*2011 automatic qualifier. 2011 NCAA regional participants in bold (2011 records listed; 2012 national rankings in parentheses)
|BIG EAST CONFERENCE|
|HOW THEY’LL FINISH|
|Projected NCAA Teams (2): Louisville, St. John’s.|
|Conference Schedule: 27 games, begins March 23.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 23-27 at Clearwater, Fla.
Player of the Year: Jeremy Baltz, of, St. John’s.
|Pitcher of the Year: Matt Koch, rhp, Louisville.|
|TOP PROSPECTS, 2012-13 DRAFT|
|1. Matt Koch, rhp, Louisville|
|2. Jeremy Baltz, of, St. John’s|
|3. Kyle Hansen, rhp, St. John’s|
|4. Matt Carasiti, rhp, St. John’s|
|5. Justin Amlung, rhp, Louisville|
|6. L.J. Mazzilli, 2b, Connecticut|
|7. Jeff Thompson, rhp, Louisville (2013)|
|8. Ryan Harvey, rhp, Seton Hall|
|9. Derek Self, rhp, Louisville|
|10. Rand Ravnaas, of, Georgetown|
|11. Matt Wessinger, ss/2b, St. John’s|
|12. Travis Tingle, rhp, Louisville|
|13. Trey Mancini, 1b, Notre Dame (2013)|
|14. Adam Engel, of, Louisville (2013)|
|15. Dace Kime, rhp, Louisville (2013)|
1. Nick Burdi, rhp, Louisville (HS—Downer’s Grove, Ill.)
|2. Pat Cannaughton, rhp, Notre Dame (HS—Danvers, Mass.)|
|3. Adam Schemenauer, lhp, Louisvills (HS—Parkville, Mo.)|
|4. Jerome Werniuk, rhp, St. John’s (Tr.—LeMoyne)|
|5. Conor Krauss, rhp, Seton Hall (HS—Randolph, N.J.)|
|• The Big East’s makeup continues to shift with conference realignment. Pittsburgh (and Syracuse, which doesn’t play baseball) is headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference, likely after the 2014 season, while West Virginia is bolting for the Big 12. Central Florida and Houston, however, are slated to come into the league in all sports for the 2013-2014 year.|
|• Louisville landed in the preseason Top 25, but St. John’s shouldn’t be too far behind, with a deep, experienced roster with as much pro talent as you’ll find on just about any team in the Northeast. The team’s Friday starter and top pro prospect is Jr. RHP Kyle Hansen (8-7, 3.09, 108 IP/106 SO), who ranked as the No. 22 prospect in the Cape Cod League after posting a 3.63 ERA mostly in relief. Hansen, the younger brother of former Red Storm All-American and first-round pick Craig, sits at 93-95 mph with his fastball, and at 6-foot-8 he gets great downhill plane on the ball and has good deception. OF Jeremy Baltz leads the offense, drawing comparisons to Pat Burrell as a physical corner bat who lacks athleticism. Baltz was an All-American as a freshman, but his power production dropped from 24 home runs to six last year with the new BBCOR bats. Still, he has a good swing and he bounced back to hit .321/.434/.457 in the Cape, putting him just behind Hansen on the league prospect list. St. John’s also brought in a deep recruiting class, highlighted by RHP Jerome Werniuk, who was the top prospect in the Valley League in 2010 and transferred in from LeMoyne when that program dropped to Division II after last season. The class took an unexpected hit when key recruit SS Chris Bostick signed with the Athletics as a 44th-round pick.|
• Connecticut looks for an encore to the best run in school history, as the Huskies won a regional last year before getting swept in a super regional by eventual national champion South Carolina. The Huskies have won 93 games in the last two seasons, but they’ll have to replace four players who were drafted last June, including two first-rounders, OF George Springer (11th overall, Astros) and RHP Matt Barnes (19th, Red Sox). The team doesn’t have anyone with that kind of talent remaining, but 2B L.J. Mazzilli is a legitimate prospect, and he’ll be the centerpiece of the offense after batting .338/.392/.491 last season. Mazzilli, the son of former major league player and manager Lee, features good speed and a solid bat. The team’s biggest challenge might be its lack of experience on the mound. So. LHP Brian Ward (6-1, 3.28) moves into the Friday starter slot, and he’ll be happy to throw to redshirt Sr. Joe Pavone, who missed the Huskies’ big 2011 season with a torn ACL in his knee.
• Notre Dame will look to make a push to the top of the conference standings in coach Mik Aoki’s second season. The roster is still young, but the talent level is improving. The top returning player is So. 1B Trey Mancini, whom Aoki calls “simply an elite-level hitter.” Mancini was the Big East rookie of the year last season after batting .323/.385/.577 with nine home runs, and he’s the team’s best hitter and best power hitter. The freshman class also has talent, with the most intriguing player being two-sport star RHP Pat Connaughton. Connaughton is 6-foot-5 and is a shooting guard on the basketball team. On the diamond he’s touched 94 mph with the makings of a plus changeup. The Irish will break him in in a bullpen role. He highlights a good freshman class that also includes OF Conor Biggio, the eldest son of longtime major leaguer Craig. Another big X factor for Notre Dame will be three LHPs who are returning from Tommy John surgery: Steve Sabatino, Joe Spano and Ryan Richter.