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PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Eight teams will make their way to Notre Dame, Ind. for the 2012 BIG EAST Softball Championship, held on May 10-12 at Melissa Cook Stadium on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse, USF, DePaul, St. John's, Rutgers and Connecticut will all be competing for the championship crown. First-round games will take place on Thursday, May 10.
Top-seeded Louisville is making its seventh-straight appearance at the championship after winning the conference's regular-season title for the second time in program history. The No. 8/9 Cardinals produced an impressive 50-3 record this season, going 20-2 in league play. They set school records for wins in a season and longest winning streak, opening the season with 28 consecutive victories. UofL also was ranked in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball and USA Today/NFCA polls for the duration of the season.
The Cardinals hold the best record in the BIG EAST Championship, having won 11 games in the six years they have been a member of the conference (11-5, .688). They have earned three second-place finishes, including back-to-back losses to Syracuse in the title game of the 2010 and 2011 championships. UofL is hoping history can repeat itself after winning its only championship in 2008, the last time it was held at Notre Dame.
Louisville will face No. 8 seed Connecticut (21-26, 9-13 BIG EAST) in the first round at 12:30 p.m. ET. The Huskies, who are making their first appearance in the championship since 2009, are led by senior outfielder/catcher Amy Vaughan, who ranks second in the conference with .28 home runs per game. In a game against Cal State Bakersfield on March 13, UConn tied an NCAA record by hitting two grand slams in one inning.
No. 2 seed Notre Dame (36-13, 16-3 BIG EAST) enters the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. The Fighting Irish have won 15-straight games, including 11 conference games. They are making their 17th-straight trip to the BIG EAST Championship, having qualified for the tournament every year since joining the conference in the 1996 season. ND is looking for its seventh conference crown.
The Irish will play No. 7 seed Rutgers in the first round at 6:30 p.m. ET. The Scarlet Knights are participating in the championship for the third-consecutive season, a feat they had yet to accomplish since joining the league in 1996. RU is searching for its first conference title and its first appearance in the title game.
Syracuse earned the No. 3 seed with a 40-13 overall record and a 17-5 mark in league play. The Orange will be trying for their third-straight, and third overall, championship crown. They are led by senior pitcher Jenna Caira, the 2011 BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year and a two-time BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player (2010 and 2011). SU will face No. 6 seed St. John's at 4 p.m. ET in the first round.
The Red Storm are back at the Championship after a three-year hiatus. They are 2-9 overall in the tournament and have not recorded a tournament victory since 1990. This season, they were 22-33 overall and 10-12 in BIG EAST play. St. John's is led by senior catcher Kacee Cox, who leads the league in batting average (.484), slugging percentage (.968), on-base percentage (.558), hits (30) and home runs (8) during conference play.
The No. 4 seed goes to USF, which is ranked No. 18/16 in the national polls. The Bulls (45-10, 17-5 BIG EAST) are coming off a regular season where they recorded the program's best start to a season both overall (39-5) and in conference play (12-0). They also set a school record with 19-straight victories and were the first team in the nation to reach the 40-win mark. USF is led by sophomore lefty Sara Nevins who set records of her own, becoming the first player in conference history to earn BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week honors six times in a season and for five-consecutive weeks.
USF will match up against No. 5 seed DePaul in the first round at 10 a.m. ET. The Blue Demons are making their seventh-straight appearance in the championship, having qualified for the tournament in every year they have been a member of the conference. DPU is searching for its second BIG EAST Championship title after winning its first in 2008.
Results from all BIG EAST Softball Championship action can be found at the BIG EAST Championship Central page. All first and second round games will be streamed on BIGEAST.tv while the championship game will be televised live on ESPN2 on May 12 at 6 p.m.