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Big East In The Big Leagues: Szczur's Hammer

Matt Szczur tore it up in Triple A as he bounced back from a slight hand injury in a major way, while Joe Panik continues to solidify himself as one of the best second basemen in the game.

Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Szczur (Villanova)

The pride of Cape May had himself quite a week for the Iowa Cubs. He went 12-for-36 during the seven games since we last checked in, smashing two home runs and driving in seven runs in the process. Szczur's mightiest swing came in the clutch against Reno, as he launched a three-run walkoff home run on Thursday, silencing all those concerned about the hand he hurt the previous weekend. Szczur has hit safely in seven-straight games, with three of those multi-hit efforts. In addition, he is batting a crisp .330 in the minors, with an OPS of .923, while providing a threat on the base paths. He has eight steals, with five coming in the last week alone. Such great all around play will keep Szczur on the short list of call-up candidates for the Big League club all summer.

Joe Panik (St. John's)

The San Francisco Giants are right in the thick of the NL West race, but what else is new? That's an easy question to answer. Panik's emergence as one of the most important players on the roster is still something the baseball world is getting used to. He has not only enjoyed his time as the everyday second basemen for the Giants, he has excelled in the role. During this last week he hit safely in 10 of his 27 official at bats, while working three walks. He also sent two balls into orbit and drove in seven batters, while scoring five times himself. His slash line this season (.304/.375/.451) is exceptional, as he is third on the team in batting average and on-base percentage. Panik has also developed better plate discipline during this season, as he has 20 walks compared to 26 strikeouts. During 73 games last season, he had 33 strikeouts and 16 free passes. Finally, Panik is currently fourth on the Giants roster in WAR (1.5), ahead of some guy named Madison Bumgarner (1.3). If you haven't already, go vote for him as the All-Star second basemen for the NL #VotePanik.

Pat Neshek (Butler)

Neshek has been riding a hot streak of his own out of the bullpen for Houston. Neshek pitched in three games this past week and did not allow a run in all three outings. He also recorded four strikeouts in three total innings and has kept his ERA sliding down, with it now standing at 2.29. He has not allowed an earned run in his last 15 outings, which spans 12 innings. The Astros are 14-1 during those appearances and 20-3 overall this season when Neshek takes the mound, with the former Butler pitcher recording 14 holds, which is the third-most in the majors.

Jason Grilli (Seton Hall)

The International House of Grilled Cheese had a slow week. Grilli only appeared in two games, although he did record a save in each contest. On May 27 he closed out a 3-2 win against the Dodgers, although he gave up two hits, including a solo home run to Alex Guerrero. Grilli then pitched a shutout ninth innings on May 31 in a 7-5 win over the Giants. There was some Big East on Big East crime in that outing, as Panik lined a double off of Grilli with two outs in the inning before Hunter Pence lined out to end the game. Grilli is now sporting a 4.15 ERA, but his FIP is a solid 3.04, although you want that to be much, much lower from your closer.

Darin Ruf (Creighton)

It was also a slow week for Ruf. The former Creighton Bluejay did not make any starts and was hitless in three pinch hit attempts for the Phillies, who have lost seven straight and nine of their last 10. Ruf struck out in two of those three pinch hit opportunities and has now struck out 21 times in 97 plate appearances, while walking only six times. He is batting just .216 and his other slash numbers (.268 OBP/.386 SLG) are also nothing to write home about or even write about at all, unless you are dedicated to #BigEastInTheBigLeagues or this guy:

Amir Garrett (St. John's)

The Reds might just have themselves another Johnny Cueto in Garrett. Granted, the 23-year-old is still pitching in Single A, but he has been slicing up opposing lineups and he was impeccable in his lone start this past week. He zipped through seven innings, striking out 12 batters along the way, while allowing six hits and not a single run. The southpaw is striking out more than a batter an inning and has an ERA of 2.40 on the campaign.

Danny Burawa (St. John's)

Burawa stumbled against Pawtucket last Tuesday, allowing a run and two hits and recording only one out. He bounced back nicely a few days later against Norfolk, twirling 1 1/3 shutout innings of relief, although it came in a 6-1 loss. Burawa has a 1.75 ERA for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and a WHIP of 1.09 in 25 2/3 innings of work.

That's all for this week, folks. Before we go, a hearty congratulations to the St. John's Red Storm, who put up quite a fight in the Stillwater Regional of the NCAA Tournament, showing the world that Big East baseball should not be taken lightly.