Weekend College Baseball Conference Preview: April 25-27

By SAMUEL BOTWINICK | Staff Writer
April 24, 2014, 7:00 p.m.
@avdbkr20samuel

Four of the Big Five Baseball teams in Philadelphia will play against conference opponents this weekend, with two of them playing head-to-head, and one of them finishing up their regular season this weekend as well.  The games begin on Friday and continue through Sunday.  Below is our preview of each series.

St. Joseph's (23-10 overall, 10-4 in A-10) at La Salle (11-25 overall, 6-7 in A-10)

About St. Joseph's:  The Hawks, who are currently on a four-game winning streak, will travel up the Roosevelt Expressway to play the Explorers at Hank DeVincent Field for a three game set starting on Friday.  This will be the first time this season and since 2009 that the two teams will face each other for a series.  They played in the Liberty Bell Classic on Tuesday, with St. Joseph's emerging victorious 10-3.  Collin Forgey went on an absolute tear this past week, collecting an impressive six hits in the Hawks' dominating 10-3 victory over the Explorers at Citizens Bank Park, en-route to surpassing the ever dominant Brian O'Keefe in batting average (.374), and passing Tommy Cunningham for the RBI lead (31).  The Hawks now have seven hitters batting .300 or above, and five players with 20 or more RBI.  On the mound, Jordan Carter had a tremendous week, adding to his incredible season with another Big Five Pitcher of the Week honor, while gaining the team lead in strikeouts (49).

About La Salle:  The Explorers have not fared as well as their Big Five opponent, losing three games in a row, including the embarrassing 10-3 defeat to the Hawks on Tuesday.  George Smith Jr. has had a solid season at the dish for La Salle, being tied for second on the team in home runs (2), third in RBI (22), and second in hitting (.331).  There are only three hitters on the Explorers who are hitting above .300, which might explain why their team average (.266) is well below the A-10 average (.297).  Shane Holman continues to be a consistent force on the mound for La Salle, posting a 3-1 record, a 3.64 ERA, which is good for second on the team, and 33 punch outs in 47 innings (second on the team).

Series Probables for St. Joseph's and La Salle
Friday:  Daniel Thorpe (6-0, 1.81 ERA) vs. Shane Hollman (3-1, 3.64 ERA)
Saturday: Jordan Carter (6-3, 2.61 ERA) vs. Joey Ravert (1-2, 3.53 ERA)
Sunday: Tyler Pallante (0-0, 2.91 ERA vs. Shawn O'Neil (4-6, 3.69 ERA)



Villanova (12-25 overall, 3-6 in Big East) at Seton Hall (28-9 overall, 3-3 in Big East)

About Villanova:  The Wildcats, who have lost seven of their last nine games, will travel to South Orange, New Jersey to play the red-hot Pirates at Owen Carroll Field.  This is the first time that these teams face each other this year.  Villanova, which is one of Seton Hall's oldest rivals, is not much of a rival.  The Pirates have won the majority of the games that they played against each other (74/115 games).  The rookie, Todd Czinege, has exceeded expectations so far this season for the Wildcats with his .301 batting average (third on the team), 28 RBI (team leader), and three jacks (tied for second on the team).  Villanova continues to have pitching woes.  Only two pitchers (Matthew Meurer and Chris Haggarty) have below a 4.00 ERA (1.14 and 3.14).

About Seton Hall:  The Pirates have been tough to defeat recently, winning 11 of their last 15 games.  Things don't get any easier for Villanova as Seton Hall has an astounding 11-1 record at home this season.  The Pirates will try to continue their dominance against the Wildcats as they swept them in three consecutive games last year when they played in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.  Sal Annunziata and Tyler Boyd account for seven combined home runs and 60 of the Pirates' 231 RBI.  Five hitters in Seton Hall's lineup have at least 20 RBI, and all of those five are hitting above .300 except for Boyd (.298 and four home runs).  Pitching has been equally impressive for the Pirates this year as all three of their starters have below a 3.00 ERA, resulting in an incredibly low team ERA of 3.13.  Josh Prevost leads that pack with a stellar 8-1 record to go along with a miniscule 1.66 ERA, and an eye-popping 78 strikeouts in 76 innings.

Series Probables for Villanova and Seton Hall
Friday: Josh Harris (3-5, 5.96 ERA) vs. Josh Prevost (8-1, 1.66 ERA)
Saturday: Max Almonte (1-4, 5.16 ERA) vs. Anthony Elia (3-3, 2.76 ERA)
Sunday: Hunter Schryver (1-5, 4.02 ERA) vs. Luke Cahill (7-1, 2.56 ERA)



Columbia (22-15 overall, 13-3 in Ivy) at/vs Penn (22-14 overall, 13-3 in Ivy)

About Columbia:  The Lions will face off against a remarkably even opponent in the Quakers in a two day back-to-back series and regular season finale starting on Friday.  The first two games (Friday) will be played in Pennsylvania, and the final two games (Saturday) will be played in New York.  Whoever wins this series will host the Ivy League Championship Series on May 3-4, as the team with the best Ivy League record.   The two teams couldn't possibly be more identical.  Columbia is 22-15 overall and 13-3 in conference play, while Penn is 22-14, with a replicated 13-3 record in Ivy League play this season.  The Lions couldn't be defeated in the past few weeks, winning 14 games in a row Their last loss came against Dartmouth on April 5.  Oddly enough, on offense,  there are only two Lions who have more than 20 RBI (Rob Paller and David Vandercook).  Neither one of them is hitting at least .300, though (.295 and .265).  Rather, it is their tremendous pitching staff, anchored by the 5-0 George Thanopoulos, which has helped the team ERA be below a 4.00 (3.77).    

About Penn:  The Lions may be heading in a great direction, while the Quakers are still struggling to find consistency.  They started out 2-9 through the first 11 games, and it looked like the season could be a disaster for them.  Penn quickly turned their season around, winning the next 15 of their next 17 games.  They did start to slip, though, if that's possible.  They have won six of their last eight games, but lost the series to the weaker Princeton Tigers, and almost got swept by them, prompting concern for any Penn fan worried about the Ivy League Championship's deciding games against Columbia this weekend.  The Quakers would appear to have the slight edge at this moment, being that they have the best team batting average in the entire Ivy League (.280).  Leading the team in hitting is Jeff McGarry.  With his .333 batting average, four dingers (tied for third on the team), and 28 RBI (second on the team), McGarry has been tough to keep off the base paths and scoreboards this year.  The player who steals the spotlight from him, though, is Rick Brebner, who leads the team in both round trippers (8) and RBI (31) this season, and is fourth on the team in hitting (.301).  On the other side of the ball, Connor Cuff continues his remarkable season on the mound, sporting an unbelievable 1.16 ERA, an incredible 5-1 record, and 41 punch outs in 54 1/3 innings.  The last time Penn won the Gehrig Division was 2007, when they reached the championship series before falling to Brown in two games.

Probables for Columbia and Penn
Friday: TBA vs. TBA
Saturday: TBA vs. TBA

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