PROVIDENCE, R.I. – With just three weeks remaining in the BIG EAST regular season, the Connecticut Huskies cling to a three-game lead in the standings. The top eight teams qualify for the 2011 BIG EAST Championship. Notre Dame sits in the No. 8 spot entering the weekend with a 7-10 record. The Irish are a half-game ahead of Seton Hall and Rutgers, which are both 7-11. Rutgers hosts Notre Dame for a three-game series, beginning with a doubleheader on Saturday. The weekend starts early as Louisville and Seton Hall open on Thursday night at 6 p.m. Eastern. The 2011 BIG EAST Championship will take place May 25-29 at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.
Louisville (25-19, 11-7) at Seton Hall (21-21, 7-11)
Thurs., May 5, 6 p.m.: UofL – RHP Derek Self (2-1, 1.49 ERA) vs. SHU – RHP Joe DiRocco (6-0, 1.62 ERA)
Fri., May 6, 4 p.m.: UofL – RHP Justin Amlung (8-0, 1.64 ERA) vs. SHU - RHP Jon Prosinski (3-4, 2.65 ERA)
Sat., May 7, 11 a.m.: UofL – TBA vs. SHU – RHP Brian Gilbert (0-2, 3.11 ERA)
· Seton Hall’s 3-0 win over Saint Peter’s on Tuesday was the program’s 1,900th win dating back to 1863.
· The series will feature the only two unbeaten starting pitchers in the BIG EAST. Seton Hall’s Joe DiRocco puts a 6-0 record on the line on Thursday, while Louisville’s Justin Amlung (8-0) takes the hill on Friday.
· The Pirates bring the second-best team ERA in the conference into the weekend. The Seton Hall pitching staff has a 2.19 ERA in BIG EAST games. Friday starter Jon Prosinski leads the league in conference games with a 1.38 ERA.
· Seton Hall’s win against St. Peter’s gave the team five-straight wins against nonconference opponents.
· Louisville is third in the BIG EAST in team ERA at 2.91. Louisville has two pitchers in the top five of the league in ERA. Derek Self is second with a 1.49 ERA while Amlung is fourth with a 1.64 ERA.
· The Cardinals’ offense is led by outfielder Stewart Ijames, who is tied for the league lead with 10 home runs.
Pittsburgh (27-15, 12-6) at St. John’s (23-17, 10-7)
Fri., May 6, 6 p.m.: Pitt – LHP Matt Iannazzo (5-2, 3.07 ERA) vs. STJ – RHP Kyle Hansen (6-4, 2.45)
Sat., May 7, 1 p.m.: Pitt – RHP Ethan Mildren (4-4, 3.34 ERA) vs. STJ – LHP Kevin Kilpatrick (3-3, 4.08 ERA)
Sun., May 8, Noon: Pitt – RHP Corey Baker (4-2, 5.31 ERA) vs. STJ – LHP Brendan Lobban (4-1, 3.65 ERA)
· St. John’s leads the all-time series 42-29. The Panthers swept the Red Storm in Pittsburgh last year.
· Pitt holds the top spot in the conference in several offensive categories, including batting average (.313), slugging percentage (.453), triples (21) and on-base percentage (.403).
· The series features two of the top hitters in the conference. Pitt’s Kevan Smith leads the conference with a .405 batting average. St. John’s Joe Panik is second in the conference with a .400 average.
· Pitt’s David Chester is tied for the league lead with 10 home runs.
· St. John’s is the top fielding team in the BIG EAST with a .973 fielding percentage.
· St. John’s is coming off its first home loss of the season, falling to Iona 14-4. The Red Storm are unbeaten at home in conference play with an 8-0 record.
· Red Storm Friday starter Kyle Hansen is 4-2 with a 2.08 ERA in BIG EAST play. Hansen ranks third in the BIG EAST in league games with 38 strikeouts.
Villanova (17-25, 4-14) at Georgetown (20-26, 2-16)
Fri., May 6, 7 p.m.: VU – RHP Kyle McMyne (4-6, 4.74 ERA) vs. GU – LHP Thomas Polus (1-2, 3.77 ERA)
Sat., May 7, 7 p.m.: VU – LHP Kyle Helisek (1-6, 4.72 ERA) vs. GU – RHP Alex Baker (3-2, 4.36 ERA)
Sun., May 8, 1 p.m.: VU – RHP Pat Young (1-1, 5.46 ERA) vs. GU – LHP Alex Meyer (2-1, 3.48 ERA)
· Villanova snapped a nine-game losing streak by winning four straight games and going 4-1 last week, including its first BIG EAST series win of the season. The Wildcats took two of three games from West Virginia and came within one out of a series sweep.
· In the win at Temple the Wildcats trailed 8-7 going into the ninth inning but rallied when junior right fielder Matt Fleishman hit a two-out, two-run home run to give Villanova a 9-8 lead and the eventual win. This marked the first time Villanova has won a road game that it trailed going to the ninth inning in nearly 11 years since May 7, 2000.
· Villanova Friday starter Kyle McMyne leads the BIG EAST with 73 strikeouts.
· Georgetown has not won a BIG EAST series since April 1-3, 2010, when the Hoyas took two of three from Notre Dame.
· The Hoyas are second in the BIG EAST with 71 stolen bases. Justin Leeson and Rand Ravnaas are first and second respectively in the league. Leeson has 22 steals in 24 attempts and Ravnaas has 21 steals in 25 attempts.
Notre Dame (16-22-1, 7-10) at Rutgers (16-25, 7-11)
Sat., May 7, 1 p.m.: ND – RHP Brian Dupra (2-5, 2.42 ERA) vs. RU – RHP Tyler Gebler (3-4, 2.99 ERA)
Sat., May 7, TBA: ND – RHP Cole Johnson (3-6, 2.78 ERA) vs. RU – LHP Rob Smorol (3-6, 4.43 ERA)
Sun., May 8, Noon: ND – RHP Todd Miller (3-3, 3.98 ERA) vs. RU – RHP Ryan Fasano (1-0, 2.88 ERA)
· The Irish hold a half-game lead on the Scarlet Knights for eighth place in the BIG EAST standings heading into the series in Piscataway this weekend. The top-eight teams in the conference earn a trip to the BIG EAST Championship.
· The Irish are the top pitching staff in the BIG EAST with a 2.90 ERA. Friday starter Brian Dupra ranks sixth in the BIG EAST with a 2.42 ERA. Notre Dame has allowed a league-low 117 earned runs in 363.1 innnings.
· Notre Dame is last in the conference in batting. The Irish are hitting .235 with 143 runs scored.
· Irish freshman Trey Mancini has been one of the top rookies in the BIG EAST. He leads the team with a .319 average.
· Rutgers’ righty Tyler Gebler threw his third complete game of the season against Connecticut last week. Gebler got the win, topping Connecticut’s Matt Barnes.
· The Scarlet Knights will send junior righty Ryan Fasano who is coming off a complete-game victory over Iona on Tuesday, will make his first conference start in Sunday’s series finale. Fasano is 1-0 with a 2.88 earned run average in three starts and 11 total appearances this season.
· RU is led by outfielder Michael Lang with a .329 average.
Cincinnati (24-18, 10-8) at West Virginia (25-18, 11-7)
Sat., May 7, 2 p.m.: Cin – RHP Dan Jensen (3-3, 2.36 ERA) vs. WVU – RHP Josh McCauley (1-3, 3.58 ERA)
Sat., May 7, TBA: Cin – RHP Andrew Strenge (3-4, 3.77 ERA) vs. WVU – LHP Marshall Thompson (4-2, 4.83 ERA)
Sun., May 8, 1 p.m.: Cin – RHP Nick Johnson (5-1, 3.75 ERA) vs. WVU – RHP Andy Berry (6-2, 3.75 ERA)
· West Virginia holds a one-game advantage on Cincinnati entering the weekend. The Mountaineers are in a three-way tie for third with an 11-7 conference record.
· WVU is one of the top offensive teams in the BIG EAST. The Mountaineers rank third in batting average (.302), slugging percentage (.422) and fourth in runs scored (259).
· West Virginia shortstop Grant Buckner leads the BIG EAST with a .439 batting average in league games. He has reached base in 37-straight games, conference-best this season.
· Cincinnati leads the BIG EAST in conference games in strikeouts with 135. Righty Dan Jensen leads the conference individually with 44 strikeouts.
· The Bearcats are third in the conference with a .287 team batting average. The squad has three players with hitting streaks of 10 games or more. Justin Glass is on a 14-game hitting streak, while Braden Kline and Justin Riddell have each hit safely in 10 consecutive games.
USF (22-22, 11-7) at Connecticut (31-13-1, 15-3)
Sat., May 7, 6:30 p.m.: USF – Randy Fontanez (5-3, 2.59 ERA) RHP vs. UConn – RHP Matt Barnes (8-3, 1.41 ERA)
Sun., May 8, 2 p.m.: USF – RHP Junior Carlin (1-1, 3.92 ERA) vs. UConn – LHP Greg Nappo (6-2, 2.67 ERA)
Mon., May 9, 1 p.m.: USF – RHP Kyle Eastham (3-4, 4.55 ERA) vs. UConn – LHP Brian Ward (3-0, 3.38 ERA)
· Connecticut has a three-game lead on first place in the conference. The Huskies are looking for their first regular-season conference title.
· The Huskies lead the BIG EAST in conference games in batting (.324), on-base percentage (.386), slugging percentage (.444), runs scored (121), RBI (110), ERA (2.19) and opponent batting average (.196).
· Connecticut righty Matt Barnes had an eight-game winnings streak snapped against Rutgers last week. He is tied for the league-lead with eight wins and leads the conference with a 1.41 ERA.
· USF swept St. John’s in a series last week. The series sweep is the team’s first in BIG EAST play of the season. It marks the first series sweep and first series win against St. John’s in five tries. USF is now 8-10 against the Red Storm.
· USF pitching combined to hold the St. John’s lineup to three runs over 29.0 innings pitched. St. John’s hit just .202 on the weekend.
· The ninth inning come-from behind win on Sunday is the first of the season for the Bulls. USF is above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2009 season.