This Week in BIG EAST Baseball - March 24

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - This weekend marks the opening weekend of BIG EAST baseball conference play, with 18 games scheduled for Friday-Sunday. Georgetown has posted the best record in the league through the non-conference portion of the schedule with 15 wins and seven losses (.682). Here is a look at the six weekend series.
 
Cincinnati (10-7) at St. John's (9-8)
Friday, March 25, 3 p.m.: Cin - RHP Dan Jensen (1-1, 2.77 ERA) vs. STJ - RHP Kyle Hansen (2-2, 3.08 ERA)
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Sat., March 26, 1 p.m.: Cin - RHP Andrew Strenge (1-2, 2.10 ERA) vs. STJ - LHP Kevin Kilpatrick (1-2, 5.19 ERA)
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Sunday, March 27, Noon: Cin - RHP Nick Johnson (3-1, 3.16 ERA) vs. STJ - LHP Brendan Lobban (3-0, 2.48 ERA)
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·         St. John's has won four straight games heading into the weekend.
·         Joe Panik leads the Red Storm with a .418 average, which ranks second in the conference.
·         Red Storm Sunday starter Brendan Lobban leads the team in wins (3) and in ERA (2.48).
·         St. John's Friday starter Kyle Hansen has been one of the top strikeout pitchers in the league. He ranks fourth in the conference with 33 strikeouts in 26.1 innings pitched.
·         After starting the season 1-4, the Bearcats have put together a 9-4 record in their last 13 games to stand at 10-8 on the season.
·         The Bearcats are third in the BIG EAST in team batting average at .300. Jake Proctor leads the team at .361 and is tied for 10th in the league.
·         Cincinnati's Saturday starter Andrew Strenge, who set the BIG EAST record with a 0.62 ERA in league games last year, leads the team with a 2.10 ERA while Sunday's starter Nick Johnson ranks first with three wins.
 
Pittsburgh (12-6) at Connecticut (8-9-1)
Friday, March 25, 3 p.m.: Pitt - RHP Corey Baker (2-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. UConn - RHP Matt Barnes (3-2, 1.24 ERA)
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Saturday, March 26, 1 p.m.: Pitt - RHP Matt Iannazzo (2-1, 0.99 ERA) vs. UConn - LHP Elliot Glynn (0-4, 3.72 ERA)
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Sunday, March 27, Noon: Pitt - RHP Ethan Mildren (2-2, 3.42 ERA) vs. UConn - LHP Greg Nappo (2-0, 2.57 ERA)
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·         Connecticut leads the all-time series 32-25. Pitt is looking to snap a five-game series losing streak against the Huskies. The Panthers last won 7-4 on May 8, 2009.
·         Pitt senior Kevan Smith leads the BIG EAST with a .483 batting average. He has scored 21 runs while driving in 18. He also leads the conference in on-base percentage (.551) and slugging percentage (.717).
·         The Panthers are second in the BIG EAST in team batting average at .318. Five Panthers are batting over .300 through the first 18 games.
·         Pitt's Saturday starter Matt Ianazzo leads the team with a 0.99 ERA which ranks second in the BIG EAST.
·         The Huskies, who are preseason favorites to win the conference, are off to a slow start with an 8-9-1 record.
·         Mike Nemeth leads the Huskies offensively with a .355 average. The Huskies are batting just .266 as a team, good for sixth in the conference.
·         Matt Barnes, Preseason BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year, leads the team with a 1.24 ERA which ranks third in the conference. Barnes has posted a 3-2 record in five starts, allowing opponents to hit just .161 against him.
 
 
Seton Hall (8-9) at Villanova (9-11)
Friday, March 25, 3:15 p.m.: SHU - RHP Benny Mejia (2-1, 3.29) vs. VU - LHP Kyle Helisek (0-2, 6.27)
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Saturday, March 26, 1:15 p.m.: SHU - RHP Joe DiRocco (3-0, 1.35) vs. VU - RHP Kyle McMyne (3-2, 3.19)
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Sunday, March 27, 12:15 p.m.: SHU - LHP Greg Terhune (1-3, 4.23) vs. VU - TBA
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·         Seton Hall holds a 68-38 advantage in the all-time series.
·         Villanova and Seton Hall did not meet last season. The last time the Pirates visited the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth was in 2009, when the Wildcats took two-of-three in the series.
·         Villanova junior Matt Fleishman has reached base safely in 16 consecutive games. He leads the team in batting with a .342 average to go with three home runs and 16 RBI.
·         VU senior closer Mike Francisco tied the Villanova career saves record last week in a 7-6 win over Manhattan. He is tied with James Russell with 17 saves.
·         Saturday's pitching matchup features two early season BIG EAST stars. Villanova righty Kyle McMyne leads the conference with 39 strikeouts in 31 innings pitched. Seton Hall righty Joe DiRocco has been named BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week three times this season, ranking fourth in the conference in ERA (1.35) and second in opponent batting average (.159).
·         Seton Hall ranks third in the BIG EAST with a 3.20 team ERA through the first 17 games.
·         The Pirates are riding a season-high three game winning streak entering the series.
·         Zack Granite leads SHU with a .361 batting average while Giuseppe Papaccio ranks first on the team with two home runs and nine RBI.
 
Louisville (13-7) at Rutgers (7-11)
Friday, March 25, 3 p.m.: UofL - RHP Matt Koch (2-2, 3.60 ERA) vs. RU - RHP Tyler Gebler (1-2, 2.67 ERA)
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Saturday, March 26, 1 p.m.: UofL - RHP Justin Amlung (4-0, 0.50 ERA) vs. RU - LHP Rob Smorol (1-3, 6.58 ERA)
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Sunday, March 27, 1 p.m.: UofL - RHP Mike Nastold (2-1, 1.74 ERA) vs. RU - RHP Nathaniel Roe (1-4, 5.01 ERA)  
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·         Louisville leads the all-time series 15-4
·         Last year, the Cardinals swept the three-game series from the Scarlet Knights.
·         Through the first 20 games, the Louisville pitching staff has registered six shutout wins and a conference-best 2.20 ERA. The Cardinals have 132 strikeouts and only 63 walks in 180.0 innings.
·         In the team's last game, Louisville scored a season-high 11 runs against Kent State. Prior to that, the Cardinals had a string of 22-straight games without scoring 10+ runs.
·         Louisville's Saturday starter, sophomore Justin Amlung, leads the BIG EAST in wins (4) and ERA (0.50).
·         Rutgers was swept in a three-game series at East Carolina last weekend
·         Scarlet Knight head coach Fred Hill is 1,017-675-9 in his 35th season at the helm.
·         RU ranks 11th in the BIG EAST in team batting average, hitting at a .237 clip. Outfielder Michael Lang leads the team with a .356 average and is second on the squad with nine RBI.
 
Georgetown (15-7) at Notre Dame (7-10-1)
Friday, March 25, 5:35 p.m.: GU - LHP Alex Meyer (2-1, 4.26 ERA) vs. ND - RHP Brian Dupra (2-2, 2.38 ERA)
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Saturday, March 26, 2 p.m.: GU - RHP Charles Steinman (1-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. GU - RHP Cole Johnson (1-4, 2.57 ERA)
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Sunday, March 27, 1 p.m.: GU - RHP Alex Baker (3-1, 5.09 ERA) vs. ND - RHP Todd Miller (2-1, 2.80 ERA)
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·         Georgetown is riding a conference-best seven game winning streak entering the weekend. It is the longest winning streak for the Hoyas in eight years.
·         The Hoyas have been led by an offense that is fourth in the BIG EAST in batting with a .294 average, and leads the conference in runs scored (159), doubles (48), total bases (320), walks (94), plate appearances (866), runs batted in (141), stolen bases (42) and at-bats (732).
·         Junior rightfielder Rand Ravnaas leads the team, and is third in the BIG EAST, in batting average at .409. Ravnaas leads the league in total bases, hits and stolen bases and is tied for second in runs scored and home runs.
·         The Notre Dame pitching staff ranks second in the conference in team ERA at 2.87. The Irish have allowed just 52 earned runs in 163.0 innings.
·         Notre Dame's Saturday starter Brian Dupra ranks third in the conference in strikeouts with 35 over his five starts, including a league-best 14 batters going down looking.
·         The Irish have had their struggles offensively, hitting at just a .235 clip to rank last in the league. The team has scored 68 runs in 18 games (3.78 runs per game). ND has not scored more than five runs in a game since an 8-5 win over Penn State on Feb. 20 as part of the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge. Notre Dame scored 28 runs in a three-game stretch to start the year at the challenge. Since that time, the team has averaged just 2.67 runs per game.
 
West Virginia (14-9) at USF (9-12)
Friday, March 25, 7 p.m.: WVU - LHP Jon Jones (2-2, 6.75 ERA) vs. USF - RHP Randy Fontanez (1-2, 3.21 ERA)
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Saturday, March 26, 7 p.m.: WVU - TBD vs. LHP Nick Gonzalez (2-1, 4.50 ERA)
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Sunday, March 27, 1 p.m.: WVU - TBD vs. LHP Matt Reed (1-1, 2-61 ERA)
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·         USF holds an 11-4 advantage in the all-time series. West Virginia last traveled to Tampa in 2009 when the Mountaineers were swept by the Bulls in a three-game series.
·         West Virginia has been the best offensive team in the BIG EAST through the first 23 games. The squad owns the top spot in the league in team batting average, hitting at a .333 clip. The team also leads the league with 20 home runs, while ranking second in runs scored with 165.
·         Grant Buckner and Dan DiBartolomeo have each hit four home runs on the season. Brady Wilso leads the team with a .413 batting average.
·         Sam Mende leads USF with a .354 batting average, while Todd Brazeal and James Ramsay have knocked in 13 runs each.
·         The Bulls rank fifth in the conference in team ERA at 3.68. West Virginia is last in the conference in team ERA at 5.96.
·         The Bulls' Saturday starter Nick Gonzalez is fourth in the BIG EAST in opponent batting average at .185.
·         USF is 3-3 in its last six games entering the weekend. The Bulls had a season-best four-game winning streak from March 1-5.