April 4, 2008
IN THE BATTERS BOX -- Notre Dame returns to action this weekend with a critical BIG EAST series against conference rival Rutgers. First pitch at Frank Eck Stadium for the series opener on Friday is scheduled for 5:05 p.m., while Saturday's game begins at 1:05 p.m. and Sunday is at 12:05 p.m. All three games can be heard on ESPN Radio 1490 AM as well as UND.com (which will also provide live webcasts).
RUTGERS INSIDER -- The Scarlet Knights, led by 25th-year head coach Fred Hill, enters the series at Notre Dame with a 8-15 overall record and 2-4 BIG EAST mark after dropping their only mid-week game to Monmouth (6-5) on Wednesday. Rutgers also took two of three games at home against West Virginia last weekend (after opening the year being swept at St. John's).
Rutgers, who has a 3-7 record on opponents' home fields, is averaging 5.7 runs per game and hitting .245 with a .363 on-base percentage. The Scarlet Knights have also totaled 20 stolen bases in 30 attempts.
Jon Gossard is hitting a team-best .326 with seven doubles, one triple and 15 RBI, while Luis Feliz is batting .317 with three stolen bases and 10 RBI. Jaren Matthews leads the club with four home runs, two triples, 18 runs scored and 26 RBI and Brett Garlick is the team-leader with seven steals.
The pitching staff has a 5.51 ERA and .295 opponents' batting average along with 149 strikeouts and 94 walks in 201.0 innings pitched. Ryan Beard has an 2.45 ERA in six relief appearances over 11.0 innings (just eight hits allowed), while Jason Downey has a 2.77 ERA and a team-best three saves in 13.0 innings (19 strikeouts). Kevin Lillis and Matt Patterson each have made 13 appearances out of the Rutgers bullpen. Lillis has a 4.67 ERA in 17.1 innings (12 strikeouts) and Patterson has a 6.00 ERA in 15.0 innings. The Scarlet Knights are fielding at a .960 clip as well.
THE STARTING PITCHERS -- Notre Dame will start junior right-hander David Phelps (3-3, 3.63 ERA) in the series opener. The Hazelwood, Missouri native has made six starts for a total of 39.2 innings pitched. He has allowed 35 hits and 12 walks while striking out 34. Phelps has allowed just one home run (last weekend against Cincinnati) and opponents are batting .240 against him. He struggled in the season-opening loss to Liberty on Feb.22,but rebounded with three consecutive quality starts against Mount St. Mary's (7 IP, 0R, 10 K), Buffalo (7 IP, 1 ER, 4K) and Georgetown (7 IP, 1 ER, 7K). Phelps has gone at least 5.0 innings in 21 of his last 22 starts. He pitched a season-high 8.0 innings last weekend in a losing effort to the Bearcats.
Rutgers will counter with junior right-handed hurler Matt Giannini (1-3, 8.13 ERA) on Friday. The Millington, N.J. native has made six starts for a total of 31.0 innings pitched. He has allowed 41 hits (.318 opponents' batting average) and 16 walks with 21 strikeouts.
Senior southpaw Wade Korpi (4-1, 3.93 ERA) will take the mound in game two. Korpi has made six starts for a total of 36.2 innings pitched. The Santuluces, Florida native has allowed 38 hits and 22 walks with 26 strikeouts. He has allowed a team-high five home runs (none over his last four starts) and opponents are batting .270 against him. Korpi, who went 7-2 in 2006 with a 2.00 earned run average, picked up his first victory since Feb. 17, 2007 (a span of 10 starts and 14 appearances) against South Alabama on March 8.He made it four straight victories after his outings against Southern Illinois on March 15 (6 IP,3 H,0 R), Georgetown on March 21 (7 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 4K) and Cincinnati on March 29 (6.1 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 5 K).
The Scarlet Knights will counter with sophomore righty Kyle Bradley (0-0, 3.60 ERA) on Saturday. The Howell, N.J. native has made two starts (five relief appearances) for a total of 20.0 innings pitched. He has allowed 19 hits (.250 opponents' batting average) and seven walks with 19 strikeouts.
The Irish will turn to sophomore righty Eric Maust (1-1, 3.20 ERA) for series finale. The Alpharetta, Georgia native has made seven appearances (four out of the bullpen) for a total of 25.1 innings. Maust, who made three starts last year, has allowed 23 hits and nine walks with 21 strikeouts. He has allowed one home run and opponents are batting just .250 against him. In Maust's first start of 2008 against Texas Pan-American, he tossed 6.0+ innings and allowed two earned runs on nine hits. Maust fanned five and walked none. He held the Broncos scoreless over the first six innings before allowing back-to-back doubles to open the seventh.Maust got better in his second start, going 8.0 scoreless innings and fanning five against Georgetown on March 22. Despite entering the outing against Cincinnati with 12 in 67.2 innings over his career, he issued a quartet of free passes over his 2.0+ innings. He was charged with four earned runs on three hits. Maust had never walked more than two batters in an outing over his previous 24 career appearances, including five starts.
Rutgers has not announced its starter for Sunday's series finale.
SERIES NOTES - Notre Dame holds a 25-16 series edge vs. Rutgers (11-4 at ND, 9-7 at RU, 5-5 at the BIG EAST Tournament) ... the Irish took two of three from the 2007 BIG EAST regular season champ a year ago ... Notre Dame had won four straight before dropping two at Rutgers in 2005 (3-5, 10-11 in 10), followed by a high-scoring sweep of the 2006 series at Notre Dame (11-5, 15-3, 14-12) ... the Irish also posted a late-season sweep of the Scarlet Knights at Eck Stadium in 2004 (1-0, 7-1, 5-3) ... the teams met six times in both 2002 (ND won 4) and 2003 (3-3) ... the BIG EAST Tournament series history between the teams includes title games won by Rutgers in 1998 and by Notre Dame in 2002 and 2003 ... the series has featured its share of blowouts (10 games decided by 8-plus runs), tense finishes (20 decided by 1-2 runs, with 12 won by Notre Dame) and shutouts (ND 2, RU 3) ... the 11 previous ND-RU season series include seven won by Notre Dame and three by Rutgers (split in '99, rained out in '98).
Dave Schrage has a 2-2 record against Rutgers as Notre Dame's head coach. Schrage never faced the Scarlet Knights in any of his previous three stops as a head coach Northern Iowa (1991-99), Northern Illinois (2000-02) or Evansville (2003-06).
NOTRE DAME PITCHERS VS. RUTGERS HITTERS
Kyle Weiland David Mills Vic Cegles 0-for-3 (KS, GDP) Tom Edwards 0-for-1 (K) Luis Feliz 0-for-1 (P3) Jon Gossard 3-for-3 (2B, RBI, HBP, 2 BB) Tony Langford Tom Edwards 2-for-6 (2K, 2 1B) Tom Edwards 0-for-1 Donny Callahan 0-for-1 (RBI, BB, SH) Jon Gossard 0-for-1
STATS FROM THE 2007 ND-RUTGERS SERIES (active players)
Brett Lilley A.J. Pollock .500, 6-for-12, 5R, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3BB, 2HBP, K, SF .333, 5-for-15, 2R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, K, SH, 2GDP
Irish, Rutgers Renew BIG EAST Rivalry