Notre Dame's rotation (in order) will include David Phelps, Wade Korpi and Eric Maust while St. John's will counter with Scott Barnes, George Brown and Jared Yecker - for a blockbuster showdown that features five of the top-rated pitchers in the BIG EAST (Phelps, Maust from Notre Dame and Barnes,Yecker from St. John's comprise four of the league's top-12 overall ERA leaders while Korpi is 16th in overall ERA and tied for fourth with five wins). The Irish and Red Storm both rank among the top three in conference in batting, triples, ERA, wins and fewest runs allowed.
ST. JOHN'S INSIDER -- The Red Storm, led by 13th-year head coach Ed Blankmeyer, enters the series with Notre Dame owning a 29-9 overall record and 11-4 in the BIG EAST. St. John's upended Princeton, 6-2, earlier this week and took two of three last weekend at Pittsburgh. The Red Storm have captured six of their last eight contests.
St. John's, who owns an impressive 15-5 record on the road in 2008, is averaging 6.9 runs per game and hitting .296 with a .385 on-base percentage. The Red Storm has also totaled 44 stolen bases in 65 attempts.
St. John's has four everyday players that are hitting over .300. Brian Kemp leads the attack with a team-best .370 batting average, four triples and 16 stolen bases. Paul Karmas is hitting .365 with a team-high 12 doubles. He has added two home runs and leads the Red Storm with 29 RBI. Greg Hopkins is batting .33 with four home runs and 27, while Carlos Del Rosario is hitting .319 with four triples, three home runs and 29 RBI. Chris Anninos leads the Red Storm with eight home runs.
The pitching staff has a 3.43 ERA and .234 opponents' batting average along with 319 strikeouts and 134 walks in 336.0 innings pitched. St. John's closer Colin Lynch is 0-1 with a 2.95 ERA and 12 saves in 17 relief appearances over 18.1 innings, while Matt Tosoni (5-0, 1.55), Miguel Valcarel (1-0, 1.75), Luis Monell (2-1, 3.78), Justin Gutsie (4-3, 3.92) and Nick Cenatiempo (0-0, 4.15) are also options out of the Red Storm bullpen. Lynch has fanned 17 and opponents are hitting just .22 against him. St. John's is fielding at a .965 clip as well.
THE STARTING PITCHERS -- Notre Dame will start junior right-hander David Phelps (5-3, 3.38 ERA) in the series opener. The Hazelwood, Missouri native has made nine starts for a total of 61.1 innings pitched. He has allowed 57 hits and 18 walks while striking out 57. Phelps, last week's BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week, has allowed just one home run (against Cincinnati on March 29) and opponents are batting .250 against him. He struggled in the season-opening loss to Liberty on Feb.22,but rebounded with three consecutive quality starts against Mount St. Mary's (7 IP, 0R, 10 K), Buffalo (7 IP, 1 ER, 4K) and Georgetown (7 IP, 1 ER, 7K). Phelps has gone at least 5.0 innings in 24 of his last 25 starts. He pitched a season-high 8.2 innings and allowed just an unearned run in his last start at Villanova (April 11). He leads the BIG EAST in innings pitched and strikeouts.
Senior southpaw Wade Korpi (5-2, 4.29 ERA) will take the mound in game two. Korpi has made nine starts for a total of 50.1 innings pitched. The Santaluces, Florida native has allowed 53 hits and 27 walks with 35 strikeouts. He has allowed a team-high five home runs (none over his last seven starts) and opponents are batting .272 against him. Korpi, who went 7-2 in 2006 with a 2.00 earned run average, picked up his first victory since Feb. 17, 2007 (a span of 10 starts and 14 appearances) against South Alabama on March 8.He made it five straight victories after his outings against Southern Illinois on March 15 (6IP, 3H,0R), Georgetown on March 21 (7IP, 1ER, 3H, 4K), Cincinnati on March 29 (6.1IP, 8H, 2ER, 5K) and Villanova on April 12 (6.0IP, 7H, 3ER, 3K). Korpi was knocked out of his start on April 5 in the fifth inning after a line drive struck him in the head. Korpi had struckout seven and allowed just one earned run over 4.1 innings before leaving the game, but did not miss a start.
The Irish will turn to sophomore righty Eric Maust (1-1, 3.20 ERA) for series finale. The Alpharetta, Georgia native has made 10 appearances (four out of the bullpen) for a total of 47.1 innings. Maust, who made three starts last year, has allowed 40 hits and 13 walks with 34 strikeouts. He has allowed four home runs (three in his last start at West Virginia on Apr. 20) and opponents are batting just .234 against him. In Maust's first start of 2008 against Texas Pan-American, he tossed 6.0+ innings and allowed two earned runs on nine hits. Maust fanned five and walked none. He held the Broncos scoreless over the first six innings before allowing back-to-back doubles to open the seventh.Maust got better in his second start, going 8.0 scoreless innings and fanning five against Georgetown on March 22. Despite entering the outing against Cincinnati with 12 in 67.2 innings over his career, he issued a quartet of free passes over his 2.0+ innings. He was charged with four earned runs on three hits. Maust had never walked more than two batters in an outing over his previous 24 career appearances, including five starts. He rebounded with a great effort against Rutgers to secure a sweep (8 IP, 1ER, 0BB, 4 K). Maust has gone at least 7.0 innings in each of his last three starts (3-0 with a 2.05 ERA over stretch).
LAST WEEK IN THE BIG EAST - Notre Dame took 2-of-3 at West Virginia (8-4, 6-11, 9-4) ... Seton Hall took 2-of-3 at Connecticut (9-5, 9-3, 5-11) ... Louisville took 2-of-3 from Villanova (12-5, 12-1, 1-3) ... St. John's took 2-of-3 at Pittsburgh (3-6, 7-4, 11-8) ... Cincinnati took 2-of-3 from Georgetown (7-1, 8-7, 5-8) ... USF took 2-of-3 from Rutgers (7-5, 6-4, 4-5).
SERIES NOTES - Notre Dame has taken four of the last five meetings, including the 2006 BIG EAST Tournament title game ... the Irish swept the Red Storm over a three-game series during the 2006 regular season (St. John's last trip to Frank Eck Stadium) ... the Red Storm had captured the previous four of five in the series with the Irish (three one-run wins and a two-run margin) ... St. John's 3-2, 6-5 victories in 2005 represent one of just nine times that Notre Dame was swept in a BIG EAST doubleheader (out of 94) ... St. John's then won the 3-1 finale, joining Seton Hall (1996), Connecticut (2002) and Louisville (2007) as the only teams ever to sweep a three-game BIG EAST series from the Irish ... Notre Dame has lost just 20 (five last season) all-time BIG EAST series (three have come against St. John's) ... the Irish won 9-of-10 in the series from 2000-2004.
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