May 19, 2010
Notre Dame vs. Louisville
Frank Eck Stadium
Notre Dame, Ind.
Game-1, Thursday (6:05 p.m.)
RHP Brian Dupra (4-4, 6.20 ERA) vs. RHP Thomas Royse (9-1, 2.61 ERA)
Game-2, Friday (6:05 p.m.)
LHP Steve Sabatino (3-7, 5.76 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Koch (2-0, 3.71 ERA)
Game-3, Saturday (1:05 p.m.)
RHP Eric Maust (1-5, 5.86 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Amlung (4-1, 4.91 ERA)
Live Game Coverage
Audio: WHME 103.1 FM (Chuck Freeby, pbp); UND.com
TV: ESPNU and ESPN3.com; Thursday (Clay Matvick, pbp; Kyle Peterson, color)
Video: UND.com (Friday and Saturday)
Live Stats: UND.com
All-Time Series: Notre Dame and Louisville are set to meet for just the 16th time in program history in the series opener on Thursday, but six of those contests came during the 2009 season when the two rivals split the season series, 3-3.
Thursday, May 20
High 77, Low 57
Friday, May 21
High 73, Low 58
Saturday, May 22
High 75, Low 58
IN THE BATTERS BOX < Notre Dame closes the regular season and BIG EAST action against Louisville in a three-game series that opens at 6:05 p.m. on Thursday at Frank Eck Stadium. The series opener will be televised on ESPNU and ESPN3.com. Clay Matvick and Kyle Peterson will provide play-by-play and color commentary. The series resumes at 6:05 p.m. on Friday (Senior Night) and concludes at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday. Live stats, live blogs and recaps of each game will be available on UND.com. The live web stream will be available for the final two contests. Tickets for all Irish home contests this season are available through the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), on-line at the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.UND.com/tickets), and at the Frank Eck Stadium ticket windows on game day.
THE BIG EAST TOURNAMENT RACE < Notre Dame and Cincinnati are tied for seventh place in the BIG EAST standing heading into this weekend's series finale. The Irish have the tie-breaker over the Bearcats. Thus, if the season ended today, Notre Dame would secure the seventh seed in the upcoming conference tournament. Cincinnati closes the regular season with a home series against Georgetown. Villanova, whom the Irish just took two of three from last weekend, and West Virginia each sit 2.0 games behind Notre Dame and the Bearcats for the eighth and final spot in the tournament. The Wildcats and Mountaineers play one another in Morgantown. Seton Hall stands 3.0 games behind the Irish and must sweep first place UConn for any post season aspirations. Notre Dame can secure a spot in the conference tournament with two victories this weekend, regardless of the outcome in the Villanova and West Virginia series.
0-3: Notre Dame would finish the regular season with a 10-17 league record.
The Irish only reach the conference tournament if Villanova takes at least two of three from West Virginia and/or Cincinnati drops all three to Georgetown.
1-2: Notre Dame would finish the regular season with a 11-16 league record.
The only scenario in which the Irish fail to reach the conference tournament would be if Cincinnati takes at least two of three from Georgetown and West Virginia sweeps Villanova.
2-1: Notre Dame would finish the regular season with a 12-15 league record and secure seventh place unless Cincinnati were to sweep Georgetown. If so, the Irish would then finish eighth.
3-0: Notre Dame would finish the regular season with a 13-14 league record and secure seventh place.
LOUISVILLE INSIDER < The Cardinals enter the series as one of the hottest teams in the country. Louisville has won 19 of its last 23 games and stands 43-10 overall and 18-6 in the BIG EAST. The Cardinals sit just 0.5 games behind league leader Connecticut. Louisville has won 13 of its last 16 conference games. Louisville's only setbacks over the stretch include a pair of one-run defeats, 2-1 in 10 innings and Georgetown and 11-10 at No. 17 Vanderbilt in 17 innings, as well as a two-run (8-6 at Seton Hall) and three-run loss (8-5 vs. St. John's). The Cardinals have been nearly unbeatable at home this season, posting an impressive 27-4 mark, but they are equally good away from the friendly confines. Louisville has a 16-6 record in true road and neutral contests. The Cardinals exploded out of the gate this season with a 13-0 record and improved to 24-3 before a three-game slide that included a pair of losses at Pittsburgh. Notre Dame and Louisville have each played Michigan (Irish dropped a pair, while Cardinals blanked, 2-0), Michigan State (Notre Dame was swept, while Louisville upended 17-6), Ball State (Irish defeated 12-5, while Cardinals took two of three), Villanova (Notre Dame took two of three in Plymouth Meeting, while Louisville swept at home), West Virginia (Irish was swept in Morgantown, while the Cardinals swept the Mountaineers in Morgantown), Seton Hall (Notre Dame swept the Pirates in South Orange, while Louisville took two of three from the Pirates at home), Georgetown (Irish dropped two of three in Bethesda, while the Cardinals took two of three in Bethesda) and St. John's (Notre Dame dropped two of three at home, while Louisville took two of three at home).
SCOUTING THE CARDINALS < Louisville enters the series with a 43-10 overall record and 18-6 mark in the conference. The Cardinals were victorious in their only midweek contest against Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday night, 14-3, and took two of three against St. John's last weekend at home. Louisville has only dropped one three-game series all season and that includes taking two of three at No. 17 Ole Miss. Pittsburgh is the only club to take a series from the Cardinals. The Panthers took two of three from Louisville back in early April.
Louisville has compiled a .319 batting average this season and is led by arguably the conference's most potent and powerful lineup. The Cardinals either rank first or second in the BIG EAST in slugging percentage, runs scored, doubles, home runs and walks. Louisville's 75 home runs not only lead the league, but rank tied for 20th in the NCAA. Five Cardinals have hit 10 or more round trippers. Andrew Clark leads the team with a .396 batting average. He has 45 runs scored, 12 doubles, one triple, 12 home runs and 54 RBI. Ryan Wright is batting .362 with 50 runs scored, 13 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs and a team-best 65 RBI. He has also swiped seven bases in eight attempts. Phil Wunderlich leads the club in total bases (154), hits (77) and home runs (19). He has driven in 55 and struck out only 11 times in 214 official at bats. Adam Duvall leads Louisville in runs scored with 60 and doubles with 25. He is also hitting .344 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI. Stewart Ijames is batting .343 with 15 doubles, 12 home runs and 56 RBI. Jeff Arnold leads the team in stolen bases with 14 and is batting .311 with 17 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 27 RBI. Louisville also recently returned starting centerfielder Josh Richmond. He is hitting .311 with a home run and five RBI. As a team, the Cardinals have stolen 69 bases in 92 attempts.
The Louisville pitching staff has combined for a 3.74 ERA this season, yielding 2.64 walks per nine innings and a .259 opponents' batting average. Junior Thomas Royse serves as the Cardinals' Friday night starter, as he has a 2.61 ERA and 9-1 record. Royse has allowed 81 hits in 86.1 innings of work and foes are batting .255 against him, but he has issued just 24 walks and struck out 82. Matt Koch (2-0, 3.71 ERA) and Justin Amlung (4-1, 4.91 ERA) have started three and seven contests, respectively, while Dean Kiekhefer (3-3, 4.20 ERA) has started 10 games and Derek Self (7-0, 4.77) has made seven starts. Neil Holland heads up the bullpen with a 7-0 record, a 2.17 ERA, 13 saves and a 3.54 strikeout-to-walk ratio (46 SO, 13 BB). He has also allowed just 24 hits in 45.2 innings of work. Bob Revesz (1-0, 1.00 ERA in 18 appearances), Gabriel Shaw (4-2, 3.14 ERA in 23 appearances) and Tony Zych (2-2, 5.76 ERA in 17 appearances) complete the Cardinals bullpen.
Louisville has committed 61 errors for a .971 fielding clip.
NOTRE DAME-LOUISVILLE SERIES NOTES < Notre Dame and Louisville are set to meet for just the 16th time in program history in the series opener on Thursday, but six of those contests came during the 2009 season when the two rivals split the season series, 3-3. The Cardinals lead the all-time series, 8-7.
Notre Dame was victorious in the first three meetings in the series, including a 13-4 rout of the host Cardinals in the first meeting between the foes on April 18, 1922.
Notre Dame knocked off Louisville, 3-2, on March 6, 1992 in the Big Four Classic in Louisville.
The Irish took the series opener from the Cardinals in May of 2006 behind Jeff Manship and senior Jeremy Barnes. Manship, who was recently called back up to the Minnesota Twins, went 7.0 innings and allowed three earned runs on eight hits with nine strikeouts. He did not walk a batter. Barnes went 2-for-4 with a run scored and three RBI.
Louisville took the final two games of the series, 5-4 and 9-6, but Notre Dame returned the favor in the 2006 BIG EAST title game. Wade Korpi, eventual BIG EAST Tournament MVP, tossed 5.0 scoreless innings and Ross Brezovsky drove in three to give the Irish a 7-0 triumph.
The Cardinals swept three games from Notre Dame in 2007. Louisville rallied with three runs in the seventh and eighth inning to upend the Irish, 3-1, in the first game of a doubleheader. David Phelps took the loss despite 11 strikeouts in 7.2 innings of work. Louisville then slipped past Notre Dame in the nightcap, 4-3, before closing the series with a 7-3 win.
QUITE A TOE-TO-TOE BATTLE BETWEEN THE CARDINALS AND IRISH IN 2009 < Notre Dame and eventual NCAA Super Regional participant Louisville played six times in 2009 and the series was split, 3-3. In fact, four of the contests were decided by just a single run and each team had a pair of one-run victories.
Louisville 8, Notre Dame 7 (April 24, at Louisville): Notre Dame rallied from a six-run deficit to grab a 7-6 lead on David Casey's pinch hit solo home run in the top of the ninth inning only to have Louisville's Alec Lowry lace a game-winning, pinch-hit two-run double to give the Cardinals an 8-7 victory in the series opener.
Steven Mazur, who entered in the eighth inning and got a double play liner to escape a jam, surrendered a leadoff single to Andrew Clark on a 3-2 pitch. Mazur then got Cardinals' All-American Chris Dominguez to pop out, but Phil Wunderlich followed with his third double of the night - hammering a 0-2 pitch just over the outstretched glove of sprinting Irish centerfielder A.J. Pollock and off the centerfield wall. After Mazur intentionally walked Ryan Wright to set up a potential game ending double play, Lowrey pinch hit for Jeff Arnold and lined the first pitch from Mazur over the right field wall on one bounce for a ground rule double to give the Cardinals the victory.
Notre Dame 13, Louisville 12 (April 26, at Louisville): Golden Tate capped off a truly golden rally with his first career home run to help Notre Dame rally from a five-run, seventh inning deficit en route to a 13-12 victory over Louisville in the BIG EAST series rubber game at Louisville. Tate could not have picked a better time to hit his first career home run. The left fielder, 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.
Will Hudgins allowed a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth inning, but sent down the next three Cardinals to record his second career save and second in as many days.
Trailing 12-8 in the seventh, Zych fell behind 2-0 and Casey made the Cardinals pay with a towering grand slam that tied the game, 12-12.
Notre Dame 6, Louisville 5 (May 23, at BIG EAST Tournament): Will Hudgins induced a game-ending double play with the bases loaded to give the Irish a thrilling, 6-5, victory over Louisville to setup an elimination game with the Cardinals in the 2009 BIG EAST Tournament. Hudgins picked up his third save of the season, all of which came against the Cardinals. The sidewinder came in the game with the bases loaded and no outs with the Irish holding a 6-3 lead. Ryan Wright followed with a single to cut the Notre Dame lead to 6-4. Hudgins then got Nate Holland to ground into a fielder's choice as Jeremy Barnes made a nice running play on the grounder and retired a runner at third base. Chris Dominguez did score to make it 6-5 and Alec Lowry followed with a single, but Louisville did not send the runner home and it set the stage. John Dao hit a grounder right to Barnes at shortstop, who flipped to defensive replacement Ryne Intlekofer, who in turn tossed to another defensive replacement Casey Martin at first base. Intlekofer's throw was off target, but the 6-for-4 first baseman lunged, caught the throw and somehow managed to keep his foot on the bag to end the game.
Louisville 7, Notre Dame 6 (May 23, at BIG EAST Tournament): Notre Dame nearly pulled off its third consecutive remarkable come-from-behind victory, but Louisville All-American starting pitcher Justin Marks came out of the bullpen and tossed 4.0 innings of relief and struck out Ryne Intlekofer with the tying and winning run in scoring position to help the Cardinals hold on for a thrilling 7-6 victory in the 2009 BIG EAST Tournament. Notre Dame rallied from a 5-0 deficit to draw within a single run on two different occasions.
The Irish would not go quietly in the bottom of the ninth inning. Cameron McConnell led off the inning with a single and Casey Martin drew a walk to bring the winning run to the plate in All-American A.J. Pollock.
Pollock absolutely belted a 1-1 fast ball from Marks to right field, but unfortunately for the Irish it sailed directly into the teeth of a 25-30 mph wind. The drive still managed to carry all the way to the base of the wall, but fell short some 20-25 feet from ending the game.
McConnell did tag from second base to put runners on the corners with one out for Golden Tate. The leftfielder, who won the previous day's game with an RBI single against St. John's, came through again with an RBI base knock to being the Irish within a run, 7-6. Jeremy Barnes fell behind in the count 0-2, fouled off three straight pitches and worked the count to 2-2, but grounded out to the pitcher. Both pinch runner Billy Boockford and Tate moved into scoring position.
With the tying and winning run in scoring position, Marks got Intlekofer to strikeout looking to end the game
TALE OF THE TAPE (2010 STATS)
|Runs Per Game||5.57||7.58|
|Batters' BB+HBP-SO Margin||-104||+14|
|Opponent Batting Average||.297||.259|
|Pitchers' SO-BB Ratio||1.73||2.83|
|Pitchers' SO Per 9 Innings||6.50||7.47|
|Pitchers' BB Per 9 Innings||3.75||2.64|
|Fielding Pct. (Errors)||.965 (71)||.971 (61)|
|Double Plays Turned||41||45|
|Record at Home||8-11||27-4|
|Record on Road (including neutral)||14-18||16-6|
|Record in One-Run Games||6-5||8-2|
IF ONLY AN INNING ENDED WITH TWO OUTS < Notre Dame has been victimized with two outs the entire season. Irish opponents are hitting .308 (187-for-607) with two outs and have registered 143 two-out RBI this season, which is almost three per game. Notre Dame has a mere 85 two-out RBI and hitting only .253.
In BIG EAST contests, the Irish are batting just .255 (69-for-271) with
two outs and have recorded only 44 two-out RBI, while their opponents have a
.313 (91-for-291) two-out batting average and 76 two-out RBI.
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.
Villanova had eight two out RBI in its 12-5 victory over the Irish on May 14.
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 .330 (30-for-91) this season against the lefty with two outs. Of the 60 runs Sabatino has surrendered this season, 36 have crossed the plate with two outs, including 13 of the 18 unearned runs charged against the hurler.
Sabatino did hold Villanova hitless in six at bats with two outs last weekend.
NOTRE DAME SACRIFICES < The Irish have registered 30 sacrifice flies this season, which ranks second in the BIG EAST. Notre Dame's school record is 41 set during the in 2002 campaign.
WIN/LOSS, LOOK IN THE ERROR COLUMN < he number of errors for Notre Dame's opponent continues to be a barometer for the success of the Irish, as after the loss to Central Michigan (who committed one error) on May 12, Notre Dame is now 6-23 when its opponent commits one error or fewer but 16-6 when its opponent makes two or more miscues.
MIGHT NOT STEAL OFTEN, BUT SUCCESSFUL < Notre Dame has been successful on its last eight 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 May 12, the first time in seven games Notre Dame had 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. Villanova did homer twice in its 12-5 victory on May 14, but the Irish held the Wildcats without a long ball over the final two games of the series.
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 in two games, both victories, against Villanova, In fact, the Irish had just one miscue the entire weekend against the Wildcats. Over the last 19 games, Notre Dame's fielding percentage is .981 and the Irish have only 14 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.
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. In fact, the Irish registered just 17 double plays over their first 26 games, but have turned 24 in their last 25 outings.
HUGGY BEAR STACKS UP AGAINST LOUISVILLE < Sophomore Will Hudgins made four appearances against Louisville in 2009. He registered three saves, his entire total from the year, and did not allow a run in 3.2 innings of work. Hudgins allowed one hit with one walk and no strikeouts in 1.0 inning on April 24, yielded one hit with two strikeouts and one walk in 1.2 innings; also notched first career save on April 25 and did not surrender a hit with one walk and no strikeouts in 1.0 inning; picked up second career save and second of the series on April 26. He was named to the BIG EAST Weekly honor roll following his 3.2 scoreless innings of relief with two saves against the Cardinals in the regular season. Hudgins capped off his season with another scoreless inning against Louisville to secure a 6-5 triumph (induced a game-ending double play).
SABBY PUNCHES TICKET 11 TIMES < Sophomore southpaw Steve Sabatino limited Villanova to just two earned runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings last weekend. He punched out a career-best 11 and walked two. The 11 strikeouts are the most by a Notre Dame pitcher since David Phelps fanned 11 against Louisville on May 12, 2007.
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). DeSico's 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).
MILLS UP FOR THE OLERUD < Senior designated hitter/pitcher David Mills was one of 25 players from across the country featured on the watch list for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award. Mills and Pittsburgh junior Joe Leonard are the only players listed from the BIG EAST Conference. The Olerud Award, which recognizes a player who makes an impact both on the mound and at the plate, will be presented in Lubbock, Texas, on July 2 as part of the College Baseball Awards Show
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 Sunday's 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 Baltz's fifth-inning home run on May 2 snapped Mills' scoreless streak from the mound at 11.0 innings; Mills had last yielded a run against Rutgers on April 9.
In making his first career start against Central Michigan on May 12, 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 notched his 15th consecutive walk-free outing against Villanova on May 14. He has not yielded a base on balls since March 27 at USF (first game of the doubleheader), a stretch spanning 21.2 innings and 89 batters.
His season average of 0.89 walks per nine innings ranks third in school history, while his career average of 1.70 walks per nine innings currently ranks third. In addition, Mills' season strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.33 (19 strikeouts, three walks) ranks third in ND history. 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 the season walks per nine innings averages, but he is one spot ahead of Thornton in career; Thornton's career average of 1.73 is a hair behind of Mills' 1.70 clip. Mills success on the mound has not carried over to the plate. The designated hitter is hitless over his last 24 at bats and 33 plate appearances. In fact, Mills is just 5-for-his-last 45 dating back to April 27 against Toledo. Prior to the April 27 contest with the Rockets, he was hitting .361 on the year and .343 for his career. Those averages have dropped to .298 and .322 over the last 12 games.
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 .428 (65-for-152) on the season against southpaws. Martin leads the threesome with a .490 (24-for-49) batting average, while DeSico is batting .431 (22-for-51) and Connolly is hitting .365 (19-for-52).
FROM THE SIDELINE TO THE FRONT LINE < Senior left fielder Ryan 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 51 RBI in
64 games since becoming a full-time starter.
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 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 season he also led off with a long ball against Bradley on March 11 and at Georgetown on April 2. Five of Connolly's 15 career home runs have come in his first plate appearance of the game, as he also homered in the second inning on March 8, 2009 against USF (Connolly batted seventh) and in the first inning against Michigan State on March 20 of this season (game two; batted third). The three leadoff homers in one year are the most since Craig Cooper notched four in the 2006 season, doing so at Georgetown (3/26) and at home against Manchester (4/12), St. John's (4/13; game two), and Rutgers (4/23).
Connolly singled in the fourth inning against Villanova on May 16 to extend his on-base streak safely to 15 games. His on-base percentage in his first plate appearance of the game this season to .540 (27-for-50). Connolly has now reached base safely (via hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch) in 62 of his last 63 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 19 times on the season, which not only leads the BIG EAST, but ranks 30th 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. Connolly's 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. John's; in fact, the last three two-HR games by Irish players have all come against the Red Storm, as Ryan Connolly also took St. John's 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 11 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 46 career sacrifices, including 31 career sacrifice hits. He is now third all-time with in career sacrifices and fourth in career sacrifice hits.
MAZUR WIGGLES OUT OF JAM, AGAIN < 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 to date 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.
Mazur turned the same trick on May 16 to secure the series victory at Villanova. With the bases loaded, one out and Notre Dame clinging to a 4-1 lead, the closer came into the game and promptly retired the next two Wildcats, including one via strikeout.
Mazur now leads the team with seven saves, which also ranks tied for sixth in the BIG EAST. The seven saves are tied for eighth-most in single-season Irish history. Mazur's nine career saves are tied for ninth-most in school history.
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.
Johnson was dynamite in another victorious effort against Villanova on May 15. He tossed 3.2 scoreless innings of relief and improved to 3-3 on the year. Johnson allowed just two hits. He fanned two and walked one (intentional). Since returning from the injury, Johnson has gone 2-0 with a 2.53 earned run average in 10.2 innings of work. He has fanned nine and walked five
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 with a start against Valparaiso on Mapril 28, Miller has racked up 5.1 scoreless innings while allowing just two hits (.111 opponents' batting average).
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).
Sabatino has made 13 starts for Notre Dame and the Irish have committed at least one error in the contest in nine of those outings.