Big East Baseball Tourney Preview; GU, VU, and BU Season Recaps

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A look at this weekend's Big East Baseball tournament and season recaps for the teams missing the cut

Conference Baseball Tournament time is upon us. The Big East Conference places the top 4 teams in a double elimination tournament starting on Thursday, May 22nd. This also means that 3 Big East Baseball teams have completed their seasons: Villanova, Georgetown, and Butler. I'll recap their seasons first and then preview the tournament. I'll do my best to recap the remaining 4 teams as they are eliminated from the conference and/or NCAA tournaments.

Villanova, 16-34, 5-13, T-6th, 259

2014 Record, Conference Record, Conference Finish, Warren Nolan RPI as of Sunday Morning, 05/18/2014

Todd Czinege (Fr.), All-Big East 2nd team 2B, and Max Beerman (So.) led the offense with batting averages of .306 and .304, respectively. 2nd team, All-Big East RP Matt Meurer (Sr.) led the bullpen with 9 of the team's 10 saves. Villanova's main weekend rotation left lots of room for improvement going 7-20, but the emergence of JB Kole as a reliable 4th starter is promising for next year. The Wildcats were picked to finished tied for 6th in the Big East in the preseason Coaches' Poll and that is exactly where they finished. While it's hard to say a 16-34 season is a success, it's also hard to call the season disappointing.

Way too early 2015 outlook*: Villanova's 2015 team looks to be a more experienced bunch. The biggest void will be in relief pitching as seniors Matthew Meurer and Chris Haggarty combined for 48 appearances. The loss could be softened as the entire weekend rotation is likely returning. If the starting rotation can improve and the Wildcats can find or develop additional relief pitching, the 2015 team should improve over the 2014 version significantly.

Georgetown, 19-29, 5-13, T-6th, 231

Season Recap: As expected, 1st team All-Big East Designated Hitter Nick Collins (So.) and Steve Anderson (Sr.) led the way offensively. Collins was also named to All-Big East 2nd team as a catcher. Pitching was the Hoyas bane this year as the Hoyas struggled to develop a a consistent 3rd starter contributing to their 6th place finish in Big East play. The Hoyas were picked by the coaches to finish 5th in the pre-season and finished tied for 6th. Georgetown's season more or less went as expected, but left much room for improvement.

Way too early 2015 outlook*: The departure of the power hitting Steve Anderson leaves a significant gap in the line-up. The return of Nick Collins softens the blow, and Georgetown returns every pitcher on the roster. Expect the Hoyas to show limited improvement in 2015 as their 27 man roster constricts them.

Butler, 20-31, 7-11, 5th, 251

Season Recap: Picked to finish t-6th in the Big East coaches preseason poll, the Bulldogs finished 5th, and came within a game of receiving a birth in the 4 team Big East tournament. Offensively, the team was led by Marcos Calderon (.303 BA, 3 HR, and 26 RBI) and Chris Maranto (.309, 22 RBI). They struggled to find any consistency on the mound, when this appeared to be their strength entering the season. Eric Stout (6.78 ERA) and Peter Nyznyk (6.99 ERA), combined for 23 of the Bulldogs' starts, but only managed a 6-10 combined record. Senior SP Gunner Johnson was the only Bulldog to receive post season conference honors on the All-Big East 2nd team.

Way too early 2015 outlook*: The Bulldogs will be decimated by 6, possibly 7 departing seniors. Pat Guinane looks to be eligible for a medical redshirt, but no indication is made on Butler's website. Next year looks to be a rebuilding year.

*Notes about my 2015 Outlooks: In all cases, I am assuming all players with eligibility are returning. It is entirely possible that a player may leave early, possibly for the draft, or transfer. My current outlook assumes that only Seniors with no eligibility left are leaving.

Conference Tournament Outlook:

A very brief search showed that the lowest RPI team to receive an at-large bid in baseball that I could find was Washington with an RPI of 75 in 2002. Creighton leads the conference with an RPI of 75, making the Big East's automatic bid likely the only bid the conference will receive. Opening day pits final weekend opponents against each other again. Creighton will face Xavier and Seton Hall will square off with St. John's. Here's a look at each team in the tournament field.

Creighton Capsule: The regular season champions and preseason favorite to win the Big East look to add to their trophy case by bringing home the tournament championship and automatic bid to the 64 team NCAA tournament. After a late season injury, all-Big East SP Matt Warren will likely lead the Jays from the mound in the tournament. 1st team All-Big East Relief Pitcher Bryan Sova (Sr.) had 9 Saves and pitched a complete game against Xavier in the final weekend using only 83 pitches.

Offensively, they are led by Big East Co-Player of the Year, Reagan Fowler and unanimous All-Big East OF Mike Gerber. Joining them on the All-Big East 1st team is 2B Jake Peter. Opposing teams can't count on mental errors, as the Jays defense was good for 2nd in the NCAA this year and 6th all-time.

St. John's Capsule: At the plate, the Red Storm are led by Matt Harris (6 HR, 46 RBI), Robbie Knightes (.397 BA), and Big East Rookie of the Year, Michael Donadio (62 Hits). Brett Dennis (Jr., SS), Zach Lauricella (Jr., OF), and Alex Caruso (So., OF) join them in receiving All-Big East honors.

Relief Pitcher Joe Kuzia leads the league with 13 saves and has .75 ERA on the season. Joining Kuzia on the all-Big East teams is Senior James Lomangino and Sophomore Ryan McCormick, both starting pitchers.

Seton Hall Capsule: One of only two unanimous All-Big East selections, SP Josh Prevost will lead from the hill for Seton Hall. Far from a one-man show, Seton Hall leads the Big East in both pitching a batting. From the hill, Prevost is joined by Sophomore Luke Calhill (2.66 ERA, 10-1), Anthony Pacillo (Fr.), Ryan Testani (Fr.), and several other very capable arms.

Offensively, Seton Hall is led by co-Big East POY D.J. Ruhlman (Jr., SS) who is batting .364. Also batting over .300 is Sal Annunziata (Jr., 1B), Derek Jenkins (So., OF), and Dillon Hamlin (Sr., C). Jenkins joins Ruhlman and Prevost on the all-conference 1st team while Annunziata and Hamlin appear on the 2nd team.

Opposing teams will have to stay alert as the Pirates have attempted 140 steals on the season and 111 succeeding. 140 attempts doubles every other Big East teams' attempts except Xavier (96).

Xavier Capsule: Xavier has a team ERA of 4.41, led by Vinny Nittoli and Scott Klever. With an ERA of 3.40, Klever is expected to get the nod on Thursday as he recorded Xavier's lone win over Creighton this past weekend.

The Muskateers lead the Big East in Home Runs with 33. Leading the way is 2nd Team All-Big East DH Derek Hasenbeck with 6 HR followed by Stephen Schoettmer with 5 HR. 1st Team All-Big East Catcher Daniel Rizzie leads the starting line-up with a .309 BA.

2014 All-Big East Honors

Player of the Year

Reagan Fowler, Creighton, So., 1B

D.J. Ruhlman, Seton Hall, Jr., SS

Pitcher of the Year

Josh Prevost, Seton Hall, Sr., RHP

Rookie of the Year

Michael Donadio, St. John's, Fr., OF

Coach of the Year

Ed Servais, Creighton

All-Big East First Team

Daniel Rizzie, Xavier, So., C

Reagan Fowler, Creighton, So., 1B

Jake Peter, Creighton, Jr., 2B

D.J. Ruhlman, Seton Hall, Jr., SS

Kyle Grimm, Seton Hall, Jr., 3B

Nick Collins, Georgetown, So., DH

Mike Gerber, Creighton, Sr. OF, #

Michael Donadio, St. John's, Fr., OF

Derek Jenkins, Seton Hall, So., OF

Matt Warren, Creighton, So., SP

James Lomangino, St. John's, R-Sr, SP

Josh Prevost, Seton Hall, Sr., SP #

Vinny Nittoli, Xavier, R-Sr. SP

Joe Kuzia, St. John's, Jr., RP

# - unanimous first-team selection

All-Big East Second Team - %

Nick Collins, Georgetown, So., C

Dillon Hamlin, Seton Hall, Sr., C

Sal Annumziata, Seton Hall, Jr., 1B

Todd Czinge, Villanova, Fr. 2B

Brett Dennis, St. John's, Jr., SS

Robbie Knightes, St. John's, Fr., 3B

Derek Hasenbeck, Xavier, Jr., DH

Zach Lauricella, St. John's, Jr., OF

Alex Caruso, St. John's, So., OF

Brian Bruening, Xavier, R-Jr., OF

Gunner Johnson, Butler, Sr. SP

Ryan McCormick, St John's, So., SP

Luke Cahill, Seton Hall, So., SP

Scott Klever, Xavier, Sr., SP

Bryan Sova, Creighton, Sr., RP

Matt Meurer, Villanova, Sr., RP

% - 16 Players because of a tie in the voting.

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