Connecticut Earns Top Seed For 2011 BIG EAST Baseball Championship

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - BIG EAST regular-season champion Connecticut, which tied the conference's record for league wins this season, has earned the No. 1 seed for the 2011 BIG EAST Baseball Championship, which begins Wednesday, May 25 at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. The tournament's opening ceremonies and awards presentations will be Tuesday, May 24 at 6 p.m. at Bright House Field, followed by the second annual BIG EAST Home Run Derby at 7 p.m. The top eight teams in the final regular-season standings qualify for the BIG EAST Championship, which features a double-elimination format through the semifinal round. The championship final is a winner-take-all affair Sunday, May 29, which will determine the BIG EAST's automatic entrant to the NCAA Championship. The final will be televised at noon on ESPNU. In contrast to the last two years, when the regular-season champion wasn't determined until the final day of the season, Connecticut (39-15-1, 22-5 BIG EAST) put an early end to the 2011 championship chase, clinching the No. 1 seed a week ago and winning the regular-season crown by three-and-a-half games. Connecticut's 22 BIG EAST wins match the league record set by Notre Dame, which went 22-4 in the 2001 season. It is the first BIG EAST regular-season title for Connecticut, which has reached the championship final three times in the last four years, but will look for its first tournament title since 1994. The Huskies will face Notre Dame, the tournament's No. 8 seed, in the opening round Wednesday at 8 p.m. The Irish (22-27-1, 13-13 BIG EAST) earned the final postseason spot on the last day of the regular season with a 2-1 win against Louisville Saturday and enter the tournament in search of their sixth BIG EAST title. St. John's finished second in the BIG EAST standings to earn the No. 2 seed in this year's tournament. The Red Storm (32-18, 18-8 BIG EAST) defeated Connecticut in last year's championship final to win their record sixth BIG EAST title and enter this year's event having won nine of their last 10 to close the regular season. St. John's will face Cincinnati (30-25, 14-13 BIG EAST), which comes in as the No. 7 seed after finishing in a four-way tie for fourth in the final standings, at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Pittsburgh will be the No. 3 seed in the BIG EAST Championship after the Panthers (32-21, 16-11 BIG EAST) finished third in the regular season for the second consecutive season. The Panthers, who won their only BIG EAST title in 1995, will face Louisville, the No. 6 seed, Wednesday in the first game of the 2011 championship at 10 a.m. The Cardinals (29-27, 14-13 BIG EAST) won BIG EAST titles in 2008 and 2009 and have gone 15-6 all-time in the conference tournament. West Virginia emerged at the top of a four-way tie for fourth place to earn the No. 4 seed in the BIG EAST Championship. The Mountaineers (28-25, 14-13 BIG EAST), who won their only BIG EAST championship in 1996, will take on No. 5-seeded Seton Hall at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the first round. The Pirates (29-23, 14-13 BIG EAST) didn't clinch a postseason spot until the last day of the regular season, but finished in a fourth-place tie after completing a three-game sweep of Georgetown Saturday. Seton Hall has won two BIG EAST titles, most recently in 2001. St. John's has won a conference -best six tournament titles, while Notre Dame has won five. The May 29 BIG EAST Championship final will be televised live on ESPNU, marking the sixth straight year in which the title game will be carried live on the ESPN family of networks. Coverage of the BIG EAST Championship also will be available on the web at www.bigeastbaseball.com. The site will include free live streaming video of all games from the first four days of competition along with live statistics, an interactive live blog from the site as well as live coverage of Tuesday's opening ceremonies and Home Run Derby. 2011 BIG EAST Baseball Championship Schedule Tuesday, May 24 Opening Ceremonies/Award Presentations/Home Run Derby - Gates open at 5 p.m.; ceremonies begin at 6 p.m.