IN THE BATTERS BOX -- Notre Dame and Rutgers open a crucial three-game BIG EAST series at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday, May 11 at Frank Eck Stadium. Saturday and Sunday's games will begin at 2:05 p.m. and 1:05 p.m. All three games can be heard in South Bend on WHME / Harvest 103.1 FM and watched live at UND.com. The Irish will honor their seniors prior to the start of Saturday's contest. Notre Dame will done its throw-back uniforms on Saturday. Sunday serves as Strikeout for Cancer Day and Mother's Day. Irish head softball coach Deanna Gumpf, daughter Tatum and Brady Burkhart will each throw out a ceremonial first pitch.
THIS WEEKEND'S STORY LINES -- Notre Dame (11-10) enters this weekend's series with Rutgers just one game behind the Scarlet Knights (12-9) for sixth place in the BIG EAST standings. USF and Seton Hall are tied at 13-8 and sit 2.0 games ahead of the Irish. The top eight teams qualify for the 2012 BIG EAST Tournament in Clearwater, Fla.
Notre Dame closes the BIG EAST regular season next weekend at Connecticut.
W L Pct. GB
St. John's 16 5 .762 --
Louisville 14 7 .667 2
Connecticut 14 7 .667 2
South Florida 13 8 .619 3
Seton Hall 13 8 .619 3
Rutgers 12 9 .571 4
Notre Dame 11 10 .524 5
Villanova 9 12 .429 7
Pittsburgh 8 13 .381 8
Georgetown 7 14 .333 9
West Virginia 6 15 .286 10
Cincinnati 3 18 .143 13
May 11-13 May 17-19
St. John's at #22 Louisville Georgetown at Cincinnati
Cincinnati at Villanova Louisville at Pittsburgh
Connecticut at USF Notre Dame at Connecticut
Pittsburgh at Seton Hall Seton Hall at St. John's
Rutgers at Notre Dame USF at West Virginia
West Virginia at Georgetown Villanova at Rutgers
ECK STADIUM SEASON FINALE -- While Notre Dame owns an impressive .754 all-time winning percentage at Frank Eck Stadium, the Irish are 30-17 in BIG EAST home series finale. In fact, Notre Dame has captured only two regular season home series finale since 2005.
Notre Dame has faced Rutgers during its last conference home series on one previous occasion in 2000. The Irish took two of three from the Scarlet Knights, despite dropping the series opener, 16-6.
AROUND THE HORN -- Notre Dame has struggled with the bases loaded in 2012. Notre Dame is just 21-for-77 (.273) with the sacks packed, while their foes are 20-for-42 (.476).
Notre Dame has struggled defensively for most of the 2012 season. The Irish have committed 70 errors and fielded .962. Notre Dame has averaged 1.49 errors per game. The Irish are on pace to register 80 errors, which would be the most since 2007.
Notre Dame is 22-8 this season when committing zero or one errors, but just 3-14 with multiple errors in a single game.
The Irish have a .982 fielding percentage in their 25 victories (17 miscues), but a .940 fielding percentage in their 22 defeats (53 miscues).
Eight of Notre Dame's 10 losses in BIG EAST action have come by two runs or less, including a trio of one-run defeats and two in extra innings.
In those eight losses, the Irish have been outscored, 41-28, yet Notre Dame has committed 22 errors and allowed 16 unearned runs. By comparison, the Irish foes have made six errors and yielded just two unearned runs.
The Irish have failed to deliver with the bases loaded and runners in scoring posiiton in those eight defeats as well. Notre Dame is just 2-for-12 (.167) with the sacks packed, while its opponents are 4-for-9 (.444). The Irish have hit .225 (18-for-80) with runners in scoring position, while their foes have batted .292 (26-for-89).
Notre Dame has turned 48 double plays this season, which leads the BIG EAST and ranks tied for 17th in the NCAA.
Sophomore 3B Eric Jagielo extended his streak to 35 consecutive games reaching base safely.
RUTGERS INSIDER -- The Scarlet Knights, led by 29th-year head coach Fred Hill, enter the weekend with an overall record of 27-20 and 12-9 in the BIG EAST. Rutgers has lost three of its last four games, including last weekend's series at home with Pittsburgh.
The Scarlet Knights average 6.32 runs per game and hits .300 with a .386 on-base percentage and .409 slugging percentage. Rutgers has totaled 54 stolen bases in 78 attempts. The Scarlet Knights are one of two teams in the BIG EAST with a team batting average of .300 or better.
Rutgers has five everyday players batting over .300.
Senior 3B Patrick Kivlehan leads the BIG EAST in batting average (.392), slugging percentage (.671) and on-base percentage (.479). He also ranks tied for second in the league in home runs (10), third in stolen bases (23), and tied for fifth in total bases (106). Kivlehan has scored 38 runs, drawn 16 walks and registered 39 RBI.
Junior C Jeff Melillo is hitting at a .342 clip, which is second among everyday players. He has added 32 runs scored, 54 hits, 10 doubles, four home runs, 29 RBI, 24 walks, two sacrifice flies, three sacrifice bunts and no stolen bases (in one attempt). Melillo has registered a .481 slugging percentage and .442 on-base percentage.
Sophomore OF Brian O'Grady is batting .335 with 40 runs scored, 62 hits, team-best 13 doubles, team-high four triples and 26 RBI. O'Grady has added 28 walks, one sacrifice fly, two sacrifice bunts and seven stolen bases (in 14 attempts).
Rutgers has a 4.31 ERA and .283 opponents' batting average along with 282 strikeouts and 138 walks in 417.2 innings of work. The Scarlet Knights average 2.97 walks and 6.08 strikeouts per nine innings.
Junior RHP Tyler Gebler will start the series opener against Notre Dame. Gebler is 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 64.0 innings of work over 10 appearances, nine starts. He has allowed 34 runs, 32 earned, on 78 hits and his opponents are hitting .300. Gebler has struck out 39 and walked 13. Junior LHP Rob Smorol will toe the rubber in game two. He is 6-3 with a 3.77 ERA in 74.0 innings of work over 12 appearances, all starts. He has allowed 36 runs, 31 earned, on 73 hits and his opponents are hitting .257. Smorol has struck out 42 and walked 19. Senior RHP Ryan Fasano will take the mound in the series finale. He is 5-4 with a 3.46 ERA in 80.2 innings of work over 13 appearances, 12 starts. Fasano has allowed 33 runs, 31 earned, on 79 hits and his opponents are hitting .262. He has struck out 48 and walked 13.
Redshirt senior RHP Willie Beard (4-0, 3.54 ERA in 20 relief appearances), junior RHP Jerry Elsing (0-2, 4.50 ERA in 13 relief appearances), junior LHP Dan O'Neill (1-2, 5.16 ERA in 20 relief appearances and three saves), sophomore RHP Charlie Lasky (3-0, 5.30 ERA in 14 relief appearances) and redshirt junior RHP Charlie Law (1-3, 6.35 ERA in 11 relief appearances and three saves) makeup the Scarlet Knights bullpen.
Rutgers has committed 67 errors in 26 games and field at a .963 clip.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Notre Dame Rutgers
Batting Average .284 .300
Runs Per Game 5.34 6.32
Home Runs 28 24
Slugging Percentage .393 .409
Batters' BB+HBP-SO Margin -73 -91
On-Base Percentage .374 .386
Stolen Bases 46-71 54-78
Team ERA 4.07 4.31
Opponent Batting Average .273 .283
Pitchers' SO-BB Ratio 2.47 2.04
Pitchers' SO Per 9 Innings 7.30 6.08
Pitchers' BB Per 9 Innings 2.95 2.97
Fielding Pct. (Errors) .962 (70) .963 (67)
Double Plays Turned 48 41
Record at Home 9-7 11-5
Record on Road (including neutral) 16-15 16-15
Record in One-Run Games 9-5 2-6
Record in Extra Innings 1-3 1-4
Notre Dame Rutgers
Seton Hall 0-3 2-1
Georgetown 3-0 1-2
St. John's 0-3 1-2
Cincinnati 2-1 3-0
Pittsburgh 3-0 1-2
Totals 8-7 8-7
NOTRE DAME-RUTGERS SERIES NOTES -- Notre Dame holds a 31-19 series edge against Rutgers (15-6 at Notre Dame, 11-8 at Rutgers and 5-5 at the BIG EAST Tournament).
Notre Dame captured each of the first two games in the 2011 series in Piscataway, N.J., (5-4, 3-0), but Rutgers took the series finale to avoid a sweep in 14 innings, 3-2.
The Irish swept the Scarlet Knights in Notre Dame over a three-game series in 2008.
Notre Dame also took two of three from the eventual BIG EAST regular season champ in a 2007 series in Piscataway, N.J.
Notre Dame swept three straight series with Rutgers in Frank Eck Stadium before the 2010 series. The Irish took all three in the 2006 series (11-5, 15-3, 14-12) and 2004 series (1-0, 7-1, 5-3).
The teams met six times in both 2002 (Notre Dame won four) 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 (13 games decided by eight-plus runs), tense finishes (25 decided by 1-2 runs, with 15 won by Notre Dame) and shutouts (Notre Dame 3, Rutgers 3).
The 14 previous Notre Dame-Rutgers season series include nine won by Notre Dame and four by Rutgers (split in 1999, rained out in 1998).
LAST HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES -- Notre Dame captured each of the first two games in the 2011 series in Piscataway, N.J., (5-4, 3-0), but Rutgers took the series finale to avoid a sweep in 14 innings, 3-2.
Notre Dame rapped out 15 hits, including at least one from all nine starters, en route to a 5-4 victory over Rutgers in the opener. Will Hudgins improved to 4-0 with another quality relief outing. The sidewinder allowed one earned run, a solo home run, on a pair of hits in 3.0 innings of work. Hudgins struck out three and did not issue a walk. Tyler Gebler was charged with the loss and dropped to 3-5. He was knocked around for 13 hits and five earned runs. Gebler struck out two and walked one. He managed his way into the eighth inning before Notre Dame got some quality situational hitting. The Irish collected 10 base hits over the first seven innings, but stranded eight along the way. Trey Mancini went 4-for-4 with an RBI. Eric Jagielo, Joe Hudson and Mick Doyle all collected multi-hit games. Jagielo had an RBI double and run scored. Hudson scored twice, doubled twice and drove in one run. Doyle went 2-for-3 with an RBI single.
Notre Dame spotted Cole Johnson three early runs and the senior right-handed pitcher did the rest as the Irish secured a doubleheader sweep of BIG EAST rival Rutgers, 3-0. Johnson was simply too much for Rutgers. He limited the Scarlet Knights to just three hits, all singles, in 8.1 scoreless innings. Johnson struck out a career-best 12. He collected at least two strikeouts in the fourth, fifth, sixth and eight innings. The 12 strikeouts were the most by an Irish pitcher since Tom Thornton fanned 12 against Kent State on June 5, 2004. In fact, a Notre Dame pitcher has not fanned more batters than Johnson since Aaron Heilman set the BIG EAST record with 18 at West Virginia on April 15, 2000. Johnson improved to 4-6 on the season with his team-best 10th quality start. He has been almost untouchable over his last two starts against Seton Hall and Rutgers. Johnson has allowed just one earned run on six hits, five of which have been singles, in 17.1 innings of work. Sean Fitzgerald got the final two outs of the game to collect his second save of the year. Trey Mancini continued his torrid stretch against Rutgers. He collected three more hits, including an RBI triple in the top of the first inning to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead. Mancini went 7-for-8 in the doubleheader sweep. Six other Irish players recorded a hit.
Rutgers got a RBI single from Steve Zavala in the bottom of the 14th inning to give the Scarlet Knights a 3-2 victory over Notre Dame in the BIG EAST series finale. Brandon Boykin dropped a one-out double just inside the right field line to move the winning run into scoring position for Zavala. Sean Fitzgerald got ahead of Zavala 1-2, but the Scarlet Knights left fielder sliced a single into shallow left field. Notre Dame LF Eric Jagielo charged the ball and threw a strike to C Joe Hudson, who caught the ball and appeared to tag Boykin out before sliding across home plate, but Boykin was called safe. Rob Corsi picked up the victory and improved to 4-3 on the year. The southpaw tossed 6.1 scoreless innings out of the Scarlet Knights bullpen. Corsi allowed just four hits and struck out six. He did issue three walks. Fitzgerald was tagged with cruel loss and dropped to 1-2 on the season. He struck out five and allowed the one run on five hits. Fitzgerald did not issue a walk.
LAST HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES IN NOTRE DAME -- After waiting through a lengthy delay for an illegal Rutgers substitution in the eighth inning, David Casey delivered a two-out, game-tying single and Adam Norton followed with an RBI triple over the head of a diving Jarred Jimenez in centerfield to give the Irish a 9-8, come-from-behind victory over Rutgers in the series opener. The controversy began when Rutgers, leading 8-7, attempted to bring its closer, Tyler Gebler, into the game with two outs in the eighth and Brayden Ashdown on second base after reaching on an error. Gebler, who normally wears #43, was wearing jersey #4 for the contest, but #41 was crossed out (and #4 written next to it) instead of #43 on the lineup card. The umpires thenceforth deemed Gebler (who has a 1.84 ERA and six saves on the season) ineligible because he was incorrectly listed on the lineup card, and the Scarlet Knights had to turn to Kevin Lillis instead, who promptly blew the save and took the loss (0-2) after giving up the final two Irish hits.
Pat Biserta and Michael Lang each collected two of Rutgers' seven home runs as the Scarlet Knights took advantage of fierce winds blowing out to power past the Irish, 25-5, in the second game of the series. Biserta upped his conference-leading home run total to 12 and drove in four, while Lang finished with seven RBI and Ryan Kapp added five RBI. The loss snapped Notre Dame's 10-game home winning streak over Rutgers. Steve Sabatino (2-4) shouldered the loss in the shortest outing of his career, lasting 2.2 innings and giving up eight earned runs. Sabatino had worked at least 5.0 innings in five straight starts, and in his only other start this season he worked 3.0 innings of no-hit ball against Mississippi Valley State. Nine of the 13 base runners he allowed (including all four walks) reached with two outs, leading to seven two-out tallies. In all, Rutgers (16-13, 6-2 BIG EAST) used 13 two-out hits to register 18 two-out RBI.
Rutgers tallied a pair of runs in the top of the 11th inning to grab an 8-6 come-from-behind victory over Notre Dame and secure a series victory at Frank Eck Stadium. Notre Dame was two outs away from one of the more remarkable turn-around victories in recent memory. Just 24 hours following a 25-5 loss to Rutgers, the Irish cligned to a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth. Steven Mazur fanned Brandon Boykin to open the ninth, but Michael Lang and Pat Biserta followed with back-to-back bloop singles to put runners on the corners. The Irish closer then induced Steve Nyisztor into a potential game-ending double play ground ball, but it was not hit hard enough to nail the speedy Scarlet Knights second baseman and Lang scored to tie the score at 6-6. Mazur fanned Jaren Matthews to end the inning and keep the score tied. Notre Dame provided drama in the bottom of the ninth. Gebler retired David Mills and Casey Martin to open the frame, but Mick Doyle got a 3-1 fast ball and belted it to left field. Biserta raced back to the base of the wall and hauled in the potential game-winning home run. Rutgers regained the lead in the top of the 11th inning off Will Hudgins. Lang opened the frame with a single, giving him four hits for the second consecutive game. After Biserta executed a sacrifice bunt, Nyisztor golfed a single to centerfield to plate Lang and give Rutgers a 7-6 lead. Joe Spano replaced Hudgins and walked Matthews. Jayson Hernandez followed with a ground out that allowed both Nyisztor and Matthews to advance into scoring position. Spano then uncorked a wild pitch that clearly bounced in the dirt and ricocheted off Jimenez, which should have been a hit batter and dead ball, and Nyisztor scampered home for the ever important insurance run to make the Scarlet Knights lead, 8-6.