Teams Prepare for 2013 BIG EAST Softball Championship



TAMPA, Fla. - Eight teams are scheduled to play at the 2013 BIG EAST Championship May 9-11 at the USF Softball Stadium on the campus of the University of South Florida. Notre Dame, USF, Louisville, DePaul, Georgetown, Syracuse, Providence and Seton Hall will compete for the title with quarterfinal action beginning Thursday, May 9.


The BIG EAST Championship final will be aired live on ESPN2 Saturday, May 11 at 4 p.m. ET.


Notre Dame (41-12, 19-3 BIG EAST) clinched the No. 1 seed with its third regular-season title in the past four years. The Fighting Irish took two of three games from Louisville in the regular-season finale to own the best record in the league at 19-3. The team is led by the 2012 BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year, junior Laura Winter. Winter has been named BIG EAST Player of the Week once and Pitcher of the Week three times. She leads the league in five major categories in conference play; home runs (9), RBI (37), slugging percentage (.922), wins (14) and walks allowed (4). The junior also ranks fourth in batting average (.453) and fourth in ERA (1.89). Notre Dame will face the No. 8 seed Seton Hall in Game 2 Thursday at 12:30 p.m. The Irish swept the Pirates during their March 23-24 three-game series and outscored them 30-5.


The No. 2 seed is occupied by the host school, No. 25/23 USF (40-14, 18-3 BIG EAST). The Bulls' 18-3 league record is their best since joining the BIG EAST in 2006. They are led by their three-headed pitching rotation that boasts a 1.32 overall ERA and 0.98 ERA in conference games. As of April 28 they ranked No. 2 in the nation in team ERA and the team's ace, junior Sara Nevins, ranked fourth with a 1.06 ERA. Nevins finished the regular season with 125 strikeouts in BIG EAST games, tied for the most among league leaders, and became the all-time strikeout leader at USF March 24. She has 759 for her career. Senior Lindsey Richardson leads the conference in ERA (0.82) and opposing batting average (.128). Offensively, the team hit 44 home runs this season, four shy of the school record set in 2005 and the most since joining the BIG EAST. USF will face the No. 7 seed, Providence, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The Bulls are 3-0 against the Friars this year and did not allow a run in the three-game series, outscoring the Friars 23-0.


No. 9/9 Louisville (45-10, 18-4 BIG EAST) claims the No. 3 seed one year after the Cardinals won the regular-season title. The 2012 BIG EAST Champions have been ranked among the top 25 in the coaches' poll for the past 28 ranking periods, dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season. The Cardinals defeated No. 1 Oklahoma 5-1 this season for its first win over a No. 1 team in program history and are 5-3 against top-25 teams. Since joining the league in 2006, they have won two BIG EAST Championships, were runners-up three times and own the highest winning percentage in the postseason tournament at .737 (14-5). Louisville leads the league in several offensive categories in conference games: batting average (.364), slugging percentage (.604), on-base percentage (.441), runs scored (173), RBI (165), doubles (45), and home runs (31). The Cardinals are paired against No. 6-seeded Syracuse at 4 p.m. May 9. The Cardinals are 2-1 against the Orange this season.


DePaul (31-20, 16-6 BIG EAST) is the fourth seed in the tournament, finishing exactly where it was picked in the preseason poll. The team is led by their 2012 second team All-American, junior Kirsten Verdun. Verdun leads the league in on-base percentage (.612) and walks (22) and is tied for first in strikeouts with 125 in BIG EAST games. The Blue Demons have reached the BIG EAST tournament every year since joining the league in 2006 and boast a 10-6 record with one championship. DePaul will face the fifth-seed, Georgetown, in Game 1 at 10 a.m. Thursday. The two teams have not met this season.


No. 5 seed Georgetown (21-32, 10-12 BIG EAST) was picked to finish last in the league in the preseason coaches' poll and makes its first trip to the BIG EAST Championship. The Hoyas won eight-straight games between March 17-28 to mark their longest win streak in program history. The team also defeated then-No. 7/8 Louisville 4-2, handing the Cardinals one of their four conference losses. Georgetown edged Syracuse for the No. 5 seed, owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.


Syracuse (23-28, 10-12 BIG EAST) claims the No. 6 seed in the tournament. The Orange have three wins over top-25 teams this season: No. 4/5 California, No. 11/11 Louisville and No. 24/24 USF. The team took two of three games in its regular-season finale against Providence to earn its ninth-straight postseason berth. Syracuse won back-to-back BIG EAST Championships in 2010 and 2011.


The No. 7 seed belongs to Providence (23-27-1, 9-13 BIG EAST). The Friars return to the championship after one year removed and for the fifth time in eight years. Senior Jessie Bryant was named BIG EAST Player of the Week April 22 to become the first Friar since 2007 to earn the award.  Providence won 11 of its last 15 games heading into the tournament.


Seton Hall (21-29, 8-13 BIG EAST) enters the BIG EAST Championship as the No. 8 seed. The Pirates' eight BIG EAST wins are the most for the program since the 2010 season. They are led by senior Brittany Hammer who ranks among the top 10 in program history in career hits (161), doubles (29), runs scored (93) and batting average (.311). Seton Hall took two of three games from Georgetown in its season-finale to earn the eighth seed.