BASEBALL: Panthers Earn Preseason Awards

PITTSBURGH - For the second consecutive year, Pitt second baseman Jim Negrych was selected the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, and was joined by Billy Muldowney in being honored on Tuesday. Muldowney was named the Preseason Pitcher of the Year.



The Panthers were chosen second in the preseason poll and garnered two first-place votes. Negrych (Buffalo, N.Y./St. Francis), the only unanimous Preseason All-Big East Team pick, batted .349 with 14 doubles, 16 home runs and 59 RBI last season. He was ranked among the league leaders in RBIs (2nd), slugging percentage (2nd, .694), on base percentage (4th, .471), runs scored (T-7th, 52), home runs (1st), total bases (4th, 129), and walks (2nd, 44). Muldowney (West Chester, Pa./West Chester East) earned 2006 Preseason Pitcher of the Year honors after finishing 2005 with a 7-3 record and the league's sixth best ERA at 2.47. Opponents hit just .245 against Muldowney, who pitched 83.2 innings last season.

Those two were joined by sophomore pitcher Robert Brant (Mansfield, Pa./Mansfield) on the Preseason All-Big East Team. Brant went 7-2 with a team-low 2.07 ERA, striking out 68 batters in 61 innings.

The Panthers advanced to the Big East title game in 2005 and finished with a 33-22 record. Pitt's 103 points were 14 less than first-place selection Notre Dame, who garnered nine first-place votes. Villanova had the other first-place vote among the 12 coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own team.

The Big East adds Cincinnati, Louisville and USF for the 2006 season, making it a 12-team league. Below is the predicted finish:

1. Notre Dame (9) 117 pts.
2. Pittsburgh (2) 103 pts.
3. USF 91 pts.
4. Louisville 87 pts.
5. St. John's 82 pts.
6. Rutgers 76 pts.
7. Villanova (1) 51 pts.
8. West Virginia 51 pts.
9. Connecticut 48 pts.
10. Cincinnati 42 pts.
11. Seton Hall 26 pts.
12. Georgetown 18 pts.

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