Baseball Minute: League Play Starts Friday

Michael Fries and Butler host Seton Hall to kick off BIG EAST play beginning Friday.

Michael Fries and Butler host Seton Hall to kick off BIG EAST play beginning Friday.

April 3, 2014

Composite schedule | Statistics

NEW YORK – After nearly two months of non-conference tilts, the BIG EAST baseball season takes a more serious turn this weekend with the opening of league play on Friday.

Creighton, one of three BIG EAST baseball newcomers this season, will have a bye in conference play this weekend. The Bluejays will still be busy, however, as they host a four-game series with North Dakota beginning Friday.

Back to BIG EAST play. Seton Hall, which became the first conference team to 20 wins with Wednesday’s 13-6 victory over Princeton, hits the road for three at Butler. Xavier, the third newcomer, is at Georgetown for the first of three games Friday, while Villanova hosts St. John’s.

Three non-conference games took place Wednesday. In addition to Seton Hall’s win over the Ivy League’s Tigers, St. John’s shut out Wagner 3-0 and Villanova suffered a 9-6 loss to Saint Joseph’s.

BIG EAST Notebook

You always want to have positive momentum when conference play rolls around. That’s exactly what Seton Hall and St. John’s have right now. The Red Storm have won 13 of their last 14 games, with a 10-2 loss to Sacred Heart on March 29 as the only downer in that stretch. The great play of late has lifted SJU to 16-11 overall after a 3-10 start. Meanwhile in South Orange, the Pirates became the first BIG EAST team to 20 wins with Wednesday’s victory over Princeton. SHU went 13-3 in March and is riding a three-game win streak coming into Friday’s BIG EAST opener at Butler.

Four teams are at or above .500 and another is within a game of that mark on the eve of BIG EAST play that starts on Friday. In addition to Seton Hall and St. John’s, Creighton (12-10-1) and Xavier (13-13) are at or above the .500 threshold, while Georgetown, at 12-13, is within a game of the mark.



The seven coaches’ pick for the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year has had a solid season so far. Though his batting average is down a bit at .255, Creighton senior Mike Gerber owns a BIG EAST-best five home runs and his 21 RBIs are just two off the league lead. He’s also seventh in slugging percentage at .457.

Josh Prevost has not only emerged as Seton Hall’s No. 1 starter, but the Pirate has become one of the most notable names in the BIG EAST. The 6-foot-8 righthander leads the conference in wins (7), innings pitched (56), strikeouts (48), opposing batting average (.172) and complete games (3) while being one of only two conference hurlers with a shutout. Prevost will take the mound in Seton Hall’s BIG EAST opener Friday at Butler.

Seton Hall once again is 22nd in the latest Collegiate Baseball Top 30 rankings released on Monday. That’s a position the Pirates have held strong in since sweeping Arizona on the road in early March. Seton Hall is also receiving votes in the NCBWA and USA Today coaches polls.

The NCAA’s latest RPI ratings out earlier this week has two BIG EAST teams in the top 85. Seton Hall is No. 71 and Creighton sits at No. 82. Xavier sits at 102 and St. John’s is next at 114. The rest of the conference features Georgetown at 178, Butler at 262 and Villanova at 272.

One of two teams making its BIG EAST debut in 2014, the Creighton Bluejays were named slim favorites in the preseason baseball poll conducted by the seven head coaches in February. Creighton captured a poll-topping 32 points with two first-place votes to edge out Seton Hall’s 31 points and two first-place votes. St. John’s captured three first-place nods and took third in the poll with 29 points. Xavier (21 points), Georgetown (12), Butler (11) and Villanova (11) rounded out the rest. Creighton also swept the major preseason awards with Tommy Strunc earning the Pitcher of the Year nod and Mike Gerber the Player of the Year award.

The decisive game of the 2014 BIG EAST Baseball Championship will air nationally on FOX Sports 1, as announced in February. It’s one of four BIG EAST spring championships FS1 will air, including men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse and softball. The BIG EAST Baseball Championship will take place at MCU Park in Brooklyn, N.Y., May 23-25.

In addition to the championship game, FOX Sports also has plans to air two regular-season BIG EAST contests this spring. St. John’s is set to host Butler on April 12 on FOX Sports 2, while slim preseason favorite Creighton visits the Red Storm on May 11 on FOX Sports 1. CBS Sports Network has agreed to air four additional BIG EAST baseball games and the Bluejays will play in three of them. Creighton hosts Iowa on April 23 at 7:30 p.m., and six days later welcomes Nebraska for a 7:30 p.m. tilt, both on CBS SN. The network will also air Creighton hosting Seton Hall in the third game of a three-game series on Sunday, May 4 at 1 p.m., and the Pirates hosting St. John’s on Thursday, May 15 at 6:30 p.m.