March 25, 2008
IN THE BATTERS BOX -- Notre Dame returns to action this week with a pair of non-conference games against Ball State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. First pitch at Frank Eck Stadium is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. both Tuesday and Wednesday. Each game can be heard on ESPN Radio 1490 AM as well as UND.com.
BALL STATE AND WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE INSIDER -- Ball State, led by sixth-year head coach Greg Beals, enters the game at Notre Dame with a 8-8 overall record. The Cardinals had their entire series with Mid-American Conference foe Akron this weekend postponed due to inclement weather. Ball State has had five consecutive contests wiped out by weather. In addition to last Tuesday's game with Anderson, the Cardinals' Wednesday contest with Indianapolis was also rained out. Ball State has not played a game since March 16. The Cardinals are averaging 9.5 runs per game and hitting .302 with a .419 on-base percentage. Ball State has also totaled 11 stolen bases in 17 attempts. Kolbrin Vitek is hitting a team-best .367 with two home runs and nine RBI, while Kory Benbow is batting .348 with two homers, 12 RBIs, and two steals. Wayne Bond has a team-high four home runs as well. The Cardinals have stroked 22 home runs already this season. The pitching staff has a 7.26 ERA and .335 opponents' batting average along with 115 strikeouts and 84 walks in 137.2 innings pitched. Eric Vanmatre has an 0.82 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 11.0 innings pitched over six relief appearances. Kyle Heyne is 2-1, with a 1.74 ERA in seven appearances over 10.1 innings of work. Ball State is fielding at a .946 clip as well.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee, led by second-year head coach Scott Doffek, enters the game at Notre Dame with a 3-14 overall record. The Panthers dropped all three games of their Horizon League opening series at UIC, but each of the losses were by a single run. In fact, Wisconsin-Milwaukee had the winning run on base in the ninth inning in each of the final two games of the series. The Panthers are averaging 4.9 runs per game and hitting .259 with a .337 on-base percentage. Wisconsin-Milwaukee has also totaled 14 stolen bases in 23 attempts. Nick Wichser is hitting a team-best .328 with a home run and 14 RBI, while Josh Groves is batting .317 with two homers, eight RBIs, and two steals. The pitching staff has a 5.66 ERA and .331 opponents' batting average along with 71 strikeouts and 77 walks in 136.2 innings pitched. Brad Lusti (1-2) has an 2.45 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 29.1 innings pitched over five appearances (three starts). Adam Ferrell is 1-2, with a 4.35 ERA in six appearances (one start) over 20.2 innings of work. The Panthers are fielding at a .953 clip as well.
THE STARTING PITCHERS -- Notre Dame will start freshman right-hander Brian Dupra (0-2, 10.22 ERA) against Ball State on Tuesday. The Rochester, New York native has made three starts for a total of 12.1 innings pitched. He has allowed 22 hits and five walks while striking out five. Dupra has allowed three home runs and opponents are batting .386 against him. His best outing came against St. Bonaventure when he allowed just two earned runs on three hits in 6.2 innings of work. He left the game in line for the victory, but earned a no-decision. Dupra struckout four and did not issue a walk.
Freshman righty Ryan Sharpley (0-1, 5.40 ERA) will take the mound against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Sharpley has made two appearances and one start for a total of 5.0 innings pitched. The Marshall, Michigan native has allowed four hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He has allowed a home run and opponents are batting .235 against him. Sharpley made his first career start against Lehigh on March 6. He went 3.0 innings and allowed three earned runs on three hits. Sharpley struckout three and walked two. He was scheduled to start last week's cancelled game against Xavier.
SERIES NOTES - Ball State owns one of the best records (4-4) of any visiting team at Eck Stadium, with recent one-run victories over the Irish in 1998 (4-3), 2001 (4-3) and 2002 (5-4), plus a 15-4 win at The Eck in 2005. Notre Dame does lead the all-time series 16-12 (the series is tied 10-10 in all games at Notre Dame), which includes seven one-run contests (four run by the Irish). Notre Dame has captured four of the last five meetings with the Cardinals, including last season's 7-3 victory. The series scoring is nearly identical (ND leads by a 121-114 margin; 4.3 to 4.1 run per game). In 2004, Notre Dame won a 15-inning classic (7-6), as All-American pitcher Chris Niesel came out of the bullpen to strikeout 12 in 8.1 innings of relief (did not issue a walk and allowed just four hits). Steve Andres hit a 15th-inning triple and scored the gamewinning run on Craig Cooper's first career pinch-hit. The game matched the longest in Eck Stadium history (Notre Dame beat West Virginia in a 1998 game that also went 15 innings). Notre Dame used a five-run third inning to get past the Cardinals 7-3 in last year's meeting. Senior Tony Langford picked up the victory in relief with 2.2 scoreless innings. Langford struckout four and yielded just two hits. Mike Dury added a three-run home run and Ross Brezovsky had a two-run double. Notre Dame and Ball State each participated in the 2006 NCAA Lexington Regional, with the Cardinals knocking off host Kentucky on the first day. Ball State was later eliminated in a second game against the Wildcats. Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 9-3, but the two have not faced off since the 2001 NCAA Tournament. The Irish took that meeting 12-4 in the opening game of the regional in South Bend. All-American Aaron Heilman tossed a complete game victory and set the school record for wins in a single-season (15). Alec Porzel homered and drove in four, while Brian Stavisky went 3-for-4 with a bomb.
Irish Host Ball State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee On Tuesday, Wednesday