TEAM-BY-TEAM BIG EAST BASEBALL TOURNAMENT PREVIEW

South Florida Bulls

The USF Bulls enter Tuesday’s match-up against the Pittsburgh Panthers coming off a 5-2 victory over No. 23 St. John’s. USF won two of three games against the Panthers this season, tying the all-time series at 3-3.

USF was sixth in the Big East in both pitching and batting in 2007, posting a team ERA of 4.56 and a team batting average of .285.

The Bulls had four players bat over .300 this season, including junior Walter Diaz, whose .348 average was the highest on the team. Junior Dexter Butler and sophomore Addison Maruszak tied for the team-lead in RBI (43) while batting .337 and .323, respectively.

Bulls’ ace Danny Otero is scheduled to make the start against the Panthers. The senior right-hander was fourth in the conference in strikeouts this season (82) and led the Bulls in innings pitched (111.2) and games started (15) while compiling an 8-7 record. -Eric Moeller

Pittsburgh Panthers

The Pittsburgh Panthers enter Tuesday’s game coming off a pair of home losses against Seton Hall. Pittsburgh lost two of three games against USF this season.

Despite tying for the fourth-lowest overall winning percentage in the Big East this season (.519), the Panthers played well within the conference and even managed a two-game sweep of defending Big East champions Notre Dame on March 30-31.

Pittsburgh was fifth in the Big East in pitching this season with a team ERA of 4.32. The Panthers’ most consistent starter was senior Paul Nardozzi, who led the team in wins (5) and was third in the conference in strikeouts (84).

Pittsburgh’s biggest offensive threat in 2007 was senior Seth Button. The Panthers’ first-baseman posted a .316 batting average while leading his team in hits (60), home runs (8) and slugging percentage (.532). -Eric Moeller

Villanova Wildcats

Despite posting a Big East Conference-worst 4.99 team ERA in 2007, the Villanova Wildcats managed to compile a 28-23 overall record and secured their first conference tournament berth since 1997.

Villanova was fifth in the Big East in batting this season, posting a team average of .292. Junior Derek Shunk was one of five Wildcats who batted over .300 this season and his mark of .372 was seventh in the Big East. Junior outfielder Dan Terpak’s eight home runs led the Wildcats, and his six triples were the most in the conference.Senior pitcher Mike Loree posted a 7-3 record this season and led the team in innings pitched (90.1), while junior Jordan Ellis had a team-low 3.88 ERA and compiled a 5-1 record.

Louisville Cardinals

The Louisville Cardinals were first in the conference in pitching in 2007, posting a team ERA of 2.89 and featuring six pitchers with ERAs under three. Junior Zack Pitts led the Cardinals in ERA (1.90) and strikeouts (75), while his 8-3 record tied red-shirt senior Skylar Meade (8-2) for the team-lead in wins.

Louisville was fourth in the Big East in batting average due in large part to senior Isaiah Howes. The Cardinals’ outfielder led the Big East in hits (83) and was second in the conference in batting average (.388) this season. Louisville’s lineup featured five players who batted over .300 including senior Logan Johnson, whose 13 home runs were tied for second most in the conference.

The Cardinals are looking to return to the Big East championship after losing to Notre Dame in last year’s title game. The Fighting Irish have won the Big East title the last five years. -Eric Moeller

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

The Scarlet Knights earned a share of the Big East regular-season title – their second in five years – by defeating Villanova 12-6 on Saturday. The Knights face Notre Dame, a team they fell twice to over the course of three games and were outscored 22-13. In their lone victory of the series, Rutgers ace Steve Healing compiled a complete game shutout en route to an 8-3 record and 3.80 ERA for the season.

The Scarlet Knights used their potent offensive attack to get themselves tied for the Big East lead. Dave Williams batted .400 on a team that had seven of their nine starters batting .300 or over for the season. Their star slugger, Todd Frazier, hit 19 home runs and batted in 57 base runners for the year.

Rutgers tied St. John’s for the Big East Division lead but is ranked second after falling in the head-to-head match-up with the Red Storm. -Daniel Falco

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame was one of the few teams who found success this year against Rutgers, taking the season series two games to one in late April. The main bright spot for this team all year has been its starting pitcher David Phelps, arguably the best pitcher in the conference. His 1.87 ERA and more than 101 innings pitched leads the Big East, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning.

Phelps recorded his seventh win of the season in the rubber game of their series with Rutgers. He allowed only a three-run blast by Rutgers’ star shortstop Todd Frazier, but the Fighting Irish’s offense scored 15 runs on 13 hits. Freshman third baseman AJ Pollock had a solid year, leading the team in batting with a .382 average.

As one of the few veterans on the team, Mike Dury hit only .246 but led the team in home runs (9) and RBI (35). The Fighting Irish have 15 new faces from their Big East Title team last year, but have recovered well after losing starter Jeff Samardzija to the Chicago Cubs. -Daniel Falco

Connecticut Huskies

Connecticut clinched the eighth and final spot in the Big East Tournament in dramatic fashion, staging a ninth inning rally to defeat Notre Dame with a 7-6 victory behind senior Matt Untiet’s two-run single. Their win, coupled with losses by West Virginia and Cincinnati, enabled the Huskies to continue their season.

Connecticut was the only team in the Big East to win its series with St. John’s, taking two of three contests at home in their first conference series of the year.The Huskies are led by senior shortstop Dennis Donovan. He was one of only two Connecticut players to start every game this season, and his .344 batting average and seven home runs were a team high.Robert Van Woert posted a record of 7-1 and surrendered only 27 earned runs in 61 1/3 innings pitched. -Brendan Galella

St. John’s Red StormSt. John’s earned a share of the regular-season Big East Championship, the fourth in team history, with a 7-3 victory over USF on Friday. The win was the 20th in conference play, setting a new record for the Red Storm.

Boasting arguably the top offense in the Big East, eight of the team’s regular starters finished with a batting average over .300 and hit .334 as a team for the year. Along with batting average, the Red Storm led the conference in hits (663), runs (437), doubles (119) and RBI (402) while only striking out 258 times, fewest of the 12-team conference.

All five starting pitchers won five games for the Red Storm, but sophomore left-hander Scott Barnes emerged as the staff’s ace. Barnes ranked second in the Big East with 86 strikeouts while his 3.26 ERA was third on the team.-Brendan Galella

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