Pitt's baseball team has their biggest series of the season this weekend when they face Notre Dame as the kickoff to a 12-game homestand.
The Panthers have a better Big East record than the Irish (3-3 to 4-5) and a better overall record (21-9 to 19-11), but Notre Dame enters as the ranked team. Pitt fell out of the polls after a 1-3 week, but the Irish are ranked No. 16.
Count me among those that think Notre Dame may be a bit overrated. They've definitely played a much tougher schedule than Pitt so far, but have had only moderate success. They were soundly swept by the Big East's top team, Louisville, a couple of weeks ago, and are 4-5 against ranked teams in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll. That's not terrible, but I'm not sure they should be ranked as high as they are. Last week, they were the highest ranked team with double-digit losses in that poll.
Further, they've struggled to win those four games, coming out on top in each one by only a single run (and two came in extra innings). Meanwhile, they've lost by an average of three runs in their five defeats against ranked teams. That tells me they should be ranked closer to the bottom of the poll than in the middle.
Pitt's offense has outperformed Notre Dame's thus far and the starting pitchers, as a unit, have as well. The Panthers' starters, Rhys Aldenhoven, Matt Wotherspoon, and Ethan Mildren, combine for an ERA below 3.00. Notre Dame's Adam Norton (7-0 and a 1.72 ERA) may be the best pitcher in the series, but there's a significant dropoff after him. The Irish's other two starters have a combined ERA over 5.00.
Lastly, Notre Dame comes in at only 5-6 on the road while Pitt is nearly perfect at home (10-2).
Again, the Panthers haven't had nearly as difficult a schedule as the Irish, so you've got to take some of this with a grain of salt. But by all indications, they should have a fighter's chance in the series, which kicks off at 6:00 p.m. tonight.