Big East play begins for the Seton Hall baseball team as the Pirates hit the road to face new conference foe Butler this weekend.
The Hall stands at a league-best 20-5 overall after freshman left-hander Anthony Pacillo threw seven innings of one-hit ball in a 13-6 win over Princeton that featured late offensive breakouts.
The Pirates, standing at No. 22 in the Collegiate Baseball Poll in the fifth straight poll, have three winners on the latest Big East weekly awards. Senior Josh Prevost looks to keep rolling, as the right-hander was honored by the conference for the seventh week in a row with a place on the honor roll. Prevost has seven starts on the season to just six walks. If that isn’t enough to make him a unanimous pick for the conference’s pitcher of the year up to this point, the senior holds a 1.45 ERA and has been the Big East Pitcher of the Week four times. Shortstop D.J. Ruhlman looks to stay on a surge in league play, holding a .360 batting average with two homers, 32 hits, and 11 RBIs in 89 at-bats. While the Pirates are 20-5, all six of the other clubs in the new-look league have no less than 10 losses.
Butler (11-16) looks to rebound from a 10-8 loss to IPFW on Tuesday. The Bulldogs have lost three of four while getting outscored 37-17. Butler is in the top four in the league in batting average, hitting .260 with a .344 slugging percentage. It has been the Bulldogs’ pitching staff that has been suspect, holding a 5.65 ERA. Opponents are hitting .305 against Butler, a mark that stands at last in the conference. The Pirates are at the opposite end of the spectrum, holding a conference-best 3.25 ERA with senior right-hander Josh Prevost leading the way with seven consecutive Big East Weekly Honor Awards.
The Bulldogs’ defense is also something to look out for in this weekend’s series having committed 50 errors, a mark that is eight more than any other team in the conference.
Along with Seton Hall (2), the two other schools that received first-place votes were Creighton and St. John’s. The Bluejays (12-10-1) are led by Big East Preseason Player of the Year Mike Gerber. The senior center fielder is hitting .255 on the season with a team-leading 24 RBIs and five home runs. Gerber also anchors a defense that stands at fifth in the country in fielding percentage (.983) and leads the team with three game-winning RBIs. The Bluejays’ Tommy Strunc was named the conference preseason pitcher of the year, but has had control and velocity issues, giving him an 0-2 record with a 16.20 ERA. The Bluejays open up league play hosting Georgetown in the first of three on April 11.
While the Bluejays have had some ups and downs, the Red Storm has been on fire. The Johnnies were picked to finish third in the conference preseason poll, but received three first-place votes. The Red Storm had two on the All-Conference Team, with outfielder Zach Lauricella and starting pitcher James Lomangino garnering spots. The Red Storm comes into the weekend winners of 13 of 14, with shortstop Jarred Mederos powering St. John’s with a .315 batting average and 18 RBIs while playing in all 27 of the Red Storm’s games. Sophomore lefty Alex Katz threw six innings of no-hit ball in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Wagner for the Johnnies. The Red Storm took a no-hitter into the eighth, as Katz struck out five and worked four 1-2-3 innings. While the Red Storm’s bats rank second with a .273 batting average, their pitching staff is fourth with a 4.66 ERA. They open the season at Villanova this weekend.
Xavier has had an up-and-down campaign, holding a 13-13 record heading into its first series in the new-look conference at Georgetown this weekend. The Musketeers have lost six of seven, but are near the top of the conference statistics with a .267 batting average (3rd) and a 3.92 ERA (2nd).
The Hoyas were picked to finish fifth, and have accordingly held the fifth-best record in the league at 12-13. Sophomore Nick Collins is the player to watch for the Hoyas, as the catcher is currently holding a .337 batting average. Villanova rounds out the league with an 8-17 record and will host St. John’s this weekend. The Wildcats’ offense has struggled with a .235 batting average and is second-to-last in the league with an ERA of 5.11.
“It doesn’t matter who the opponent is,” head coach Rob Sheppard said at the beginning of the season. “We have to play our game regardless of who our opponent is.”
First pitch between the Pirates and Bulldogs is at 3 p.m. on Friday.
John Fanta can be reached at email@example.com.