PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Two weekends remain in the BIG EAST baseball season and Connecticut is the only team to clinch a spot in the 2011 BIG EAST Baseball Championship. The Huskies’ magic number to claim the BIG EAST regular-season title is two against both St. John’s and West Virginia, meaning any combination of two Connecticut wins and St. John’s and West Virginia losses gives the Huskies the crown. It would be the first outright regular-season title for the Huskies. Meanwhile, the battle for the final position in the BIG EAST Championship is tightening with six games to play. Only three games separate 10th place from fifth in the standings. The 2011 BIG EAST Championship will take place May 25-29 at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.
Louisville (25-24, 11-10) at Connecticut (34-13-1, 18-3)
Fri., May 6, 6 p.m.: UofL – RHP Derek Self (2-1, 1.25 ERA) vs. UConn – RHP Matt Barnes (9-3, 1.38 ERA)
Sat., May 7, 1 p.m.: UofL – RHP Justin Amlung (8-1, 1.58 ERA) vs. UConn – LHP Greg Nappo (7-2, 2.55 ERA)
Sun., May 8, Noon: UofL – TBA vs. UConn – LHP Brian Ward (4-0, 2.60 ERA)
· No. 18/RV Connecticut’s magic number is two against both St. John’s and West Virginia entering the series with Louisville. Any combination of two Connecticut wins and St. John’s and West Virginia losses gives the Huskies their first outright BIG EAST regular-season title.
· The Huskies are 15-2-1 at home and have won 13-straight home games since defeating St. John’s 9-1 on April 2.
· Connecticut leads the BIG EAST in conference games in batting (.319), slugging (.435), on-base percentage (.385), runs scored (134), hits (232), RBI (121), ERA (2.07) and opposing batting average (.197).
· Husky Friday starter Matt Barnes leads the BIG EAST with nine wins, which ranks eighth in the country. Barnes is also first in the conference (and second in the country) in hits allowed per nine innings, giving up just 4.85.
· Louisville has lost eight straight on the road entering the series with Connecticut, with the Cardinals’ last win away from home coming on April 9 at Cincinnati. The Cardinals are 7-12 in true road games this season.
· The Cardinals are looking to snap a six-game losing streak after losing a midweek contest to No. 2/3 Vanderbilt.
· Louisville Saturday starter Justin Amlung lost his first decision of the season at Seton Hall last week. Amlung is 8-1 with a 1.58 ERA. He ranks fourth in the BIG EAST in ERA and second in wins this season.
Rutgers (17-27, 8-13) at Villanova (17-29, 4-17)
Fri., May 6, 6 p.m.: RU – RHP Tyler Gebler (3-5, 3.24 ERA) vs. VU – LHP Kyle Helisek (1-7, 5.43 ERA)
Sat., May 7, 4 p.m.: RU – LHP Rob Smorol (3-7, 4.15 ERA) vs. VU – RHP Kyle McMyne (4-17, 5.13 ERA)
Sun., May 8, 11 a.m.: RU – RHP Ryan Fasano (1-0, 2.79 ERA) vs. VU – RHP Max Almonte (2-0, 5.16 ERA)
· Rutgers begins the weekend two games behind Seton Hall for eighth place in the BIG EAST. The top eight teams in the conference qualify for the BIG EAST Championship.
· Villanova has just one BIG EAST series win this season. The Wildcats took two of three from West Virginia on April 29- May 1.
· VU Saturday starter Kyle McMyne is one of the top strikeout pitchers in the country. McMyne has 80 strikeouts in 66.7 innings pitched this season, giving him an average of 10.79 strikeouts per nine innings which ranks 15th in the country.
· Villanova ranks last in the BIG EAST with a 5.64 team ERA.
· Scarlet Knights’ reliever Rob Corsi leads the BIG EAST in ERA in conference games at 0.84. He worked a season-long 6.1 innings of scoreless relief with six strikeouts and four hits allowed to pick up his fourth win in relief in RU’s 14-inning victory over Notre Dame on Sunday.
· Rutgers senior Michael Lang collected seven hits last week to move into seventh place on the Scarlet Knights’ career hits chart with 218. He also ranks sixth in school history in career runs (173), sixth in total bases, sixth in triples (12), eighth in doubles (46) and ninth in home runs (23).
· Rutgers leads the BIG EAST in fielding percentage at .977. The Scarlet Knights have committed just 20 errors in 865 chances.
West Virginia (27-20, 13-8) at Pittsburgh (28-18, 12-9)
Fri., May 6, 7 p.m.: WVU – RHP Josh McCauley (1-3, 3.92 ERA) vs. Pitt – LHP Matt Iannazzo (5-3, 2.87 ERA)
Sat., May 7, 3 p.m.: WVU – LHP Marshall Thompson (5-2, 4.70 ERA) vs. Pitt – RHP Corey Baker (4-2, 5.26 ERA)
Sun., May 8, Noon: WVU – RHP Andy Berry (7-2, 3.94 ERA) vs. Pitt – RHP Ethan Mildren (4-2, 4.13 ERA)
· West Virginia holds a 69-63 advantage all time in the baseball edition of the Backyard Brawl. Last season, the Panthers swept the Mountaineers in Morgantown, outscoring WVU 43-21.
· The series features two of the top three offensive teams in the conference. Pittsburgh leads the BIG EAST in batting (.312), slugging (.442), triples (21) and on-base percentage (.398). West Virginia ranks third in the conference in batting (.303) and slugging (.425), while also sitting first in home runs (31) and fourth in runs scored (290).
· Reigning BIG EAST Player of the Week Grant Buckner leads the BIG EAST in batting average at .455. Buckner is also the conference leader in slugging (.727) and on-base percentage (.533).
· Pitt’s John Schultz is tied for the school record in career doubles with 51 entering the weekend.
· Pitt freshman Ethan Mildren is ranked first in the conference in walks allowed per nine innings, allowing just 0.55. He has issued only four free passes in 65.1 innings of work.
· Pittsburgh’s Kevan Smith leads the conference with a .398 batting average, which also ranks 29th in the country.
St. John’s (27-17, 13-7) at Georgetown (23-27, 5-16)
Fri., May 6, 7 p.m.: STJ – RHP Kyle Hansen (7-4, 2.32 ERA) vs. GU – LHP Thomas Polus (1-2, 3.89 ERA)
Sat., May 7, 7 p.m.: STJ – LHP Kevin Kilpatrick (3-3, 3.69 ERA) vs. GU – RHP Alex Baker (3-3, 4.87 ERA)
Sun., May 8, 1 p.m.: STJ – LHP Brendan Lobban (5-1, 3.33 ERA) vs. GU – LHP Alex Meyer (3-1, 3.69 ERA)
· St. John’s can clinch a trip to the BIG EAST Championship with a sweep of the Hoyas this weekend.
· The Red Storm are unbeaten at home in BIG EAST play (11-0), but have posted a 2-7 record on the road in conference games.
· Head coach Ed Blankmeyer recorded his 249th BIG EAST victory in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on May 6 to become the all-time winningest coach in conference history.
· St. John’s won in walk-off fashion for the fifth time this season, completing a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh after Joe Witkowski lined a two-run single in the 10th inning of an 8-7 win.
· The sweep of Villanova was the first for the Hoyas in BIG EAST play since 2001. It also was the first BIG EAST series win this season for Georgetown. The team’s last series win came on April 1-3, 2010, when the Hoyas took two of three from Notre Dame.
· The 17 runs in Game 2 of the series against VU were the most ever for the Hoyas in a BIG EAST game.
· Georgetown outfielder Rand Ravnaas hit a league-best .647 last week. He is currently on a six-game hitting streak. Ravnaas is batting .692 in his last six conference games (18-for-26) with six doubles and five RBI.
USF (22-25, 11-10) at Notre Dame (18-24-1, 9-11)
Fri., May 6, 7 p.m.: USF – RHP Randy Fontanez (5-4, 2.59 ERA) vs. ND – RHP Brian Dupra (2-5, 2.57 ERA)
Sat., May 7, 2 p.m.: USF – RHP Junior Carlin (1-2, 4.38 ERA) vs. ND – RHP Cole Johnson (4-6, 2.50 ERA)
Sun., May 8, 1 p.m.: USF – RHP Kyle Eastham (3-5, 4.55 ERA) vs. ND – RHP Todd Miller (3-3, 3.97 ERA)
· Notre Dame is half game behind Seton Hall for the final spot in the BIG EAST Championship and just one-and-a-half games behind USF.
· The Irish have struggled at the plate all season, hitting a league-low .240 as a team. But the Irish have one of the top pitching staffs in the conference, ranking third with a 2.83 team ERA.
· Notre Dame freshman Trey Mancini ranks first in the BIG EAST among rookies in batting. Mancini is hitting .342 this season, which ranks 12th in the conference.
· USF was swept in a three-game set at Connecticut last week.
· Junior Carlin has hit safely in all 19 BIG EAST games he has played this season and his last 20 straight dating back to 2010. Carlin has reached base safely in 27-straight games, the second-longest current streak in the BIG EAST.
· Righthander Randy Fontanez threw seven innings in the first game of the series against Connecticut, allowing two runs on seven hits. Fontanez is seventh in the BIG EAST in league games with a 2.19 ERA.
Seton Hall (24-21, 10-11) at Cincinnati (26-21, 11-10)
Sat., May 7, 1 p.m.: SHU – RHP Joe DiRocco (6-0, 1.45 ERA) vs. Cin – RHP Dan Jensen (3-3, 2.69 ERA)
Sat., May 7, TBA: SHU – RHP Jon Prosinski (4-4, 2.27 ERA) vs. Cin – RHP Andrew Strenge (3-5, 4.73 ERA)
Sun., May 8, 1 p.m.: SHU – RHP Brian Gilbert (1-2, 3.30 ERA) vs. Cin – RHP Nick Johnson (5-2, 4.90 ERA)
· Seton Hall swept Louisville last week, giving the Pirates their first sweep in conference play since 2009.
· Seton Hall held Louisville scoreless for the first 28 innings of the series, notching a pair of 1-0 wins over the first two games including an 18-inning affair in Game 1.
· In the 18-inning win in Game 1 of the series, Joe DiRocco threw nine innings of one-hit baseball before giving way to the bullpen. Ryan Harvey got the win in relief, throwing five innings, allowing just one hit and striking out 10.
· DiRocco is 6-0 with a 1.62 ERA this season. He is the only remaining BIG EAST starting pitcher without a loss this season.
· Cincinnati’s Justin Glass and Braden Kline have two of the top three longest current hitting streaks in the BIG EAST. Glass has hit safely in 18-straight games while Kline has hit in 14-straight, ranking second and third respectively in the league.
· The Bearcats rank second in the BIG EAST in league contests in batting with a .291 average. The team is also second in strikeouts with 149.
· Sunday starter Dan Jensen in second in the BIG EAST with 48 strikeouts in league games. Justin Riddell is second in the conference with 23 RBI.