St. John's Chosen As 2012 BIG EAST Baseball Favorite




 PROVIDENCE, R.I. - On the heels of back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Championship and a runner-up finish in the BIG EAST last season, St. John's has been tabbed as the favorite to win the 2012 BIG EAST baseball championship by the league's 12 head coaches.
 
The Red Storm received eight of a possible 11 first-place votes in the preseason poll. The coaches also chose St. John's outfielder Jeremy Baltz as the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year and named Louisville righthanded pitcher Justin Amlung the BIG EAST Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
 
St. John's, which has won a record six BIG EAST championships and has reached the NCAA tournament four times in the past five seasons, returns its entire starting pitching rotation and six starting position players from last year's squad that went 36-22 overall and finished second in the BIG EAST standings. St. John's is ranked No. 11 nationally in the preseason poll of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. 
 
The returning starters for St. John's include Baltz, who has been chosen to the All-BIG EAST First Team in each of his first two seasons. The 2010 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, Baltz hit .311 with six home runs and 60 RBI in 2011 and is one of three Red Storm players named to the 2012 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Shortstop Matt Wessinger (.273, 6 HR, 42 RBI) and righthanded pitcher Kyle Hansen (8-7, 3.09 ERA) joined Baltz on the preseason team, while Baltz and Hansen were tabbed as Louisville Slugger Preseason All-Americans.
 
Louisville received four first-place votes from the BIG EAST coaches and was second in the preseason poll with 110 points. The Cardinals, ranked No. 15 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll, have won two BIG EAST regular-season titles, two tournament crowns and have advanced to four of the last six NCAA Championships, including a College World Series showing in 2007.
 
Amlung, the BIG EAST Preseason Pitcher of the Year, has been named to Preseason All-America teams by Louisville Slugger and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association after he went 10-2 with a 2.31 earned-run average last season. Amlung is joined on the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team by outfielder Stewart Ijames, who was fourth in the BIG EAST with 11 home runs last year.
 
Connecticut was third in the preseason poll with 92 points. The Huskies ran away with the 2011 BIG EAST regular-season title, going 22-5 in league play to finish three-and-a-half games ahead of the field, and went 45-20-1 overall. Connecticut won the Clemson Regional at last year's NCAA Championship before falling to eventual national champion South Carolina in the Super Regional round. Second-baseman LJ Mazzilli - a first team Preseason All-America selection by the NCBWA - leads three players on the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team. Catcher Joe Pavone and third baseman Tim Martin were preseason All-BIG EAST selections as well.
 
USF (25-29, 13-14 BIG EAST) was picked fourth in the preseason poll with 88 points on the strength of returning starting pitcher Andrew Barbosa, who went 8-2 with a BIG EAST-leading 2.40 ERA in 2010, but missed most of the 2011 season due to injury.
 
Seton Hall (34-25, 14-13 BIG EAST) was picked fifth in the preseason poll with 77 points. The Pirates rode a late-season surge to the BIG EAST tournament title and advanced to the NCAA Championship last season, finishing the year with 14 wins in their last 18 games. Righthanded pitcher Jon Prosinski, who was chosen to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, led the conference with a 1.91 ERA to go with a 7-4 record last year.
 
Notre Dame, which was one of the conference's youngest teams last season, was picked sixth in the preseason poll with 69 points. The Irish are led by Preseason All-BIG EAST first baseman Trey Mancini, who hit .323 with nine home runs and 34 RBI as a freshman.
 
Cincinnati was seventh in the preseason poll with 64 points. Outfielders Justin Glass and Braden Kline both hit .326 last season to lead a relatively young Bearcat lineup.
 
Pittsburgh was eighth in the preseason poll with 60 points. The Panthers are bolstered by the return of lefthanded pitcher Matt Iannazzo, who went 8-3 with a 2.73 ERA last season with five complete games.
 
Rutgers was ninth in the preseason poll with 42 points, followed by West Virginia (39), Villanova (19) and Georgetown (14). Georgetown outfielder Rand Ravnaas and West Virginia designated hitter Dan DiBartolomeo were both chosen to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team.
 
The 2012 baseball season begins Feb. 17 with the early season highlighted by the fourth annual Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge taking place in Florida. The first weekend of league play is March 23-25 with all 12 schools in action. The 2012 BIG EAST Baseball Championship will return to Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., May 23-27, with the championship game to be televised on ESPNU.

2012 Preseason BIG EAST Baseball Coaches' Poll

1.

St. John's (8)

118

2.

Louisville (4)

110

3.

Connecticut

92

4.

USF

88

5.

Seton Hall

77

6.

Notre Dame

69

7.

Cincinnati

64

8.

Pittsburgh

60

9.

Rutgers

42

10.

West Virginia

39

11.

Villanova

19

12.

Georgetown

14

 

Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year:

    Jeremy Baltz, OF, St. John's

 

Preseason BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year:

    Justin Amlung, RHP, Louisville

 

2012 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team                                     

Pos.

Name, Class, School

Key 2011 Stats

P

Justin Amlung, Jr., Louisville

10-2, 2.31 ERA, 105.0 IP, 80 K, 27 BB, .206 OBA

P

Matt Iannazzo, Sr., Pittsburgh

8-3, 2.73 ERA, 102.1 IP, 62 K, 22 BB, .242 OBA

P

Kyle Hansen, Jr., St. John's

8-7, 3.09 ERA, 107.2 IP, 106 K, 41 BB, .223 OBA

P

Jon Prosinski, Jr., Seton Hall

7-4, 1.91 ERA, 94.1 IP, 56 K, 30 BB, .228 OBA

C

Joe Pavone, Sr., Connecticut

.273, 5 HR, 20 RBI

1B

Trey Mancini, So., Notre Dame

.323, 9 HR, 34 RBI

2B

L.J. Mazzilli, Jr., Connecticut

.338, 3 HR, 32 RBI

SS

Matt Wessinger, Sr., St. John's

.273, 6 HR, 42 RBI

3B

Tim Martin, Sr., Connecticut

.298, 4 HR, 29 RBI

OF

Rand Ravnaas, Sr., Georgetown

.352, 5 HR, 37 RBI, 25 SB

OF

Stewart Ijames, Sr., Louisville

.247, 11 HR, 45 RBI

OF

Jeremy Baltz, Jr., St. John's

.311, 6 HR, 60 RBI

DH

Dan DiBartolomeo, Sr., West Virginia

.338, 6 HR, 28 RBI