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Big East Weekend Preview (April 29th-May 1)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Less than half of the BIG EAST baseball season remains and Connecticut holds a two-game lead on first place. The Huskies enter the weekend with a 12-game winning streak, the longest current streak in the nation. Pittsburgh is in second place, a half-game ahead of St. John’s. The Red Storm and Panthers will battle in Pittsburgh this weekend. Last weekend, three BIG EAST pitchers tossed complete-game shutouts including St. John’s Kyle Hansen (vs. Notre Dame), Connecticut’s Matt Barnes (vs. Georgetown) and Pittsburgh’s Matt Iannazzo (vs. Rutgers). The 2011 BIG EAST Championship will take place May 25-29 at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. 

Connecticut (29-12-1, 13-2) at Rutgers (14-23, 6-9)

Fri., April 29, 3 p.m.: UConn – RHP Matt Barnes (8-2, 0.92 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Gebler (2-4, 2.99 ERA)

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Sat., April 30, 1 p.m.: UConn – LHP Greg Nappo (5-2, 2.74 ERA) vs. LHP Rob Smorol (3-5, 4.21 ERA)

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Sun., May 1, 1 p.m.: UConn – RHP Brian Ward (2-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. RHP Nathaniel Roe (3-6, 5.66 ERA)

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·         Connecticut has a 12-game winning streak entering the series against Rutgers. It is the longest current winning streak in the country. Oklahoma and Georgia Tech hold the record for longest winning streak of 2011 at 16.

·         Connecticut’s pitching staff is led by junior Matt Barnes. Barnes has won eight-straight starts since starting the season 0-2. He leads the league in wins (8), ERA (0.92), innings pitched (78.0), strikeouts (69) and opponent batting average (.152).

·         The Huskies’ offense has been the best in the conference. Connecticut leads the BIG EAST in conference games in hitting (.326), slugging (.438), on-base percentage (.394), runs scored (104) and RBI (93).

·         Connecticut has outscored opponents 125-35 during it 12-game winning streak.

·         Rutgers ranks first in the BIG EAST in fielding percentage at .977. The Scarlet Knights have committed 14 errors in 604 chances.

·         Rutgers sophomore starter Rob Smorol has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last four starts.

·         The Scarlet Knights are led at the plate by Michael Lang, who is hitting .326 this season.

West Virginia (24-16, 10-5) at Villanova (15-24, 2-13)

Fri., April 29, 3:15 p.m.: WVU – RHP Josh McCauley (1-2, 3.86 ERA) vs. VU – RHP Kyle McMyne (3-6, 5.30 ERA)

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Sat., April 30, 1:15 p.m.: WVU – LHP Marshall Thompson (4-1, 4.40 ERA) vs. VU – Kyle Helisek (0-6, 5.37 ERA)

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Sun., May 1, 12:15 p.m.: WVU – RHP Andy Berry (6-2, 3.90 ERA) vs. VU – TBA

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·         West Virginia head coach Greg Van Zant recorded his 500th career win last weekend against Seton Hall. He is just the fourth coach in school history to accomplish the feat.

·         The Mountaineers are the only BIG EAST team with three players in the top ten of the conference in batting average. Grant Buckner ranks fifth (.349), Brady Wilson ranks seventh (.342) and Jeremy Gum stands eighth (.341).

·         WVU starting pitchers Andy Berry and Harrison Musgrave each have three wins in conference play. The two have led a staff that ranks third in conference games in ERA (3.20). Musgrave is 3-1 with a 3.54 ERA against BIG EAST opponents, while Berry is 3-1 with a 3.75 ERA.

·         Villanova won its fourth outright Liberty Bell Classic after defeating Delaware in a midweek contest at Citizens Bank Ballpark.

·         Wildcat junior Matt Fleishman has paced the offense all season with a .331 average. He had the fifth-longest on-base streak in the conference this season at 30 games.

·         The Wildcats have lost nine-straight BIG EAST games, being swept by Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Cincinnati in their three previous series.

·         VU’s Kyle McMyne has been one of the top strikeout pitchers in the BIG EAST. He leads the conference in strikeouts per nine innings at 11.10, which ranks 16th in the nation.

Seton Hall (19-19, 6-9) at Notre Dame (14-20-1, 5-9)

Fri., April 29, 6:35 p.m.: SHU – TBA vs. ND – RHP Brian Dupra (2-4, 2.48 ERA)

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Sat., April 30, 2:05 p.m.: SHU – RHP Joe DiRocco (5-0, 1.64 ERA) vs. ND – RHP Cole Johnson (3-6, 3.03 ERA)

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Sun., May 1, 11:05 a.m.: SHU – RHP Jon Prosinski (3-4, 2.91 ERA) vs. ND – RHP Todd Miller (3-3, 3.88 ERA)

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·         Notre Dame holds a 28-12 edge all-time against Seton Hall.

·         The Pirates are fighting in the middle of the BIG EAST standings for the right to advance to the BIG EAST Championship. The teams are separated by just a half-game entering a the three-game set.

·         The series pits two of the best pitching staffs in the league against each other. The Pirates sit second in the BIG EAST with a 3.04 team ERA. Notre Dame ranks fourth with a 3.23 ERA.

·         Seton Hall righty Joe DiRocco is one of two starting pitchers in the BIG EAST without a loss this season (Louisville’s Justin Amlung is the other). DiRocco is 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA.

·         The Pirates are led by Zack Granite at the plate who is batting .316. Sean Gusrang (.315) and Mike Genovese (.313.) are also batting over .300 for SHU this season.

·         Trey Mancini has been one of the top freshmen in the BIG EAST this season. He ranks first on the team and 11th in the league with a .339 batting average.

·         The Irish are third in the BIG EAST in conference games with a team ERA at 3.00, but rank last in team batting average at .235.

·         ND Friday starter Brian Dupra ranks in the BIG EAST with a 2.48 ERA.

Georgetown (20-23, 2-13) at Louisville (22-18, 8-7)

Fri., April 29, 6 p.m.: GU – LHP Thomas Polus (1-2, 4.44 ERA) vs. UofL – RHP Derek Self (2-1, 1.55 ERA)

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Sat., April 30, 1 p.m.: GU – RHP Charles Steinman (1-4, 4.35 ERA) vs. UofL – RHP Justin Amlung (7-0, 1.42 ERA)

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Sun., May 1, 1 p.m.:  GU – LHP Alex Meyer (3-1, 3.57 ERA) vs. UofL – RHP Jeff Thompson (1-0, 2.67 ERA)

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·         Louisville owns a 9-3 advantage all-time against the Hoyas. The Cardinals won two of three in the series played last year in Bethesda, Md.

·         The Louisville pitching staff ranks fourth in the BIG EAST with a 3.06 ERA. The Cardinals staff has six shutouts and 272 strikeouts this season.

·         Louisville Saturday starter Justin Amlung is one of two starting pitchers in the BIG EAST without a loss this season (Seton Hall’s Joe DiRocco is the other). Amlung is 7-0 with a 1.42 ERA this season.

·         The Cardinals have been outscored 37-12 in the first inning this season. Nearly half (74 of 158) of the runs Louisville has allowed this year have come in the first three innings.

·         Georgetown went 1-1 in midweek games this week, including a 17-2 thumping of Navy. Georgetown is 2-11 in its last 13 games.

·         The Hoyas are in search of their first BIG EAST series win since the squad took two of three from Notre Dame on April 1-3, 2010.

·         Georgetown has two players in the top five of stolen bases. Justin Leeson is third in the BIG EAST with 19 steals while Rand Ravnaas in fourth with 18.

St. John’s (25-13, 10-4) at USF (19-21, 8-7)

Fri., April 29, 7 p.m.: STJ – RHP Kyle Hansen (6-3, 2.42 ERA) vs. USF – RHP Randy Fontanez (4-3, 2.88 ERA)

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Sat., April 30, 7 p.m.: STJ – LHP Kevin Kilpatrick (3-2, 3.71 ERA) vs. USF – TBA

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Sun., May 1, 1 p.m.: STJ – Brendan Lobban (4-1, 3.99 ERA) vs. USF – TBA

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·         The Red Storm are on a seven-game winning streak entering this weekend. St. John’s is unbeaten at home (12-0) but just 8-12 on the road including 2-4 in conference play.

·         STJ’s Joe Panik is second in the BIG EAST with a .415 average. He also leads the league with a .520 on-base percentage.

·         Red Storm Friday starter Kyle Hansen had an outstanding performance against Notre Dame last weekend, throwing a complete-game shutout with 15 strikeouts en route to the victory and BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week honors. Hansen is second in the conference in BIG EAST games with 35 strikeouts.

·         USF’s Junior Carlin had his 19-game hitting streak snapped against Miami in a mid-week game. It is tied for the longest in the conference this season. Carlin has reached base in 21 consecutive contests.

·         Bulls’ starter Randy Fontanez is one of the top control pitchers in the country. He ranks 24th in the nation, allowing just 1.00 walks per nine innings. Fontanez is 4-3 with a 2.88 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 72.0 innings pitched this year.

·         USF is led by Joe Koscso, who is hitting .331 this season.

Cincinnati (22-16, 8-7) at Pittsburgh (25-13, 11-4)

Sat., April 30, Noon: Cin – RHP Dan Jensen (3-3, 2.11 ERA) vs. Pitt – LHP Matt Ianazzo (5-2, 2.76 ERA)

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Sat., April 30, TBA: Cin – RHP Andrew Strenge (2-4, 3.48 ERA) vs. Pitt – RHP Corey Baker (4-1, 4.53 ERA)

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Sun., May 1, Noon: Cin – RHP Nick Johnson (4-1, 3.33 ERA) vs. Pitt – RHP Ethan Mildren (4-3, 2.68 ERA)

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·         Pittsburgh owns an 8-6 advantage in the all-time series. Last season, the Bearcats and Panthers met four times with Pitt winning four of those meetings.

·         Cincinnati and Pittsburgh both swept teams last weekend, with the Bearcats taking all three against Villanova and the Panthers going 3-0 against Rutgers. Cincinnati is riding a five-game winnings streak while Pitt has won seven straight.

·         Pittsburgh has arguably the highest powered offense in the BIG EAST. The Panthers lead the league in batting average (.312), slugging (.450), on-base percentage (.399), runs scored (246), RBI (219) and triples (21).

·         Pitt catcher Kevan Smith leads the BIG EAST in batting average (.416), slugging (.667) and total bases (84). David Chester leads the league with nine home runs and 42 RBI.

·         Pittsburgh has won 11 of its last 13 BIG EAST contests.

·         Braden Kline has paced the Cincinnati offense in BIG EAST games with a .380 average which ranks third in the conference.

·         UC’s Jake Proctor is fourth in the BIG EAST with 16 steals. He has only been caught once this season.

·         The Cincinnati pitching staff leads the BIG EAST in strikeouts in conference games with 125.

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