Notre Dame Heads to Villanova for Weekend Series

Ryan Connolly leads Notre Dame in batting average (.364), runs (46), home runs (11) and RBI (36).

May 14, 2010

Notre Dame vs. Villanova Game Notes  

The Matchup
Notre Dame vs. Villanova
May 14-16
Villanova Ballpark
Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

Probable Pitchers
Game-1, Friday (3:45 p.m.)
RHP Brian Dupra (4-3, 5.50 ERA) vs. RHP Brian Streilein (4-3, 4.04 ERA)

Game-2, Saturday (1:15 p.m.)
LHP Steve Sabatino (3-7, 6.07 ERA) vs. LHP Kyle Helisek (3-7, 4.36 ERA)

Game-3, Sunday (12:15 p.m.)
RHP Eric Maust (0-5, 6.28 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle McMyne (6-5, 6.02 ERA)

Live Game Coverage
Audio: WHME 103.1 FM (Chuck Freeby, pbp); Live Stats:

Series History
All-Time Series: Notre Dame has won 28 of 32 previous games against Villanova (16-1-1 over the last 18 meetings), with the Irish owning an 8-1 mark against the Wildcats at Villanova Ballpark.

Weather Report
Friday, May 14
Sct T-Storms
High 81, Low 59

Saturday, May 15
P Cloudy
High 69, Low 47

Sunday, May 16
P Cloudy
High 72, Low 51

IN THE BATTERS BOX < Notre Dame returns to BIG EAST action at Villanova for a three-game series that opens at 3:45 p.m. on Friday at the Villanova Ballpark. The series resumes at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday and concludes at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday. Live stats, live blogs and recaps of each game will be available on

SCOUTING THE WILDCATS < Villanova enters with an 27-19 record overall and 4-17 mark in the conference. The Wildcats dropped their only midweek contest against Temple, 6-4, but did take two of three at Rutgers last weekend. In fact, Villanova has won back-to-back BIG EAST series. The Wildcats took two of three at Georgetown two weeks ago. Villanova has captured five of it last seven league games.
• Villanova has compiled a .307 batting average this season and is led by one of the conference¹s most dangerous hitters in centerfielder and leadoff batter Matt Szczur. Szczur ranks second in the BIG EAST in hitting with a .435 batting average. He also leads the league in triples (six) and ranks fifth in on-base percentage (.483). Szczur has missed each of the last seven games recuperating from a procedure to donate peripheral blood cells to a 19-month old leukemia patient. His status for this weekend is still in doubt. Villanova has four other everyday players that are batting over .329. Justin Bencsko is hitting .363 with 49 runs scored, five triples and a team-best 24 stolen bases. He has also added nine doubles, one home run and 27 RBI. Chris Johnson is batting .350 with 11 doubles (tied for tops on the club), two home runs and 32 RBI. Szczur, Bencsko and Johnson all have on-base percentages above .454. Dain Hall is hitting .335 with eight doubles, three triples, one home run and 35 RBI. He has also swiped 17 bases in 19 attempts. Tyler Sciacca is batting .329 with 11 doubles, two triples, one home run and 27 RBI. He is a perfect 8-for-8 in stolen base attempts. As a team, Villanova has stolen 87 bases in 108 attempts. The Wildcats lead the league in triples and rank second in stolen bases.
• The Villanova pitchers have combined for a 4.39 ERA this season, yielding 3.03 walks per nine innings and a .290 opponents¹ batting average. Senior Brian Streilein serves as the Wildcats' Friday night starter, as he has a 4.04 ERA and 4-3 record. Streilein has allowed 88 hits in 75.2 innings of work and foes are batting .300 against him, but he has issued just 22 walks. Kyle Helisek (3-7, 4.36 ERA) and Kyle McMyne (6-5, 6.02 ERA) have started 11 and 12 contests, respectively, while Kevin MacLachlan (4-0, 4.31 ERA) has started eight games. Mike Francisco heads up the bullpen with a 2-0 record, a 2.74 ERA, seven saves and a 2.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio (29 SO, 11 BB), and Julian Diaz has made 24 appearances (second in the league) en route to a 1-1 record and a 3.67 ERA.
• The Wildcats have committed 43 errors for a .975 fielding clip.

NOTRE DAME-VILLANOVA SERIES NOTES < Notre Dame has won 28 of 32 previous games against Villanova (16-1-1 over the last 18 meetings), with the Irish owning a 16-0-1 mark against the Wildcats at Frank Eck Stadium.
• Notre Dame is 8-1 all-time against Villanova at Villanova Ballpark (moved from Ashburn Field after the 2002 season).
• The Irish beat the Wildcats in a 1996 BIG EAST Tournament elimination game (7-3), but Villanova posted a pair of tournament wins over Notre Dame in 1997 (10-5, 4-4).
• The Wildcats again were a thorn in the Irish side come BIG EAST Tournament in 2007, slipping past Notre Dame, 3-2, in an elimination contest.
• The Irish swept Villanova in 2006 and 2008 at Villanova Ballpark in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
• Notre Dame also took 2-of-3 from the Wildcats in 2003 in Plymouth Meeting, with that series starting a day late due to wet field conditions.
• The late finish of the first game then pushed the rest of the series to a rare Monday doubleheader.


 Notre DameVillanova
Batting Average.279.307
Runs Per Game5.676.91
Home Runs3414
Slugging Percentage.400.421
Batters' BB+HBP-SO Margin-96-5
On-Base Percentage.353.399
Stolen Bases28-3887-108
Team ERA5.934.39
Opponent Batting Average.299.290
Pitchers' SO-BB Ratio1.682.26
Pitchers' SO Per 9 Innings6.366.87
Pitchers' BB Per 9 Innings3.783.03
Fielding Pct. (Errors).963 (70).975 (43)
Double Plays Turned4049
Record at Home8-1112-8
Record on Road (including neutral)12-1715-11
Record in One-Run Games5-54-5
Record in Extra Innings2-10-1

NOTRE DAME SACRIFICES < The Irish have registered 28 sacrifice flies this season, which leads the BIG EAST. Notre Dame's school record is 41 set during the in 2002 campaign.

WIN/LOSS, LOOK IN THE ERROR COLUMN < The number of errors for Notre Dame¹s opponent continues to be a barometer for the success of the Irish, as after the loss to Central Michigan (who committed one error), Notre Dame is now 5-22 when its opponent commits one error or fewer but 15-6 when its opponent makes two or more miscues.

MIGHT NOT STEAL OFTEN, BUT SUCCESSFUL < Notre Dame has been successful on its last seven stolen base attempts and was last caught stealing at Michigan on April 20 (on a controversial call to boot).

IRISH END HOME RUN SKID < The Irish kept Central Michigan in the park on Wednesday, the first time in seven games Notre Dame has not allowed a long ball. Ironically, immediately preceding that stretch was the streak in which the Irish went 12 straight games without yielding a round-tripper.

IRISH DEFENSE FINALLY SETTLED DOWN < Notre Dame committed 58 errors over its first 33 games, including 15 games with at least two miscues. The Irish were on pace to record 98 errors in the regular season, which would have been the most since 2002 (mind you, the 2002 team advanced to the CWS and played 68 games). Notre Dame's fielding percentage was .956, which would have been the worst since 1997. But, Notre Dame went error-free once again on April 30, the fifth time in the previous six games and seventh time in the previous nine games the Irish have not committed a miscue. Over the last 16 games, Notre Dame¹s fielding percentage is .979 and the Irish have only 13 errors.

PRETTY IMPRESSIVE REBOUND < Notre Dame surrendered 25 runs on 27 hits in a loss to Rutgers on April 10. The Irish had never yielded as many runs or lost by as a large a margin in Eck Stadium history. In fact, the 25 runs and 20-run margin were also highs in Notre Dame BIG EAST history. However, the Irish won nine of their next 13 and six of seven in the BIG EAST. The team ERA over those 13 games was 3.33. Notre Dame also put together three straight victories by at least seven runs (outscoring the opposition 31-6), the first time the Irish have accomplished that feat since April 14-17, 2004, when the Irish defeated Oakland, 17-5, and Georgetown, 18-7 and 11-4.
• Notre Dame's team ERA following the defeat was 6.18. The Irish have since posted a 3.81 ERA over the ensuing 15 games.

TWIN KILLINGS < Notre Dame registered four double plays in the victory over Chicago State on April 13. The four double plays were the most for the Irish since they turned four last season against Western Michigan; the feat is so rare, however, that it has now been accomplished by a Notre Dame team just four times in the last 12 seasons. Notre Dame posted three in the series finale at Seton Hall and added three more in the midweek series against Michigan. The Irish registered just 17 double plays over their first 26 games, but have turned 23 in their last 22 outings.

IF ONLY AN INNING ENDED WITH TWO OUTS < Notre Dame has been victimized with two outs the entire season. Irish opponents are hitting .313 (178-for-569) with two outs and have registered 135 two-out RBI this season, which is almost three per game. Notre Dame has a mere 84 two-out RBI and hitting only .261.
• Rutgers plated an amazing 18 runs with two outs in the 25-5 victory over the Irish on April 10. Michigan added all 13 of its runs with two down in a 13-1 triumph over Notre Dame on April 21.
• The third out of an inning continues to elude sophomore Irish starter Steve Sabatino, who gave up four unearned runs against Michigan on April 21 in the first inning, all of which came with two outs. Opponents are batting .353 (30-for-85) this season against the lefty with two outs. Of the 58 runs Sabatino has surrendered this season, 34 have crossed the plate with two outs, including 13 of the 18 unearned runs charged against the hurler.

FOUR-HIT HEAVEN < Freshman second baseman Frank Desico notched his third four-hit game of the season against West Virginia on May 8 (second game of the doubleheader); the last Irish player to have more games in a season with four or more hits was Craig Cooper in 2006 (three four-hit games, one five-hit game). DeSico¹s three four-hit games all came in a 20-game stretch, the shortest span for three games with four or more hits since A.J. Pollock had three four-hit games in a 17-game span in 2008 (March 4 vs. Maine, March 26 vs. Milwaukee, and March 30 vs. Cincinnati).

NOT SO RUN OF THE MILLS < Senior designated hitter/pitcher David Mills did it all for Notre Dame over the week of April 11-18 as the Irish went 4-0, including a three-game series sweep at Seton Hall. Notre Dame had not swept the Pirates in South Orange since 2002. In fact, Seton Hall had not been swept in a BIG EAST series at home by anyone since April of 2007. Mills not only registered two saves, pitched in all four games, but did not allow a run in 5.0 scoreless innings of relief. He also batted .444 (8-for-18) for the week with four runs scored and two RBI. In fact, both RBI came with two outs, including his game-winning RBI single in the top of the ninth inning in Sunday¹s series finale with the Pirates to secure the sweep. In the sweep of Seton Hall, Mills hit .500 and tossed 4.2 scoreless innings of relief with a save. Despite his prowess at the plate, Mills most critical service came on the mound. With the Irish clinging to a two-run lead over Chicago State and the tying run at the plate, the southpaw came on and retired the only batter he faced to record his first save of the season. Then, in the series opener at Seton Hall, Mills not only tossed 1.2 innings of scoreless relief to keep the game tied, 5-5, but went 3-for-5 and scored the game-winning run. The senior then went 1-for-4 with an RBI single in the 2-1 victory over the Pirates on Saturday. In the victory, Mills also registered his second save of the week. He came on with two on, two out and the tying run in scoring position, but fanned Ryan Sullivan to end the eighth. Mills then retired Seton Hall 1-2-3 in the ninth. He still managed to overshadow those performances in the series finale with the Pirates. Mills went 3-for-5 with the game-winning RBI and two runs scored. He also added 1.2 scoreless innings of relief in his third relief appearance of the weekend. The southpaw struck out two and yielded one hit.
• St. John's freshman Jeremy Baltz¹s fifth-inning home run on May 2 snapped Mills¹ scoreless streak from the mound at 11.0 innings; Mills had last yielded a run against Rutgers on April 9. He continued to make his opponents earn every base, however, as he did not issue a base on balls, extending his streak of not allowing a walk to 12 appearances, 18.1 innings and 71 batters faced. Mills last walked a batter in the first game of the doubleheader with USF on March 27. His career average of 1.80 walks per nine innings ranks fourth in Notre Dame history).
• In making his first career start earlier this week against Central Michigan, Mills became the first Irish player to start his first game on the mound as a senior since Joe Thaman did so in 2004. Thaman played first base his first three years (2001-03) with the Irish before making his debut on the hill during the 2004 campaign, appearing in 29 games and making one start. Mills is the only four-year Notre Dame pitcher to make his first start as a senior since at least 1969, when games started statistics were first kept.
• Mills worked 2.0 scoreless innings in the game and notched his 14th consecutive walk-free outing. Mills has not yielded a base on balls since March 27 at USF (first game of the doubleheader), a stretch spanning 20.1 innings and 79 batters. His season average of 0.93 walks per nine innings would rank third in school history (Mills needs just one more inning to qualify), while his career average of 1.74 walks per nine innings currently ranks fourth. In addition, Mills¹ season strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.00 (18 strikeouts, three walks) would rank fourth in ND history (again, he needs another inning to qualify).
• The stretch of not allowing a walk by Mills is the longest for an Irish pitcher since Tom Thornton worked 22.1 consecutive innings (89 batters) without yielding a base on balls from May 14-June 3 of the 2006 season. Thornton, who walked just seven batters in 82.1 innings that season (0.77 per nine innings, second in ND history), also had walk-free stretches that season of 16.2 innings (61 batters), 15.1 innings (70 batters, including the end of the 2005 season), 14.0 innings (56 batters), and 12.2 innings (64 batters). Fittingly, Mills ranks one place behind Thornton in both the season and career walks per nine innings averages; Thornton¹s career average of 1.73 is a hair ahead of Mills¹ 1.74 clip.

DeSICO, MARTIN AND CONNOLLY LOVE SOUTHPAWS < Senior first baseman Casey Martin, senior left fielder Ryan Connolly and freshman second baseman Frank Desico continue to feast on left-handed pitching. The trio has combined to hit .456 (62-for-136) on the season against southpaws. Martin leads the threesome with a .548 (23-for-42) batting average, while DeSico is batting .435 (20-for-46) and Connolly is hitting .396 (19-for-48).

BLISTERING HOT < Senior left fielder Ryan Connolly had 12 hits and 21 total bases in a 17 at bat span from April 24-28, good for a .706 batting average and a 1.235 slugging clip; the stretch raised his season average from .333 to .377.
• Connolly doubled in the first inning against Toledo on April 27, giving him six hits in his last six at bats, and walked in the second (scoring both times) to extend his streak of consecutive plate appearances reaching base to seven. The last Irish player to have a 6-for-6 stretch was Danny Dressman on March 12 and 14 of 2007 (against Webber International and Dayton); Dressman also mixed in a pair of walks to reach base in eight straight plate appearances. A.J. Pollock also reached base in eight consecutive plate appearances in 2007 (April 21 and 22 versus West Virginia), collecting five hits and three walks.
• When Connolly notched six hits in six consecutive plate appearances against Cincinnati and Toledo earlier this season, he became the first Irish player to accomplish that feat since Matt Macri collected six straight base knocks against Virginia Tech in 2004 (Mar. 21-22). Sean Gaston also picked up six straight hits earlier that season, doing so at the hands of Florida Memorial (Feb. 28) and Minnesota (Feb. 29). Here is the base hit streak breakdown for the three players:

Sean Gaston (2/28/04, 2/29/04)    2B-1B-1B-2B-2B-1B
Matt Macri (3/21/04, 3/22/04)    1B-2B-HR-HR-1B-1B
Ryan Connolly (4/24/10, 4/27/10)    1B-1B-1B-1B-2B-2B
Underlined-Hits in the first game of the two

• Connolly missed the entire 2006 season and most of the 2008 year with separate shoulder injuries. He batted just .185 with 29 strikeouts in 81 at bats during the 2007 campaign. Connolly saw action in a reserve roll in 2009, before being inserted into the everyday lineup on May 8 against USF. He smacked his first career home run that night and proceeded to hit .348 with four home runs and 14 RBI over Notre Dame last 13 games of the year. He has not missed a beat in 2009. In fact, Connolly has 15 home runs and 50 RBI in 61 games since becoming a full-time starter.
• Connolly finished 3-for-5 with three runs scored, four RBI, and his eighth home run of the season, a no-doubt three-run shot to put the Irish up 8-0 in the ninth inning against Valparaiso on April 28. The left fielder was named MVP of the Showdown in an on-field ceremony following the game.
• Connolly drilled a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first inning on May 1, his third leadoff home run this seasonCraig Cooper notched four in the 2006 season, doing so at Georgetown (3/26) and at home against Manchester (4/12), St. John¹s (4/13; game two), and Rutgers (4/23).
• Connolly singled in the first inning against Central Michigan to extend his on-base streak to 12 games and up his on-base percentage in his first plate appearance of the game this season to .553 (26-for-47). Connolly has now reached base safely (via hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch) in 59 of his last 60 games; he was last held off the basepaths in two straight appearances in 2008 (0-for-1 against both Milwaukee on March 26 and against Chicago State on April 22).
• Connolly has been plunked 18 times on the season, which not only leads the BIG EAST, but ranks 26th in the NCAA. Connolly also stands ninth in Irish single-season history.
• Connolly is just the second Irish player to smack at least 10 home runs and be hit by at least 10 pitches in the same season; the only other player to accomplish the feat was Eric Danapilis in 1993 (13 HR, 15 HBP).

CONNOLLY'S STREAK COMES TO AND END < Notre Dame senior left fielder Ryan Connolly saw his streak of consecutive games reaching base safely (via base hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch) end at 47 games after an 0-for-3 day against Michigan on April 21. The fifth-year senior had extended the streak in his last plate appearance on five different occasions, but he could not do so against the Wolverines, grounding out in his third and final at bat before being pinch-hit for in the eighth inning. The streak was the second-longest in NCAA Division I baseball this season. Connolly¹s statistics during the streak.


• Connolly reached base in his first plate appearance (excluding sacrifice bunts) an astounding 25 times during the streak, despite being retired in his first trip the plate in each of the last five games. At one point, Connolly reached in his first plate appearance in five straight games, nine times in a 10-game span, 12 times in a 14-game stretch, and 17 times in a 22-game period.
• Almost unbelievably, Connolly's longest streak of consecutive plate appearances reaching base safely during the streak was just three, although he did that nine different times.

ASHDOWN GOES DOWNTOWN, TWICE < Senior outfielder Brayden Ashdown notched the first multi-home run game of his career on April 30 against St. John's. It was the first by a Notre Dame player since A.J. Pollock smacked two on May 16, 2009, also against St. John¹s; in fact, the last three two-HR games by Irish players have all come against the Red Storm, as Ryan Connolly also took St. John¹s deep twice on May 14 of last season. Ashdown becomes the seventh Irish player in the Dave Schrage era to homer twice in a game, joining Mike Dury (3.14.07), Casey Martin (3.21.08), Evan Sharpley (3.22.08), Jeremy Barnes (5.3.08), Connolly and Pollock.

MILLS SACRIFICES FOR TEAM < Senior designated hitter David Mills leads the BIG EAST with seven sacrifice flies and leads the Irish with 10 total sacrifices in 2010. The seven sac flies ranks tied for fifth in Notre Dame single-season history. Mills, who also owns the single-season school record for sacrifice hits with 19 in 2008, has 45 career sacrifices, including 30 career sacrifice hits. He is now tied for third all-time with Steve Stanley (1999-2002) in career sacrifices and fourth in career sacrifice hits.

JOHNSON, MILLER WELCOMED BACK WITH OPEN ARMS < Juniors Cole Johnson and Todd Miller each missed almost six weeks with respective shoulder injuries.
• Johnson, who was Notre Dame's top starter in 2009 with a 7-3 record and all-BIG EAST first team this preseason, was credited with the victory in his return on April 27. He did surrender a leadoff single to open the game, but rebounded with a pair of ground outs and strikeout to strand the leadoff hit at third base. Johnson yielded a leadoff single in the top of the second before recording back-to-back punch outs. He was removed after the second strikeout on a predetermined pinch count. Johnson threw 30 pitches, 20 for strikes, and did not issue a walk. He struck out three.
• Johnson made another appearance on May 1 against St. John's and yielded two earned runs in 2.2 innings. He followed up that performance with 2.0 scoreless innings of relief at West Virginia on May 8.
• Miller worked a 1-2-3 inning against Central Michigan to pick up a rare third-inning hold (with the planned staff day, Mills was in line for the win when Miller entered the game). Since returning from injury, Miller has racked up 4.0 scoreless innings while allowing just one hit (.077 opponents¹ batting average).

TOUGH LUCK MAUST KEEPS IT IN THE PARK < Senior right-handed pitcher Eric Maust took the loss in last Sunday¹s game against West Virginia and still has not won since his final start of 2009 (6-5 win over Louisville in the BIG EAST Tournament on May 23), although he has been victimized by a pair of blown saves (Rutgers on April 11 and the second game against Cincinnati on April 24). Maust did extend his streak of not allowing a home run to 56.0 innings and 258 batters faced, the longest stretch of his career, before West Virginia's Grant Buckner ended the streak; he began his career by tossing 52.2 innings of homer-free ball, spanning 230 batters and 18 appearances.

IRISH DEFENSE FAILS SABATINO < Sophomore southpaw Steve Sabatino fell victim to a pair of unearned runs in the second inning of his start on May 1 and has now given up 18 unearned runs this season, the most for a Notre Dame pitcher since Tom Price yielded 21 in 1994 and tied for the fourth most in Irish single-season history (since earned runs began being tracked in 1957). The only other Irish pitchers to surrender more were Bill Matre (19 in 1983) and Mike Bobinski (19 in 1978).

MAZUR WIGGLES OUT OF JAM < When senior Steven Mazur entered with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth and punched out Jeremy Baltz on May 2, it marked just the second time this season that an Irish pitcher has entered the game with the bases loaded and stranded all three runners. The other occasion came against Ball State on March 23, when sophomore Ryan Richter relieved junior Ryan Sharpley with two outs in the third inning and induced a fly out to end the threat.



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