PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Seven teams are fighting for five remaining spots in the BIG EAST Championship as only three teams have assured themselves of postseason appearances. Connecticut is the only team that knows its fate, as the Huskies clinched their first outright BIG EAST title last week and will be the No. 1 seed at the BIG EAST Championship. Pittsburgh and St. John’s also have punched tickets to the championship. Seton Hall and USF begin the weekend tied for the eighth and final tournament spot, with USF holding the tiebreaker over the Pirates. USF hosts Pittsburgh and Seton Hall hosts Georgetown this weekend. Notre Dame and Louisville battle in an important three-game set, with the final two games of the series televised on the CBS Sports Network. All of the BIG EAST series will begin on Thursday, with Saturday being the final day of regular-season play. The 2011 BIG EAST Championship will take place May 25-29 at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.
Villanova (19-30, 6-18) at St. John’s (30-17, 16-7)
Thurs., May 19, 1 p.m.: VU – LHP Kyle Helisek (1-8, 5.85 ERA) vs. STJ – RHP Kyle Hansen (8-4, 2.44 ERA)
Fri., May 20, 1 p.m.: VU – RHP Kyle McMyne (4-7, 4.71 ERA) vs. STJ – LHP Kevin Kilpatrick (3-3, 4.31 ERA)
Sat., May 21, 1 p.m.: VU – RHP Max Almonte (2-0, 4.34 ERA) vs. STJ – LHP Brendan Lobban (6-1, 3.21 ERA)
· St. John’s and Villanova have met 63 times dating back to 1960. The Red Storm own a 42-21 advantage in the series, including a 19-7 mark at home. The last time the two teams met in Queens, St. John’s swept the Wildcats in a three-game set.
· St. John’s is 16-1 at home this season including 11-0 in BIG EAST play.
· Red Storm first baseman Paul Karmas, the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Week, has 170 career RBI. He is 11 RBI away from the school record held by Robert Lambraia. Karmas also needs seven hits to tie the career hits record.
· The Red Storm broke the school record for runs scored in a BIG EAST game with 25 in Game 2 of the series against Georgetown. STJ launched four home runs in the contest.
· Villanova’s offense is paced by Matt Fleishman, who owns a .333 average and 19 doubles on the year.
· Wildcat starter Kyle McMyne is one of the top strikeout pitchers in the nation. McMyne ranks 15th in the country with 11.02 strikeouts per nine innings.
· VU shortstop Marlon Calbi ranks fourth in the conference in BIG EAST games with a .396 average.
Georgetown (23-30, 5-19) at Seton Hall (25-23, 11-13)
Thurs., May 19, 3 p.m.: GU – LHP Thomas Polus (1-2, 3.98 ERA) vs. SHU – RHP Joe DiRocco (6-1, 1.49 ERA)
Fri., May 20, 3 p.m.: GU – RHP Tommy Isaacs (4-2, 3.88 ERA) vs. SHU – RHP Jon Prosinski (5-4, 2.14 ERA)
Sat., May 21, Noon: GU – LHP Alex Meyer (3-2, 5.15 ERA) vs. SHU – RHP Brian Gilbert (1-3, 3.33 ERA)
· Seton Hall enters the series with Georgetown with a conference-best 2.68 team ERA. The Pirates have two pitchers in the top five in ERA. Joe DiRocco ranks second with a 1.49 ERA while Jon Prosinski ranks fifth with a 2.14 ERA.
· DiRocco suffered his first loss of the season last weekend against Cincinnati. DiRocco was the last BIG EAST pitcher to suffer a loss and has a 6-1 record on the season.
· Georgetown was swept by St. John’s last weekend, getting outscored 44-12 by the Red Storm in the three-game series.
· Georgetown is led offensively by outfielder Rand Ravnaas, who ranks seventh in the BIG EAST with a .360 average. Ravnaas also is second in the league with 25 steals.
· Hoya outfielder Justin Leeson is tied for the league lead with 53 runs scored. Leeson has also stolen 24 bases this season.
Notre Dame (21-24-1, 12-11) at Louisville (26-26, 12-12)
Thurs., May 19, 6 p.m.: ND – RHP Brian Dupra (3-5, 2.37 ERA) vs. UofL – RHP Derek Self (2-2, 1.99 ERA)
Fri., May 20, 7 p.m. (CBS SN): ND – RHP Cole Johnson (4-6, 2.69 ERA) vs. UofL – RHP Justin Amlung (8-2, 2.06 ERA)
Sat., May 21, 1 p.m. (CBS SN): ND – RHP Todd Miller (4-3, 3.96 ERA) vs. UofL - TBA
· The final two games of the Notre Dame-Louisville series will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network. The Irish enter the series in sixth place in the BIG EAST standings while Louisville is seventh.
· The series features two of the best pitching staffs in the conference. Louisville enters the weekend ranked third in the league in ERA at 3.02 while Notre Dame is fourth at 3.18.
· Notre Dame is coming off its first sweep of the 2011 season, taking three games from USF last weekend. It was the first sweep for the Irish at Frank Eck Stadium since April 3-4, 2009, against Villanova.
· Irish freshman first baseman Trey Mancini leads all rookies in hitting this season with a .339 average. Mancini ranks second in the BIG EAST in conference games with seven home runs
· Louisville starters Derek Self and Justin Amlung are ranked third and fourth respectively in the BIG EAST in ERA. Self has registered a 1.99 ERA while Amlung has 2.06 ERA.
· Cardinal outfielder Stewart Ijames leads the BIG EAST in league play with eight home runs. He could be the first UofL player to win the home run crown since Logan Johnson in 2006.
Connecticut (36-14-1, 20-4) at Cincinnati (28-23, 13-11)
Thurs., May 19, 6:30 p.m.: UConn – RHP Matt Barnes (10-3, 1.27 ERA) vs. Cin – RHP Dan Jensen (3-4, 2.97 ERA)
Fri., May 20, 6:30 p.m.: UConn – LHP Greg Nappo (8-2, 2.55 ERA) vs. Cin – RHP Andrew Strenge (4-5, 4.35 ERA)
Sat., May 21, 1 p.m.: UConn – LHP Brian Ward (4-0, 2.57 ERA) vs. Cin – RHP Nick Johnson (5-2, 4.78 ERA)
· Connecticut has already clinched the No. 1 seed in the 2011 BIG EAST Championship, as the Huskies won their first outright BIG EAST regular-season title.
· The Huskies lead the BIG EAST in conference games in batting (.321), slugging percentage (.435), RBI (136), ERA (2.09), strikeouts (176) and opponent batting average (.196).
· Connecticut’s three weekend starters – Matt Barnes, Greg Nappo and Brian Ward – are the top three pitchers in opponent batting average in BIG EAST games. Barnes leads the pack (.166), while Nappo is second (.189) and Ward is third (.198).
· With a win in his final start, Connecticut’s Matt Barnes can tie the BIG EAST mark for conference wins in a season with eight. The feat has been accomplished three other times in the history of the BIG EAST.
· The Bearcats are third in the BIG EAST in league play with a .284 batting average. Justin Riddell ranks fifth individually with a .386 average.
· UC’s Riddell has driven in 25 runs in BIG EAST play, which ties him for third in the conference.
· Cincinnati is tied for the third-fewest stolen bases allowed in BIG EAST play this season. Only 14 runners have stolen successfully against Cincinnati, which puts the Bearcats behind Notre Dame and Connecticut, which have each allowed 12 steals this season.
Pittsburgh (31-19, 15-9) at USF (22-28, 11-13)
Thurs., May 19, 7 p.m.: Pitt – LHP Matt Iannazzo (6-3, 2.58 ERA) vs. USF - RHP Randy Fontanez (5-5, 2.73 ERA)
Fri., May 20, 7 p.m.: Pitt – RHP Corey Baker (5-2, 5.06 ERA) vs. USF - TBA
Sat., May 21, 1 p.m.: Pitt – RHP Matt Wotherspoon (5-1, 3.54 ERA) vs. USF - TBA
· USF leads the all-time series with Pittsburgh 9-2. Last year, the Bulls took two of three from the Panthers in Pittsburgh.
· The Panthers trail St. John’s by one game for second-place in the standings entering the weekend. Meanwhile, USF is fighting to qualify for the championship. The Bulls are tied with Seton Hall for the final spot in the tournament and own the tiebreaker over the Pirates after taking two of three in the season series.
· Pittsburgh’s John Schultz is in contention for the individual batting title as he enters the series batting .404 in league play. He trails West Virginia’s Grant Buckner who is hitting .438.
· The Panthers lead the BIG EAST in batting average (.314), slugging (.450), on-base percentage (.402), triples (22) and runs scored (340).
· USF boasts one of the best closers in the BIG EAST in Kevin Quackenbush. He has 12 saves this season to lead the BIG EAST and has notched a 0.89 ERA in 26 appearances.
· Bulls third baseman Jonathan Koscso is the only USF player hitting over .300 at .332. Koscso has reached base in 15-straight games entering this weekend.
Rutgers (18-29, 9-15) at West Virginia (27-23, 13-11)
Thurs., May 19, 7 p.m.: RU – RHP Tyler Gebler (4-5, 3.19 ERA) vs. WVU – RHP Josh McCauley (1-4, 5.11 ERA)
Fri., May 20, 7 p.m.: RU – LHP Rob Smorol (3-7, 3.86 ERA) vs. WVU – LHP Marshall Thompson (5-3, 4.59 ERA)
Sat., May 21, 1 p.m.: RU – RHP Ryan Fasano (1-0, 3.04 ERA) vs. WVU – RHP Andy Berry (7-3, 4.48 ERA)
· Rutgers is two games behind USF and Seton Hall for the final spot in the BIG EAST Championship, but the Scarlet Knights will need some help in order to qualify. Here is the scenario the Scarlet Knights need to play out in order to qualify:
o Rutgers needs to sweep West Virginia and have Georgetown win at least two against Seton Hall, have Pittsburgh sweep USF and have Louisville win at least one against Notre Dame.
· West Virginia sits in a tie for fourth with Cincinnati entering the weekend at 13-11.
· Mountaineer shortstop Gran Buckner leads the BIG EAST with a .438 average in conference games. He could be the first West Virginia batting champion since Lee Fritz in 2003. Buckner has reached base in 44-straight games.
· Rutgers sophomore starter Tyler Gebler posted his third BIG EAST win on Friday with seven innings of two-run ball against Villanova. He has pitched at least seven innings in seven of his eight starts in league play this season.
· Scarlet Knight freshman Nick Favatella owns an eight-game hitting streak entering the weekend. He has 10 hits, including three doubles during the streak.