Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Big East Conference Crown on Line as Panthers Set to Take on Louisville

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Big East Conference Crown on Line as Panthers Set to Take on Louisville

Article excerpt

The Pitt baseball team has won 40 games for the first time in school history. The Panthers enter their final series of the regular season in first place in the Big East Conference, with an impressive 15-game winning streak in league play.

But according to Baseball America and other websites that project the NCAA tournament field, they still have some work to do in order to secure the school's first NCAA tournament berth since 1995.

Pitt (40-12, 18-3) is on the NCAA tournament bubble entering its road series which begins tonight against No. 10 Louisville. The Cardinals (43-10, 17-4) are one game behind the Panthers in second place in the Big East.

The reasons cited for Pitt's precarious NCAA tournament standing are poor strength of schedule and some midweek losses to subpar teams that have dragged down the team's ranking in the Rating Percentage Index, the same system the NCAA uses to help select the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournament fields.

The Panthers are No. 72 in the RPI and their strength of schedule ranks 239th in Division I. And, while they have dominated the Big East, they have dropped non-conference games against the likes of Niagara, Virginia Commonwealth, Coppin State and Akron.

"Whoever tells you they don't pay attention to it is really just lying," senior catcher Elvin Soto said. "You do pay attention to it when you're in the position we are. You definitely pay attention to it and you definitely want to go into the Big East tournament having an idea of whether you're going to be in or out."

"Winning the regular season would definitely give us more leverage going into the selection show."

Pitt coach Joe Jordano believes his team already has done enough to warrant an at-large berth, but he readily admits the Panthers lack the national reputation of other teams that will be vying for at-large berths.

"I can't control what other people think," Jordano said. "I know this team is a very good baseball team. Based on the schedule we've played, we have some incredible wins and we've had some tough losses. Overall, we have 12 losses, seven are by one run.

"You have to look at the full body of work. …

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