Feb. 25, 2011
IRISH TRAVELS TO THE GREAT NORTHWEST -- Notre Dame will make its first appearance in the State of Washington since 1996. The Irish and former head coach Pat Murphy regularly visited the The Evergreen State in the early to mid 1990s. Notre Dame participated in the College Baseball Classic in the former Seattle Kingdome from 1990-92 and 1994-96. The Irish went 16-5 in hose contests and captured the tournament in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1995.
Notre Dame played the University of Washington on seven different occasions, but the Irish also faced Air Force three times. The Irish managed to upend the Falcons and eventual Notre Dame head coach (now LSU skipper) Paul Mainieri in all three meetings.
Notre Dame's trip to Seattle University and Bellevue will represent the second different Washington site visited by the Irish in the program's history (joining Seattle). Since 1957, Notre Dame has played in 35 different states (plus Washington, D.C.) and 148 cities.
WASHINGTON NATIVES -- Notre Dame's list of all-time baseball monogram winners includes 885 players who hail from 47 states, Washington, D.C., Panama and Ontario. Washington is the 18th-most common home state among the all-time letterwinners, with 13 (behind Illinois, New York, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut and Missouri).
The most accomplished former Irish players from the state of Washington include Kris Billmaier (2000-03, OF, Woodinville/Woodinville HS, 731 AB, .271, 15 HR, 140 RBI), Allen Greene (1996-98, OF, Seattle/Bishop O'Dea HS, 511 AB, .327, 15 HR, 113 RBI), Pat Leahy (1990-92, RHP, Yakima/Eisenhower HS, 255.1 IP, 3.67 ERA, 25-7 (0), 192 K) and Brant Ust (1997-99, IF, Redmond/Eastlake HS, 660 AB, .368, 46 HR, 170 RBI).
BIG EAST/BIG TEN CHALLENGE RECAP -- For the second straight year, the BIG EAST topped the Big Ten in the BIG EAST/Big Ten Baseball Challenge, winning 14 of the 24 contests. Over the three years of the challenge, the BIG EAST owns a 40-38 advantage against the Big Ten. The BIG EAST won the challenge, 17-13, in 2010 before winning by a 14-10 margin this season.
Eight BIG EAST squads competed in this year's challenge, including Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Rutgers and West Virginia. Each of the eight schools registered at least one victory, while Louisville went undefeated with a 3-0 record.
Notre Dame established challenge records for both runs (19) and hits (25) in a game after thumping Purdue, 19-2, on the second day of the tournament. The Irish also recorded the largest margin of victory (17) in a Challenge game and registered the second-most runs in a single inning (11 in the fourth against the Boilermakers).
Four BIG EAST squads finished 2-1 including Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, St. John's and West Virginia. Pittsburgh, playing in its first year of the Challenge, was the final baseball-playing member of the two conferences to compete in the Challenge.
DUPRA SOLID IN DEFEAT -- Senior RHP Brian Dupra turned in a quality start, the 14th of his career, in the season opener against Michigan State on Feb. 18. He allowed two earned runs on seven hits in 7.0 innings of work. Dupra struck out five and did not issue a walk. He tossed 92 pitches, 72 of which were strikes.
SHERRY, DeSICO CARRY IRISH OFFENSIVELY -- Senior 3B Greg Sherry and sophomore 2B Frank DeSico combined for five base hits against the Spartans. Sherry went 3-for-4 with three singles, while DeSico went 2-for-2 with two singles, including a RBI base hit, and two sacrifice bunts.
The three-hit afternoon for Sherry was the 12th of his career and first since Apr. 26, 2009 at Louisville.
DeSico's two sacrifice bunts were a career-high and most by an Irish player in a game since David Mills had two against Villanova on Apr. 4, 2009 versus Villanova.
JAGIELO IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ORDER -- Freshman 1B Eric Jagielo started at first base and batted third in the Irish lineup in the season opener. He is the first Notre Dame rookie to start at first base in a season opener since Feb. 23, 1989. Joe Binkiewicz started at first base in the first game of a doubleheader against Trinity (TX). Binkiewicz ranks eighth in Irish career history with 33 home runs.
Jagielo is the first Notre Dame rookie to bat third since at least 1988. Irish records unfortunately do not have complete box scores prior to the '88 season.
DeSICO CONTINUES FLAWLESS PLAY AT SECOND BASE -- Sophomore 2B Frank DeSico has started 50 straight games at second base for the Irish, 34 of which were error-free before he committed an error in the fourth inning of the game against Penn State on Feb. 20. He went 167 consecutive chances between errors. DeSico's previous error came in the first game of the doubleheader with USF on March 27, 2010. DeSico's fielding stats in his first 18 games of his career compared to his last 35:
The 50 consecutive starts at second base are the most for an Irish player since Steve Sollman made 86 straight starts at second from Mar. 30, 2002 - Apr. 22, 2003.
IRISH OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION -- Notre Dame stranded seven on the base paths, including six in scoring position, in the one-run defeat to Michigan State on Feb. 18, but the Irish more than made up for their lack of clutch hitting in the 19-2 rout of Purdue on Feb. 19.
Notre Dame totaled 19 runs on 25 hits in the rout of the Boilermakers. The 19 runs bested the previous BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge record of 18 runs set by St. John's in 2009. The 25 hits bested the previous mark of 24 set by Louisville against Michigan State in 2010. The 17-run margin of victory also established a new challenge record.
The Notre Dame 11-run fourth inning was the second-largest scoring outburst in any inning in BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge history. St. John's had a 12-run frame in 2009. The Irish had not posted 10 or more runs in an inning since May of 2004. In fact, Notre Dame eclipsed 11 runs in a total game only five times during the entire 2010 season.
The 19 runs, 25 hits and 17-run margin of victory were all the best for the Irish since Mar. 20, 2008 against Georgetown. Notre Dame routed the Hoyas, 25-1, that afternoon and recorded 28 hits.
The 11-run inning marked the first inning with at least 10 runs since May 10, 2004 at Connecticut. The Irish plated 10 runs in the top of the first inning en route to a 16-8 victory over the Huskies.
DUPRA AMONGST RARE GROUP -- Senior RHP Brian Dupra is a two-time captain for the Irish. He has served in that leadership roll each of the past two seasons (2009 and 2010). Dupra is the 15th multi-year captain in the program's 118-year history. He is the 12th since the turn of century (as in 1900 not 2000) and 10th since the late 1970s.
Dupra also has the rare accomplishment of being named a captain as a pitcher and not an everyday position player. Over the last 32 seasons, Dupra is only the ninth pitcher to earn captain status. The others include Craig Allen ('96), Alex Shilliday ('99), Aaron Heilman ('00, '01), J.P. Gagne ('03), Chris Niesel ('04), Tyler Jones ('05), Tom Thorton ('06) and Cole Johnson ('09). In fact, Dupra and Heilman are the only known two-time captain pitchers in Notre Dame baseball history.
JOHNSON QUITE INVOLVED OFF THE FIELD AS WELL -- Senior RHP Cole Johnson, a co-captain in 2009, has the rare accomplishment of being named a captain as a pitcher and not an everyday position player. Over the last 32 seasons, Johnson is only the ninth pitcher to earn captain status. The others include Craig Allen ('96), Alex Shilliday ('99), Aaron Heilman ('00, '01), J.P. Gagne ('03), Chris Niesel ('04), Tyler Jones ('05), Tom Thorton ('06) and Brian Dupra ('10).
Johnson was one of 12 Irish student-athletes invited to join a faculty-mentoring program based on leadership, academic performance and athletic accomplishments. Johnson was selected from over 900 Notre Dame athletes, and the only sophomore inducted in 2009.
Johnson was selected for the Notre Dame Rosenthal Leadership Academy, which is a special four-month program of seminars and workshops to develop leadership strategies, initiatives and skills.
Johnson Selected As Candidate For Lowe's Senior Class Award -- Senior RHP Cole Johnson has been named one of 30 candidates for the 2011 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award in the baseball division. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - classroom, character, community and competition.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
The 2011 candidate class includes 15 student-athletes with cumulative grade point averages of better than a 3.5, including three with perfect 4.0 GPAs. Seven are from teams ranked in the Collegiate Baseball preseason top 35 poll.
Lowe's, an official Corporate Partner of the NCAA, will announce the winner June 24 at the NCAA College World Series® in Omaha.
HUDGINS ALMOST IMMACULATE -- Junior RHP Will Hudgins picked up his first save of the season in the victory over Penn State on Feb. 20. He tossed a perfect inning of relief. Hudgins struck out the side on a total of only 10 pitches. Hudgins started the inning with seven consecutive strikes, including four swinging strikes, before finally missing the zone. All nine of his strikes were either called or swinging.
PETZOLD ULTIMATE EXAMPLE OF PAYING DUES -- Notre Dame fifth-year senior OF Herman Petzold entered this season with exactly three base hits and no RBI in 10 at-bats over 11 career games - all of the bench. In fact, when first-year Irish head coach Mik Aoki took over the program in June, Petzold was not even listed on the 2011 roster. Petzold contacted Aoki over the summer and expressed interest in returning. He had already taken care of his academic paperwork in order to be eligible as a fifth-year senior and Aoki offered him a spot on the roster.
Petzold also played exclusively as a middle infielder over his first four years, but he started the season opener against Michigan State on Feb. 18 in right field and performed as if he had played his entire career at the position. Petzold batted .417 (5-for-12) with a walk, hit by pitch, sacrifice bunt, two doubles, three runs scored and five RBI in three starts against Michigan State, Purdue and Penn State. He also played a flawless right field. He recorded four put outs without an error.
Without a doubt, Petzold's biggest hit of the weekend came in the 19-2 rout of Purdue on Feb. 19. With the Irish trailing 2-0 in the top of the third inning, Petzold drilled an 0-2 offering into the left centerfield gap for a one-out, three-run double to give Notre Dame a 3-2 lead. Notre Dame continued the momentum with an 11-run fourth inning and never looked back. He went 3-for-6 against the Boilermakers with two runs scored and four RBI - career-bests in hits, at-bats, runs scored and RBI.
NEXT MAN IN -- Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly has the motto "Next Man In" trademarked, but the Irish baseball squad put it into affect last weekend. Notre Dame entered the 2011 season with a pair of first-year starters in the outfield (really three when you consider sophomore OF Charlie Markson started just a total of four games in 2010). The two first-year starters, fifth-year senior Herman Petzold and sophomore Adam Norton, both moved to the outfield from infield. Petzold was a middle infielder over the last four years, while Norton started 31 games at shortstop and third base last year.
If that task, breaking in brand-new outfielders, was not daunting enough, the situation grew even more difficult following injuries to Markson and Norton in the season opener against Michigan State on Feb. 18. Markson was hit with a pitch and Norton strained an oblique, and both remain doubtful for this weekend.
Junior OF Alex Robinson replaced Markson in centerfield and promptly went 5-for-5 with three runs scored and one RBI. Robinson was the first Irish played with five hits in a game since Ryan Connolly had five against Cincinnati on April 24, 2010.
Freshman Eric Jagielo, who started the season opener at 1B, moved to left field to replace Norton. Jagielo had never previously played in the outfield. He not only went 4-for-6 with two runs scored and four RBI, including a three-run triple, but registered four putouts without an error.
Senior C/DH Matt Scioscia led Notre Dame in pinch hits (six) and pinch hit opportunities (14) in 2010. His .429 average as a pinch hitter also led the Irish. Scioscia has also proven to be a quality run producer in reserve duty. He has driven in 27 runs over the last two seasons in a total of 120 at bats. Scioscia continued that trend in the 19-2 rout of Purdue on Feb. 19. He replaced the previous day's starting designated hitter (senior David Casey) and went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBI.
PITCHING THE NAME OF THE GAME -- Notre Dame might have scored 28 runs in its three games at the 2011 BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge, but the Irish pitching staff deserves serious kudos.
Notre Dame entered this season without two weekend starters from 2010 (junior LHP Steve Sabatino and graduated RHP Eric Maust). Sabatino, along with key junior LHP Irish relievers Joe Spano and Ryan Richter, will miss the entire 2011 campaign following offseason elbow injuries. All three have already begun the rehabilitation process following Tommy John surgery. The injuries left Notre Dame with exactly one scholarship LHP (freshman Anthony McIver). Despite the obvious setbacks, the Irish did not miss a beat in the opening weekend.
Notre Dame posted a 2.33 team ERA in 27.0 innings of work against Michigan State, Purdue and Penn State. All three Irish starting pitchers, senior RHP Brian Dupra, senior RHP Cole Johnson and senior RHP Todd Miller, registered quality starts. The trio scattered 19 hits over 19.1 innings. More importantly, the trio walked only two and registered 15 strikeouts.
The Irish bullpen was even more impressive. The quintet of McIver, freshman RHP Donnie Hissa, freshman RHP Dan Slania, freshman RHP Sean Fitzgerald and junior RHP Will Hudgins combined to throw 7.2 scoreless innings. They also combined to punch out nine and walk two.
Notre Dame's 2.33 ERA was the lowest ERA through the opening weekend of a season since 2006 when the Irish staff posted a 2.00 ERA following four games at the Service Academies Classic. The four walks were the fewest over the first three games of a season since at least 1995 (and one of the walks was an intentional pass).
The Irish have not completed any three-game span with fewer than three unintentional walks since March 11-13, 2010 against Bradley, Gonzaga and Pacific in San Antonio.
ON DECK -- After Notre Dame takes the red-eye flight back from Washington and returns early Monday morning, the Irish again hit the road next weekend for the Coca-Cola Classic hosted by Winthrop. Notre Dame opens the weekend with a split doubleheader against Manhattan at Noon ET and the host Eagles at 4:00 p.m. ET on Fri., March 4. The Irish return to action at 4:00 p.m. ET on Sat., March 5 against Winthrop before rounding out the weekend against the Jaspers at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sun., March 6. Every game of the tournament will be played on campus in Rock Hill, S.C. at The Winthrop Ballpark.
RANKINGS -- Notre Dame and Seattle are each unranked in all four major polls.