in May.

    • Notre Dame took two of three games in last season's BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge. The Irish dropped their season opener to Ohio State, 2-0, but rebounded with victories over Illinois, 14-7, and Purdue, 9-4. Notre Dame returned to the Sunshine State for the 2009 BIG EAST Tournament. The Irish went 3-2 and fell just one game shy of the championship game.
    • In 2008, Notre Dame took part in the Winning Inning Invitational (Clearwater) and Palm Beach Challenge (Santaluces). The Irish posted a 4-4 mark in those tournaments. Notre Dame dropped five straight to close the season -- all played in the State of Florida (three at USF, two at the 2008 BIG EAST Tournament).
    • In 2007, Notre Dame participated in the Stetson Invitational (DeLand), Clearwater Classic and Florida Gulf Coast Classic (Ft. Myers). The Irish posted a 6-5 record in those tournaments, including a 16-6 victory over #7 Nebraska on March 4.
    • The 2006 team swept a series at then-BIG EAST newcomer South Florida (9-6, 10-4, 10-1) and then won the program¹s fifth straight BIG EAST Tournament title by going 4-1 in action at Brighthouse Networks Field, in Clearwater.
    • The 2005 team opened 3-1 in games played at Central Florida (18-3 vs. Florida A&M, 1-2 vs. UCF, 4-3 vs. FAMU, 4-2 vs. UCF) and then ended its season at the NCAA regional played at the University of Florida (1-5 vs. North Carolina, 7-4 vs. Stetson, 3-0 vs. UNC and 3-23 vs. UF).
    • In addition to participating in the 2000 (7-1 record) and 2003 (6-1) Kennel Club Classics, the Irish recently have played three series at Miami (1-2 in 1992 and 1995, 0-3 in 1998) while participating in the first ACC/Disney Blast in Orlando (1998; 1-2 with win over FSU) and winning the 2004 Florida Atlantic Classic.
    • Notre Dame nearly advanced to the 1992 and 1993 College World Series, after competing in NCAA regionals at Miami and Florida State (the Irish upset the host schools and reached the final day of competition in both years). The 2002 Irish team won their NCAA Super Regional series at Florida State to earn a College World Series spot (Florida native Chris Niesel picked up the decisive win over FSU).
    • The program's first Florida trip came in 1956 (2-5 in games around the Tallahassee area). Other early Notre Dame trips to Florida included a 5-2 loss at FSU in 1958, three wins at Rollins in 1967, tournaments at Miami in 1970 (1-5) and Rollins in 1978 (3-5-1), seven games around the state in 1979 (2-5) and six games played at Rollins and Miami in 1989 (4-2).

    FLORIDA NATIVES < The 2010 Notre Dame baseball roster includes one player from Florida. Freshman C Joe Hudson (Odessa/Tampa Jesuit H.S.) hails from the Sunshine State.

  • The Irish baseball program's list of all-time monogram winners includes 18 Florida natives, among them Academic All-America first baseman and Tampa native Henry Valenzuela (Jesuit H.S.; 1979-82, hit .314 with 15 HR, 123 RBI) ... recent pitching ace Chris Niesel (Plantation; 2002-04, 3.21 ERA, 21-4, 2 SV, 233 Ks and just 57 BB in 272. IP) joined other noteworthy RHPs such as Mike Pasilla (Windemere/Bishop Moore H.S.; 1987-89), David Sinnes (Miami/Palmetto H.S.; 1990-93, 2.91 career ERA, 32-8 record, 315 Ks in 297.1 IP), closer John Corbin (Hollywood Hills H.S.; 1998-00, 20 saves) and Danny Tamayo (Miami/Ransom Everglades H.S.; 1998-01, 3.27 ERA, 141 Ks in 160 IP) ... Sinnes held ND record for career win pct. and Ks (bested by Aaron Heilman in 2001) while Corbin is the Irish career saves leader and Tamayo formed a potent 1-2 punch with Heilman ... other noteworthy ND players from Florida have included: SS Daniel Cunha (St. Petersburg; 1933-35), IF Joe LaRocca (Ft. Lauderdale/Gibbons H.S.; 1970-72), OF Mike Galloway (Cocoa Beach H.S.; 1975-77), DH Ken Meyer (Ft. Myers/Verot H.S.; 1999-02), catcher Javi Sanchez (Miami/Columbus H.S.), RHP Joey Williamson (Lantana/Santaluces H.S.; 2005-07), OF Ross Brezovsky (Naples/Collier H.S.) and LHP Wade Korpi (Lake Worth/Santaluces H.S.).
  • RECAPPING THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE SERIES ­ The Notre Dame baseball team opened its season with a three-game series sweep of Mississippi Valley State this past weekend. The Irish outscored the Delta Devils, 39-10, along the way and secured their first 3-0 start to a season since 2004. In fact, it is the first ever three-game series sweep away from home to open a season in the 118-year history of Irish baseball.

    Notre Dame came into the season with the mantra, "898 committed to win S one team rock solid." The coaching staff generated the number 898 by adding up every player's jersey number on the roster. The message being pushed by the coaches and players since the opening of practice has been it will take contributions from every player to have a winning season. Well, the Irish mantra was in full effect this weekend.

    Notre Dame used 32 players this weekend in the series sweep, including 12 pitchers. The Irish had seven different players with at least one hit in each of the first two victories and then topped that total in the series finale when 11 different players had base hits in the 19-3 rout of Mississippi Valley State. In fact, Notre Dame also had 15 separate players account for its 19 runs scored. The team effort was also evident with the Irish pitching staff. Those 12 pitchers combined to make 14 appearances and nine of which were scoreless outings.

    The Irish pitching staff also displayed significant improvement in control. Notre Dame averaged just over 3.8 walks per nine innings in 2009, the highest by an Irish staff since 1999. Notre Dame¹s pitchers walked just seven batters in 27.0 innings of work over the weekend ­ good for just 2.3 walks per nine innings.

    ILLINOIS INSIDER < The Fighting Illini will open their season against the Fighting Irish after their season-opening series against Bradley in Champaign was cancelled due to snow. Illinois finished 34-20 a year ago under head coach Dan Hartleb, including a 16-8 mark in Big Ten action (fourth place).

  • The Illini batted .316 and plated 7.46 runs per contest last season, drawing 211 walks while striking out just 277 times (fewest strikeouts and best walk-to-strikeout ratio in the Big Ten). Illinois also led the conference in stolen bases with 79 in 122 tries and ranked 20th in the nation with 22 triples.
  • The top hitter in terms of batting average for Illinois returns in junior Pete Cappetta, who hit .384 with a .475 on-base percentage and drove in 30 runs last season. 2009 Freshman All-American Willie Argo smacked 12 home runs to go along with 47 RBI and a .355 average, while infielder Josh Parr batted .337 with 30 RBI and 13 thefts. First baseman Matt Dittman hit .278 in 151 at bats a year ago, but walked 24 times for a .389 on-base percentage. Senior catcher Aaron Johnson registered a .333 average with 10 home runs and 52 RBI, reached base 15 times via hit by pitch (fourth in the Big Ten), and tossed out 18 of 50 baserunners (second-best percentage in the conference). Also back for Illinois is left fielder Casey McMurray, who started every game last season and knocked in 43 runs while hitting .289.
  • Illinois pitchers recorded a 5.32 ERA in 2009, yielding 559 hits and 201 walks in 473.1 innings with 11 saves. Sophomores Bryan Roberts and Will Strack will likely anchor the weekend rotation; Roberts went 5-4 with a 6.72 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 10 starts (69.2 innings) in 2009, while Strack notched a 6-1 record and a 3.84 ERA in nine starts. Much of the Illini bullpen returns, led by John Anderson (1-2, 4.10), Nick Chmielewski (3-2, 7.97), Lee Zerrusen (2-1, 5.44), and Corey Kimes (2-1, 6.04). As a club in 2009, the Fighting Illini committed 62 errors for a .970 fielding percentage, second in the Big Ten to Minnesota.
  • OHIO STATE INSIDER < The Buckeyes opened up the 2010 campaign with three wins in Jacksonville over North Florida, Florida A&M, and Richmond, outscoring the competition 40-12. This comes after Ohio State finished 42-19 last season, winning the Big Ten regular season title (18-6) and advancing to the NCAA Tournament under skipper Bob Todd. The win over Richmond marked Todd's 1000th career victory.

  • Ohio State is batting .364 in 2010 after hitting .328 a year ago with 26 triples (8th nationally), 480 runs scored (7.87 per game), and 66 home runs (all stats were Big Ten bests). Only 12 Division I teams had more hits than Ohio State¹s 720 (11.80 per game) in 2009.
  • The Buckeyes return eight starters to the lineup in 2010 (five seniors, three juniors). Remarkably, five of the eight starters (outfielder Ryan Dew, catcher Dan Burkhart, outfielder Zach Hurley, outfielder Michael Stephens, and second baseman Cory Kovanda) notched a .340 average or better and at least 56 starts, 48 runs, 74 hits, and 38 RBI. Dew hit .388 (fourth in Big Ten) with 42 RBI and just 12 strikeouts in 219 at bats. Burkhart batted at a .354 clip with 10 dingers and 62 RBI and threw out 21 of 60 would-be base-stealers, while Hurley led the conference in triples (6) while ranking second in hits (89) and fourth in runs scored (58). Stephens was in the top five in the Big Ten in runs (61, third), triples (5, second), home runs (14, fifth), RBI (63, fourth), and times hit by pitch (16, second), and Kovanda batted .341 and recorded the highest on-base percentage of the group (.431) as a consequence of his 33 walks.
  • The Buckeyes rode their bats a year ago, as the pitching staff recorded a 6.39 ERA, but they have notched a 2.33 ERA so far this season. The staff is led by righty Alex Wimmers, who earned Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Honors for the first week of this season after going 9-2 with a 3.27 ERA and 136 strikeouts (conference-best) in 104.2 innings last season. Dean Wolosiansky returns after starting 16 games a season ago and ranking third in the Big Ten in wins (11-2, 6.04), while lefty starter Eric Best (7-4, 5.95) is also back. In the bullpen, Ohio State's returners include juniors Drew Rucinski (12-2, 5.54), Jared Strayer (0-2, 10.55), and Theron Minium (0-2, 16.47).
    Rucinski tied for the league lead in wins despite not starting a single game. The Buckeyes committed 84 errors in 2009 for a .963 fielding clip.

    PENN STATE INSIDER < The Nittany Lions will open their season at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge in 2010 after their opening weekend at Longwood University was snowed out. Penn State went 25-26 in 2009, including an 8-16 Big Ten mark, under head coach Robbie Wine.

  • Penn State recorded a .294 average with a Big Ten-low 29 home runs in 2009. The Nittany Lions averaged 6.39 runs per contest while yielding 6.71.
  • Sophomore third baseman Jordan Steranka leads Penn State¹s offensive attack after batting .365 with six long balls and 42 RBI as a freshman in 2009, earning him third team all-conference honors. Junior backstops Bobby Jacobs and Ben Heath split the time almost exactly behind the plate last season (Jacobs started 27 games while Heath started 26) and will likely do so again; the duo had nearly identical statistics as well, as Jacobs hit .298 with two home runs and 18 driven in and threw out 8 of 28 runners (.286) attempting to steal, while Heath batted .289 with three homers and 20 RBI and tossed out 9 of 32 runners (.281). Second baseman Louie Picconi started 34 games a year ago and hit .257 in 113 at bats. Michael Glantz will also see time in the infield; the junior batted .229 and scored 20 times in 2009 but also committed 20 errors in 30 games. With the injury to outfielder Blake Lynd that will cause him to miss the season, the Nittany Lions are minus eight players who started at least 24 games a year ago.
  • Penn State's hurlers compiled a 5.86 ERA in 2009, allowing 532 hits in 451.2 innings. T.J. Macy (13 starts), Mike Lorentson (12), and Scott Kelley (10) started the most games for PSU last season, but none return in 2010.

  • The Nittany Lions will now count on redshirt senior Mike Wanamaker, who missed the 2009 season due to injury but went 6-5 with a 3.41 ERA two seasons ago, and junior lefty Calvin Grumley (2-3, 9.14 ERA in 2009) to lead the starting staff. Highlighting the bullpen are left-hander David Lutz (4-2, 3.38 in 2009), right-hander Jesse Alfreno (1-0, 4.44), and right-hander Ryan Ignas (5-1, 5.31). PSU committed 70 errors last season for a .965 fielding percentage.

    TALE OF THE TAPE (2010 STATS)

      Notre Dame +Illinois Ohio State +Penn State
    Batting Average .319 .316 .364 .294
    Runs Per Game 13.0 7.46 13.3 6.39
    Home Runs 4 42 3 29
    Slugging Percentage .491 .460 .521 .404
    Batters¹ BB+HBP-SO Margin +7 -14 +8 -153
    On-Base Percentage .432 .394 .480 .371
    Stolen Bases 4-5 79-122 4-4 57-84
    Team ERA 3.00 5.32 2.33 5.78
    Opponent Batting Average .202 .298 .254 .300
    Pitchers¹ SO-BB Ratio 3.14 1.48 4.71 1.55
    Pitchers¹ SO Per 9 Innings 7.33 5.65 11.0 6.75
    Pitchers¹ BB Per 9 Innings 2.33 3.82 2.33 4.36
    Fielding Pct. (Errors) .969 (4) .970 (62) .894 (13) .964 (72)
    Double Plays Turned 3 58 2 66
    Record at Home 0-0 15-7 0-0 10-11
    Record on Road (including neutral) 3-0 19-13 3-0 15-15
    Record in One-Run Games 0-0 6-4 0-0 4-7
    Record in Extra Innings 0-0 1-2 0-0 1-3
              *2009 stats


     

     

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