IN THE BATTERS BOX -- Notre Dame and USF open a crucial three-game BIG EAST series at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday, May 13 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 Sunday's series finale.
THIS WEEKEND'S TOP STORY LINE -- Notre Dame (9-11) enters this weekend's series with USF just a half game behind Seton Hall (10-10) for eighth place in the BIG EAST standings. The top eight teams qualify for the 2011 BIG EAST Tournament in Clearwater, Fla. Cincinnati, Louisville and USF are all tied at 11-10 and sit 1.5 games ahead of the Irish.
Notre Dame closes the BIG EAST regular season next weekend at Louisville.
W L Pct. GB
Connecticut 17 3 .850 --
St. John's 13 7 .650 4.0
West Virginia 13 8 .619 4.5
Pittsburgh 12 9 .571 5.5
South Florida 11 10 .524 6.5
Cincinnati 11 10 .524 6.5
Louisville 11 10 .524 6.5
Seton Hall 10 11 .476 7.5
Notre Dame 9 11 .450 8.0
Rutgers 8 13 .381 9.5
Georgetown 5 16 .238 12.5
Villanova 4 17 .190 13.5
Pittsburgh West Virginia South Florida
vs. West Virginia at Pittsburgh vs. Notre Dame
at South Florida vs. Rutgers vs. Pittsburgh
Cincinnati Louisville Seton Hall
vs. Seton Hall at UConn at Cincinnati
vs. UConn vs. Notre Dame vs. Georgetown
Rutgers Notre Dame
at Villanova vs. USF
at West Virginia at Louisville
USF INSIDER -- The Bulls, led by fifth year head coach Lelo Prado, enter the series with a 22-25 overall record and 11-10 mark in BIG EAST action.
USF is averaging 4.3 runs per game and hitting .259 with a .336 on-base percentage. The Bulls have also totaled 29 stolen bases in 46 attempts.
Senior 3B Jonathan Koscso leads the team with a .324 batting average, 35 runs scored and 60 hits. He has also added seven doubles, 12 RBI, 18 walks, 19 hit-by-pitches and four stolen bases (in nine attempts). Senior OF/LHP Junior Carlin is hitting .269 with 20 runs scored, 42 hits, six doubles, one triple and 17 RBI. He has collected 16 walks and swiped three bases (in three attempts). Carlin, who leads the BIG EAST with 15 sacrifice bunts, has tortured the Irish over the last three years.
Junior SS Sam Mende is batting .266 with 25 runs scored, 51 hits, eight doubles, three triples, four home runs and 27 RBI. He has drawn 13 walks and swiped six bases (in eight attempts), but has also struck out 48 times. Junior 1B Todd Brazeal is hitting .259 with 21 runs scored, 45 hits, 10 doubles, five home runs and 34 RBI. He leads USF in both home runs and RBI. Brazeal has also struck out 44 times. He has struck out 10 times in 22 career at-bats against Notre Dame. Three USF players have fanned at least 40 times in 2011 and the Bulls have struck out 303 times this season as a club.
The USF pitching staff has a 4.01 ERA and .250 opponents' batting average along with 315 strikeouts and 163 walks in 424.0 innings of work. The Bulls average 3.46 walks and 6.69 strikeouts per nine innings. Senior RHP Randy Fontanez will start the first game of the series for USF. Fontanez is 5-4 with a 2.59 ERA in 87.0 innings of work over 12 appearances, all starts. He has allowed 27 runs, 25 earned, on 74 hits and his opponents are hitting .233 against him. Fontanez has struck out 70 and walked only 10. He ranks among the top five in the BIG EAST in innings pitched, strikeouts and wins. Senior LHP Junior Carlin will take the mound in the second game of the series. He is 1-2 with a 4.38 ERA in 24.2 innings of work over 12 appearances, four starts. Carlin has allowed 12 runs, all earned, on 24 hits and his opponents are hitting .270 against him. He has struck out 23 and walked nine. Carlin entered the Bulls weekend rotation three weeks ago. Senior RHP Kyle Eastham will get the nod in the series finale. He is 3-5 with a 4.55 ERA in 65.1 innings of work over 15 appearances, 10 starts.
Junior LHP Matt Reed (4-3, 4.22 ERA in 13 appearances, eight starts), freshman LHP Nick Gonzalez (2-3, 7.18 ERA in 11 appearances, eight starts), junior RHP Andrew Loynaz (0-1, 3.52 ERA in 14 appearances), junior RHP Jimmy Moran (4-1, 3.86 ERA in 17 appearances), senior RHP Zach Pietrzyk (3-2, 4.06 ERA in 21 appearances, two starts) and senior RHP Kevin Quackenbush (0-2, 0.95 ERA in 24 appearances and 11 saves) makeup the Bulls bullpen.
USF has committed 54 errors in 47 games and fields .971.
NOTRE DAME-USF SERIES NOTES -- USF leads the series with Notre Dame, 11-7, but the Irish own a 3-3 mark against the Bulls at Frank Eck Stadium (3-6 at USF).
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. USF has captured 10 of the last 12 against Notre Dame.
LAST MEETINGS (USF 4-0, March 26; USF 6-3, March 28; USF 10-2, March 28) --Brian Dupra notched his fourth straight quality start and Ryan Connolly reached base safely (via base hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch) for the 33rd consecutive game, but it was all overshadowed by the right arm of USF starter Randy Fontanez, who tossed a no-hitter to lead the Bulls to a 4-0 victory over the Irish at Red McEwen Field. Fontanez punched out a career-high 12 in the third no-hitter in USF history and the first since Mark Reed hurled a perfect game on May 9, 1992 against Charlotte. It was also the first career complete-game shutout for Fontanez, who allowed just two walks on the night and threw 119 pitches. The Bulls had been 0-5 in Fontanez's starts this season and still are scoring just 3.17 runs per game in his starts. Dupra worked 6.0 innings, yielding a pair of earned runs (three total) on nine hits. He struck out four and walked just one, but went to a three-ball count nine times and tossed 122 pitches.
David Mills collected a career-high four hits and tossed a pair of scoreless innings from the mound and Bill Warrender went 3-for-4 in his first career start, but the Bulls scored four unanswered runs in their final four at bats to come from behind and take game one of the doubleheader, 6-3. Steve Sabatino was saddled with the loss for Notre Dame, giving up six runs (five earned) on eight hits in 6.0+ innings. The southpaw punched out four and walked just two, but both proved costly, they each came with two outs and led to a total of four USF runs. LHP Andrew Barbosa earned the victory for the Bulls, tossing 6.2 innings of eight-hit, three-run ball (two earned). Joe Cole worked the final 2.1 innings for his first save of the 2010 season.
A seven-spot in the second inning was all the Bulls needed to complete the series sweep of the Irish, as USF went on to defeat Notre Dame, 10-2, in the second game of a doubleheader at Red McEwen Field. Eric Maust shouldered the loss for the Irish. He lasted 1.2 innings, giving up seven runs (five earned) on six hits. Ryan Richter was masterful in long relief, shutting out the Bulls on two hits in 3.1 innings (one walk, four strikeouts). Teddy Kaufman was the victor for USF and yielded just a run on six hits in 5.0 innings (no walks, five strikeouts).
TALE OF THE TAPE
Notre Dame USF
Batting Average .240 .259
Runs Per Game 3.6 4.3
Home Runs 13 18
Slugging Percentage .324 .339
Batters' BB+HBP-SO Margin -95 -108
On-Base Percentage .315 .336
Stolen Bases 42-70 29-46
Team ERA 2.83 4.01
Opponent Batting Average .254 .250
Pitchers' SO-BB Ratio 2.78 1.93
Pitchers' SO Per 9 Innings 6.77 6.69
Pitchers' BB Per 9 Innings 2.44 3.46
Fielding Pct. (Errors) .971 (49) .971 (54)
Double Plays Turned 26 38
Record at Home 8-8 13-11
Record on Road (including neutral) 10-16-1 9-14
Record in One-Run Games 8-10 5-7
Record in Extra Innings 3-5-1 2-3
WALKING A TIGHTROPE -- Notre Dame has already played 18 games decided by one run in 2011. The Irish are 8-10 in those outings and it does not include three other extra-inning contests where Notre Dame either tied (Gonzaga, March 20) or lost by two runs (West Virginia, April 15; Michigan, May 4).
Notre Dame has equalled the school record for most games decided by a single run. The 2001 squad also played in 18 games decided by the slimmest of margins. Here is a look at the top 10 seasons in terms of most games decided by a single run and those teams records in those contests.
Notre Dame has had two BIG EAST series in which all three games were decided by one run (vs. Georgetown and vs. Seton Hall).
Notre Dame has played in seven games decided by two runs and eight more decided by three runs. In all, 33 of Notre Dame's 43 games have been decided by three runs or less.
Here is a look at all of the Irish one-run contests:
Date (Opponent) Result
February 18 (Michigan State) L, 1-2
February 26 (Seattle) L, 0-1
March 5 (Manhattan) W, 5-4
March 12 (Coastal Carolina) L, 3-4
March 15 (UTSA) W, 5-4
March 17 (Iowa) L, 3-4
March 25 (Georgetown) W, 3-2
March 26 (Georgetown) W, 1-0
March 27 (Georgetown) L, 3-4
March 29 (Central Michigan) W, 3-2
April 1 (Pittsburgh) L, 2-3 (11)
April 2 (Pittsburgh) L, 5-6
April 29 (Seton Hall) L, 1-2
April 30 (Seton Hall) W, 2-1 (12)
May 1 (Seton Hall) W, 5-4
May 3 (Michigan) L, 1-2
May 7 (Rutgers-1) W, 5-4
May (Rutgers) L, 2-3 (14)
ECK STADIUM SEASON FINALE -- While Notre Dame owns an impressive .762 all-time winning percentage at Frank Eck Stadium, the Irish are 27-17 in BIG EAST home series finale. In fact, Notre Dame has captured only one regular season home series finale since 2005.
Year Result Opponent
2010 0-3 Louisville (3-6, 3-4, 3-13)
2009 2-1 USF (8-5, 7-6, 5-6)
2008 1-1 Pittsburgh (5-4, 3-5)
2007 1-2 Connecticut (0-5, 5-4, 6-7)
2006 1-2 Louisville (11-3, 4-5, 6-9)
2005 3-0 West Virginia (3-1, 5-1, 7-3)
2004 2-1 Virginia Tech (9-0, 10-11, 2-1)
2003 1-2 West Virginia (1-0, 5-7, 1-5)
2002 3-0 Boston College (8-2, 10-6, 5-2)
2001 2-1 Connecticut (6-1, 13-12, 12-19)
2000 2-1 Rutgers (6-16, 4-3, 10-6)
1999 2-1 Seton Hall (8-7, 1-7, 17-8)
1998 1-2 St. John's (0-3, 2-1, 5-6)
1997 3-0 Georgetown (14-0, 11-1, 12-1)
1996 3-0 Seton Hall (7-1, 15-1, 10-1)
FOR STARTERS -- Notre Dame's starting pitchers have registered a quality start (pitcher completes at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs) in 29 of 43 games for the Irish this season and own a 2.98 ERA. The five-man rotation of senior RHP Brian Dupra, senior RHP Cole Johnson, senior RHP Todd Miller, sophomore RHP Adam Norton and freshman LHP Anthony McIver have struck out 217 and walked only 66 in 284.0 innings of work.
The 29 quality starts is even more impressive when you consider Notre Dame totaled 11 over the course of the entire 2010 season (54 games).
Dupra, Johnson and Miller have combined for 25 quality starts (Norton, three, and McIver, one, have the other four) and a 2.95 ERA (234.2 IP, 77 ER). Opponents are batting just .257 against Dupra, Johnson and Miller.
Dupra, Johnson and Miller's 25 quality starts have come in 35 outings in 2011. Notre Dame's weekend rotation accounted for just 11 over the entire course of 2010 (54 games).
The weekend rotation has struck out 177 batters and walked only 52 in their 234.2 innings of work. That equates to a 3.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 6.79 punch outs per nine innings and 1.99 walks per nine innings.
Dupra, Johnson and Miller registered nine straight quality starts to open 2011. The Irish had not gone that many consecutive games with a quality start in nearly 10 years. Notre Dame recorded nine straight quality starts from Mar. 31 - Apr. 10, 2001. The starters that posted those nine straight quality starts: Aaron Heilman (2), Danny Tamayo (2), J.P. Gagne (2), Mike Naumann (2) and Peter Ogilvie.
Notre Dame's starting rotation of Dupra, Johnson, Miller, McIver and Norton has averaged 6.60 innings per start. In fact, Dupra, Johnson and Miller have averaged 6.70 innings per start on the weekend. Notre Dame's starting pitchers averaged only 4.73 innings per start in 2010.
Dupra and Johnson each rank among the top 10 in the BIG EAST in innings pitched. Dupra (84.0) ranks sixth and Johnson (82.2) ranks seventh. The Irish, and Rutgers, are the only schools in the conference that have two pitchers ranked among the top 10 in innings pitched.
Johnson (2.50) and Dupra (2.57) rank seventh and ninth respectively in the BIG EAST in ERA. Notre Dame, UConn, Seton Hall and Louisville are the only schools in the conference to have a pair of starting pitchers ranked among the top 10 in ERA.
Notre Dame's pitching staff has already totaled 21 starts of at least 7.0 innings in 2011. The Irish managed only seven such starts over the course of the entire 2010 campaign (54 games).
PITCHING THE NAME OF THE GAME -- Notre Dame enters this weekend with a 2.83 ERA. No Irish staff has posted a lower team ERA since 1960. Notre Dame owns a 2.78 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is light years better than the total of 1.73 from 2010. Notre Dame has walked only 107 batters in 394.2 innings, good for a 2.44 average per nine innings. That would best the all-time school record for fewest walks per nine innings (2.48 in 2001).
Here is where the Irish would rank among the top five in a number of single-season pitching categories:
The Irish pitching staff ranks first, second or third in the following BIG EAST categories in league games only:
Category ND BIG EAST Rank
Fewest Walks Allowed 49 1st
Fewest Wild Pitches 3 1st
Fewest Balks 0 1st
Fewest Hit Batters 15 2nd
Fewest Earned Runs Allowed 59 3rd
ERA 2.84 3rd
Johnson and Dupra have been saddled with awful run support the entire season. Johnson (2.50) and Dupra (2.57) rank seventh and ninth, respectively, in the BIG EAST in ERA, but the duo has combined for a 6-11 record. Notre Dame has scored a grand total of 74 runs over Dupra and Johnson's 24 combined starts or just 3.08 per game. That even includes the 19 runs the Irish managed in Johnson's first start of 2011. Taking out that start, Notre Dame has averaged 2.39 runs in games started by the senior tandem.
Johnson, who received 19 runs of support in his first start of 2011, has benefitted from a total of 22 runs over his last 11 starts of the season combined.
The lack of run support has been worse in BIG EAST action for Dupra. He has surrendered 15 earned runs in 50.0 innings over seven appearances (good for a 2.70 ERA), but owns an 0-3 record.
Notre Dame has limited 17 opponents to two earned runs or less over its 43 games. The Irish limited their foes to 13 such games over the entire 2010 season (54 games).
The Irish staff has been quite stubborn in 2011 in terms of issuing walks. Notre Dame has walked only 107 batters in 394.2 innings, good for a 2.44 average per nine innings. That would best the all-time school record for fewest walks per nine innings (2.48 in 2001).
The Irish lead the BIG EAST in fewest walks by a large margin. Notre Dame's 107 free passes is far ahead of second place Rutgers (133 walks).
Even more impressive when you consider Notre Dame averaged 3.65 walks per nine innings in 2010 and 3.73 per nine innings combined in 2009 and 2010. The 3.82 free passes per nine innings in 2009 was the highest for an Irish staff since 1999.
Notre Dame has posted 26 games with two issued walks or less and 18 outings with one free pass or less over its 43 games. By comparison, the 2010 staff totaled 19 games with two issued walks or less and 15 with one free pass or less over the course of the entire season (54 games).
Dupra, Johnson, Miller, McIver and Norton, the five Irish pitchers to start in 2011, have walked only 66 in 284.0 innings of work over 43 starts. Dupra, Johnson and Miller did not walk a single batter in 22.2 innings of work at the Coca-Cola Classic in Rock Hill, S.C. In fact, the entire Irish staff walked only three (and one was intentional) in 35.0 innings of work that weekend.
Notre Dame entered this season without two weekend starters from 2010 (junior LHP Steve Sabatino and graduated RHP Eric Maust). Sabatino, along with key junior LHP Irish relievers Joe Spano and Ryan Richter, will miss the entire 2011 campaign following offseason elbow injuries. All three have already begun the rehabilitation process following Tommy John surgery. The injuries left Notre Dame with exactly one scholarship LHP (freshman Anthony McIver).
IRISH CONTINUE TO PITCH OUT OF JAMS -- Notre Dame's pitching staff has come through all season with runners on base. They have limited their opponents to a .244 (167-for-684) batting average with runners on base. In fact, Notre Dame has been even more affective with runners in scoring position - limiting its opposition to a .228 batting average (100-for-438).
THE IRISH PEN FAR FROM FOUL -- Notre Dame's starting pitching has been outstanding all season and its bullpen has not disappointed either. The bullpen carries a 2.44 ERA into this weekend's series with Rutgers. The bullpen owns a 7-8 record with eight saves and has limited its opponents to a .243 batting average. Irish relief pitchers have struck out 80 and walked 41 (nine of those walks came in one game against Iowa on March 18). Here is an interesting comparison between the 2011 bullpen and those from 2007-10.
The Irish relief corps has been even better in BIG EAST action. Notre Dame's bullpen has posted a 1.92 ERA in 56.1 innings. They own a 5-4 record and four saves in league play. The bullpen has struck out 35 and walked 15. Irish opponents are batting just .235 against the bullpen in BIG EAST games. The pen has surrendered just one home run and seven total extra-base hits in 20 league games.
Even more impressive, three of Notre Dame's top four relief pitchers to this point of 2011 are all freshmen. LHP Anthony McIver (1-2, 0.55 ERA), RHP Sean Fitzgerald (1-2, 2.22 ERA with one save) and RHP Dan Slania (1-3, 2.42 ERA with three saves) have been nearly untouchable out of the bullpen. The rookie trio has posted only a 3-7 record, but have combined for a 1.88 ERA in 67.0 innings of work. They have punched out 50 and walked only 19.
Fitzgerald was charged with the loss out of the bullpen against Michigan on May 3. He allowed a pair of hits in his inning of relief. With the score tied, 1-1, Fitzgerald yielded a solo home run to Coley Crank in the bottom of the eighth inning. The round tripper was only the second home run allowed by the Irish bullpen in 98.1 innings of work this season. It was the first home run allowed by the pen since Fitzgerald surrendered one on March 5 against Winthrop - a span of 78.1 innings.
Junior RHP Will Hudgins (1.48 ERA in 16 relief appearances) improved to 4-0 with another quality relief outing at Rutgers on May 7. 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. He had not allowed a run, earned or unearned, since March 20 against Gonzaga - a span of 16.2 scoreless innings of work.
Notre Dame's bullpen posted a 1.32 ERA over the 14 games (41.0 innings) following the late inning collapse against Pittsburgh on April 1. The Irish surrendered an eighth inning, 5-1, lead en route to a 6-5 loss to the Panthers. The quartet of junior RHP Will Hudgins (1-0, 0.00 ERA in six appearances over 8.1 IP), freshman RHP Dan Slania (1-0, 1.80 ERA in four appearances over 5.0 IP), freshman LHP Anthony McIver (0-2, 0.90 ERA in seven appearances over 10.0 IP), freshman RHP Sean Fitzgerald (1-0, 1.93 ERA in nine appearances over 14.0 IP) and sophomore RHP Adam Norton (0-0, 3.38 ERA in two appearances over 2.2 IP) limited foes to a .208 batting average.
PROBABLY GOING TO JINX IT, BUT -- Notre Dame has played three games this year that have exceeded three hours and each took extra innings. The Irish and Gonzaga tied, 3-3, in 12 innings on March 20 in a game that lasted 3:18. Notre Dame and Michigan went 10 innings on May 4 and the game lasted 3:10. The Irish played in their longest game of the season on May 8 against Rutgers. Notre Dame lost 3-2 in 14 innings to the Scarlet Knights. The game lasted 3:56.
The Irish have already played in 19 games this season that finished under two hours and 20 minutes, including two games at Winthrop, all three outings at Seattle and two of the three games against Georgetown.
The longest game of the series with the Redhawks was Friday's meeting, which lasted only 2:20. The final two games of the series took just 1:52 and 2:01 to complete, respectively.
The first game of the doubleheader on Sat., Feb. 25, which lasted only 1:52, was the quickest nine-inning game for the Irish since Apr. 4, 2009 against Villanova. Notre Dame planked the Wildcats, 4-0, in 1:43.
Notre Dame's two games in its doubleheader at St. John's last 1:49 and 2:19, respectively.
Notre Dame's 43 games of 2011 have averaged out to just over 2:26 minutes in length.
FIRST INNING EXPLOSION -- Notre Dame plated five runs in the bottom of the first inning en route to a 14-4 rout of Connecticut on April 10. The five runs were the most for the Irish in any first inning this season. The last time the Irish scored five runs in the first inning came on March 4, 2007 against Nebraska in Deland, Florida. Notre Dame went on to upset #7 Nebraska, 16-6.
The last time Notre Dame scored more than five runs in the first inning came on March 22, 2006 against Central Michigan. The Irish used a seven-run first inning to beat the Chippewas, 11-9.
Notre Dame has struggled to score runs in 2011, but has managed to registered innings with 11 runs (vs. Purdue on Feb. 19) and five runs (vs. Connecticut on Apr. 10, vs. Pittsburgh on Apr. 3 and vs. Penn State on Feb. 20).
-- ND --
Irish Close Out BIG EAST Home Schedule With Series Against USFNotre Dame opens the series at 7:05 p.m. on Friday night.