IN THE BATTERS BOX -- Notre Dame travels to the southwest and the great State of Texas for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Rice Classic this weekend hosted by Rice University. The Irish will play Oral Roberts (Fri., 1:00 p.m. CT), the host Owls (Sat., 1:00 p.m. CT) and Washington State (Sun., 12:00 p.m. CT). All three games will be played at Reckling Park in Houston and can be heard on WHME 103.1 FM and UND.com. Sunday's game with the Cougars will air live on UND.com, but will be broadcast on 103.1 via tape delay at 6:00 p.m. ET.
ACADEMY SPORTS + OUTDOORS RICE CLASSIC INSIDER -- Notre Dame takes part in the annual Rice Classic beginning Friday afternoon (1:00 p.m. CT) when the Irish play Oral Roberts (5-1) at Reckling Park in Houston. The Rice Invitational is long considered one of the top on-campus college tournaments in the country and the 2009 edition is no different. Following their matchup with the Eagles (a squad that has reached the NCAA Tournament each of the last 11 years), the Irish will play the host Owls (6-3) on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. CT. Rice is ranked inside the top-10 in all four major polls, including seventh by both Collegiate Baseball and USA TODAY/ESPN. Notre Dame will close the weekend with a meeting against Pac-10 foe Washington State (Sunday, 12:00 p.m. CT). The Cougars (3-5) already have victories over Oklahoma (twice) and Gonzaga -- a squad that upended the Irish just a week ago.
REMEMBER THE ALAMO -- Notre Dame's 2009 trips to Houston and San Antonio will mark the 22nd time in the past 31 seasons (dating back to 1969) that the Irish baseball team has visited the state of Texas. Notre Dame owns an 84-57 all-time record (.596) in games played within the confines of the nation's largest state, including 49-26 (.653) since 1995. The Irish have travelled to San Antonio, specifically, 12 times over the past 14 years. Notre Dame's players actually spend the weekend with host families and numerous players have developed lasting friendships with the residents of the Alamo City. The 2000 and 2003 Irish squads are the only teams since 1995 to not visit the state of Texas. Notre Dame has posted an impressive 31-12 mark in their previous 43 games in the Lone Stare state (dating back to the middle of the 1999 spring break trip). The Irish have made previous trips to the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Dell Diamond (Round Rock), Whataburger Field (Corpus Christi) and the University of Dallas.
THE STARTING PITCHERS -- Notre Dame will start sophomore right-hander Cole Johnson (1-0, 3.86 ERA) against Oral Roberts in the opening game of the Rice Classic. The Hudson, Ohio native has made 14 career appearances (two this season with one start), including three starts for a total of 42.2 innings pitched. He has allowed 50 hits and 11 walks while striking out 33. Johnson has allowed six home runs and opponents are batting .298 against him over his career. He picked up the victory in relief against Illinois on Feb. 21. Johnson tossed 3.0 innings and allowed one earned run on a pair of hits. He struck out two and walked one. In his only start of the season, he tossed 4.0 innings and allowed two earned runs on two hits with three strikeouts and two walks (worked on a pitch count as he continues to build stamina after missing over a month after falling off his bike riding across campus) in a no-decision against Gonzaga last weekend.
Sophomore right-handed hurler Brian Dupra (1-1, 5.40 ERA) will take the mound against #7 Rice. Dupra has made 13 career appearances and 11 career starts (including two this season) for a total of 58.0 innings pitched. The Rochester, N.Y. native has allowed 76 hits and 11 walks with 38 strikeouts. He has allowed three home runs and opponents are batting .318 against him over his career. Dupra started the season opener against Ohio State and pitched very well, but was charged with the loss. He allowed six hits and two earned runs in 6.1 innings of work. Dupra struck out a pair and walked one. He then struck out a career-high six in 5.1 innings last weekend in a victory over Dayton.
The Irish will turn to junior righty Eric Maust (0-0, 4.35 ERA) for their matchup with Washington State. The Alpharetta, Georgia native has made 31 career appearances and 15 career starts (both are most on the Irish staff) for a total of 124.1 innings pitched. Maust has allowed 145 hits and 33 walks with 80 strikeouts. He has allowed seven home runs and opponents are batting .289 against him over his career. Maust, who has started two games in 2009, was victimized by a couple errors that resulted in three unearned runs in the first inning of his first start against Illinois, but settled down to retire 11 of the next 12 Illini batters, including nine consecutive at one point before running into trouble with command in the top of the fifth inning. With two outs, Maust proceeded to walk three straight Illinois batters before a three-run triple gave Illinois a 6-3 advantage. He allowed four hits and three earned runs in 5.0 innings of work. Maust struck out one and walked three. He went 5.1 innings and surrendered two earned runs with a strikeout and no walks in a no-decision against Creighton last weekend.
SCOUTING ORAL ROBERTS -- The Eagles, led by sixth year head coach Rob Walton, enter the weekend owning a 5-1 overall record. Oral Roberts took two of three games from Texas-San Antonio at home last weekend. The Eagles registered 9-5 and 7-2 victories on Friday and Saturday before losing the series finale, 11-8, on Sunday. Oral Roberts opened the year with a sweep of Western Michigan (9-7, 12-3, 5-4).
The Eagles, who have yet to play a game away from home, are averaging 8.3 runs per game and hitting .275 with a .402 on-base percentage. Oral Roberts has also totaled seven stolen bases in seven attempts.
The Eagles have three everyday players that are hitting over .300. Seth Furmanek leads the attack with a team-best .375 batting average with three home runs and eight RBI (also team-bests). He has added a pair of doubles, triple and six runs scored. Juan Martinez is hitting .333 with a team-high nine runs scored and two stolen bases. He has also added a double, triple and team-high equalling three home runs. Johnny Roberts is batting .313 with two RBI. Michael Notaro has smacked two home runs and driven in seven, while Danny Duffy leads the club with three doubles. The Eagles have hit 10 home runs this season as a team, but have also struckout 47 times.
The pitching staff has a 4.00 ERA and paltry .223 opponents' batting average along with 63 strikeouts and 23 walks in 54.0 innings pitched. Jerry Sullivan, who will start Friday against the Irish, is 2-0 with a miniscule 1.38 earned run average. He has allowed just two earned runs on eight hits in 13.0 innings of work. Drew Bowen and Mark Serrano are the top options out of the Oral Roberts bullpen. Bowen has 1.29 ERA and has fanned six in 7.0 innings, while Serrano has a 2.00 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 9.0 innings. Opponents are hitting just .154 and .067 against the duo respectively. The Eagles are fielding at a .950 clip as well -- committing 11 errors already in just six games.
SCOUTING RICE -- The Owls, led by 18th year head coach Wayne Graham, enter the weekend owning a 6-3 overall record. After struggling out of the game, losing two of three to Cal Poly, Rice has captured five of its last six games, including three victories over top-10 opponents last weekend (UCLA, Texas A&M and Baylor). The Owls split their two mid-week games earlier this weekend, losing at Sam Houston State before routing Dallas Baptist.
Rice is averaging 6.9 runs per game and hitting .307 with a .392 on-base percentage. The Owls have also totaled 10 stolen bases in 13 attempts.
Rice has five everyday players that are hitting over .300. Anthony Rendon leads the attack with a team-best .500 batting average and 15 RBI. He has added a team-best 17 hits, four doubles, three home runs and eight runs scored. Rick Hague is hitting .432 with two stolen bases, 10 runs scored, three doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI. Brock Holt is batting .351 with two doubles, one homer and three RBI. Diego Seastrunk is hitting .323 with four doubles, three home runs and six RBI, while Steven Sultzbaugh is batting .316 with two doubles, two triples, a homer and five RBI. The Owls have hit 11 home runs this season as a team, but have also struckout 71 times.
The pitching staff has a 4.42 ERA and .268 opponents' batting average along with 83 strikeouts and 29 walks in 79.1 innings pitched. Jordan Rogers is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in five relief appearances over 9.0 innings, while Mark Haynes (0-0, 0.00), Abe Gonzalez (0-0, 2.25), Andrew Benak (1-0, 4.26) and Matt Evers (0-0, 9.82) are other options out of the Owls' bullpen. Rogers has fanned 14 and opponents are hitting just .036 against him. Rice is fielding at a .966 clip as well.
SCOUTING WASHINGTON STATE -- The Cougars, led by fifth year head coach Donnie Marbut, enter the weekend owning a 3-5 overall record. Washington State opened its season with three losses (4-2, 7-5 , 4-3) in a weekend series at Arkansas. The Cougars then hosted a four-game set against Oklahoma and split the series (9-2, 7-9 , 3-12, 10-6). Washington State then upended Gonzaga, 8-4, on Tuesday.
The Cougars, who own an 0-3 record on the road in 2009, are averaging 5.9 runs per game and hitting .251 with a .346 on-base percentage. Washington State has also totaled six stolen bases in 10 attempts.
Washington State has two everyday players that are hitting over .300. Greg Lagreid leads the attack with a team-best .474 batting average with three runs scored and four RBI. Shea Vucinich is batting .353 and leads the club in hits with 12 and doubles with three. Matt Argyropoulos has driven in a team-high 10 and posts a .280 batting average, while Derek Jones leads the Cougars with three home runs. Washington State has hit nine home runs this season as a team, but has also struckout 62 times.
The pitching staff has a 5.57 ERA and .303 opponents' batting average along with 71 strikeouts and 34 walks in 72.2 innings pitched. Cougars' closer Jeremy Johnson is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA and one save in four relief appearances over 9.1 innings, while David Stilley (1-0, 2.08), Michael Ratigan (0-0, 0.00), Paris Shewey (1-0, 0.00) Anthony Drobnick (0-0, 2.70) and Seth Harvey (0-1, 7.71) are other options out of the Washington State bullpen. Johnson has fanned 14, walked one and opponents are hitting just .133 against him. Stilley has fanned 13 without a walk. The Cougars are fielding at a .984 clip as well.