March 29, 2012
Notre Dame (15-8, 3-0 BIG EAST) vs. USF (18-8, 3-0 BIG EAST)
Friday, Game-1 (7:00 p.m. ET)
Saturday, Game-2 (6:00 p.m. ET)
Sunday, Game-3 (1:00 p.m. ET)
Television: Bright House Sports Network (Tampa)
IN THE BATTERS BOX -- Notre Dame opens its BIG EAST road portion of the schedule this weekend with a three-game tilt at USF. First pitch for the series opener on Friday is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., while Saturday's game gets underway at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday's game will begin at 1:00 p.m. All three games can be heard on WHME 103.1 FM as well as UND.com. The entire series will also be televised on the Bright House Sports Network (Tampa).
THIS WEEKEND'S STORY LINES -- Notre Dame will look for its first BIG EAST road opening series victory since 2008 when the Irish swept three games at Georgetown. The Irish dropped two of three at Pittsburgh in 2009 and 2011; and were swept in three games at USF in 2010.
Notre Dame owns a 10-11 (.476) all-time record against USF, but the Irish success has dropped off significantly when the series moves to Tampa. The Bulls own an all-time record of 6-3 against Notre Dame in the Big Guava, including back-to-back series sweeps in 2008 and 2010.
The Irish return to the greater Tampa/St. Petersburg area after opening the season with the Big Ten/BIG EAST challenge. Notre Dame knocked off Illinois and Iowa, but lost to No. 25/24 Purdue.
With a victory Friday night, Notre Dame could open the BIG EAST campaign 4-0 for the first time since 2004. The Irish had a similar opportunity in 2008, but dropped the series opener to Cincinnati. Notre Dame has opened BIG EAST action with four straight victories on just two other occasions (1998, 1999). The '98 club captured its first 10 league games.
IRISH AT A GLANCE -- Notre Dame enters this weekend with a 15-8 record overall and 3-0 in the BIG EAST. The Irish have won nine of their last 12 games.
Notre Dame reached the 15-win mark on Mar. 25. Last season, the Irish did not register their 15th victory until Apr. 30. In fact, Notre Dame has not reached the 15-win mark faster to open a season since 2004 when the Irish needed just 18 games (15-3).
Notre Dame's weekend rotation of senior RHP Will Hudgins, junior RHP Adam Norton and sophomore RHP Sean Fitzgerald have registered 11 combined quality starts (at least 6.0 innings with three earned runs or less) in 2012.
The Irish staff have been quite stubborn in 2012 in terms of issuing walks. Notre Dame has walked only 60 batters in 203.0 innings, good for a 2.66 average per nine innings. That is just off pace of the all-time school record for fewest walks per nine innings (2.48 in 2001).
The Irish lead the BIG EAST in fewest walks. Notre Dame's 60 free passes is ahead of second place Rutgers (63 walks).
Hudgins, Norton and Fitzgerald have combined to walk only 16 batters with 90 strikeouts in 113.1 innings of work. The trio averages 1.27 walks and 7.15 strikeouts per nine innings pitched - good for a 5.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Hudgins, Norton and Fitzgerald have combined to issue only three free passes over the last three weekends combined - a span of 61.2 innings of work. Neither Hudgins nor Norton have issued a walk in 23.0 and 21.1 innings of work, respectively, while Fitzgerald has three in 17.1 innings.
Norton ranks second in the NCAA in fewest walks - a pair of walks in 43.3 innings of work or 0.42 free pass allowed per nine innings. He trails only Mike Augliera of Binghamton, who has walked just one batter in 28.0 innings.
Norton and Hudgins each carry long streaks without walks into this weekend's series. Norton has not issued a free pass in 28.1 innings (dating back to Feb. 25 against Hofstra), while Hudgins has not walked a batter in 24.1 innings (dating back to Mar. 3 against Texas State).
Hudgins leads the BIG EAST in ERA (1.08), strikeouts (47) and fewest earned runs allowed (five), while Norton leads the league in innings pitched (43.1) and fewest walks (two). Hudgins also ranks third in innings pitched (41.2) and eighth in opponents' batting average (.231).
Junior C Joe Hudson ranks in the BIG EAST top-10 in on-base percentage (second, .527), doubles (eight, tied for fifth), batting average (sixth, .411), on-base percentage (seventh, .630) and RBI (22, tied for seventh). He also has thrown out eight base stealers in 22 attempts - good for 36.4%.
Notre Dame is the only school in the BIG EAST with three players among the top-12 in the BIG EAST in slugging percentage. Hudson (.630) ranks seventh, while sophomore 1B Trey Mancini (.567) and sophomore Eric Jagielo (.553) rank 11th and 12th, respectively.
FLORIDA NATIVES -- The 2012 Notre Dame baseball roster includes three players from Florida. Junior C Joe Hudson (Odessa/Tampa Jesuit H.S.), sophomore 1B Trey Mancini (Winter Haven/Winter Haven H.S.) and freshman C Alex Carter (Winter Park, FL/Orangewood Christian H.S.) all hail from the Sunshine State.
The Irish baseball program's list of all-time monogram winners includes 20 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) ... 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 the Notre Dame record for career win percentage and strikeouts (bested by Aaron Heilman in 2001) while Corbin remains the Irish career saves leader and Tamayo formed a potent 1-2 punch with Heilman ... other noteworthy Irish 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.).
BIG EAST ROAD OPENERS -- Notre Dame is playing its 17th year as a member of the BIG EAST Conference. The Irish are 8-8 all-time in its BIG EAST road openers.
Including this weekend, Notre Dame's opening BIG EAST road trip has been to USF twice over the last three years. The Bulls swept the Irish in 2010. In fact, USF and Randy Fontanez no-hit Notre Dame in the series opener in '10.
BIG EAST ROAD OPENERS
Notre Dame has opened BIG EAST road play on four different occasions with Pittsburgh (2-2), twice with Boston College (2-0), West Virginia (2-0), Villanova (1-1) and Georgetown (1-1), as well as Seton Hall (0-1), Connecticut (0-1), Rutgers (0-1) and this weekend's foe USF (0-1).
BIG EAST ROAD OPENING WEEKENDS -- Notre Dame is 23-24 overall in BIG EAST road opening weekends, including an 0-3 mark against USF.
BIG EAST ROAD OPENING WEEKENDS
Notre Dame has opened BIG EAST road play on four different occasions with Pittsburgh (4-6), twice with Boston College (5-0), West Virginia (5-0), Villanova (3-3) and Georgetown (5-1), as well as Seton Hall (0-3), Connecticut (0-3), Rutgers (0-2), Providence (1-1), Virginia Tech (0-2) and this weekend's foe USF (0-3).
USF INSIDER -- The Bulls, led by sixth-year head coach Lelo Prado, enter the weekend with an overall record of 18-8 and 3-0 in the BIG EAST. USF swept Georgetown last weekend to open conference action and enter the series with eight victories over its last 10 games.
The Bulls are averaging 5.2 runs per game and hitting .266 with a .362 on-base percentage. USF has also totaled 23 stolen bases in 33 attempts.
The Bulls have just three everyday players batting over .300. Sophomore OF James Ramsay leads the team with a .353 batting average, 36 hits and and nine stolen bases (in 11 attempts). He has added two home runs, 14 RBI, 16 runs scored, five doubles, nine walks, one hit by pitch and one sacrifice fly. Ramsay also leads USF in slugging percentage (.461).
Junior 1B/OF Jimmy Fallas is hitting .314 with seven runs scored, 22 hits, three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He has collected four walks, four hit by pitches, one sacrifice fly, one sacrifice bunt and one stolen base (in one attempts).
Junior OF Alex Mendez is batting .306 with 19 runs scored, 26 hits, one double, two triples, two home runs and 18 RBI. He has drawn 16 walks, but has also struck out 14 times.
Senior C Daniel Rockhold is hitting .269 with 14 runs scored, 18 hits, six doubles, two home runs and 16 RBI.
USF has a 2.96 ERA and .232 opponents' batting average along with 193 strikeouts and 85 walks in 231.0 innings of work. The Bulls average 3.31 walks and 7.52 strikeouts per nine innings.
Senior LHP Andrew Barbosa will start the series opener against Notre Dame. Barbosa is 3-2 with a 2.30 ERA in 27.1 innings of work over six appearances, all starts. He has allowed eight runs, seven earned, on 12 hits and his opponents are hitting .132 against him. Barbosa has struck out 35 and walked 10. Junior RHP Joey Lovecchio will toe the rubber in game two. He is 5-0 with a 2.63 ERA in 37.2 innings of work over six appearances, all starts. He has allowed 11 runs, all earned, on 29 hits and his opponents are hitting .228 against him. Lovecchio has struck out 20 and walked only eight. Senior LHP Matt Reed will take the mound in the series finale. He is 3-2 with a 1.89 ERA in 33.1 innings of work over six appearances, five starts. Reed has allowed nine runs, seven earned, on 32 hits and his opponents are hitting .269 against him. He has struck out 10 and walked eight.
Junior RHP Austin Adams (1-0, 0.00 ERA in nine relief appearances and two saves), redshirt sophomore RHP Ray Delphey (0-0, 0.00 ERA in nine relief appearances and two saves), junior RHP Steven Leasure (0-0, 0.84 ERA in six relief appearances and one save), sophomore LHP Nick Gonzalez (2-1, 3.32 ERA in 10 appearances, nine out of the bullpen) and junior RHP Adrian Puig (0-0, 4.97 ERA in 10 relief appearances) makeup the Bulls bullpen.
USF has committed 26 errors in 26 games and field at a .974 clip.
TALE OF THE TAPE
The Irish dropped their first meeting with the Bulls in 2001, but ripped off five consecutive victories, including all four meetings during the '06 season.
Notre Dame went into the 2008 series in Tampa (the final weekend of the regular season) with a chance to win the BIG EAST title outright, but USF took all three meetings by a run, including a 4-3 setback in 16 innings. The Bulls then upended Notre Dame again in the opening game of the BIG EAST Tournament.
USF actually captured six straight meetings, including four games in 2008, before Notre Dame took two of three in a series at Frank Eck Stadium in '09.
The Bulls swept the Irish in Tampa in 2010, including a 4-0 victory in the series opener when Randy Fontanez tossed a no-hitter.
Notre Dame registered a critical three-game sweep of USF in 2011 as both were fighting for a spot in the BIG EAST tournament.
USF leads 11-10
2011 SERIES (8-0, 10-5, 6-3) -- Brian Dupra struck out nine over 7.0 scoreless innings and freshmen Eric Jagielo and Trey Mancini each blasted two-run home runs to lead Notre Dame to an 8-0 shutout of USF in the series opener. The co-captain limited USF to six hits and only one extra-base hit. Dupra collected his 10th quality start of the season. He allowed two earned runs or less for the ninth time in 13 starts. In fact, Dupra had allowed no earned runs in five separate outings in 2011. Sean Fitzgerald registered his third save of the year. The rookie tossed 2.0 scoreless innings of relief and faced the minimum six batters. Fitzgerald struck out one, did not issue a walk and got a double play ground out. Jagielo and Mancini provided all the offense the Irish would need. Jagielo went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, a two-run single and two-run home run, while Mancini added a mammoth two-run bomb of his own.
Notre Dame secure a three-game BIG EAST series sweep of USF with victories in both ends of a doubleheader. The Irish blew open a 5-5 deadlock with five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, three on Trey Mancini's ninth home run of the year, en route to a 10-5 triumph in the opener. Todd Miller tossed 7.0 solid innings to help Notre Dame take the nightcap, 6-3.
After the lead changed hands three times over the middle innings of the day's first game, a pair of perfectly executed safety squeeze bunts from Frank DeSico and Alex Robinson and one powerful stroke from Trey Mancini turned the tide of the contest. Notre Dame jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning, but USF equalized with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth. The Bulls grabbed their first lead of the weekend with a run in the top of the fifth, but the Irish answered with two runs to grab a 4-3 advantage. After USF regained the lead in the top of the sixth inning, 5-4, Greg Sherry opened the home half of the sixth. Joe Hudson followed with a single and Mick Doyle moved both Sherry and Hudson into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. With runners at second and third, Frank DeSico dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Sherry scored without any problem to tie the score, 5-5, and DeSico reached when Jimmy Moran was unable to field the bunt cleanly. Robinson followed with Notre Dame's third consecutive bunt. Hudson scored easily to give the Irish a 6-5 lead. DeSico moved into scoring position and Eric Jagielo walked to set the stage for Mancini. He hammered a 1-0 breaking ball from Moran off the Frank Eck Stadium/Jake Kline Field sign down the left field line for a three-run home run to push the Notre Dame lead to 9-5. Dan Slania did the rest. The rookie tossed 2.2 scoreless innings of relief. Slania struck out three without a walk.
In his final start and appearance at Frank Eck Stadium, Miller limited the Bulls to three earned runs on eight hits in 7.0+ innings. Miller struck out three and did not issue a walk. After USF tagged Miller with four hits over the first 2.1 innings, the Irish starter retired 13 of the next 15 Bulls, yielding just a pair of singles. Herman Petzold paced the Irish offense with three hits. He went 3-for-4 with an RBI and run scored. Mick Doyle and Frank DeSico each had two hits. DeSico went 2-for-4 with a run scored, while Doyle went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Joe Hudson went 1-for-4 with a two-run double and Alex Robinson went 1-for-4 with two RBI.