Irish Opens 2009 BIG EAST Tournament With St. John's Tuesday Notre Dame and Red Storm kickoff tournament at 10:00 a.m.
Sophomore Cole Johnson.
May 18, 2009
IN THE BATTERS BOX -- Notre Dame opens the 2009 BIG EAST Tournament with the same team they closed the regular season, St. John's, for the second consecutive season. The No. 5 seeded Irish took two of three from the No. 4 seeded Red Storm in three games last weekend in Queens. First pitch is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, Fla. The winner of the Notre Dame-St. John's game will face the winner of the No. 1 seed Louisville and No. 8 seed Cincinnati matchup. Each and every Notre Dame game of the tournament will be broadcast live on WHME 103.1 FM and UND.com.
THE RED STORM INSIDER -- St. John's, led by 13th year head coach Ed Blankmeyer, enters the tournament with a 29-20 overall record and a 16-11 mark in BIG EAST action.
The Red Storm are averaging 9.1 runs per game and hitting .349 as a team with a .423 on-base and .507 slugging percentage. St. John's has also totaled 54 stolen bases in 74 attempts.
The Red Storm have 11 players that have started at least 18 games and each is batting over .311. In fact, seven among that group are hitting at a clip over .340. Tim Morris leads the attack with a team-best .411 batting average. He has added 65 runs scored, 83 hits, 17 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs and 59 RBI. Jimmy Parque is hitting .360 with 50 runs scored, 77 hits, 17 doubles, one triple, five home runs and 58 RBI. Brian Kemp is batting .374 with 62 runs scored, 77 hits, 10 doubles, three triples, two home runs, 32 RBI and 15 stolen bases. Matt Wessinger is hitting .358 with 36 runs scored, 49 hits, 13 doubles, two home runs and 29 RBI. Gino Matias is batting .333 with 36 runs scored, 57 hits, 19 doubles, one home run and 36 RBI. Joe Panik is batting .346 with 38 runs scored, 62 hits, 11 doubles, four triples, five home runs and 46 RBI. Carlos Del Rosario is hitting .342 with 34 runs scored, 54 hits, 17 doubles, one triple, one home run and 33 RBI. Greg Hopkins is batting .338 and has smacked seven home runs and driven in 42. St. John's has hit 39 home runs this season and struck out 241 times.
The pitching staff has a 6.12 ERA and .314 opponents' batting average along with 312 strikeouts and 214 walks in 435.0 innings. Eddie Medina is 5-3 with a 3.81 ERA over 49.2 innings, while Ryan Cole (2-0, 2.93), Miguel Valcarcel (1-0, 4.19), Steve Forster (0-1, 4.81), Nick Luisi (3-2, 6.79) and Stephen Rivera (2-3, 8.24) are other options out of the Red Storm bullpen. Cole has registered five saves. St. John's has committed 72 errors in 49 games and is fielding .963.
SERIES NOTES -- Notre Dame leads the all-time series with St. John's, 23-14, overall, and leads the series, 4-1, when the contests are played in the BIG EAST Tournament.
The Irish have taken seven of the last 11 meetings, including the 2006 BIG EAST Tournament title game and two of three in Queens last weekend. The Red Storm did take last season's series in South Bend.
Notre Dame swept the Red Storm over a three-game series at Frank Eck Stadium during the 2006 regular season.
St. John's had captured four of the previous five in the series with the Irish (three one-run wins and a two-run margin), including a series sweep in Queens during the 2005 campaign (the last Irish visit to Jack Kaiser Stadium).
St. John's joined Seton Hall (1996), Connecticut (2002), Louisville (2007) and USF (2008) as the only teams ever to sweep a three-game BIG EAST series from the Irish.
Notre Dame has lost just 26 all-time BIG EAST series (four have come against St. John's).
The Irish won 9-of-10 in the series from 2000-2004.
FREEBIES UPDATE -- Over his years as a head coach, 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.
Notre Dame took two of three games in the season opening weekend despite a below-par performance in terms of "freebies." The Irish walked 12 batters and hit four more en route to an average of 8.7 per game.
Ironically, the Irish dropped two of three games last weekend despite a positive performance in terms of "freebies." The Irish walked just four batters en route to an average of 5.7 per game.
Notre Dame captured 10 of 12 games (March 6-20), but the "freebies" formula would not be consistent with the Irish success. Notre Dame averaged 8.1 per game over the stretch.
Notre Dame has dropped both of its BIG EAST series against Seton Hall and Pittsburgh. The Irish struggled mightily with "freebies." Notre Dame is averaging 9.7 "freebies" per game, while the Pirates and Panthers averaged just 6.7.
Notre Dame was just about as good as possible in the "freebie" department in the series sweep of Villanova. The Irish issued only 11 "freebies" over the entire weekend -- good for a 3.7 average per game (down almost 5.0 per game from what Notre Dame averaged entering the series).
Notre Dame issued 14 "freebies" to West Virginia in its 19-3 loss on April 17, but the Irish only surrendered a total of seven in the doubleheader sweep of the Mountaineers the next day.
Notre Dame totaled just 21 "freebies" alone in the entire series victory over Louisville (three games).
The Irish set a single-game high with 18 "freebies" in the 10-5 loss to UIC on April 28.
Notre Dame has won seven of its last nine games and the success carries over to "freebies." The Irish are yielding just 6.4 "freebies" over the stretch.
Here is a breakdown of Notre Dame's "freebies" in victories, and defeats in games both home and away.
RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME: Notre Dame is hitting .335 (302-for-902) with runners on base, but just .282 (263-for-962) with the bases empty.
TRENDS: Notre Dame is 21-3 this season when scoring six or more runs and 10-17 when scoring five or fewer runs ... the Irish are 20-3 when scoring the game's first run, but 11-17 when the opponent scores first ... Notre Dame is 26-0 when taking a lead to the ninth inning despite being outscored 30-20 in the ninth inning ... the Irish are 20-5 when holding their opponent to five runs or less, but just 11-15 when the foe scores more than five runs ... Notre Dame is 21-3 when out hitting its opponent and 7-14 when out-hit ... the Irish are 10-4 when failing to commit an error ... Notre Dame is 23-0 when holding a lead after seven innings and 23-1 when holding a lead after six innings.
IRISH FINDING THEIR HOME RUN STROKE -- Notre Dame hit just four home runs of its first 18 games and two of those long balls came in one game against Illinois on Feb. 22. The Irish then hit 25 home runs over their next 28 games, but have exploded over the last 10 days. Notre Dame has homered in eight consecutive games, including five consecutive games with multi-home run contests. The Irish have registered 14 long balls over their last five games, nine this past weekend at St. John's. Notre Dame smacked eight home runs in its series victory over Louisville.
POLLOCK A RARE COMBINATION OF TALENT -- Notre Dame's junior OF A.J. Pollock has a rare combination of speed and power rarely seen at Notre Dame. The Hebron, Conn. ranks second on the team with 10 home runs and leads the Irish in stolen bases with 19. Pollock is one of two players in the league that has at least 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases.
Pollock is the 11th player in Notre Dame baseball history to ever eclipse 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases in a single season. He would become thefirst Irish player to ever go 10-20 in a season with his next stolen base.
Dan Peltier (`89) - 15 HR, 13 SB (MCC Player of the Year; All-American; Academic All-American; future big-leaguer), hit .446
Craig Counsell (`92) - 12 HR, 13-16 SB (future big-leaguer and two-time World Series champ), hit .339
Edwin Hartwell (`93) - 13 HR, 11 SB, hit .447 (still ND season record)
Eric Danapilis (`93) - 13 HR, 13 SB,(MCC Player of the Year; All-American), hit .438
Brant Ust (`98) - 18 HR, 11-16 SB (BE player of the year, All-American, reached AAA), hit .373
Matt Macri (`04) - 14 HR, 12-16 SB (joined Peltier, Counsell and Danapilis as ND players with 12-plus HR and 12-plus SB in same season); (All-American, reached big-leagues), hit .367
Craig Cooper (`04) - 10 HR, 12-17 SB (BE player of the year, All-American, currently at AA), hit .425
NOTRE DAME STANDS ALONE -- The Irish took two of three from Louisville (1st), USF (2nd), West Virginia (3rd) and St. John's (4th) over the last five weekends of the season. Notre Dame is the only member of the league to take two of three from each of the top four seeds in the 2009 BIG EAST Tournament.
Nine teams remained mathematically alive for the conference tournament heading into the final day of the regular season and Notre Dame was the only squad to play each of those clubs.
The two foes that did not appear on Notre Dame's regular season BIG EAST schedule, Rutgers and Georgetown, who have combined for a 16-37 mark in conference action.
NOTRE DAME AGAINST CONFERENCE CHAMPS -- Notre Dame enters the BIG EAST Tournament with an RPI of 61 thanks in part to its schedule strength of 69.
The Irish played regular season champions from not only the BIG EAST (Louisville), but the Big Ten (Ohio State), Atlantic 10 (Dayton), Horizon (UIC), MAC East (Bowling Green), MAC West (Ball State), Summit (Oral Roberts) and West Coast (Gonzaga). The Irish went 6-4 in those matchups.
Notre Dame also 4-1 against teams that finished second in their respective conferecnes. The Irish upended USF (BIG EAST) twice, Illinois (Big Ten) once and Washington State (Pac 10) once.
NOTRE DAME MIGHT HAVE FOUND A CLOSER -- Sophomore Todd Miller has tken his new role of Irish closer and excelled. The right-handed hurler struggled out of the gate this season. Miller opened the season with a 8.00 ERA and 1-2 record in 18.0 innings of work over 10 appearances, including one start (against Toledo on April 1). Since that start, he is 0-0 with a 1.88 ERA and four saves in 14.1 innings of work over seven relief appearances. Miller has struck out 13 and walked just one over that span. He enters the BIG EAST Tournament with a scoreless streak of 9.1 innings of work and has not walked a batter over his last five apperances (10.0 innings).
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.
Connolly's father, Michael, passed away after a two-year battle with lung cancer despite never smoking a cigarette over his entire life. Connolly, and his mother Penny, along with the assistance of Dr. Leslie Kohman (Michael's surgeon), began the Michael E. Connolly Endowment for Lung Cancer Research.
The goal was to raise $500,000. The Connollys and the Board of Directors are responsible for all the groundwork fundraising efforts. After just three years of diligently collecting pledges and hosting golf tournaments and other fundraising events, they reached their goal. The Connolly Endowment issued its first grant of $10,000, which was then matched by the Hendrick's Fund at Upstate Medical University, to a group of researchers trying to determine if lung cancer patients who had surgery would also benefit from a cancer-inhibiting drug.
Connolly made his first career appearance and start at first base in the series opener against USF. His previous nine starts on the season had been at designated hitter. Connolly had a perfect day in the field, recording three putouts.
He also smacked his first career home run and scored two runs.
Connolly added two more runs scored in the second game of the series and a career-high three hits in the series finale.
Connolly has started the last eight games for Notre Dame and the Irish are 6-2 in those contests. He is batting .333 (6-for-18) with a double, three home runs and 10 RBI. Connolly had just 17 career RBI over his first 58 games for the Irish.
Connolly had a remarkable weekend against his near-home rival St. John's last weekend. He hit .385 (5-for-13) with five runs scored, three home runs and eight RBI. Connolly drilled his first career grand slam before adding a solo shot in the series opening victory over the Red Storm.
Notre Dame is now 12-3 on the season when Connolly starts.
CARDIAC KIDS -- Notre Dame rallied from five runs down in the seventh inning (12-7) to take the rubber game of its series with Louisville, 13-12. It was the largest come back victory for the Irish since they rallied from five runs down against Toledo on April 17, 2007. In fact, Notre Dame rallied from a six-run deficit in the series opener with the Cardinals to take a 7-6 lead before ultimately losing in the ninth inning. That would have been the largest comeback since March 6, 2004.
The Irish continued their late inning heroics in the series victory over league-leading USF. Notre Dame trailed 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning last Friday, only to rally for an 8-5 triumph, and fell behind 6-0, again, heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, before racing back to take the second game of the series, 7-6. The victory on Saturday against the Bulls marked the first this season for Notre Dame when trailing after eight innings (USF led 6-5) and second walkoff win in three games (senior Jeremy Barnes drew a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth inning).
The Irish nearly recorded their third consecutive come-from-behind win in the series finale with USF, twice erasing two-run deficits in the seventh and eighth inning, but were unable to complete the sweep.
Notre Dame picked up its first walkoff victory of the season against Conneticut on May 3. Junior Brayden Ashdown singled home senior Jeremy Barnes in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Irish a 5-4 victory.
The Irish found themselves down 6-1 heading into the top of the sixth inning against Illinois State on May 12. Head coach Dave Schrage called an impromptu team meeting in the dugout just before Notre Dame batted. The Irish quickly tied the game, 6-6, with a five-run sixth and went on to race past the Redbirds, 14-8.
The Irish have posted 17 seperate come-from-behind victories in 2009 and seven came in Notre Dame's last at-bat.
NO FREE PASSES ALLOWED -- Notre Dame's pitching staff has struggled with walks the entire season. The Irish had walked 187 batters in their 46 games entering the series with USF which averages to just about 4.1 free passes per game. Notre Dame issued just five walks over the entire series with the Bulls. In fact, the Irish weekend rotation of sophomore Cole Johnson, sophomore Brian Dupra and junior Eric Maust combined for 18.1 innings without a free pass.
The five walks were the fewest by Notre Dame in any series this season (the previous low was six in the sweep of Villanova.
u Notre Dame then issued just one walk in its 5-3 win over Western Michigan on May 11.
Dupra continued his excellent control in his victory over St. John's on May 15. The righty went 6.0 innings and did not issue a free pass. Dupra has now pitched 78.1 innings this season and walked only 15. In fact, he has issued just 25 career walks in 124.2 innings the past two seasons. Dupra has not walked a batter in 14.2 innings of work dating back to his start against Louisville on April 25. He has just two walks in his last 35.0 innings of work.
Fewest Career Walks Per 9 IP (min. 60 IP)
1. Brandon Viloria (2000-03 ) 1.61 (15/83.2)
2. Alan Walania (1990-93) 1.64 (59/324.0)
3. Tom Thornton (2003-06) 1.73 (64/332.2)
4. Brian Dupra (2008-) 1.80 (25/124.2)
5. Tom Price (1991-94) 1.86 (78/377.1)
6. James Cross (1983, '85-'86) 1.88 (27/129.1)
Chris Niesel (2002-04) 1.88 (57/272.2)
8. Nick Palihnich (1958-60) 1.94 (32/148.2)
9. Darrin Schmalz (1994-97) 2.05 (68/298.2)
10. Mike Naumann ('98-'01) 2.23 (31/124.2)
11. Scott Cavey (1997-2000) 2.24 (41/165.0)
AS BARNES GOES, SO GO THE IRISH -- Senior Jeremy Barnes has had a great 2009 season. Barnes is hitting .355 with 15 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs and 63 RBI, but his performance in victories is even more impressive. Barnes leads the Irish with a .415 batting average (54-for-130), .731 slugging percentage and .487 on-base percentage in their 33 victories. On the other hand, he is hitting just .259 (21-for-81) with a .506 slugging percentage and .348 on-base percentage in Notre Dame's 21 losses. In fact, the Irish are 29-13 when Barnes has a hit and 18-7 when he has a multi-hit affair.
Barnes is the only player in the BIG EAST Conference and one of six in the entire country with 15 or more double, five or more triples and 10 or more home runs.
Barnes is also climbing the career charts in a number of Notre Dame offensive categories.
Runs Batted In Triples
1. Eric Danapilis (1990-93) 221 1. Scott Sollmann (1994-96) 24
2. Alec Porzel (1998-2001) 211 2. J.J. Brock (1994-98) 16
3. Dan Peltier (1987-89) 202 3. Jeremy Barnes (2006-) 14
Mike Amrhein (1994-97) 202 Shaun Fitzmaurice (1963-64) 14
5. Matt Edwards (2002-05) 195 George Restovich (1994-96) 14
6. Jeremy Barnes (2006-) 190 Randall Brooks (1994-97) 14
7. Jeff Wagner (1996-99) 189 Brian Stavisky (2000-02) 14
8. Joe Binkiewicz (1989-92) 176
9. J.J. Brock (1994-97) 174
10. Brant Ust (1997-99) 170
NO RUNNING ALLOWED ON THE BASE PATHS -- Sophomore Cameron McConnell nailed his BIG EAST-leading 25th attempted base stealers against St. John's this past weekend. McConnell hosed the only stolen bases attempt all weekend by USF two weekends ago. In fact, it also was his sixth consecutive base stealer gunned down.
The last Irish catcher to throw out 20+ runners in a season was Paul O'Toole in 2002. O'Toole threw out 23 runners (67 attempts) that season. McConnell has thrown out 37.3% (25 of 67) of attempted base stealers on the season, which would be the second highest percentage for an Irish catcher since 1996. O'Toole threw out 40.7% (24 of 59) of runners in 2001. O'Toole's 24 runners thrown out that season was also the most since 1996.
Notre Dame's catchers last season, Sean Gaston and McConnell, only pegged 10 the entire year.
McConnell ranks seventh in the NCAA in throwing out base stealers.
Brad Moss, Samford 31
Chad Comer, UT Arlington 28
Bryan Holiday, TCU 27
Frank Pesanello, Northeastern 26
Chad Noble, Northwestern 26
J.T. Wise, Oklahoma 26
Cameron McConnell, Notre Dame 25
JOHNSON ON DISPLAY -- Sophomore 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 top starters in the BIG EAST. He enters this weekend with a 6-2 record and a 4.27 earned run average. Johnson has struck out 57, walked 33 and allowed only 79 hits in 86.1 innings of work (opponents are hitting just .249 against him). Johnson has tossed at least 6.0 innings in 10 of his last 11 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 have become the first Irish pitcher to toss three straight CGs since Dan Kapala in 2005, but Notre Dame's game with Cincinnati on April 9 was tied 2-2 after nine innings.
Johnson was spectacular once again for the Irish despite not factoring in the decision against the Bearcats. The right-handed hurler went 9.2 innings and allowed just two earned runs on eight hits. Johnson struck out five and walked three. He became the first Notre Dame pitcher to work into the 10th inning since Aaron Heilman tossed 10.0 innings against West Virginia on April 15, 2000. Johnson has now tossed 9.0 or more innings in three consecutive starts. In fact, the righty has worked at least 7.0 innings in five straight starts. Johnson sports a 3-0 mark with a 2.38 ERA in those five starts with a pair of complete games and another outing that last 9.2 innings.
Johnson allowed just two earned runs in his first career complete game victory to lead the Irish past Pittsburgh, 5-4. He was the first opposing pitcher to throw a nine-inning complete game at Trees Field since May 13, 2006. Johnson kept the high powered Pittsburgh attack grounded for much of the afternoon. The Panthers entered the contest hitting .321 as a team and averaging 8.5 runs per game. In fact, Pittsburgh was even more impressive over its first four home games, plating nearly 10 runs a game, but Johnson was in control from the opening pitch. The right-handed hurler scattered seven hits, issued just two walks and struck out four. Johnson became the first Notre Dame pitcher to throw a nine-inning complete game since David Phelps went the distance against Villanova on May 23, 2007. With Notre Dame holding a 5-2 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Panthers took advantage of a pair of Irish errors, plated two unearned runs and had the tying run in scoring position, but Johnson escaped the jam with the Irish still clinging to a one run lead, 5-4, and proceeded to retire the final seven Panthers of the game.
Johnson threw his second consecutive complete game, and the Irish scored all three of their runs in the first inning to defeat the Villanova Wildcats, 3-1, on April 3. Johnson became the first Irish pitcher since Dan Kapala in 2005 to throw back-to-back complete games. Johnson cruised through the first three innings, retiring the first nine batters on only 35 pitches with three strikeouts. Johnson gave up one run on seven hits, striking out five and walking just one.
Johnson had his worst outing of the year against West Virginia on April 17. The righty was roughed up for 11 earned runs on 10 hits in 5.0 innings. He fanned three and walked three. His ERA rose from 2.30 to 3.77 and his opponents batting average went up from .189 to .221.
He struggled mightily over the first two innings against Louisville. Johnson was tagged with five earned runs on seven hits in the first and second inning, but rebounded with an impressive 4.1 scoreless innings the rest of the way to keep the Irish in the game. He allowed just one hit in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth inning.
After allowing seven runs (five earned) on ten hits against Connecticut on May 3, Johnson had a 10.50 ERA over his three starts against WVU, Louisville and the Huskies, yielding 30 hits (exactly ten in each game) over 18.0 innings. In the previous three starts, Johnson had registered a 1.63 ERA, throwing at least 9.0 innings in each start.
Johnson cruised through the first four innings against the Huskies, allowing a pair of singles and throwing just 46 pitches in his outing against UConn, but allowed seven runs on eight hits after the fourth (all singles). Six of the eight hits, as well of both of his walks on the night and his only hit batsman, came with two outs.
Johnson has now tossed at least 5.0 innings in 11 consecutive starts (all but his first start of the season against Gonzaga).
Johnson returned to form last weekend against St. John's. The righty tossed 7.0 innings and allowed just one earned run on two hits. He struck out a career-high tying seven to help the Irish secure a BIG EAST Tournament berth.
OFF THE BENCH -- Junior Brayden Ashdown came through with a game-winning, walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning against Connecticut on May 3. It was the first walk-off victory of the season for the Irish.
Ashdown has excelled off the bench for Notre Dame this season. He is now batting .500 (5-for-10) with six RBI, including game-winning hits against both Purdue (2.22) and Connecticut.
Senior Evan Sharpley is now 4-for-5 with a home run and RBI in his last six pinch-hit appearances. Sharpley had a two-out, two-run pinch hit single against UConn on May 2. He also had a pinch-hit, game-tying single in the sixth inning in the first game of the doubleheader against Michigan on April 22. Sharpley added another game-tying single against USF in the seventh inning on Snuday before belting a solo home run in a pinch hitting oportunity against Illinois State on Tuesday night.
Sharpley has now homered in each of the last two games in which he not start.
SUNDAY, MAUSTY, SUNDAY -- Junior Eric Maust registered his fourth pickoff of the season in the top of the first inning against Connecticut on May 3. He not only leads the Irish staff, but also ranks tied for fifth in the BIG EAST. After he worked out of a second and third jam with two outs in the third inning, Maust retired seven of the next eight before running into trouble in the sixth inning. The Huskies did scratch a run off Maust in the inning (3-2), but the righty retired the final two UConn batters of the inning with the tying run in scoring position. Maust pitched 8.0 innings and yielded just two earned runs against the Huskies.
Maust surrendered 14 hits, tying for the most by an Irish pitcher in the Schrage era, but he managed to work 7.1 innings and kept Notre Dame in the game against USF on May 10. Maust was charged with just four earned run, but left the game with it tied, 3-3.
Maust tossed at least 7.0 innings for the seventh time in 13 starts this season. It marked the third time this year and sixth career outing that Maust tossed 8.0 or more innings.
Maust lasted just 2.0 innings and was touched up for five earned runs on six hits in his last start against Louisville.
DUPRA, DOING MORE -- Sophomore Brian Dupra had his best outing as a collegiate pitcher against Villanova on April 4. 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. Dupra also became the first Notre Dame pitcher to throw a complete game shutout in over two years (Maust accomplished the feat on April 18 against WVU). 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 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.
Dupra got a double play grounder with the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth inning to secure his third consecutive complete game and give the Irish an 8-6 victory over league-leader West Virginia in the first game of a BIG EAST doubleheader on April 18. He scattered six runs on 11 hits in 9.0 innings. The right-handed hurler struck out three and walked just one. Dupra did surrender a two-run home run off the bat of Justin Parks with one out in the top of the ninth inning that cut the Irish lead to 8-6. He then plunked Dan DiBartolomeo to bring the tying run to the plate in Jedd Gyorko, but Dupra got a 6-3 double play to end the game. Dupra became the first Irish pitcher to toss three straight complete games since Dan Kapala in 2005 (West Virginia, Pittsburgh and St. John's).
Dupra did not have his best stuff against Louisville, but battled through 7.1 innings. The righty allowed five earned runs on 12 hits and improved to 5-4 on the season. Dupra walked just one and struck out a pair. He also benefitted from a pair of double play ground out by Louisville.
Dupra worked 4.1 innings in his start against USF on May 9, allowing five earned runs on 11 hits. He then allowed five earned runs in 6.0 innings in a victory over St. John's on May 15. It marked the sixth consecutive start in which Dupra has given up at least five earned runs.
After yielding two home runs to the Huskies, Dupra gave up six home runs in his four previous starts after allowing just two long balls in his first eight starts. In fact, Dupra had allowed 15 extra-base hits in his previous four starts, compared to 12 in his first seven starts.
WHO SAYS WINNING THE FIRST IS MOST IMPORTANT -- Notre Dame captured its second straight BIG EAST series after dropping the opening game two weekends ago at Louisville. The Irish, which took two of three the week earlier against-the league leader West Virginia despite losing Friday's game 19-3, did the same this at second place Louisville. Notre Dame rebounded from Friday night's 8-7 walk-off Cardinals' victory with 11-5 and 13-12 wins the next two days. Notre Dame had never dropped a BIG EAST series opener in consecutive weeks only to rebound to take each series since entering the league in 1996.
BULLPEN BABIES -- Notre Dame's three freshman relievers of Will Hudgins, Ryan Richter and Joe Spano had quite a weekend for the Irish in their series victory over Louisville. The trio combined to post a 1-0 record and two saves in 7.0 scoreless innings of relief. Hudgins tossed 3.2 scoreless innings and picked up the first two saves of his career. Richter, who picked up the victory earlier in the week in his start against Michigan, tossed 3.0 hitless innings of relief and registered the win in game two of the series, while Spano retired the only batter he faced (Louisville's Phil Wunderlich who torched the Irish over the weekend).
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. Ryan Richter, Dustin Ispas, Will Hudgins, Steve Sabatino and Joe Spano have each made their respective contributions early in 2009. The quintet owns a combined 10-3 record and two saves with a 4.30 ERA in 113.0 innings of work and opponents are batting .245 against the group.
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.
Tate has made a similar impact on the diamond this spring. After playing in 18 games, including nine starts, and hitting .262 with three doubles, four RBI and three stolen bases in 2008, Tate is batting .333 with eight doubles, four triples, one home run and 17 RBI. Tate also is 10-for-11 in stolen bases. He carried a then career-best nine game hitting streak into the March 25 matchup with Oakland, but went 0-for-3. Tate then recorded a hit in a team-best 11 straight games before going hitless against Michigan on April 22.
Tate has a hit in 32 of his last 37 games. He also opened the year with hits in five consecutive games (so he has a hit in 40 of his 49 starts). Tate has also reached base in 45 of his 48 starts
Tate had quite an afternoon on April 18. The wide receiver caught one pass, attempted one rush (a reverse) and returned one punt in the 2009 Blue-Gold spring football game before capping the afternoon with a 4-for-9 effort, two runs scored and one RBI in a doubleheader sweep of West Virginia.
Tate could not have picked a better time to hit his first career home run. The sophomore, who by his admission has hit only two runs in batting practice all year, lined a 2-2 fast ball from Louisville closer Tony Zych over the left field wall to give the Irish a 13-12 lead in the ninth inning and eventual victory over the Cardinals.
Tate extended his current hitting streak to six games with his career-high four base knocks against UConn on May 3. He added his seventh double of the year in the bottom of the third inning and a clutch RBI single to give the Irish a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. Tate only had eight RBI over his first 34 games this season, but has driven in nine runs over his last 14 games.
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 in high school with an injury, has made 12 appearances for Notre Dame (including two starts) and sports a 5-1 record with a 2.70 earned run average in 30.0 innings of work. He has yielded 24 hits and 15 walks, along with 19 strikeouts, while opponents are batting just .224 against him.
Richter struck out a career-high six in his first career start against Northwestern on April 15 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.
Richter picked up the victory in the second game of the doubleheader with Michigan on April 22.
Richter tossed 3.0 hitless innings of relief and registered the win in game three of the series against Louisville.
He attended St. Joseph's High School, mere minutes from the Notre Dame campus. Richter 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).
QUITE A BUSY AFTERNOON -- Junior Eric Maust threw a complete game shutout, the first of his career, as the Irish blanked BIG EAST leader West Virginia, 3-0, to secure a doubleheader sweep at Eck Stadium on April 18. He is the first pitcher to throw a complete game shutout of West Virginia since May 11, 2007. The outing was even more impressive when you consider Maust spent the earlier part of the afternoon playing for the Irish in the Blue-Gold spring football game. He punted five times for 187 yards (including two inside the 20 yard line). Maust allowed just five hits (all singles over the first four innings) and one walk, striking out two in a 114-pitch effort. He did not allow more than one base runner in any inning, and no West Virginia runner advanced past second base in the game. West Virginia, who entered the game batting .368 (third best in the nation) and scoring 10.2 runs per game, was shutout for the first time this season and recorded a season-low five hits. The last team to shutout the Mountaineers was Connecticut on May 13, 2007, a span of 94 games.
Maust has now tossed 12.1 consecutive scoreless innings against West Virginia. He went 7.0 innings against last season and kept the off the scoreboard over the final 3.1 innings. Ironically, that start came the day after the 2008 Blue-Gold game. Maust punted in that game as well, before catching a flight into Pittsburgh from South Bend in the early morning hours of gameday.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT -- Senior Jeremy Barnes smacked his team-leading seventh home run of the season on Wednesday night against Northwestern at U.S. Cellular Field. Barnes also homered in last season's game at U.S. Cellular Field. In fact, both were estimated to travel some 370 feet and both landed in the visiting team bullpen (probably within 10 feet of one another).
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. u 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 prowess at the plate, but has become a reliable option out of the Notre Dame bullpen. He is 2-1 with a 4.70 ERA in 13 relief appearances. Mills has struck out 16, walked four and surrendered 27 hits in 23.0 innings of work. In fact, opponents are batting just .297 against him.
Mills tossed 3.0 innings in relief, tying the longest outing of his career, and added a pair of strikeouts against Connecticut on May 2. Mills stranded a pair of inherited runners, entering the game with two on and one out in the fifth and inducing a groundout and a pop out to end the inning. Mills has now stranded 10 of 13 inherited runners on the season.
He picked up the victory with a career-high tying 3.0 innings and a career-best four strikeouts against Illinois State on May 12.
Mills went 3.0 innings for the second straight appaearance and picked up his first career save against St. John's on May 15.
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.
Elam was touched up for a pair of earned runs in 2.1 innings on two hits against West Virginia on April 17. He allowed a pair of doubles, one bloop just inside the foul line.
Elam made his first since May 6, 2007 against Seton Hall when he took the mound against Michigan on April 23. In that start against the Pirates, he lasted just 0.2 innings and was charge with four earned runs on no hits. Elam walked three, uncorked two wild pitches, hit a batter and struck out one. The southpaw allowed just two earned runs on seven hits, three of which never left the infield, in 6.0+ innings of work against the Wolverines. Elam fanned a career-high tying nine and walked four. The nine strikeouts were tied for the most in Elam's career (he fanned nine in a nine inning, one hitter against Purdue on April 18, 2007). The nine punch-outs also tied freshman Steve Sabatino for Notre Dame's season-high. The outing for Elam was his longest since that Purdue appearance.
Elam picked up his first career victory in the come-from-behind triumph over USF on May 9. He fanned four and yielded just two hits in 4.2 scoreless innings of relief.
Elam has allowed only five extra-base hits in 69.1 career innings. In fact, he has only yielded 43 total hits in his career as opponents own just a .179 batting average against the hard-throwing southpaw.
Elam now ranks as the school's career leader (minimum of 60 innings pitched) in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (5.25) and fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (10.20).
Strikeouts Per 9 IP (min. 60 IP) Fewest Hits Allowed Per 9 IP (min. 60 IP)
1. Dan McGinn (1964-65) 12.66 (105/74.2) 1. Sam Elam (2003-05) 5.61 (43/69.1)
2. Ryan Doherty (2003-05) 12.17 (134/98.1) 2. Ryan Doherty (2003-05) 6.22 (68/98.1)
3. Rick Rusteck (1961-63) 10.75 (131/109.2) 3. Dan McGinn (1964-65) 6.27 (52/74.2)
4. Sam Elam (2006-) 10.25 (79/69.1) 4. Ed Lupton (1963-65) 6.29 (113/161.2)
5. Jeff Manship (2004-06) 10.11(131/116.2) 5. Larry Mohs (1994-'95, '97) 6.50 (85/117.2)
6. Brad Lidge (1996-98) 9.93 (143/129.2) 6. David Sinnes (1990-93) 6.69 (221/297.1)