Baseball Minute: Xavier Looks to Stay in First

Ryan Fitzgerald and Creighton welcome Georgetown to Omaha for a three-game set beginning Friday.

Ryan Fitzgerald and Creighton welcome Georgetown to Omaha for a three-game set beginning Friday.

April 9, 2014

Composite Schedule | Statistics

NEW YORK - One weekend of BIG EAST play in baseball is down, and so far the newcomers are acquitting themselves quite well.

Thanks to a three-game sweep at Georgetown to open BIG EAST competition, Xavier finds itself alone atop the baseball standings with its second conference series this weekend against Villanova at home. Fellow newcomer Butler is in a two-way tie for second at 2-1 after taking last weekend's home series from Seton Hall and handing Pirate ace Josh Prevost his first loss of the spring.

The team tied with Butler? That's Villanova, which made a little history of its own. By taking two of three from St. John's, the Wildcats not only snapped a 14-game home skid against conference opponents but also won the season series against the Red Storm for the first time in 15 seasons.

Creighton was idle in BIG EAST play last weekend but took care of business by sweeping a three-game series against North Dakota. The Bluejays host Georgetown for three games starting Friday. The third conference series of the weekend has St. John's hosting Butler. Seton Hall has a three-game non-conference series with NYIT scheduled in South Orange.

Tuesday was a tough day for BIG EAST teams, with Villanova falling to Lafayette, Creighton dropping a decision to Nebraska and Xavier losing to Miami (Ohio). On Wednesday Butler hosts Ball State, Georgetown takes the short trip across the Potomac River to George Mason, Xavier battles Wright State and Seton Hall entertains Wagner.

BIG EAST Notebook

It seems early in the season for a big series at the top of the standings, but that's exactly what's on tap in Cincinnati this weekend when Xavier, 3-0 in the BIG EAST, hosts 2-1 Villanova. The Musketeers had the offense rolling to the tune of 34 runs and a .344 average at the plate in the sweep at Georgetown. Joey Forney went 7-of-15 at the dish with three doubles and five RBIs. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are riding high after taking a series from St. John's for the first time since 1999. Matt Meurer tossed three innings in three appearances and notched the save in both Villanova wins.



St. John's and Butler will tussle this weekend in Queens in an important BIG EAST series, and their Saturday tilt is scheduled to air on FOX Sports 2 beginning at 2 p.m. FOX Sports is the official broadcast partner of the BIG EAST and is scheduled to air another BIG EAST contest May 11 when Creighton visits the Red Storm before airing the conference championship game on May 25 from MCU Park in Brooklyn. CBS Sports Network has also agreed to air four games involving BIG EAST teams this spring, the first of which is set for April 23 when Creighton hosts Iowa. The Bluejays will be on CBS Sports Network again six days later when they welcome Nebraska on April 29 for a 7:30 p.m. first pitch. 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.

The way Josh Prevost had been pitching, some might have had Friday's Butler-Seton Hall game already in the win column for the Pirates. Gunner Johnson and the Bulldogs thought differently, as the former scattered six hits over seven shutout innings while striking out seven in Butler's 6-1 win. It was Prevost's first loss of the season. The 6-foot-8 righty still owns a BIG EAST-best seven wins and the only sub-2.00 ERA in the league (1.89), but Butler took two of three thanks to timely hitting and solid defense. The Bulldogs turned five double plays last weekend to stymie Seton Hall's offense. The Pirates are off from BIG EAST play this weekend and host NYIT for three games, while Butler hosts a St. John's team that is coming off a series loss to Villanova.

Helping draw attention and raise funds for a cause greater than any baseball game played last weekend, members of the Georgetown roster had their heads shaved following Saturday's 8-2 loss to Xavier in support of the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a charity that helps fund research into childhood cancer. Since 2000, the organization has raised over $118 million for life-saving research. As of Saturday, the Hoyas had raised nearly $46,000 to become the second-highest fundraising collegiate baseball team in St. Baldrick's 14-year history.

After dropping two of three at Butler last weekend, Seton Hall dropped to No. 28 in the Collegiate Baseball Top 30 rankings released Monday. The Pirates look to rebuild momentum with several non-conference games this week, starting with Wednesday's home tilt with Wagner.

Four teams saw their RPI improve when the latest rankings were released by the NCAA Tuesday. Xavier rocked up the list 34 places to No. 68 to take over as the BIG EAST's top team, while Seton Hall dropped seven slots to No. 78 to settle in as the conference's No. 2 team. Despite winning three straight against North Dakota, Creighton saw its RPI fall 15 places to No. 97. St. John's moved up six spots to No. 108, while Butler (227) and Villanova (257) also gained ground. Georgetown's RPI settles in at No. 205 this week.

One of three 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.

The top four teams in the final BIG EAST regular-season standings will qualify for the conference tournament, which begins May 23 at MCU Park in Brooklyn. The No. 1 seed will take on No. 4 in one game, and the second and third seeds will meet in the second. Three games will take place on May 24, with the semifinal winners battling first. The winner of that game advances to the championship game on May 25. The second finalist will have to win two games on May 24 to advance to the winner-take-all final. The semifinal losers will play in the second game on the 24th, with the winner advancing to play the day's first-game loser for a berth in the championship game.