College : : Story
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Big East preview: Big Three supreme

Kendall Rogers        
You can follow college baseball managing editor Kendall Rogers on Twitter @KendallRogersYS and can join the Perfect Game College Baseball Facebook page

HOW THEY STACK UP

1. Connecticut
2. Louisville
3. St. John’s
4. South Florida
5. Pittsburgh
6. Rutgers
7. Notre Dame
8. Cincinnati
9. West Virginia
10. Seton Hall
11. Villanova
12. Georgetown

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

C Kevan Smith, Pittsburgh
1B Mike Nemeth, Connecticut
2B Ryan Wright, Louisville
SS Steve Nyisztor, Rutgers
3B Grant Buckner, West Virginia
OF Jeremy Baltz, St. John’s
OF Stewart Ijames, Louisville
OF George Springer, Connecticut
DH Joe Panik, St. John’s

SP Kyle Hansen, St. John’s
SP Matt Barnes, Connecticut
SP Andrew Barbosa, South Florida
RP Tony Zych, Louisville

RISING STOCK

St. John’s: The Johnnies took a step forward last season with a trip to an NCAA Regional title game, and have the personnel to do even more with the return of starting pitcher Kyle Hansen and offensive cog Jeremy Baltz, among others.

Connecticut: The Huskies, at least on paper, have the best team to come out of the Northeast in years. Dealing with incredibly high expectations will be difficult, but they have the talent and experience to do something special.

Pittsburgh coach Joe Jordano: The Panthers might only have 8.99 scholarships out of a possible 11.7, but Jordan has turned the program into a regional contender. Now, the Panthers have a solid facility to go with a good coaching staff.

Louisville shortstop Ryan Wright: The Cardinals have had plenty of stars the past few seasons, but the experienced infielder might be the best coach Dan McDonnell has had. He batted .366 with 16 homers and 80 RBIs last season.

FALLING STOCK

South Florida: We’re still waiting for the Bulls to turn the corner with coach Lelo Prado in charge. They entered last season with high hopes but finished the campaign with a 26-32 record. Is this finally the year they get it done?

West Virginia: The Mountaineers finished last season with a 27-30 record and it may not get better this season. They have a lot of work to do without several key players, including star Jedd Gyorko.

Notre Dame: Things didn’t work out with coach Dave Schrage, but the Fighting Irish hope Mik Aoki, who worked magic at Boston College, will right the ship sooner rather than later. He has some stiff challenges this season.

Villanova: The Wildcats actually had a solid team last season with some legit talent, including outfielder Matt Szczur. But putting together a record that again includes 29 wins would be a plus for this year’s team.

BEST PITCHER

RHP Matt Barnes, Connecticut: Barnes is an elite draft prospect and is one of the key cogs for the Huskies. He tallied a 3.92 ERA in 82 2/3 innings last season, and is expected to have an even better 2011 campaign.

BEST HITTER

OF Jeremy Baltz, St. John’s: He was only a freshman last season and managed to hit .396 with 16 doubles, a triple, 24 homers and 85 RBIs. We only can imagine what Baltz is capable of in his second season at this level.

POSTSEASON CONTENDERS

Omaha caliber: Connecticut
Super regional caliber: Louisville, St. John’s
Regional caliber: South Florida, Pittsburgh

TOP PROSPECTS (2011 MLB DRAFT)

Prospect lists compiled by Allan Simpson

1. OF George Springer, Connecticut
2. RHP Matt Barnes, Connecticut
3. RHP Tony Zych, Louisville
4. RHP Kyle McMyne, Villanova
5. SS Joe Panik, St. John’s
6. SS/2B Ryan Wright, Louisville
7. RHP/SS Nick Ahmed, Connecticut
8. RHP Mike Nastold, Louisville
9. RHP/3B Kevin Vance, Connecticut
10. RHP Brian Dupra, Notre Dame
11. OF Stewart Ijames, Louisville
12. OF Billy Ferriter, Connecticut
13. OF John Andreoli, Connecticut
14. SS Sam Mende, South Florida
15. RHP Derek Self, Louisville
16. 3B/SS Mike Garza, Georgetown
17. LHP Greg Nappo, Connecticut
18. LHP Andrew Barbosa, South Florida
19. RHP Randy Fontanez, South Florida
20. RHP Gabriel Shaw, Louisville

TOP PROSPECTS (2012 MLB DRAFT)

Prospect lists compiled by Allan Simpson

1. SS/2B Steve Nyisztor, Rutgers
2. OF Jeremy Baltz, St. John’s
3. RHP Kyle Hansen, St. John’s
4. RHP Matt Carasiti, St. John’s
5. SS L.J. Mazzilli, Connecticut
6. SS Chad Taylor, South Florida
7. RHP Matt Koch, Louisville
8. RHP/SS Tyler Gebier, Rutgers
9. 1B/LHP Zak Wasserman, Louisville
10. RHP Chad Green, Louisville
11. RHP Zach Isler, Cincinnati
12. OF/RHP Ryan Moore, Connecticut
13. RHP Frank Morris, Seton Hall
14. OF Jimmy Brennan, St. John’s
15. RHP/3B Austin Adams, South Florida
16. LHP Greg Terhune, Seton Hall
17. C Joe Hudson, Notre Dame
18. RHP Kevin MacLachlan, Villanova
19. OF Jared Clarkson, Louisville
20. Matt Frazer, West Virginia

AROUND THE DIAMOND

• Notre Dame has a major rebuilding job to do this season, but things will be even tougher without a few key pitchers because of injuries. The Fighting Irish will be without Joe Spano, Ryan Richter and Steve Sabatino this season because of Tommy John surgery. Sabatino started 14 games last season while Richter and Spano combined for 36 appearances last season.

• Pittsburgh coach Joe Jordano is excited about the upcoming season, but he’s cautious about the left side of his infield. The Panthers have some big-time holes to fill with the departures of third baseman Joe Leonard and shortstop Danny Lopez. Both players were solid defenders last season, and Jordano was quick to say that Leonard’s departure leaves the biggest hole.

• Louisville has several players to watch this season, but keep close tabs on talented right-hander pitcher Mike Nastold, who’s our No. 8 draft prospect for 2011 in the Big East. Nastold has achieved that status despite not throwing last season because of Tommy John surgery. He went 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA in 38 1/3 innings as a freshman two seasons ago.

Kendall Rogers is the managing editor of college baseball for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at kendall@perfectgame.org

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