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Sollmann recovering, hopes to return to action this year

Chris Federico | Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Injured second baseman Steve Sollmann held a press conference in between games Saturday to talk about the injury he sustained in a game against Villanova April 3. The senior tri-captain fractured his jaw after colliding with right fielder Cody Rizzo while chasing a fly ball in shallow right field.”The rehab is going great so far,” Sollmann said. “I had surgery [April 5] back in Cincinnati, and everything went great. I have a great oral surgeon back there that did a wonderful job.”The surgery did not require that Sollmann’s jaw be wired shut, as is sometimes the case with broken jaws. The senior is able to talk and was mobile and active as he attended Notre Dame’s games Saturday and Monday. Sollmann returned to classes today and is hopeful he will return to the Irish lineup by the end of the regular season.”We just have to play it by ear and see how it heals,” he said. “Hopefully, I can get back sometime towards the end of the season.”Sollmann has a meeting scheduled Friday with his doctor in Cincinnati to further discuss a possible time frame to return to action this year. The senior says he will know more about how soon he could return after the meeting.Right now a major concern for Sollmann is to keep his weight and conditioning up so that he would be physically ready to return to action when his jaw heals.”Right now, I’m drinking a bunch of shakes,” he said. “They said I can get on a [stationary] bike whenever I feel up to it. As far as running and lifting, I just have to watch that I don’t clench my teeth or bounce them too much. “I’ve lost some weight so far, so putting that weight back on is going to be pretty important the next couple of weeks.”Sollmann said his memory before the injury and during the time right after it is blurry, and he doesn’t remember many details of the incident. But he said the support he’s received from the Notre Dame community the past two weeks has been a major factor in his progress.”The Notre Dame community has been unbelievable so far – coaches, players, friends, students, teachers – everybody has been amazing,” Sollmann said. “They’ve been calling me, checking in on me and sending me all sorts of letters.”

Where’s the “D”?

Shaky defense plagued the Irish in both doubleheaders over the long weekend. In the first game, a ground ball that snuck under left fielder Steve Andres’ glove in the third inning, allowing two runs to score to increase the Eagle lead to 4-0.In the second game, the Irish committed five errors – three by pitcher Tom Thornton, one by right fielder Craig Cooper and one by Javi Sanchez, playing second base for the injured Sollmann.In the final game against St. John’s Monday, things only got worse for Notre Dame, when Sanchez booted a ground ball at second with one out in the seventh inning, allowing the tying run to reach first. The next batter hit a line ball to left fielder Chris Fournier, who attempted to make a diving grab, but dropped the ball allowing one run to score and putting the eventual winning run in scoring position.”I thought that ball should have been caught by Fournier,” Irish coach Paul Mainieri said. “It was a pretty routine ball, chest high. I think he thought he was going to have to dive, and the ball stayed up.”What worried Mainieri the most, however, is shoring up second base in place of the injured Sollmann. Before being sidelined with the broken jaw, Sollmann had not committed an error at second this year in 110 chances. “I’m mostly concerned about not having Steve Sollmann,” Mainieri said. “Our defense at second base has been killing us. We’ve always been such a steady defensive team with an airtight infield. In the second game, the inning started when Javi [Sanchez] kicked that first ground ball.”Sanchez, who was moved to second from his normal spot behind the plate, committed three errors in the four games over the Easter break.

You’re outta here

In the final game with the Red Storm Monday, Mainieri was tossed from the game while coaching third base by umpire Bruce Doane. The Irish skipper was arguing a questionable call by Doane at third base when Sanchez was called out trying to stretch a double into a triple.”It was my opinion that [Sanchez] was safe,” Mainieri said. “I didn’t even think it was that close of a play, and I was pretty shocked when I saw the out call.”After the call, a shocked Mainieri threw his hands in the air and appeared to inadvertently knock his hat off, prompting the ejection.”Unfortunately I just over-reacted there and threw my hat down, and [the umpire] had to throw me out when I did that,” Mainieri said. “I deserved it. If you do something like that, you’re supposed to get thrown out of the game.”Mainieri expressed regret after the game for temporarily losing his composure on the call, making himself unavailable to manage the Irish through the tough loss.”I lost my cool there for a minute, and I wasn’t able to manage my team through a tough ball game,” he said. “So I felt kind of bad about that, that I let the guys gown doing that.”