This Week in BIG EAST Baseball - April 14

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Through three weekends of play in the BIG EAST baseball season, 2011 preseason favorite Connecticut holds a one-game lead on first place in the conference.  The Huskies, who sit at 7-2 in the league, are ahead of Louisville, Pittsburgh and West Virginia who each own 6-3 conference records.  Here is a look at the six weekend series.
 
Cincinnati (17-14, 4-5) at Rutgers (12-18, 4-5)
Friday, April 15, 3 p.m.: Cin - RHP Dan Jensen (2-3, 2.62 ERA) vs. RU - RHP Tyler Gebler (2-3, 2.83 ERA)
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Sat., April 16, 1 p.m.: Cin - RHP Andrew Strenge (1-3, 3.50 ERA) vs. RU - LHP Rob Smorol (2-4, 5.17 ERA)
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Sunday, April 17, Noon: Cin - RHP Nick Johnson (4-1, 3.14 ERA) vs. RU - RHP Nathaniel Roe (3-5, 5.04 ERA)
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·         Rutgers has seen much improvement from its pitching staff this season. The Rutgers pitching staff owns a team ERA of 4.43 which is an improvement of 1.47 from last season's team ERA of 5.90. All three of Rutgers' weekend starters were relievers on last year's squad.
·         Scarlet Knights' sophomore ace Tyler Gebler has allowed just one earned run in each of his last two appearances. He is 1-0 in those games with nine strikeouts in those games. Gebler leads Rutgers' starter with a 2.83 ERA.
·         RU sophomore reliever Rob Corsi, who is in his first season at Rutgers after transferring from Duquesne last season, owns a 2-1 record with a 2.45 ERA in 13 relief appearances. He has struck out 14 in 14.2 innings. Corsi has allowed just one run over his last 10 appearances, spanning 11 innings.
·         Cincinnati went 2-0 this week after the Bearcats defended their title at the Joe Nuxhall Classic with wins over Xavier and Wright State. Freshman Justin Glass earned MVP honors after going 2-for-3 with three RBI in the title game against Wright State.
·         Cincinnati's Jake Proctor is 14-for-14 in stolen bases this season. He is the only BIG EAST player with at least 10 stolen base attempts who has not been caught.
·         Bearcat senior Nick Johnson threw a complete game against Louisville, earning the win while allowing just two runs. It is the second-straight weekend the Bearcats have had a pitcher go the distance.
 
Louisville (20-12, 6-3) at St. John's (16-13, 5-4)
Friday, April 15, 3 p.m.: UofL - RHP Matt Koch (4-3, 3.08 ERA) vs. STJ - RHP Kyle Hansen (4-3, 2.81 ERA)
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Sat., April 16, 1 p.m.: UofL - RHP Justin Amlung (6-0, 1.14 ERA) vs. STJ - LHP Kevin Kilpatrick (2-2, 4.19 ERA)
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Sunday, April 17, Noon:  UofL - TBA vs. STJ - LHP Brendan Lobban (3-1, 4.47 ERA)
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·         St. John's holds an 8-6 advantage in the all-time series. The last time the two teams met was in the 2010 BIG EAST Championship semifinal, where St. John's beat Louisville 5-3 to advance to the title game.
·         Louisville has the top pitching staff in the BIG EAST this season. The Cardinals lead the league with a 2.53 ERA which also ranks in the top 20 in the nation. The team's six shutouts are the second most in school history.
·         Louisville has allowed 59 of their 109 runs in the first three innings. After the first three innings, the Cardinals' outscore their opponents 111-50.
·         Louisville has won nine straight series in BIG EAST regular-season play.
·         Louisville Saturday starter Justin Amlung is one of only two BIG EAST starting pitchers without a loss this season (Seton Hall's Joe DiRocco is the other). Amlung is tied for first in the league with six wins and ranks second with a 1.14 ERA.
·         St. John's shortstop Joe Panik leads the BIG EAST with a .518 on-base percentage. He earned a spot on the BIG EAST Honor Roll after batting .615 last week with five RBI.
·         Red Storm Friday starter Kyle Hansen ranks in the top five in the conference in strikeouts (48) and opponent batting average (.209).
·         St. John's is the top fielding team in the BIG EAST this season. The Red Storm have a .973 fielding percentage, committing just 30 errors in 1,106 chances.
 
 
Connecticut (18-12-1, 7-2) at Villanova (13-18, 2-7)
Friday, April 15, 3:15 p.m.: UConn - RHP Matt Barnes (6-2, 1.03 ERA) vs. VU - RHP Kyle McMyne (3-5, 5.84 ERA)
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Sat., April 16, 1:15 p.m.:  UConn - TBA vs. VU - LHP Kyle Helisek (0-4, 5.17 ERA)
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Sunday, April 17, 12:15 p.m.: UConn - LHP Greg Nappo (3-2, 3.27 ERA) vs. VU - TBA
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·         Connecticut enters the weekend with sole possession of first place in the BIG EAST with a 7-2 record.
·         The Huskies lead the BIG EAST in both batting and pitching in conference games only. UConn is batting a league-best .301 while also ranking first with a .398 slugging percentage. The Connecticut pitching staff has a league-leading 2.25 ERA while holding opponents to a .199 batting average.
·         Connecticut Friday starter Matt Barnes lost his first two outings of the season but has rattled off wins his last six starts. Barnes leads the BIG EAST with a 1.03 ERA and is tied for first in wins with six. Opponents are hitting just .138 against Barnes.
·         Friday's game will feature the two top strikeout pitchers in the conference. Barnes and Villanova's Kyle McMyne are tied atop the BIG EAST with 54 strikeouts each.
·         McMyne ranks 20th in the country and first in the BIG EAST in strikeouts per nine innings. He has 54 strikeouts in 44.2 innings pitched, which translates to 10.87 strikeouts per nine.
·         Outfielder Matt Fleishman has paced the VU offense. He leads the team with a .350 batting average, which ranks eight in the BIG EAST. He also leads the league with 14 doubles.
 
West Virginia (20-14, 6-3) at Notre Dame (13-16-1, 4-5)
Friday, April 15, 7 p.m.: WVU - LHP Marshall Thompson (4-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. ND - RHP Brian Dupra (2-3, 1.64 ERA)
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Sat., April 16, 4 p.m.: WVU - RHP Harrison Musgrave (3-2, 4.59 ERA) vs. ND - RHP Cole Johnson (2-5, 2.83 ERA)
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Sunday, April 17, 1 p.m.: WVU - RHP Andy Berry (4-2, 4.71 ERA) vs. ND - RHP Todd Miller (3-2, 3.74)
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·         Notre Dame owns a 38-20 advantage over West Virginia in the all-time series, including an 18-7 mark at Frank Eck Stadium. The Mountaineers have captured five of the last seven meetings including a sweep of the Irish in Morgantown last season.
·         Friday night's game will be televised on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET. It will be the first time the Mountaineers have ever played a regular-season game on ESPNU. The last time WVU as on national television was in the BIG EAST Championship semifinal game against Rutgers in 2003.
·         The series pits one of the league's top pitching staffs against the league's best offense. Notre Dame ranks third in the BIG EAST in ERA (2.92), fifth in opponent batting average (.258) and first in walks allowed (67).West Virginia leads the BIG EAST in hitting (.312), slugging (.444), runs scored (224), hits (350), RBI (204 and home runs (24).
·         Notre Dame starters Brian Dupra and Cole Johnson have been saddled with poor run support this season. Dupra (1.64 ERA) and Johnson (2.83 ERA) rnak fourth and 12th respectively in the BIG EAST in ERA, but have combined for a 4-8 record. ND has scored just 53 runs in Dupra and Johnson's combined starts, an average of 3.31 runs per game.
·         In BIG EAST play, ND Friday starter Brian Dupra has allowed just one earned run in 21.0 innings (0.43) ERA, has an 0-1 record in three starts.
·         The Mountaineers are the only team in the BIG EAST with three players in the top 12 in batting average. Jeremy Gum ranks fourth (.364), Brady Wilson is fifth (.358) and Dan DiBartolomeo is 10th (.349).
·         WVU's Saturday starter Harrison Musgrave was the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week last week. Musgrave is 2-1 with a 3.10 ERA in BIG EAST play after throwing a complete game shutout against Georgetown last week.
 
 
USF (15-17, 5-4) at Seton Hall (15-15, 4-5)
Friday, April 15, 6 p.m.: USF - RHP Randy Fontanez (3-2, 2.50 ERA) vs. SHU - Brian Gilbert (0-1, 2.05 ERA)
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Sat., April 16, 1 p.m.: USF - RHP Kyle Eastham (3-3, 3.89 ERA) vs. SHU - RHP Joe DiRocco (4-0, 1.23 ERA)
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Sunday, April 17, Noon: USF - LHP Matt Reed (2-2, 3.69 ERA) vs. SHU - RHP Jon Prosinski (2-3, 4.18 ERA)
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·         USF is 9-3 all-time against Seton Hall in a series that dates back to 2006. The Bulls have outscored the Pirates 58-42. The teams met last season in Tampa, with USF taking two of three. This is the first meeting between the teams in in South Orange since 2007, when the Bulls won two of three.
·         Seton Hall Saturday starter Joe DiRocco is one of only two BIG EAST starting pitchers without a loss this season (Louisville's Justin Amlung is the other). DiRocco ranks third in the BIG EAST in ERA (1.23) and opponent batting average (.196).
·         The Seton Hall pitching staff ranks second in the conference with a 2.90 ERA and first and strikeouts with 231. In fact, the series will pit the No. 1 and 2 teams in the league in strikeouts, as USF is ranked second with 230 strikeouts.
·         Seton Hall's Mike Genovese leads the team with a .345 batting average, which also ranks 12th in the conference.
·         USF ranks in the top five in the BIG EAST in both ERA (3.86) and opponent batting average (.244).
·         Bulls' righty Randy Fontanez has proven to be one of the top control pitchers in the country. He ranks eighth in the country, only allowing 0.62 walks per nine innings. Fontanez has walked four batters in 57.2 innings while striking out 48.
·         Bulls' pitchers combined for 20 strikeouts in a 13-inning win against Rutgers on April 8. Fontanez had 10, Kevin Quakenbush had six, Junior Carlin had three and Jimmy Moran had one.
 
Pittsburgh (19-12, 6-3) at Georgetown (18-17, 1-8)
Friday, April 15, 7 p.m.: Pitt - Matt Iannazzo (3-2, 2.74 ERA) vs. GU - RHP Charles Steinman (1-3, 3.21 ERA)
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Sat., April 16, 7 p.m.: Pitt - Ethan Mildren (3-2, 2.83 ERA) vs. GU - RHP Will Harris (1-2, 3.38 ERA)
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Sunday, April 17, 1 p.m.: Pitt - Corey Baker (2-1, 5.53 ERA) vs. GU - RHP Tommy Isaacs (2-1, 3.90 ERA)
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·         Georgetown holds a 29-28 edge over the Mountaineers in the all-time series, however WVU is 26-9 against the Hoyas in BIG EAST play. The teams first met in 1902.
·         Georgetown is 3-10 in its last 13 games. The Hoyas are looking to snap a five-game losing streak overall and a six-game losing streak in the BIG EAST.
·         Georgetown is led offensively by Mike Garza, who ranks fifth in the conference with a .358 average and leads GU with 31 RBI.
·         It has been a tale of two seasons for the Hoyas. GU has a 17-9 record outside the BIG EAST with a .303 batting average while outscoring opponents 202-139. In conference play, the Hoyas are 1-8 with a .203 batting average while being outscored 32-19.
·         Pittsburgh ranks second in the conference in batting (.305) and slugging (.422). The team is led by Kevan Smith, who leads the BIG EAST with a .425 batting average. Smith also leads the conference with a .619 slugging percentage and is tied for second with 34 RBI. Teammate David Chester is first in RBI with 36.
·         Pitt's John Schultz, who broke the career walk record earlier this season, is just two runs away from breaking the record for career runs scored. Schultz has 26 runs this season and 163 in his career. The record is held by two players, Ben Copeland (2003-05) and Bryan Spamer (2001-04), who each scored 165 runs.
·         Panthers' Saturday starter Ethan Mildren, has not walked a batter this season in 41.1 innings pitched.
·         Pittsburgh's Sunday starter Corey Baker needs just one more victory to become the all-time wins leader among pitchers in Pitt history. He is tied for first with 21 career wins.