Pirates and Musketeers both carry swords, and as it turns out, the Seton Hall and Xavier baseball teams have plenty in common on the diamond.
The two sides met for a three-game series in Cincinnati, Ohio, from Thursday, April 13 to Saturday, April 15, with the Musketeers taking two of three and thereby gaining a one-game lead over the Pirates in the Big East standings.
On the surface the teams look comparatively balanced. Only that series in Cincinnati separates their Big East marks – 3-3 for Xavier and 2-4 for Seton Hall – and even their overall record is only differentiated by a discrepancy in games played. Xavier is 20-16 while SHU is 16-16.
But diving below the surface shows that these are two teams that put the ball in play less than any other in the Big East, both in positive and negative ways.
Xavier is fifth while the Pirates are sixth in the Big East in terms of batting average with .251 and .247 marks, respectively. Beyond that, the Musketeers are first and the Pirates are second in both strikeouts, 319 to 267, and walks, 156 to 145. The numbers show that these are two sides that are as patient as any in the conference when it comes to sitting in the box. That patience has been just as much rewarded as it has been punished.
The similarities do not stop there, because when these two teams do get on-base they have proven to be the most aggressive and productive. Seton Hall is first in the Big East in stolen base attempts with 60, while it is second in successful stolen bases with 45. Xavier is the reverse, sitting second in the conference in stolen base attempts with 59, while it is first in successful swipes with 47.
The two sides do divert from each other in a few key categories, proving just in case any doubts were arising, that these are in fact different teams. The biggest may be slugging, where the Musketeers rank third in the Big East with a .393 slugging percentage. The Pirates rank sixth with a .342 mark.
The slugging difference stretches even further when home-runs are singled out, exhibiting more than anything home run-friendly conditions in Cincinnati compared to unfavorable conditions in South Orange. Xavier is first in the Big East in home runs with 34, which is 16 more than the next closest team, while the Pirates sit sixth in the Big East with 12.
Xavier also has the edge with the glove, ranking first in the conference in fielding percentage with a .980 mark, while Seton Hall ranks sixth with a percentage of .963. It is the Pirates who have the advantage on the mound though, ranking third in the Big East in earned run average, 3.51, while the Musketeers rank fifth at 4.40.
The two sides will not meet again this spring, but will certainly be looking at each other in the standings for the duration of the season. Which side will be looking up and which will be looking down will depend on the day, but currently sitting at fourth and sixth in the Big East, odds are there will only be room for one in the Big East Tournament. Which side earns that spot could come down to whichever side can put the ball in play more during this final month of the season.
James Justice is a broadcast and visual media major from Caldwell, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.