Countdown to Clearwater: Casey At The Bat

Editor's Note: 'Countdown to Clearwater' is an exclusive blog bringing fans a behind-the-scenes view of the Baseball Championship

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Casey At The Bat

May 24, 2011
WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS OF HOME RUN DERBY

Much of the talk heading into the BIG EAST Baseball Championship centered around the pace of play in college baseball this year. Pitchers are working faster - and with the new bat rules implemented by the NCAA this season, they have been more effective.
 
Batting practice pitchers haven't been so lucky, as we found out Tuesday night at Bright House Field.
 
Eight of the BIG EAST's top sluggers kicked off the 2011 Championship with the annual Home Run Derby, capping a wonderful night of camaraderie, music, barbecue and fireworks. And in a field that consisted of the unanimous conference Player of the Year and the leading home run hitter in the league, it was Notre Dame's David Casey - with nary a dinger to his name this season - who put on the best show in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the BIG EAST's late-spring home.
 
Casey set a Derby record with six home runs on 10 swings in the final round to edge Louisville's Cade Stallings (four) and Connecticut's George Springer (three) to win league bragging rights for the next year. 
 
For his part, Springer - who earlier was tabbed as BIG EAST Player of the Year by the league head coaches - gave the fans in the leftfield pavilion a few souvenirs with five blasts in the first round. But Casey, hitting from the left batter's box, pelted the rightfield berm in the final round.
 
BIG EAST Championship Home Run Derby Results
First Round
George Springer, Connecticut - 530
Cade Stallings, Louisville - 420
David Casey, Notre Dame - 260
Justin Riddell, Cincinnati - 240
Will Walsh, Seton Hall - 160
Kevin Griffin, West Virginia - 150
David Chester, Pittsburgh - 130
Rowan Wick, St. John's - 40
Final Round
David Casey, Notre Dame - 620
Cade Stallings, Louisville - 410
George Springer, Connecticut - 350
Justin Riddell, Cincinnati - 170
 
Things get started in earnest Wednesday, when Louisville and Pittsburgh take the field for a 10 a.m. matchup - the first of four games on tap in the double-elimination bracket. Follow all of the action live on www.BigEast.tv and BigEastBaseball.com.
 

 The New Math

May 19, 2011

So after a busy Thursday, with every BIG EAST baseball team in action, five spots left to be determined for the BIG EAST Championship and the postseason fate of several teams hanging in the balance, the only team to clinch a spot was ...
 
West Virginia? But didn't they lose?
 
It's strange how it works sometime. After Thursday's games, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Louisville (the only team of the three to win Thursday) sit in a three-way tie for fourth place at 13-12 in conference play. So why can the Mountaineers book their travel to Clearwater, while the Bearcats and Cardinals have to wait?
 
The short answer is that while all three have the same number of wins and losses, West Virginia has managed to both defeat and lose to the right teams.
 
In the event of a tie in the standings, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. If it's a multiple-team tie, then you compare each team's record against the other tied teams. West Virginia has favorable records against any team it could possibly tie, except for Louisville, which took two of three from the Mountaineers earlier. But in order for West Virginia and Louisville to tie for the last spot in the standings, they would both have to lose their next two games, while USF would have to win its next two, which would forge a three-way tie . In that case, Louisville (4-2 against WVU/USF) and West Virginia (3-3) still make the cut, while USF would be out.
 
Louisville and Cincinnati are both in good shape, but still haven't earned the coveted asterisk to indicate that they've clinched spots. Louisville could still finish in a three-way tie with Seton Hall and USF in the 7-8-9 spot, which would leave the Cardinals home.
 
The Bearcats could finish in a straight two-way tie with USF in the 8-9 spot. Since those teams haven't played this season, the next tiebreaker is to compare each team's record against the group of teams higher in the standings. USF would be 9-12 in such a situation, while Cincinnati would be 6-12, giving the edge to the Bulls.
 
That said, Cincinnati and Louisville - as well as Notre Dame - can pack their bags with a win in either of their remaining games. If USF loses either of its last two games, then the Bearcats, Cardinals and Irish are all in the field.
 
The team that helped itself the most Thursday was Seton Hall, which rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the ninth against Georgetown to win 3-2 in 11 innings. The Pirates are now a game ahead of USF for the final spot and would clinch a spot with any combination of wins and/or USF losses totaling two.
 
If you managed to follow all of that, we might have a position in the conference office waiting for you. Bring your calculator and some Advil.
 



Anybody's Game

May 18, 2011

We're only a week away from the start of the 2011 BIG EAST Baseball Championship in Clearwater, Fla. With just one weekend of regular-season play remaining, it's normally a chance for teams to improve their tournament seeds or a last chance for a team on the outside to play its way into the eight-team bracket.

This year is a little different.

With three games remaining for each team on the conference docket, only three teams - Connecticut, St. John's and Pittsburgh - have their tickets punched for Clearwater. That leaves seven teams left to battle for five spots in the tournament, with fourth place and ninth place separated by just two games in the standings.

One of the things we're frequently asked to do here in the conference office is to present teams with their postseason scenarios. Rutgers, for example, is currently 10th in the standings, so the logical question is how the Scarlet Knights can reach the BIG EAST tournament field (answer: sweep West Virginia, and have Georgetown win at least two against Seton Hall, have Pittsburgh sweep USF and have Louisville win at least one against Notre Dame). But with seven teams still in the mix, and those seven teams having three games each on their schedules, it becomes a challenge to come up with all of the permutations. Factor in the prospect of inclement weather, which could take games off the schedule entirely, and it could become more challenging.

While most of the tournament field will be determined this week, there will be no drama with regard to the BIG EAST regular-season crown. That's because Connecticut secured its first title when it won its first two games of last week's series against Louisville. Incredibly, the Huskies clinched the regular-season crown before any other team had even qualified for the championship. Connecticut takes a 20-4 BIG EAST record into this week's series at Cincinnati, giving the Huskies a chance to register the best winning percentage by any team in conference play since St. John's went 18-2 in 1991.

So the Huskies, who have been the BIG EAST Championship runner-up in three of the last four seasons, will come to Clearwater as the clear favorite this year. But in the last four years, only one No. 1 seed (Louisville in 2009) has run the gauntlet to win the tournament title as well. And the balance within the league this season suggests that the door could be open for a lower-seeded team to come through the double-elimination round and get to the winner-take-all final a week from Sunday. And in one game, with the right pitcher, anything can happen.