This Week in BIG EAST Baseball - March 31

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -After one weekend of play, St. John's holds the top spot in the BIG EAST with a 3-0 record. The Red Storm highlight a full weekend of action with a three-game set against 2011 BIG EAST preseason favorite Connecticut. The two teams met in the title game of the 2010 BIG EAST Championship with the Red Storm winning 3-0. Five other series will also take place this weekend, including a battle between the top offense in the conference (West Virginia) and the best pitching staff (Louisville). Here is a look at the six weekend series.
Cincinnati (10-12, 0-3) at Georgetown (17-9, 1-2)
Friday, April 1, 3 p.m.: Cin - RHP Dan Jensen (1-2, 2.73 ERA)* vs. GU - LHP Alex Meyer (3-1, 3.78 ERA)
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Sat., April 2, 3 p.m.: Cin - RHP Andrew Strenge (1-3, 3.19 ERA)* vs. GU - RHP Charles Steinman (1-2, 3.41 ERA)
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Sunday, April 3, 1 p.m.: Cin - RHP Nick Johnson (3-1, 3.23 ERA)* vs. GU - RHP Will Harris (1-1, 3.60 ERA)
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*Projected Cincinnati starters based on last weekend's rotation.
·         The Hoyas enter the weekend with the most runs scored in the BIG EAST at 194. Georgetown also ranks third in batting average (.296) and second in slugging percentage (.435).
·         GU outfielder Rand Ravnaas leads the team in batting with a .408 average, which also places him third in the BIG EAST. Ravnaas leads the conference in stolen bases (18) and total bases (66).
·         On the hill, the Hoyas are seventh in the league with a 3.91 earned run average and seventh in opponent batting average (.723). The staff is tied for sixth in strikeouts (146) and second in batters struck out looking (58).
·         The Bearcats enter the weekend looking to snap a six-game losing skid. The streak comes on the heels of a stretch where UC had won nine of 11 contests.
·         Cincinnati is led by Jake Proctor who is batting .333 with three home runs and 19 RBI. As a team, Cincinnati ranks fifth in the BIG EAST with a .281 average and fifth in slugging percentage at .387.
·         The Bearcat pitching staff has recorded a 3.89 ERA (sixth in the BIG EAST) while holding a opponents to a .272 average (seventh in the BIG EAST).
·         Cincinnati was swept by St. John's in the team's BIG EAST opening series.
St. John's (13-9, 3-0) at Connecticut (11-10-1, 2-1)
Friday, April 1, 3 p.m.: STJ - RHP Kyle Hansen (3-2, 2.70 ERA) vs. UConn - RHP Matt Barnes (4-2, 0.99 ERA)
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Sat., April 2, 1 p.m.: STJ - LHP Kevin Kilpatrick (2-2, 5.04 ERA) vs. UConn - LHP Elliott Glynn (1-3, 3.25 ERA)
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Sunday, April 3, Noon: STJ - LHP Brendan Lobban (3-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. UConn - TBA
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·         St. John's and Connecticut have met 104 times in a series that dates back to 1976. The Red Storm lead the all-time series 55-49, but the Huskies own a 26-21 advantage in Storrs.
·         St. John's has won six-straight in the series with Connecticut, including a 3-0 win on May 30, 2010 in the BIG EAST Championship title game.
·         The Red Storm enter the weekend winners of eight of their last nine games, including a three-game sweep of Cincinnati in their BIG EAST opening series. The team has opened 3-0 in conference play in three of the last four seasons.
·         St. John's ranks in the top five of the conference in fielding percentage (.980), batting average (.277), runs scored (139), RBI (123) and slugging percentage (.377).
·         Connecticut allowed just three earned runs in three games against Pittsburgh in the team's conference opening series. The 1.00 ERA leads all BIG EAST teams in league contests.
·         Friday starter Matt Barnes leads the team with a 4-2 record and a 0.99 ERA and two shutouts. The Huskies have five shutouts as a staff and rank fourth in the conference with a 2.97 ERA and second with a .225 opponent batting average.
·         The Huskies have won three of their last four games including an 11-0 mid-week win over Hartford.
·         Outfielder George Springer leads the team in home runs (3) and RBI (22) while first baseman Mike Nemeth is batting a team-high .344.
Notre Dame (10-12-1, 2-1) at Pittsburgh (13-9, 1-2)
Friday, April 1, 3 p.m.: ND - RHP Brian Dupra (2-2, 1.96 ERA) vs. Pitt - RHP Corey Baker (2-1, 4.99 ERA)
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Sat., April 2, 1 p.m.: ND - RHP Cole Johnson (2-4, 2.09 ERA) -vs. Pitt - RHP Matt Iannazzo (2-2, 2.43 ERA)
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Sunday, April 3, Noon: ND - RHP Todd Miller (2-2, 3.24 ERA) vs. Pitt - RHP Ethan Mildren (2-2, 3.29 ERA)
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·         Notre Dame leads the all-time series 27-13. Pittsburgh won the last meeting between the two schools 14-11 on March 29, 2009 in Pittsburgh.
·         The series is the first BIG EAST series to be played at Pittsburgh's Charles L.Cost Field. The team is 4-3 at its new home park.
·         Pitt senior catcher Kevan Smith leads the BIG EAST with a .459 average. Smith is 34-for-74 with 22 RBI and just seven strikeouts. He has hit safely in his last three games.
·         Panthers' Friday starter Corey Baker needs just one more victory to become the all-time wins leader in Pitt history. He is tied for first with 21 career wins.
·         The Irish own a team ERA of 2.68 and opponents are batting just .252 against Notre Dame. Irish starting pitchers average 6.92 innings per start. Notre Dame has already totaled 14 starts of at least 7.0 innings in 2011 after posting just seven starts in 2010.
·         ND Senior RHP Cole Johnson has a 2.09 ERA in 2011, but only a 2-4 record due to a lack of run support. The senior has received a total of seven runs of support over his last five starts. Johnson has tossed at least 7.0 innings in five consecutive starts.
·         Trey Mancini leads ND at the plate with a .329 average. He is also second on the team with 12 RBI and first with three home runs.
Seton Hall (11-11, 2-1) at Rutgers (8-14, 1-2)
Friday, April 1, 3:15 p.m.: SHU - RHP Benny Mejia (2-1, 3.50 ERA) vs. RU - RHP Tyler Gebler (1-3, 3.54 ERA)
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Sat., April 2, 1:15 p.m.: SHU - RHP Joe DiRocco (4-0, 1.06 ERA) vs. RU - LHP Rob Smorol (1-4, 6.12 ERA)
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Sunday, April 3, 12:15 p.m.: SHU - RHP Jon Prosinski (1-2, 4.15 ERA) vs. RU - RHP Nathaniel Roe (2-4, 4.54 ERA)
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·         Seton Hall and Rutgers have met 77 times dating back to 1973. The Scarlet Knights own a 39-37 advantage with the teams tying once. Rutgers took two of three from SHU in the series last year.
·         As a program, the Pirates begin this weekend with 1,890 wins dating back to the 1863 season. They are 10 wins shy of the 1,900 mark.
·         Seton Hall's Saturday starter Joe DiRocco has thrown back-to-back complete game shutouts. He ranks fourth in the BIG EAST in ERA (1.06) and fifth in opponent batting average (.172).
·         The Pirates pitching staff ranks third in the conference in ERA at 2.93 and opponent batting average at .245.
·         SHU has had its problems scoring runs, ranking 10th in the league in batting average (.246) and 11th in runs scored (91). Meanwhile, Rutgers ranks near the bottom of the league in three major pitching categories. The Scarlet Knights are 11th in ERA (5.07), 12th in opponent batting average (.288) and 11th in strikeouts (127).
·         Outfielder Michael Lang leads the Scarlet Knights at the plate with a .345 batting average, which also ranks 12th in the conference. Lang is tied for the league lead in triples with three.
USF (10-14, 1-2) at Villanova (11-13, 1-2)
Friday, April 1, 3:15 p.m.: USF - RHP Randy Fontanez (1-1, 2.77 ERA) vs. VU - LHP Kyle Helisek (0-2, 5.55 ERA)
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Sat., April 2, 1:15 p.m. (Dollar Dog Day): USF - TBA vs. VU - RHP Kyle McMyne (3-3, 4.21 ERA)
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Sunday, April 3, 12:15 p.m.: USF - TBA vs. VU - RHP Jerry Battipaglia (2-1, 3.80 ERA)
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·         Since USF joined the BIG EAST in 2006, the Bulls own a 7-5 advantage in the series. The teams have split six games played at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth.
·         This weekend marks the beginning of Villanova's "Pitch In For Baseball" campaign to support the Pitch In Foundation.  All fans attending this weekend's games are asked to bring new or gently used youth baseball equipment to donate at any of the three games this weekend.  More information is available at
·         VU rightfielder Matt Fleishman has reached base in 20 consecutive games entering the weekend.
·         As a staff, Villanova ranks first in the conference in strikeouts with 189 while USF is second with 180. Villanova's Saturday starter Kyle McMyne leads the BIG EAST in strikeouts with 45 while USF's Friday starter Randy Fontanez ranks fifth with 35.
·         USF leads the BIG EAST with a .320 team batting average in conference games only. The Bulls collected 33 hits in their opening series against West Virginia, scoring 17 runs. Joe Koscso led the team with a .500 average, collecting seven hits in 14 at-bats.
·         The Bulls success at the plate in conference play has not translated outside the conference. The Bulls have hit .250 as a team outside the BIG EAST and average 3.95 runs per game. The team averaged 5.67 runs per game against West Virginia in the opening series.
·         The USF pitching staff ranks in the top five of the league in ERA (3.85), opponent batting average (.245), strikeouts (180) and saves (5).
West Virginia (16-11, 2-1) at Louisville (16-8, 2-1)
Friday, April 1, 6 p.m.: WVU - LHP Jonathan Jones (2-3, 6.25 ERA) vs. UofL - RHP Matt Koch (3-2, 3.13 ERA)
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Sat., April 2, 1 p.m.: WVU - TBA vs. UofL - RHP Justin Amlung (5-0, 0.65 ERA)
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Sunday, April 3, 1 p.m.: WVU - TBA vs. UofL - RHP Mike Nastold (2-2, 2.10 ERA)
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·         Louisville leads the all-time series 10-4 including posting a 4-0 mark against the Mountaineers in 2010. The Cardinals swept WVU in the three-game season series before also taking a win at the 2010 BIG EAST Championship.
·         The series pits the conference's best pitching staff against the best offense. Louisville pitchers enter the weekend leading the conference in ERA (2.09), opponent batting average (.209), wins (16) and saves (10). West Virginia leads the BIG EAST in batting average (.321), slugging percentage (.468), hits (285) and is second in runs scored (190).
·         In the opening weekend of conference play, Cardinals' pitchers had a stretch of 23.2 consecutive shutout innings and 25.2 innings without an earned run. The team recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2007.
·         Louisville outfielder Stewart Ijames was named BIG EAST Player of the Week last week after hitting .438 with four home runs and 11 RBI. He had a home run in each of Louisville's four games last week, with three of those coming against Rutgers in the team's BIG EAST opening series.
·         West Virginia's offense pounded out 20 runs on 29 hits to take two from USF in the team's BIG EAST opening series.
·         The Mountaineer starting pitchers all threw at-least eight innings in the series against USF. The innings led to some high pitch counts: Will Musgrave (140 pitches), Andy Berry (132 pitches), Jonathan Jones (126 pitches).
·         WVU was actually outhit in the series against the Bulls 33-29 but was able to outscore USF 20-17.