April 8, 2009
IN THE BATTERS BOX -- Notre Dame returns to BIG EAST action this weekend with a three-game series against Cincinnati at Marge Schott Stadium. First pitch for Thursday's opener is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., while Friday's game will begin at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday's finale is slated for 1:00 p.m. All three games can be heard on WHME 103.1 FM as well as UND.com.
CINCINNATI INSIDER -- The Bearcats come into the series with the Irish losers in six of their last seven games, but did manage to salvage the final game of their series with Louisville last weekend (the victory snapped Cincinnati's season-high six-game losing streak). The Bearcats dropped the first two games of the series with the Cardinals, 13-3 and 12-7, before rallying for a 10-9 victory last Sunday. Cinci trailed both 5-0 and 8-6. The Bearcats have also dropped two of three against other BIG EAST foes Rutgers and Pittsburgh. Cincinnati did take three of four from both Bradley and Western Michigan.
SCOUTING THE BEARCATS -- Cincinnati, led by 13th year head coach Brian Cleary, enter the series with a 14-14 overall record and 3-6 mark in BIG EAST play.
SERIES NOTES -- Notre Dame and Cincinnati have met 32 times on the diamond, with the Irish holding a 20-12 lead in the series dating back to the 1948 season.
TALE OF THE TAPE (2009 STATS)
Notre Dame Cincinnati Batting Average .311 .282 Runs Per Game 6.8 7.1 Home Runs 18 33 Slugging Percentage .435 .452 Batters' BB+HBP-K Margin +4 -68 On-Base Percentage .400 .381 Stolen Bases 36-53 17-27 Team ERA 4.75 6.65 Opponent Batting Average .261 .319 Pitchers' K-BB Ratio 1.4 2.2 Pitchers' Ks Per 9 Innings 5.8 7.6 Pitchers' BB Per 9 Innings 4.1 3.4 Fielding Pct. (Errors) .966 (38) .962 (42) Double Plays Turned 21 19 Record at Home 8-3 10-7 Record on Road (including neutral) 11-7 4-7 Record in One-Run Games 4-2 3-2 Record in Extra Innings 1-0 0-0
PROBABLE POSITION STARTERS
Pos. # Player B-T Cl. GP-GS Avg. HR RBI C Cam McConnell R-R So. 26-22 .288 2 20 Served as the primary backup catcher last season; 10 of 20 RBI have either tied the game or given the Irish the lead -or- Matt Scioscia R-R So. 16-12 .222 1 10 Son of former major league catcher and current manager of L.A. Angels Mike Scioscia 1B Casey Martin R-R Jr. 24-9 .325 1 7 Starts predominantly vs. LHP; picked up first career four-hit game against UTPA (3.15) -or- David Casey L-L So. 16-8 .371 0 8 Will start predominantly vs. RHP; career-best three hits and four RBI against Toledo (4.1) 2B Mick Doyle R-R So. 21-17 .271 0 9 Athletic player that can play any infield position -or- Ryne Intlekofer R-R Jr. 18-11 .256 1 8 Opened season as starting 2B after exceptional fall season; home run, triple and two RBI against Pitt (3.29) 3B Greg Sherry R-R So. 28-28 .363 0 10 Spent most of 2008 in the nine-hole; was first ND player to hit over .300 in that spot of the order since `04 SS Jeremy Barnes R-R Sr. 29-29 .346 6 37 Four-year starter (last three at 2B); named All-BIG EAST 2nd team in `06 LF Golden Tate L-L So. 27-27 .336 0 7 Two-sport standout led ND football team in rec. (58), rec. yds (1,080), rec. TDs (10) and total TDs (11) in `08 CF A.J. Pollock R-R Jr. 29-29 .370 4 28 Led ND in hitting in `07 and `08; preseason Baseball America first team All-American in `09; `08 Cape Cod League MVP RF David Mills L-L Jr. 26-25 .370 1 18 Two-way player that doubles as situational lefty in Irish bullpen; all-BIG EAST first team in `08 -or- Brayden Ashdown R-R Jr. 16-4 .294 0 7 Played in 76 career games and started 33; registered clutch pinch-hit 2-run 1B and go-ahead RBI 1B against Purdue (2.22) DH Matt Scioscia R-R So. 16-12 .222 1 10 Son of former major league catcher and current manager of L.A. Angels Mike Scioscia -or- Evan Sharpley L-R Sr. 22-17 .189 1 3 Led Irish in home runs last season (20th player in ND history to hit 10+ homers); ranked fourth in the BIG EAST -or- Matt Grosso L-L Jr. 17-9 .171 1 4 High school teammate of A.J. Pollock; started career at Maine before transferring to UConn before transferring again to ND
ON DECK -- After this weekend's series, Notre Dame will face Western Michigan on Tuesday, April 14 at C.O. Brown Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The Irish will then travel to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago to play Northwestern on Wednesday, April 15. First pitch is slated for 7:00 p.m. Notre Dame will then host West Virginia in a three-game BIG EAST series over Blue-Gold weekend.
RANKINGS -- Notre Dame and Cincinnati are unranked in each of the four polls.
FREEBIES UPDATE -- Over his years as a head coach, Notre Dame skipper Dave Schrage has utilized a formula to measure how many free bases a team allows during a given year. The formula adds walks allowed, errors, stolen bases allowed, hit batters, wild pitches, passed balls, and balks and divides that total by the number of games played. In 2007, the Irish allowed nearly 8.7 "freebies" per game. By comparison, Notre Dame's 2006 team allowed just 6.2 per game en route to totaling 45 wins. The Irish made tremendous strides a year ago, allowing just 7.4 per game.
Freebies 2009 2008 2007 2006 Walks Allowed 116 178 191 170 Errors 38 54 83 68 SB Allowed 33 62 73 65 Hit Batters 28 47 61 50 Wild Pitches 18 35 45 23 Passed Balls 1 8 27 6 Balks 1 9 5 7 TOTAL 235 (8.1/gm) 393 (7.4/gm) 485 (8.7/gm) 389 (6.2/gm)
AROUND THE HORN --
DUPRA, DOING MORE -- Sophomore RHP Brian Dupra had his best outing as a collegiate pitcher last week against Villanova. The Rochester, N.Y. native was named the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week for his efforts. He tossed a three-hit shutout with no walks and a career-high tying six strikeouts to lead the Irish past Villanova, 4-0, on April 4. Dupra also became the first Notre Dame pitcher to throw a complete game shutout in over two years. Former All-American David Phelps was the last to accomplish the feat, blanking South Florida 1-0 at Eck Stadium on March 23, 2007. Dupra needed just 108 pitches to finish off the Wildcats. The righty retired the first 14 Villanova batters on just 48 pitches before allowing a single with two outs in the fifth inning. Dupra proceeded to retire the next five before allowing a double in the seventh (which was the furthest any Villanova hitter reached on base the entire afternoon). He did surrender another double in the ninth, but that was it for the Wildcats. Dupra was so dominant that he worked with a three-ball count just twice the entire afternoon and the first did not come until the fifth inning. He faced just four over the minimum on the afternoon (he also plunked one batter). Dupra's complete game effort without a walk was the first for an Irish pitcher since Tom Thorton's complete game no free pass outing against Southern Illinois on March 18, 2006.
COLE FAR FROM COLD -- Sophomore starting pitcher Cole Johnson had a phenomenal fall season that pushed him to the front of the Irish rotation. However, his status at the beginning of the year was in question after a bike accident on campus. Johnson was riding his bike to class when he lost control on a patch of ice. He landed on his throwing shoulder, leaving him out for nearly an entire month (January), but Johnson rehabilitated and has established himself as the one of the starters in the BIG EAST. He enters this weekend with a 4-0 record and a 2.40 earned run average. Johnson has struck out 30, walked 17 and allowed only 29 hits in 45.0 innings of work (opponents are hitting just .191 against him). Johnson has tossed at least 6.0 innings in each of this last five starts, including 6.0 scoreless innings of one-hit baseball against Oral Roberts on March 6 and back-to-back complete game victories over Pittsburgh on March 27 and Villanova on April 3. He could become the first Irish pitcher to toss three straight CGs since Dan Kapala in 2005 (West Virginia, Pittsburgh and St. John's).
NOW THAT'S STARTING PITCHING -- Notre Dame's pitching staff entered last weekend averaging just a little over 5.1 innings per start, but the weekend rotation of sophomore Cole Johnson, sophomore Brian Dupra and junior Eric Maust all worked into the ninth inning. In fact, Maust nearly followed Johnson and Dupra with a third straight complete game victory. He fell just two outs shy of his first career 9.0 inning complete game. The Irish were forced to use just four pitchers the entire series with Villanova.
LIGHTS OUT -- Notre Dame approached numerous pitching records in the three-game series sweep of Villanova. The Irish posted a 1.33 earned run average and limited the Wildcats to a .172 batting average. Villanova managed just four runs (all earned) the entire weekend.The four runs were tied for the fourth fewest ever allowed by a Notre Dame pitching staff over a three-game BIG EAST series. Even more impressive,all of the previous series marks for fewest runs, with the exception of last season's sweep of Georgetown, included a seven-inning game (BIG EAST used to play a seven-inning game as the first game of a doubleheader).
Fewest Runs Allowed Over BIG EAST Series (3 games) 2 at Georgetown 2008 2 vs Georgetown 1997 3 vs Seton Hall 1996 4 vs Villanova 2009 4 at Villanova 2008 4 vs Seton Hall 2001 4 vs Rutgers 2004 4 at Villanova 2006 5 at St. John's 2001 5 at West Virginia 2004 5 vs West Virginia 2005
IRISH FINDING THEIR HOME RUN STROKE -- Notre Dame entered the series against Pittsburgh with just eight home runs over its first 22 games. In fact, the Irish hit only four long balls over their first 18 games.
SHINING UNDER THE GOLDEN DOME -- Sophomore Golden Tate blossomed into one of the most improved wide receivers in the country this past fall. He led the Irish in receptions (58), receiving yards (1,080), receiving touchdowns (10) and total touchdowns (11). Tate ranked tied for 83rd in the NCAA FBS in receptions per game (4.46), 28th in receiving yards per game (83.08), 22nd in total receiving yards (1,080) and tied for 16th in receiving touchdowns (10). He became the fifth Irish wideout (sixth time) to ever eclipse 1,000 yards in a single season. Tate recorded 1,754 all-purpose yards (third-most in Notre Dame history), the most by an Irish player since Tim Brown in 1987.
NOTRE DAME LOVES ITS R & R -- Freshman reliever and South Bend native Ryan Richter has not wasted much time in making an impact for his hometown Irish. Richter, who missed most of his senior season with an injury, has made five appearances for Notre Dame and sports a 3-0 record with a 1.38 earned run average in 13.0 innings of work. He has yielded 11 hits and five walks, along with 10 strikeouts, while opponents are batting just .220 against him. Richter attended St. Joseph's High School, mere minutes from the Notre Dame campus. He could become the 21st South Bend native to monogram with the Irish baseball team and seventh from St. Joe, including the likes of Matt Nussbaum (1999-00), Tony Zappia (1970-71), Marty DeGraff (1993-94), Joe Kernan (1967-68), Nick Mainieri (2004-05) and Michael McNeill (1985).
SHERRY QUITE MERRY LATELY -- Sophomore Greg Sherry had a solid rookie campaign in 2008. The third baseman batted .315 with two home runs and 14 RBI, primarily hitting out of the Irish nine-spot. In fact, Sherry was first Notre Dame player to hit over .300 in that spot of the order since 2004, but he has taken his game to another level. Sherry is third on the team with a .363 batting average. He had exploded recently with three consecutive multi-hit games, a .476 batting average over a five-game stretch and .425 average over a 10-game span before going hitless in seven at bats last weekend against Villanova.
AS BARNES GOES, SO GO THE IRISH -- Notre Dame senior Jeremy Barnes has had a remarkable start to the 2009 season. Barnes is hitting .346 with seven doubles, five triples, six home runs and 37 RBI, but his performance in victories is even more impressive. Barnes leads the Irish with a .451 batting average (32-for-71), .789 slugging percentage and .529 on-base percentage in their 19 victories. On the other hand, he is hitting just .139 (5-for-36) with a .444 slugging percentage and .262 on-base percentage in Notre Dame's 10 losses. In fact, the Irish are 18-4 when Barnes has a hit and 10-1 when he has a multi-hit affair.
MILLS MAKES MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS FROM THE BUMP -- Notre Dame junior David Mills got plenty of recognition in 2008 for his efforts at the plate. The outfielder was named first team all-BIG EAST after hitting .349 with six triples, two home runs and 26 RBI. However, Mills did not experience the same type success on the mound. He went 1-0 in 11 relief appearances, but posted a 6.23 ERA and opponents batted .450 against him. In 2009, Mills has not only continued his tear at the plate, but has become a reliable option out of the Notre Dame bullpen. He is 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA in six relief appearances. Mills has struck out six, walked three and surrendered six hits in 8.2 innings of work. In fact, opponents are batting just .200 against him.
SLINGING Sam Elam -- Senior Sam Elam has experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows over his career with the Irish. Elam, considered the top-pitching prospect in the entire BIG EAST conference following the summer of 2007, made just one appearance in 2008 dealing with major control problems. He walked four, uncorked three wild pitches and allowed two earned runs on no hits in 1.0 inning. This from the same pitcher that took a no-hitter into the eighth inning (two outs) against Purdue on April 18, 2007. Elam went the distance that night and blanked the Boilermakers on just one hit with nine strikeouts. He has shown signs of regaining the form of 2006 and 2007. Elam fanned a pair in his scoreless inning of work against Dayton on Feb. 28 and tossed 3.0 more effective innings of relief against Central Michigan on March 24. The southpaw allowed just a pair of infield hits and one earned run, but struck out five and walked two. The outing was Elam's longest of the season and longest since going 4.1 innings on April 24, 2007 against Rutgers.
FRESHMEN ARMS ACTING FAR FROM IT -- Notre Dame entered this season with tremendous depth in its pitching staff and much of it was due in part to a large contingent of freshmen. LHP Ryan Richter, LHP Dustin Ispas, RHP Will Hudgins, LHP Steve Sabatino and LHP Joe Spano have each made their respective contributions early in 2009. The quintet owns a combined 5-2 record with a 4.18 ERA in 71.0 innings of work and opponents are batting .279 against the group.
IF ONLY AN INNING ENDED WITH TWO OUTS -- Notre Dame had allowed 37 runs and a .220 batting average (39-for-177) with two outs over its first 17 games, but Seton Hall registered 19 runs, 16 RBI and a .440 batting average (22-for-50) with two outs over the three-game series.
FIGHTING FOR A CURE -- Senior Ryan Connolly has faced adversity over his career at Notre Dame. The outfielder/catcher has seen limited playing time over the past two years due to a reoccurring shoulder injury -- an injury that caused him to miss his entire freshman season in 2006. But, this adversity all pails in comparison to what Connolly faced in 2002 as a 15-year old sophomore in high school.
Irish Baseball Heads To Queen City, Cincinnati