April 17, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
IN THE BATTERS BOX -- Notre Dame returns to action this weekend with a critical three-game BIG EAST series at rival West Virginia. The Irish enter the weekend in first place at 10-2 in the league, while the Mountaineers are 7-5 and fifth. Notre Dame holds a one-game advantage over St. John's and Cincinnati. All three games can be heard on ESPN Radio 1490 AM as well as UND.com.
WEST VIRGINIA INSIDER -- The Mountaineers, led by 14th-year head coach Greg Van Zant, enters the series with Notre Dame owning a 27-9 record overall and 7-5 in the BIG EAST. West Virginia blanked Duquesne, 14-0, earlier this week, but dropped two of three last weekend at Seton Hall. The Mountaineers have captured eight of their last 11 contests.
West Virginia, who has a gaudy 20-2 record at home in 2008, is averaging 9.5 runs per game and hitting .364 with a .436 on-base percentage. The Mountaineers have also totaled 26 stolen bases in 36 attempts.
West Virginia has five everyday players that are hitting over .400. Tyler Kuhn leads the attack with a .447 batting average, seven home runs and 42 RBI. He has scored 51 runs, added 16 doubles and four triples. Vince Belnome is hitting .428 with 13 doubles, three triples, three home runs and a team-high 53 RBI. Jedd Gyorko, Justin Parks and Joe Agreste are batting .413, .409 and .402 respectively. Austin Markel is hitting .354, leads the club with six triples and ranks second in home runs with six.
The pitching staff has a 4.37 ERA and .253 opponents' batting average along with 284 strikeouts and 165 walks in 305.0 innings pitched. West Virginia closer Chris Enourato is 4-0 with a 0.95 ERA in 12 relief appearances over 19.0 innings, while Jordon Yost (0-0, 1.50) and Eric Saffell (0-0, 10.05) are also options out of the Mountaineer bullpen. Enourato has fanned 20 and opponents are hitting just .188 against him. West Virginia is fielding at a .977 clip as well.
THE STARTING PITCHERS -- Notre Dame will start junior right-hander David Phelps (4-3, 3.31 ERA) in the series opener. The Hazelwood, Missouri native has made eight starts for a total of 54.1 innings pitched. He has allowed 50 hits and 16 walks while striking out 47. Phelps, the reigning BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week, has allowed just one home run (against Cincinnati on March 29) and opponents are batting .249 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 23 of his last 24 starts. He pitched a season-high 8.2 innings and allowed just an unearned run in his last start at Villanova (April 11).
Senior southpaw Wade Korpi (5-1, 3.31 ERA) will take the mound in game two. Korpi has made eight starts for a total of 47.1 innings pitched. The Santuluces, Florida native has allowed 48 hits and 24 walks with 35 strikeouts. He has allowed a team-high five home runs (none over his last six starts) and opponents are batting .264 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 five straight victories after his outings against Southern Illinois on March 15 (6IP, 3H,0R), Georgetown on March 21 (7IP, 1ER, 3H, 4K), Cincinnati on March 29 (6.1IP, 8H, 2ER, 5K) and Villanova on April 12 (6.0IP, 7H, 3ER, 3K). Korpi was knocked out of his start on April 5 in the fifth inning after a line drive struck him in the head. Korpi had struckout seven and allowed just one earned run over 4.1 innings before leaving the game, but did not miss a start.
The Irish will turn to sophomore righty Eric Maust (1-1, 3.20 ERA) for series finale. The Alpharetta, Georgia native has made eight appearances (four out of the bullpen) for a total of 33.1 innings. Maust, who made three starts last year, has allowed 30 hits and nine walks with 25 strikeouts. He has allowed one home run and opponents are batting just .246 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. He rebounded with a great effort against Rutgers to secure a sweep (8 IP, 1ER, 0BB, 4 K).
LAST WEEK IN THE BIG EAST - Notre Dame swept Villanova (2-1, 8-5, 13-0) ... Seton Hall took 2-of-3 from West Virginia (4-3, 7-4, 7-13) ... St. John's took 2-of-3 from Connecticut (1-2, 10-5, 1-0) ... Rutgers swept Georgetown (22-10, 5-3, 9-0) ... Cincinnati took 2-of-3 from Pittsburgh (6-3, 3-2, 2-3) ... Louisville took 2-of-3 from USF (10-7, 10-2, 4-8).
SERIES NOTES - Notre Dame has 10 of its last 11 meetings with West Virginia (since 2003) and owns a 34-14 all-time series edge (25-11 since both teams joined the BIG EAST in 1996). The Irish are 16-6 at home against the Mountaineers, including a sweep of the 2005 series (3-1, 5-1, 7-3) with a BIG EAST Tournament bid on the line (the BET featured just four team in 2005). Last year, Notre Dame took of three from West Virginia over Blue-Gold Weekend (5-2, 17-6, 7-16). The teams did not meet in the 2006 regular season, but Notre Dame beat WVU on the second day of the 2006 BIG EAST Tournament (12-4). The Mountaineers own the most wins at Eck Stadium (6-10) of any visiting team (since 1994). Notre Dame and West Virginia have faced each other in five BIG EAST Tournaments ('96-'99, '03, '06; ND 6-2 edge). The Irish have won six of the previous eight season series against the Mountaineers (WVU is the only BIG EAST team ever to win two series at Eck Stadium in 1996 and 2003). West Virginia's 2003 visit to Eck Stadium (1-0, 5-7, 1-5) featured a classic pitchers duel in the opener as ND's Chris Niesel nearly posted a no-hitter while Shawn Miller took the tough-luck, 1-0 loss (Lee Fritz had a 2-out bunt in the 7th and final inning for WVU's only hit). The series has featured 12 games won by one run or in extra innings (ND is 11-1 in those games). Notre Dame's 2002 team fell to 0-4 in BIG EAST play (9-10 overall) after a 4-2 loss at WVU, but rallied to win the nightcap (10-6), launching the Irish on to a BIG EAST regular-season (18-8) and tournament titles, a 50-18 overall record and a trip to the College World Series. Former ND All-American Aaron Heilman had an 18-K game at WVU in 2000. Notre Dame's leaders in the 2006 BET win over WVU included Jeff Samardzija (8 IP, 4 R, 9 H, BB, 6 Ks; 21st career win), Matt Bransfield (2-run HR), Ross Brezovsky (2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R), Jeremy Barnes (3-for-5, 3 RBI, 2 R) and Sean Gaston (3-for-4, RBI, R) The Irish have not made the trip to Morgantown since the 2004 season. Gaston is the only player on the Notre Dame roster to appear at Crawley Field. The Irish are 12-5 all-time at WVU and 8-2 over their last 10 games.
NOT YOU AVERAGE WEEKEND - Notre Dame sophomore pitcher/punter Eric Maust has quite a action-packed weekend. Maust, who practiced with the football team on Wednesday (a full special teams session), watched film from practice on Thursday before heading over to Frank Eck Stadium to throw. Maust must then report to the Gug by 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning before heading over to Notre Dame Stadium for the Blue-Gold Game. He will then catch a 7:00 p.m. ET flight out of South Bend into Pittsburgh. Maust must the ride the near two hour commute to the Irish hotel in Morgantown (expected to arrive sometime around 2:00 a.m.). Hopefully, in plenty of time for Sunday's first pitch of 1:05 p.m.
STENCIL THEM IN - Three Notre Dame players have started every game this season, with senior SS Brett Lilley and senior LF Ross Brezovsky the only two to do so at the same position ... the other is sophomore A.J. Pollock, who has started 24 games in CF and nine games in RF ... Lilley is the only player to hit in the same spot (leadoff) in all 33 games.
ROAD WARRIORS - Notre Dame has captured its first six road games of the 2008 season. The Irish won just four games on the road all of 2007 (4-11). The Irish have not won six straight road games since recording a seven-game road winning streak during the 2006 campaign. Notre Dame has opened BIG EAST play with six straight road wins. The Irish last opened 6-0 on the road in conference play during the 2004 season.
IN MEMORY - 4,600 people attended the game at U.S. Cellular Field between Notre Dame and Northern Illinois. With all the ticket proceeds (over $50,000) benefitting the NIU February 14 Scholarship Fund. The crowd was the largest for an Irish game since June 5, 2005 when 4,851 saw Florida defeat Notre Dame in the 2005 NCAA Gainesville Regional.
NOTRE DAME TRENDS - Notre Dame improved to 9-2-1 in games played at night (first pitch after 5:05 p.m.).
PRO PARKS - Notre Dame played at U.S. Cellular Field on April 16 and knocked off Northern Illinois, 5-4. The Irish recently have played at several pro parks, including three college games and the 2001 exhibition vs. the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at their spring training site, Florida Power Park, plus 2002, '04 and '05 games in Texas at both Dell Diamond (home of triple-A Astros affiliate Round Rock Express) and Wolff Stadium (double-A San Antonio Missions), plus '06-'08 games at Wolff and the 2008 Whataburger Classic at Whataburger Field (home of the double-A Corpus Christi Hooks, also an Astros affiliate). The Irish also played Dayton in '05 at HoHoKam Park (Chicago Cubs spring-training; Mesa, Ariz.) while the 2006 BIG EAST Championship was held in Clearwater, Fla., at Bright House Networks Field (spring training for the Philadelphia Phillies; also site for '08 BET) and the 2007 BIG EAST Championship was in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Keyspan Park (home to the Brooklyn Cyclones, Mets single-A). ND played at another elite minor-league facility in 2007 (Coastal Federal Field; Baseball at the Beach tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C.)
POLLOCK ON SOME KIND OF TEAR - While sophomore A.J. Pollock went hitless Wednesday night against Northern Illinois, he is still batting .400 on the year and a remarkable .383 over his brief two-year career. The All-American candidate has been named BIG EAST Player of the Week each of the last two weeks. Over the stretch (eight games), Pollock hit .567 with 14 runs scored, four doubles, two triples, two home runs and 11 RBI. He also was a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen bases.
LILLEY STANDS ALONE - Senior Brett Lilley set a new NCAA Division I record in the second inning of the 13-8 victory over Manchester College on April 9 when the shortstop was plunked for the 93rd time in his career, breaking the previous all-time NCAA Division I record held by Tony Hurtado of San Francisco (1997-00). Lilley set the record in 203 games, 18 fewer than Hurtado. He had already broke the Notre Dame school record of 84 (which is now third most in NCAA history) held by Cody Rizzo (2003-06) earlier this season. He has been hit by 67 different pitchers and 39 different teams. Lilley would eventually come around to score, which was the 32nd time he scored after reaching base via the hit-by-pitch (now 33 times over his 94 HBP).
TRIBUTE TO FRANK - The guardian angel of Notre Dame baseball, Frank Eck, passed away on Dec. 13, 2007 of complications from open heart surgery. The Irish wear "Frank 44" on the back of their new gold helmets. Notre Dame baseball had never worn gold helmets prior to this season.
Eck's contributions to Notre Dame have totaled more than $35 million. The most recent, a $21 million gift in 2005, is underwriting the current construction of the Eck Hall of Law, which includes a second building for the Notre Dame Law School and a multipurpose facility in a neo-Gothic archway that will link the new structure to the existing building. The gift was the fifth largest in Notre Dame's history, the largest ever to the Law School, and one of the largest in the history of American legal education.
Eck's previous benefactions to Notre Dame endowed a library collection in chemical engineering and underwrote construction of the Eck Tennis Pavilion in 1987, Frank Eck Baseball Stadium in 1994, and the Eck Center, which includes the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, visitors' center and Alumni Association headquarters, in 1999. He also underwrote a key addition to Eck Stadium in 2000, when an adjoining 9,000-square-foot indoor hitting and pitching facility opened to provide the Notre Dame baseball team with a valuable year-round practice area.
MILLS MAKES SACRIFICE - Sophomore David Mills broke into the everyday lineup for Notre Dame against Buffalo on March 14 (22 games ago). The designated hitter is batting .378 with one double, two triples and nine RBI. Mills has filled the two-hole with perfection. He has already recorded 11 sacrifice bunts, which tied senior Brett Lilley's high for the entire 2007 season and 13th in Irish single-season history. Lilley also owns the single-season record with 15 during the 2006 season. Mills is on pace to shatter the record. He ranks sixth in the NCAA.
GASTON STARTING TO COME AROUND - Senior Sean Gaston got off to a slow start this season. He batted just .234 with one extra-base hit and eight RBI over the first 15 games for the Irish. Gaston has since hit .370 with six extra-base hits and nine RBI.
IRISH OWN RUTGERS AT THE ECK - Notre Dame can lay claim to owning Rutgers in the all-time series at Frank Eck Stadium. The Irish swept the Scarlet Knights earlier this season at home and did the same in the last series in Notre Dame between the two rivals in 2006. In fact, the Irish swept three straight from Rutgers in 2004. In all, Notre Dame has defeated the Scarlet Knights nine straight times at home.
COLE FAR FROM COLD - Freshman Cole Johnson has clearly rebounded from a rocky start to open his Irish career. Johnson was charged with six earned runs on eight hits in his Notre Dame debut against Maine on March 4 (even surrendered a home run on first career pitch). Since that outing, he has made six appearances, five out of the Irish bullpen and recorded a 1.93 earned-run average over 18.2 innings (13 strikeouts, five walks). In fact, he has allowed just one earned run over his last 16.1 innings of work.
HEADS UP - Over a span of five games, three separate Notre Dame players were hit in the face either at the plate or on the mound. In the series opener against Rutgers, freshman Greg Sherry was drilled just under the batting helmet over the left eye (bill of the helmet shattered). The following afternoon, senior Wade Korpi took a line-drive back up the middle off the head. The ball ricocheted into the visiting dugout on the fly. Then, just two games later freshman Matt Katich was drilled when trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt against Manchester College. Freshman Evan Danieli even got hit with a wild throw during batting practice prior to the Toledo game on April 15.
IRISH OFF TO A HOT START - With this past weekend's series sweep of Villanova, Notre Dame improved to 10-2 in the BIG EAST. It took the Irish 19 league games (10-9) to register their 10th BIG EAST victory a season ago. In fact, the 10-2 start is tied for the fourth best start through 12 games for Notre Dame in BIG EAST history. They opened the 1998, 1999 and 2006 seasons with a 11-1 mark and started 10-2 in 2001, 2003 and 2004.
Year Record Year Record 1996 7-5 2003 10-2 1997 8-4 2004 10-2 1998 11-1 2005 8-4 1999 11-1 2006 11-1 2000 8-4 2007 5-7 2001 10-2 2008 10-2 2002 6-6
DEFINITELY NOT RUNS OF THE MILLS - Sophomore David Mills has made quite an impact in the two hole for Notre Dame since getting an opportunity 22 games ago against Buffalo (first career start). He is batting .378 with one double, two triples and nine RBI. Mills also has excelled in situational hitting for the Irish, registering a team-high and BIG EAST high 11 sacrifice bunts. Mills has also added three sacrifice flies and is batting .667 (6-for-9) with a runner on third and less than two outs. He carried a 13-game hitting streak into Tuesday night's game against Toledo (went hitless), but registered back-to-back three hit games on Friday and Saturday of the Villanova series. The 13-game hitting streak was the longest for Notre Dame since Craig Cooper recorded a 21-game hitting streak during the 2006 season.
IRISH PITCHING STAFF DOMINATES THE BIG EAST - Notre Dame's pitching staff has truly carried the Irish to their 10-2 start in the BIG EAST. The Irish have a 2.08 earned-run average over their first 12 games and their opponents are batting just .244. Notre Dame's weekend rotation of junior David Phelps (2-1, 2.73), senior Wade Korpi (3-0, 2.62) and sophomore Eric Maust (3-1, 1.80) are averaging 6.2 innings per start with a 8-2 record and 2.40 ERA. The Irish bullpen has been even more impressive. The contingent of senior Justin Gingerich (0-0, 0.00), senior Tony Langford (0-0, 0.00), freshman Todd Miller (0-0, 0.00), sophomore David Mills (0-0, 0.00), freshman Cole Johnson (1-0, 0.93), junior Kyle Weiland (1-0, 3 svs, 1.80) and sophomore Steven Mazur (0-0, 4.50) have posted a 1.23 ERA in 29.1 innings of work.
MORE ON THE NOTRE DAME STAFF - Notre Dame has allowed just 29 runs over its first 12 BIG EAST games, which is the fewest over the first 12 games in Irish BIG EAST history (the 2001 pitching staff which included All-American and first round draft pick Aaron Heilman allowed 38 and the 2003 group allowed just 35). By comparison, last year's staff allowed 54 runs over the first 12 games of conference action.
LANGFORD BACK - Notre Dame senior Tony Langford has appeared to fully recover from missing all of 2006 and some of 2007 following Tommy John surgery. Langford is 2-0 with a 1.54 earned-run average in 10 appearances. He has fanned 12 and allowed just nine hits in 11.2 innings of work. Opponents are batting just .220 against the righty. The Irish are 9-1 when Langford makes an appearance.
BREZOVSKY NOT TO BE OVERSHADOWED - Notre Dame senior tri-captain Ross Brezovsky has saved the best season of his career for his final one. Brezovsky is batting .364 with three home runs and 26 RBI. He is batting even better in BIG EAST games, leading the league (in conference games) with a .455 average, two home runs and 11 RBI. Brezovsky's season turned for the better after moving down in the order. He hit third over the first 10 games for the Irish and batted .257 with seven RBI, but since his move to the sixth-hole Brezovsky is hitting .453 with three home runs and 13 RBI.
BARNES COMES THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH - Notre Dame junior Jeremy Barnes made quite a statement as a freshman when he batted .356 (37-for-104) with runners in scoring position and .655 (19-for-29) with a runner on third and less than two outs. He also added 14 two-out RBI. After his batting average with runners in scoring position dropped to .295 (18-for-61) and registered just seven two-out RBI a season ago, Barnes is back when hitting in clutch situations. He is batting .426 (20-for-47) with runners in scoring position and leads the Irish with 13 two-out RBI already this year. He is also 10-for-13 (.769) with a runner on third base and less than two outs.
SHARP (LEY) ONCE AGAIN - Notre Dame junior Evan Sharpley recently went through a 1-for-16 slump which saw his batting average drop from .413 to .323, but the first baseman has rebounded over the last seven games. He is hitting .421 (8-for-19) with a home run, three doubles and four RBI.
MIGHT POLLOCK BE HUMAN AFTERALL - Sophomore A.J. Pollock entered the series against Villanova with just four strikeouts in 110 at-bats, good for an average of 27.5 at-bats per strikeout (which ranked 10th in the NCAA). However, Pollock fanned three times in the series opener. He had not struckout three times in a game since March 24 of last season against USF. In fact, it was only the third time in his career in which he had fanned more than once in a single game.
FREQUENT FLYERS - Notre Dame has done its fair share of travelling this season. The Irish have logged more than 15,723 miles of total team travel this season (listings indicate round trip miles):
Air (Road) Tampa, Fla. 2,346 (238) Palm Beach, Fla. 2,630 (244) Corpus Christi, Texas 2,709 (96) San Antonio, Texas 2,484 (192) Washington, D.C. 1,406 (192) Philadelphia, Pa. 1,344 (192) Morgantown, W.Va. -- (880) Total Round Trip Miles 15,723 (2,034)
WEILAND IN A CLASS OF HIS OWN - Junior closer Kyle Weiland became Notre Dame's all-time saves leader with his 21st as the Irish rallied past Valparaiso, 8-6, on April 8. Weiland has since added three more saves to give him 24 for his career. Weiland moved past the trio of John Corbin (1997-2000), Ryan Doherty (2003-05) and J.P. Gagne (2000-03) -- all of whom had 20.
HITTING STREAKS -- Heading into this weekend's series with West Virginia, five Notre Dame players carry hitting streaks of three games or more.
Player Statistics During Streak Ross Brezovsky (13) .447 (21-for-47, 10 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 15 RBI) Jeremy Barnes (8) .407 (11-for-27, 8 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 11 RBI) Brett Lilley (4) .353 (6-for-17, 7 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI) Brayden Ashdown (3) .500 (3-for-6, 2 R, RBI) Sean Gaston (3) .417 (5-for-12, 3 RBI)
IRISH SETTLED ON A LINEUP - Notre Dame used 10 different batting lineups over its first 11 games (5-6), but the Irish have used just five lineups over their last 22 games (18-3-1). The only real lineup changes over the last 22 games is the rotation of junior Evan Sharpley (against RHP) and junior Casey Martin (against LHP) with the exception coming against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on March 26 when freshman Golden Tate and freshman Cameron McConnell each were inserted into the lineup. McConnell, freshman David Casey and sophomore Ryne Intlekofer also started against Manchester College on Apr. 8.
First 11 games (5-6) Last 22 Games (18-3-1) Batting Avg. .269 .354 Runs 58 179 Runs/Game 5.3 8.1 Hits 101 267 Hits/Game 9.2 12.1 Doubles 23 53 Triples 1 11 Home Runs 4 16 RBI 52 165 Slug. % .368 .517 On-base % .362 .419
WHO SAYS A PLATOON CAN'T WORK - Notre Dame has rotated junior Evan Sharpley and junior Casey Martin at first base each of the last 22 games. Sharpley has faced right-handed pitching, while Martin has played against left-handed pitching. The duo has combined for seven home runs and 28 RBI over the last 22 games. They have batted .341 (29-for-85) with 17 runs scored, seven doubles and one triple.
Evan Sharpley Casey Martin Batting Avg. .327 .367 Runs 9 8 Hits 18 11 Doubles 6 1 Triples 0 1 Home Runs 5 2 RBI 17 11 Slug. % .709 .667 On-base % .413 .400
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.
Freebies ND 2008 ND 2007 ND 2006 Walks Allowed 118 191 170 Errors 29 83 68 SB Allowed 31 73 65 Hit Batters 28 61 50 Wild Pitches 23 45 23 Passed Balls 5 27 6 Balks 6 5 7 TOTAL 240 (7.3/gm) 485 (8.7/gm) 389 (6.2/gm)
ON DECK -- After Notre Dame hits the road for another BIG EAST series at West Virginia this weekend, the Irish return home to play Chicago State on Tuesday, April 22. Notre Dame then makes the short jaunt over to Forst Wayne and Memorial Stadium to face IPFW.
RANKINGS -- Notre Dame is ranked 29th by Collegiate Baseball. The Irish did not appear in any of the other three polls. West Virginia is unranked.