Notre Dame Baseball Travels to New Orleans
Irish to meet Missouri, UNO, Southern Illinois.
February 26, 1999
The Notre Dame baseball team returns to action this weekend with participation in the University of New Orleans Invitational, where the Irish will play their first-ever game versus Missouri (Feb. 26, 4:00 p.m. central time) before facing host UNO on Feb. 27 (1:00 p.m.) and Southern Illinois on the 28th (10:00 a.m.) ... each of the three visiting coaches played together on the UNO baseball teams of the late 1970s.
NEW LOOK LINEUP: Notre Dame's 1999 lineup includes several players in new positions, with senior C Jeff Wagner representing the only player who is opening at the same position he played in 1998 ... junior All-American Brant Ust is making the move from third base to shortstop (where he played part of his freshman season), replacing first team all-BIG EAST selection and two-time team captain J.J. Brock ... sophomore Alec Porzel, a high school shortstop, is returning to the infield as the starting second baseman, after playing in left field as a freshman (1998 graduate Todd Frye played at second last season) ... junior Jeff Felker is returning to first base (where he played for most of '97), after spending '98 as the starting right fielder (the Irish will be looking to replace the strong defense and surprising power of '98 graduate Dan Leatherman at first base).
NEWCOMERS ROUND OUT LINEUP: Three newcomers have stepped into the starting lineup while junior Jeff Perconte and sophomore Ben Cooke are sharing the starting duties in right field (in addition to serving as DH candidates) ... two freshmen opened the season as starters in the outfield-LF Matt Strickroth and CF Steve Stanley-while Andrew Bushey takes over Ust's vacated spot at third base ... freshman Paul O'Toole also is expected to be a regular for the Irish in 1999 while backing up Wagner behind the plate.
IRISH TOP JMU, DROP SERIES AT FIU: Notre Dame opened the 1999 season last week with an 8-4 win over James Madison (at Florida International) before dropping a three games series versus No.23-ranked FIU (1-14, 2-3, 0-12) ... senior RHP Alex Shilliday (7 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 8 Ks) posted his 22nd career win after allowing two earned runs ... offensive heroes included junior SS Brant Ust (3-for-3, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R), freshman 3B Andrew Bushey (2-for-4, 2B, R) and freshman C Paul O'Toole (2-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R) ... junior LHP Tim Kalita (5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 Ks) lost the first FIU game, despite a solid starting effort ... freshman IF Ed Golom averted the shutout bey homering on the first official pitch of his Notre Dame career ... junior RHP Scott Cavey (4 IP, 3 R, 5 H, 3 K) suffered the tough-luck loss in the second game, with the Irish managing just four hits ... senior LHP Chris McKeown came on to throw four shutout innings in that game (4 H, 2 BB, 4 Ks) ... the Irish scored twice after a single by junior 1B Jeff Felker, a hit-and-run play by O'Toole, a sacrifice fly from sophomore 2B Alec Porzel and a throwing error ... sophomore RHP Aaron Heilman lost the series finale in his second career start (5.2 IP, 6 R/4 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 4 KS), after leading the nation in 1998 with a 1.61 ERA as the Irish closer.
WHME TO BROADCAST 43 GAMES: South Bend-based WHME radio (103.1) is scheduled to broadcast 43 of Notre Dames 55 regular-season games-including the New Orleans Invitational-and any postseason action during the 1999 campaign ... all games are available via the internet, with a link from the Notre Dame website (www.und.com) ... some broadcasts may be delayed due to conflicts with other sports programming ... WHMEs television division also may air several simulcasts during the 1999 season (schedule TBA) .. .WHME is scheduled to broadcast all of Notre Dame's remaining 51 games, except for the following: March 6 and March 7 vs. Penn State, March 12 vs. St. Mary's, March 13 championship/consolation game of Irish Baseball Classic, March 30 vs. Wisconsin Milwaukee, April 14 vs. Cleveland State, April 27 vs. Illinois Chicago and April 30 vs. Oakland.
Notre Dame's Probable Starting Lineup (*-lefthanded hitter; #-switch hitter)
TOURNAMENT TO REUNITE COACHES: The New Orleans Invitational will serve as a reunion for each of the four head coaches, as 14th-year UNO head coach Tom Schwaner was an assistant coach at UNO during the time that the tournament's other three coaches-Paul Mainieri (Notre Dame), Tom Jamieson (Missouri) and Dan Callahan (Southern Illinois)-were players for the Privateers ... Mainieri was a second baseman for UNO's 1978 and '79 teams that won the Sun Belt Conference title ... Jamieson played at UNO as a catcher from 1978-81, earning team MVP honors as a senior while being named to the 1980 NCAA South Regional all-tournament team ... Jamieson also was a six-year assistant coach at his alma mater, when he helped UNO advance to four NCAA regionals and the 1984 College World Series ... Callahan was a pitcher at UNO in 1978 and '79 before transferring to Quincy College ... all three of the above coaches played for UNO hall-of-fame coach and current UNO athletic director Ron Maestri while Schwaner was an assistant coach under Maestri.
ND vs. MISSOURI: Missouri will become the third straight Irish opponent to face Notre Dame for the first time ... in its first 106 seasons of varsity play, the Notre Dame baseball team faced 260 different opponents, with James Madison and Florida International becoming No. 261 and 262 last week ... the Irish will face a fourth new opponent in the April 30-May 1 games vs. Oakland (Mich.) University ... Notre Dame has previously faced seven of the 10 other Big 12 Conference teams that play college baseball: Baylor (2-3), Iowa State (1-1), Nebraska (10-1), Kansas State (0-2), Oklahoma (0-1), Texas (3-3) and Texas A&M (1-1) ... Notre Dame has never played Kansas, Oklahoma State or Texas Tech ... Notre Dame sports information director John Heisler is a graduate of the Missouri school of journalism.
ND vs. NEW ORLEANS: New Orleans has won three of its previous four games versus Notre Dame, including a 4-3 home win in 11 innings on Feb. 14, 1998 (recap below) ... the other three meetings in the series came at UNO on March 1-3, 1996 ... the Irish won the first game, 8-3, before dropping the final two to the then-#22 Privateers (11-7, 12-7) ... Christian Parker picked up the win, pitching 6.2 innings, while current senior RHP Alex Shilliday had three Ks over two no-hit innings for the save ... the Irish broke open a 1-1 game with a four-run fifth vs. reigning national player of the week Steve Stanson ... current senior Jeff Wagner was one of four Irish players with an RBI in that win ... UNO used two runs in the eighth and two in the ninth to win the second game, with current Irish senior LHP Chris McKeown pitching in the eighth ... Wagner had an RBI groundout in the final game of the '96 series.
RECAP (@UNO 4, ND 3, 11 inn.; 2/14/98) - New Orleans came back from three deficits while Notre Dame stranded 12 runners ... UNO's Joe Cordo forced extra innings with a leadoff home run in the ninth before backup catcher Bryan Bruno won the game with a two-out double in his first AB of the season ... junior RHP Jon Watson (1-0)-who also hit a solo shot in the seventh-picked up the win (4 BF, 2 Ks, 1 BB) ... Irish freshman RHP Danny Tamayo took the loss (2 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 1 K) while junior RHP Alex Shilliday had no decision (7 IP, 2 R, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 Ks) ... UNO sophomore RHP David Miller worked into the seventh (2 R, 8 H, 3 BB, 3 Ks) ... Notre Dame struck first in the second inning, after singles by Alec Porzel, Jeff Felker and Larry Zimont ... UNO tied the game in the fourth, when Buddy Wilker plated Chris Fishburn with a single to right-center ... the Irish went back ahead in the seventh, behind Dan Leatherman's leadoff double, J.J. Brock's sac. bunt and Todd Frye's infield single ... Watson's two-out blast to left-center tied the game in the seventh ... Felker reached on a one-out error by 1B Frank Torre in the eighth and scored on Zimont's double to right-center ... sophomore RHP Steve Szczepanski pitched trough the eighth but served up Cordo's leadoff blast over the left-center fence to open the ninth ... Aaron Sapp followed with a single, bringing on sophomore LHP Tim Kalita, who forced Watson into a groundout ... Tamayo then walked Gilbert Lanoix before popping up Mac Harer to force extra innings ... Tamayo hit leadoff man Chris Avans in the 11th before Bruno's double to left field.
ND vs. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Notre Dame and SIU have split two previous meetings ...SIU took two games from Notre Dame at the 1970 NCAAs (10-2, 1-0) ... the Irish beat the Salukis, 6-2, at the '96 Irish Baseball Classic in San Antonio and 4-3 at last year's IBC ... Aaron Heilman picked up the save over SIU last season, after the Irish had enjoyed an early 4-1 lead before SIU scored single runs in the sixth and eighth ... two of the four runs allowed by SIU righthander Chris Schullian were unearned (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 3 Ks) ... Heilman took the mound with two outs in the eighth, the Irish leading 4-2 and runners at first and second .. after serving up an RBI single by Brian Phelan, Heilman induced pinch hitter Cory Schank into a rally-ending popup to shortstop J.J. Brock ... Heilman then set down the side in the ninth, finishing with a pair of Ks ... Steve Szczepanski picked up the win (5-plus IP, 2 R, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 K) ... Notre Dame forged a 1-1 tie in the first when Brock smacked a solo shot to left-center ... the Irish took the lead in the second, when Allen Greene reached on one of shortstop Jon Winter's three errors, moved up on an errant pickoff throw, took third on Alec Porzel's sacrifice bunt and scored on Jeff Felker's groundout ... the Irish added two runs in the third, after singles by Brock and Jeff Wagner, a throwing error by Winter that moved Brock to third, Brant Ust's sacrifice fly and Greene's RBI single to right-center ... Szczepanski opened the sixth with a walk and a hit batter before yielding to Chris McKeown, who served up a single by Jole Peters and a sacrifice fly by Marty Worsley.
UNO HOMECOMING: Fifth-year Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri will be making his third return to New Orleans with the Irish ... Mainieri completed his playing career at UNO, as a second baseman in '78 and '79 ... Mainieri played 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 experienced another homecoming last week, when the Irish played four games at Florida International (the first, versus James Madison, provided Mainieri his 4999th career win) ... Mainieri graduated 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.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS: Missouri us 4-3, after dropping three games at current No. 2-ranked Texas (9-6, 14-2, 14-2) ... the Tigers opened with wins over the Lincoln Blue Tigers (14-7), Truman State (22-10), Missouri Baptist (5-1) and Southwest Baptist (7-4) ... Missouri returned 13 of 20 letterwinners from its 1998 team that went 36-18 and finished fifth in the Big 12 Conference ... the Tigers are hitting .297, with 10 home runs, 16 doubles, 51 walks, 66 Ks and 6-of-10 stolen bases ... the Tigers pitching staff owns an 8.49 ERA, 56 Ks and 37 walks in 59.1 innings, with a .335 opponent batting average (four HRs allowed) ... Missouri has made six errors for a solid .977 fielding pct. ... top hitters include junior DH Jake Epstein (.480, 1 HR, 4 2B, 8 RBI, 8 R, 5 BB, 1-1 SB), senior 3B Aaron Wilson (.417, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 8 R, 8 BB) and freshman SS Ryan Stegall (.346, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 6 R, 2 BB, 1-1 SB) ... senior LHP Justin Stine (2 GP, 0-0, 10.24, 9.2 IP, 9 Ks/6 BB, .395 opp. batting avg.) is the likely starting pitcher vs. Notre Dame.
SCOUTING THE PRIVATEERS: New Orleans is 3-3, following a pair of wins over Jackson State (20-9, 12-5), a 7-5 loss at Nicholls State (7-5), home losses to Southwestern Louisiana (8-6) and Mississippi (12-2) and a 10-6 win over Southern Mississippi ... UNO returned 11 of 24 letterwinners from its 1998 team that went 29-29 and placed fifth in the Sunbelt Conference ... UNO is hitting .301 with 11 home runs, 15 doubles, 30 walks, 46 Ks and 9-of-10 stolen bases ... the UNO pitchers own a 6.11 ERA, with 35 Ks and 21 walks in 53 innings and a .335 opponent batting average (six HRs allowed) ... UNO has made 12 errors for a .948 fielding pct. ... top hitters include junior 3B John Ballon (.500, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 11 R, 6 2B, 4 BB 1-1 SB), senior RF Jon Watson (.417, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 1-1 SB) and senior LF Aaron Sapp (.400, 3 RBI, 4 R, 4 2B, 3 BB 2-2 SB) ... senior LHP Nick Farrer (2 GP, 1-1, 6.00, 9 IP, 2 K/0 BB, .364 opponent batting average) is the likely starting pitcher for Saturday's game vs. the Irish.
SCOUTING THE SALUKIS: Southern Illinois is 1-2, after a three-game series at Stetson (7-8, 10-7, 14-6) ... SIU returned 11 of 25 letterwinners from its 1998 team that went 19-35 and finished ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference ... SIU is hitting .358, with no home runs, 11 doubles, and 5-of-6 stolen bases ... the SIU pitching staff owns a 4.39 ERA, with 22 strikeouts and 11 walks in 26.2 innings, plus a .236 opponent batting average (three HRs allowed) ... SIU had a poor fielding series at Stetson, with nine errors (for a .924 fielding pct.) ... top hitters include junior 2B Steve Ruggeri (.471, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 2 R, 2-3 SB), freshman SS Luke Nelson (.429, 2 2B, 8 RBI, 2 R) and senior CF Joe Schley (.429, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB, 1-1 SB) ... SIU is expected to throw senior RHP Dave Piazza (1-0, 9 IP, 5 IP, 4 K, 2 BB, .318 opp. batting avg., one HR allowed) versus the Irish.
IRISH RETURN PAIR OF ALL-AMERICANS: Notre Dame is one of just five schools in Division I baseball that returned multiple All-America players from the 1998 season (based on the teams selected by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball magazine and the American Baseball Coaches Association) ... current Irish sophomore RHP Aaron Heilman was named third team All-America by Collegiate Baseball in 98 while current junior shortstop Brant Ust was a third team 98 All-America pick (as a third baseman) by both Baseball America and the ABCA ... the other schools with multiple returning All-Americans include the University of Miami, Texas Tech, Wake Forest and Wichita State (3).
BIG EAST BESTS: Notre Dame senior C Jeff Wagner and All-America junior SS Brant Ust rank among the top hitters in BIG EAST Conference history ... Usts career bating average in BIG EAST regular-season games (.439, 68-for-155) is on pace to best the existing record of .432, set by Seton Hall's Marteese Robinson from '85-'87 ... Wagner ranks 10th on that list with a .398 average (86-for-216), including 20 home runs in the BIG EAST regular season-third all-time behind former Seton Hall great Mo Vaughn (26, 1987-89) and Connecticuts Jason Grabowski (21, 1995-97) ... Wagner also ranks fifth in BIG EAST history with 72 career RBI in conference games, trailing Vaughn (83), former SHU catcher Alex Andreopoulos (83, 1992-95), former Villanova player Gary Scott (74, 1987-89) and Grabowski (73) ... two former Irish players-2B/CF Randall Brooks (.418, '96-'97) and IF J.J. Brock (.399, '96-'98)-also rank among the all-time BIG EAST batting leaders.
PLAYING FOR FOR YOUR COUNTRY: Current Notre Dame junior SS Brant Ust served as a third baseman on the 22-player roster for USA Baseball during the summer of 1998 ... Ust finished third on the team during the 42-game summer season with a .378 batting average .. his travels took him to Nicaragua for the World Championship Qualifier and to Italy for the World Championship, with several stops throughout the United States-highlighted by pregame introductions of the USA team to the crowds at two major-league games.
FRESHMAN PHENOMS: Notre Dame has produced two of the last three BIG EAST Conference rookies of the year: DH Jeff Wagner in 96 and IF Brant Ust in 97 ... Wagner set the Irish freshman home run record, smacking 10 in 96, only to see Ust best that mark with 11 shots over the fence in 97 ... Ust joined Wagner on the first team all-BIG EAST squad and became the first freshman middle infielder ever named first team all-BIG EAST ... Ust wrapped up his rookie season by becoming the first Notre Dame player named a first team Freshman All-American by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball magazines ... the Irish have several strong candidates for the 1999 BIG EAST rookie-of-the-year award, with CF Steve Stanley listed as the conferences second-best newcomer according to Baseball America.
MAINIERI ON VERGE OF 500 WINS: Fifth-year Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri owns a 499-355 (.584) record in 16-plus seasons as a college head coach, just one shy of the 500-win milestone ... in addition to his 167-77 (.684) mark with the Irish, Mainieri was 180-121 in six seasons at St. Thomas (Fla.) and 152-158 in six seasons at Air Force ... Mainieri has experienced two noteworthy homecomings in '99, making his third return to the University of New Orleans (where he played) with the Irish baseball program and his third return to his hometown of Miami as the Notre Dame coach ... Mainieri coached his 800th career game on Feb. 20, 1998, at the University of Miami, after a Feb. 15 game at UNO was rained out ... he notched his 499th career win last week over James Madison, in a game played in Miami at Florida International (on Feb. 19) ... Mainieri's 167 wins rank third at Notre Dame, behind Pat Murphy (318, '88-'94) and Jake Kline (558, '34-'75) ... Mainieri has seen 16 of his Irish players go on to pro baseball, with 11 selected in the major-league draft ... 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 ... Mainieri and his father Demie are the only known father-son combo 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 CC.
UST, HEILMAN AMONG TOP PROSPECTS: Two Notre Dame players are listed among Baseball Americas 1999 list of college baseballs top professional baseball prospects ... junior SS Brant Ust is listed as the No. 38 college prospect and is fifth among middle infielders, behind Miamis Bobby Hill (8th), Dukes Vaughn Schill (9th), South Carolinas Brian Roberts (11th) and Arizona States Willie Bloomquist (13th) ... Hill and Bloomquist were teammates of Usts on Team USA during the summer of 98, as were USC C Eric Munson (No. 2 prospect), Mississippi State P Matt Ginter (10th), Texas A&M LHP Casey Fossum (11th) and UNLV OF Ryan Ludwick (20th) ... Irish sophomore All-America RHP Aaron Heilman is listed by Baseball America as the top prospect in the BIG EAST Conference ... the magazine also projects Heilman as the No. 9 prospect for the 2000 season (fourth among pitchers), behind: Clemson OF Patrick Boyd, California 3B Xavier Nady, UCLA 2B Chase Utley, Pepperdine C Dane Sardinha, Stanford RHP Justin Wayne, UCLA 1B Garrett Atkins, Arizona 1B/RHP Ben Diggins and Stanford RHP Jason Young.
SHILLIDAY MOVING UP STRIKEOUT LIST: Notre Dame senior RHP Alex Shilliday heads into the weekend with 217 career strikeouts, ranking fifth on the irish all-time list ... Shilliday could make a run at the top-four Irish strikeout leaders, a formidable group that played together for three seasons: Sinnes (315, '93), Tom Price (276, '94), Chris Michalak (263, '93) and Al Walania (236, '93) ... Shilliday also is tied for eighth in Notre Dame history with 22 career victories.
Notre Dame Baseball -
Career Record Book
Runs Batted In
8. Ryan Topham (1993-95) 165
9. Cory Mee (1989-92) 164
10. Jeff Wagner (1996- ) 164
1. Jeff Wagner (1996- ) 41
2. Frank Jacobs (1989-91) 37
3. Mike Amrhein (1994-97) 37
4. Ryan Topham (1993-85) 34
5. Joe Binkiewicz (1989-92) 33
6. Brant Ust (1997- ) 30
5. Joe Binkiewicz (1989-92) 48
6. Jeff Wagner (1996- ) 47
7. J.J. Brock (1994-98) 42
8. Ryan Topham (1993-95) 39
9. Greg Layson (1991-94) 36
10. Brant Ust (1997- ) 36
1. David Sinnes (1990-93) 315
2. Tom Price (1991-94) 276
3. Chris Michalak (1990-93) 263
4. Al Walania (1990-93) 236
5. Alex Shilliday (1996- ) 217
9. Erik Madsen (1986-89) 239.2
10. Alex Shilliday (1996- ) 234.0
7. Pat Leahy (1990-92) 25
8. Herb Kelly (1912-14) 22
Alex Shilliday (1996- ) 22
1. Mike Coffey (1988-90) 12
2. Chris Michalak (1990-93) 12
3. Larry Mohs (1994-97) 10
4. Rich Sauget (1994-96) 9
5. Aaron Heilman (1998- ) 9
9. Erik Madsen (1986-89) 34
10. Mike Passilla (1986-89) 33
- Alex Shilliday (1996- ) 32
Runs Batted In 8. Ryan Topham (1993-95) 165 9. Cory Mee (1989-92) 164 10. Jeff Wagner (1996- ) 164
Home Runs 1. Jeff Wagner (1996- ) 41 2. Frank Jacobs (1989-91) 37 3. Mike Amrhein (1994-97) 37 4. Ryan Topham (1993-85) 34 5. Joe Binkiewicz (1989-92) 33 6. Brant Ust (1997- ) 30
Doubles 5. Joe Binkiewicz (1989-92) 48 6. Jeff Wagner (1996- ) 47 7. J.J. Brock (1994-98) 42 8. Ryan Topham (1993-95) 39 9. Greg Layson (1991-94) 36 10. Brant Ust (1997- ) 36
Strikeouts Thrown 1. David Sinnes (1990-93) 315 2. Tom Price (1991-94) 276 3. Chris Michalak (1990-93) 263 4. Al Walania (1990-93) 236 5. Alex Shilliday (1996- ) 217
Innings Pitched 9. Erik Madsen (1986-89) 239.2 10. Alex Shilliday (1996- ) 234.0
Victories 7. Pat Leahy (1990-92) 25 8. Herb Kelly (1912-14) 22 Alex Shilliday (1996- ) 22
Saves 1. Mike Coffey (1988-90) 12 2. Chris Michalak (1990-93) 12 3. Larry Mohs (1994-97) 10 4. Rich Sauget (1994-96) 9 5. Aaron Heilman (1998- ) 9
Games Started 9. Erik Madsen (1986-89) 34 10. Mike Passilla (1986-89) 33 - Alex Shilliday (1996- ) 32
ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE: The Notre Dame baseball team posted a 3.07 team GPA in the '98 fall semester, led by 10 players who turned in Deans List semesters (3.4 or higher) ... Irish baseball players have earned GTE Academic All-America honors 11 times since 1982, with current junior rightfielder Jeff Perconte (3.65 cumulative GPA as a double major in economic and government) serving as a leading Academic All-American candidate for 1999.
IRISH OWN TOP BIG EAST WINNING PERCENTAGE: Over the course of its first three seasons as a member of the BIG EAST Conference (1996-98), Notre Dame ranks first among the 11 member teams with a .700 overall winning percentage (126-54, West Virginia is second at .630), a .716 BIG EAST regular-season winning percentage (43-17, Rutgers is second at .671) and a .693 wining percentages in combined BIG EAST regular-season and tournament games (52-23, Rutgers is second at .651) ... St. Johns owns the best BIG EAST Tournament winning percentage during the past three seasons (.636, 7-4), followed by Notre Dame at .600 (9-6) ... in fact, the double-elimination tournament has been the ultimate bugaboo for Notre Dame, with the same team providing both Irish losses during each of the past three tournaments (West Virginia in 96, Villanova in 97 and Rutgers in 98).
WHAT THE ECK!: Notre Dame baseball is entering its sixth season of play at Frank Eck Stadium, located on the southwest corner of the Notre Dame campus ... the Irish have won nearly 85 percent of their games at Eck Stadium during the past five seasons, posting a 126-27 record (.824), highlighted by a 25-2 mark in 1997 and a 91-18 mark during the four-year tenure of head coach Paul Mainieri ... the Irish head into the '99 season with victories in 54 of their last 62 games at Eck Stadium.
FORTY WINS A STANDARD: The Notre Dame baseball team has 10 posted straight seasons with 40-plus wins, including 48 wins in 1989 and 92, 46 victories in three seasons (90, 93 and 94), 45 wins in 91 and 44 in 95.
THE NINETIES: Notre Dame owns the seventh-highest 1990s winning percentage in Division I baseball, going 397-150 in the past nine seasons (.726) to rank behind only Wichita State (.788), Miami, Fla. (.762), Delaware (.753), LSU (.748), Florida State (.745) and Clemson (.741).
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: The Notre Dame baseball team received mention in four preseason national polls, checking in at No. 21 in the Inside Baseball coaches poll while ranking among the "best of the rest" and No. 29 overall according to Baseball America ... Collegiate Baseball magazine listed Notre Dame No. 40 in its preseason poll while the Irish received the 35th-most votes in the preseason USA Today/ESPN coaches poll ... Collegiate Baseball also listed Irish sophomore RHP Aaron Heilman as a preseason second team All-American while tabbing junior SS Brant Ust as a preseason third team All-American ... Baseball America picked Notre Dame to finish first in the BIG EAST Conference, as did the BIG EAST coaches in their annual preseason poll ... the BIG EAST coaches picked Ust to repeat as conference player of the year while forecasting Ust and Heilman as first team all-BIG EAST players.
IRISH CONTINUE TO SPAN THE GLOBE: The Notre Dame baseball schedule regularly takes the Irish to several top-notch baseball facilities and noteworthy cities throughout the country ... in Paul Mainieris four-plus seasons at Notre Dame, the Irish have visited the following cities: Fullerton, Calif., Seattle, Wash., San Antonio, Texas, Miami, Fla., Atlanta, Ga., New Orleans, La., Boston, Mass., Washington, D.C., Long Beach, Calif., New York City, N.Y., and Orlando, Fla.
LIDGE SELECTED IN FIRST ROUND, GREENE IN NINTH: Notre Dame junior RHP Brad Lidge was selected with the 17th pick of the 1998 major league baseball draft by the Houston Astros, becoming the highest-drafted Notre Dame player in 33 years and joining 1965 catcher Ken Plesha as the highest-drafted Irish players in the history of the major-league draft (Plesha was drafted by the Chicago White Sox) ... Lidges classmate, CF Allen Greene, was a ninth-round selection of the New York Yankees, producing just the second pair of Irish teammates to be drafted in the first 10 rounds of the same draft (RHP Christian Parker was a fourth-round pick by Montreal in 96 while CF Scott Sollmann went in the seventh round of that draft) ... Lidge, who entered the Notre Dame program after being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 42nd round out of high school, developed into one of the nations most dominant pitchers, becoming the 10th college player and sixth college pitcher selected in the 1998 draft ... Lidge was named the 1998 BIG EAST Conference pitcher of the year after totaling a BIG EAST-leading 93 strikeouts in 80.1 innings, second-most in the Notre Dame programs 107-year history ... Lidge finished '98 with an 8-2 record, winning his final eight decisions, while ranking 12th in the BIG EAST with a 4.15 ERA and seventh with a .240 opponent batting average ... he averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and posted a 2.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio (25 total walks).
HEILMAN, KALITA CRACK ERA LIST: Notre Dame finished the 1998 season ranked 12th in the nation for team ERA (4.02), led by current sophomore RHP Aaron Heilman (first in the nation with a 1.61 ERA in '98) and current junior LHP Tim Kalita (who finished 26th, at 2.78) ... Heilman's 1.61 ERA ranks eighth in Irish history and second-best since 1982 (David Sinnes ranked second in the nation with a 1.05 ERA in '90) ... Heilman went 7-3 with nine saves (second-most in Irish history) while leading the Irish in low opponent batting avg. (.198), K-to-BB ratio (4.1, 78/19) and Ks/9 IP (10.5, 67 IP) ... he finished 26 of 30 relief outings and allowed earned runs in only five of his 31 appearances ... Kalita posted his first career complete game and a career-best 10 Ks in a late-season win at Seton Hall ... he allowed just three earned runs in his last six regular-season appearances of '98 (40.2 IP) while his overall season totals included 71 Ks and 37 BBs in 74.1 IP, including a BIG EAST-best 32 Ks "looking".
UST COMPLETES SWEEP, IRISH JUST MISS: Notre Dame's Brant Ust swept the BIG EAST offensive average statistics for 1998 conference games, ranking first in conference batting average (.493, best by a BIG EAST player in the 1990s), slugging pct. (.960) and on-base pct. (.530) ... as a team, Notre Dame nearly claimed first place in the top three team statistics, finishing second in each of the following: batting average (.340, behind West Virginia's .354), ERA (3.42, behind St. John's 3.39) and fielding pct. (.970, behind St. John's .972).
IRISH LOOK TO REPLACE LEATHERMAN'S GLOVE, SURPRISING BAT: Graduated 1B Dan Leatherman provided expected defensive stability in 1998 while adding an unexpected offensive surge ... Leatherman's eight home runs in '98 were one of the keys to Notre Dame's record total of 73 while the lefthander finished second on the team in batting avg. (.343) and fourth in runs scored (41) while totaling more walks (22) than Ks (17) ... Leatherman (.982 fielding pct., 9 E) was noted for his strong defense in '98 and an ability to dig balls out of the dirt, helping the Irish boost their team fielding pct. 20 points from '97 (.942 to .962) while posting a team-record 60 double plays.
BREAKING THE 400-K BARRIER: The Irish pitching staff's record total of 456 strikeouts in 1998 (blowing by the record of 399 set in 1997) included matching totals of 93 by a pair of junior RHPs: Brad Lidge and Alex Shilliday ... the 456 Ks in 501.1 innings factored out to 8.19 Ks per nine innings-fifth-best in Irish history and best in 20 years.
SURPRISING BATS SET HOME RUN RECORD: Notre Dame entered '98 without the services of graduated Mike Amrhein, whose 14 home runs in '97 accounted for much of that team's then-record 66 ... but the Irish ended up with another record home run total (73), led by sophomore 3B Brant Ust (18), junior C Jeff Wagner (14), senior SS J.J. Brock (13), senior 1B Dan Leatherman (8), junior CF Allen Greene (7) and freshman LF Alec Porzel (7).
BUSTING OUT: Sophomore 3B Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) put to rest any notions of a sophomore slump in 1998, after garnering consensus Freshman All-America honors and the BIG EAST rookie of the year award in '97 ... Ust joined Mo Vaughn (Seton Hall, '88) and Jason Grabowski (Connecticut, '96) as the third sophomore ever to win BIG EAST player of the year, while also earning third team All-America honors from Baseball America and the American Baseball Coaches Association before earning a spot on Team USA during the summer of '98 ... Ust-who has started all of Notre Dame's 118 games during his career-blasted a BIG EAST-leading 18 home runs in 1998 (tied for second-most in Irish history), including 15 in the final 40 games ... his .724 season slugging pct. in '98 (20 doubles, 42 singles, one triple) ranks sixth in Irish history ... Ust led the BIG EAST in '98 with a .493 batting avg. in conference games-best by a BIG EAST player during the 1990s but short of Dave Ford's record of .522 set with UConn in 1986 ... Ust's .439 career avg. in BIG EAST games is ahead of the record held by Seton Halls Marteese Robinson (.432, 1985-87) ... Usts other 1998 season totals included team-highs in RBI (58), stolen bases (11-of-16), runs (55), on-base pct. (.424) and sacrifice flies (5), plus 16 walks and a team-high seven times hit-by-pitch ... he also led the team in leadoff on-base pct. (.500) and two-out batting (.375, team-high 23 two-out RBI) while ranking third in batting with runners in scoring position (.354).
IMPROVED FIELDING BOOSTS IRISH: One of the question areas for the 1998 Notre Dame baseball team was defense and the Irish responded in strong fashion ... Notre Dame's fielding pct. ranked 10th in the BIG EAST in 1997 (.942), after averaging 2.2 errors per game (132 total) and seeing eight of 19 defeats in '97 come as a result of unearned runs ... in 1998, the Irish fielding made a big 20-point jump to .962, ranking second in the BIG EAST, and only two losses were due to unearned runs ... the Irish averaged just 1.48 errors/gm while totaling 13 error-free games, 22 with one error and just nine with three-plus errors.
QUICK HITS: The 1998 Irish team won 23 of 24 games from March 26-April 23 to establish the longest single-season streak with one loss in the 107-year history of the Notre Dame baseball program ... ... the '98 Irish fell behind in the first inning of 17 games but came back to win 10 of them, including wins in eight straight games when facing a first-inning deficit ... Notre Dame posted 18 come-from-behind victories in 1998, including a pair of exciting wins in the BIG EAST Tournament (5-4 over West Virginia and 9-7 over Providence) ... Notre Dame was 32-4 in 1998 when scoring five-plus runs but just 9-13 when scoring 1-4 runs ... Notre Dame was 12-5 in 1998 games decided by one run or in extra innings ... Notre Dame 13-game winning streak in 1998 (April 8-23) tied for fifth-longest in team history and has been bettered just twice in the 1990s, by a team-record 18-game streak in 1991 and a 14-game run in 1993 ... Notre Dame was outscored 41-29 in the first inning during 1998, despite outscoring the opposition 392-282 overall ... Notre Dame's best run differential in 1998 was +32 in the sixth inning (53-21).