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Big East/Big Ten tourney expands, contracts

NCAAThe annual Big East/Big Ten Challenge will be scaled back to 24 games in 2011 but will be played at a wider variety of venues, including Bright House Field and Dunedin Stadium.

Last year the tournament was expanded to 30 games, but this year it’s being cut back to 24 games. 

The 2011 Challenge will feature eight teams from each conference playing in 24 games over three days to open the college baseball season from Feb. 18-20.

The 2011 Challenge will feature Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, St. John’s and West Virginia from the Big East, as well as Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue from the Big Ten. The event will be played at current and former Major League facilities in the St. Pete/Clearwater area, including Bright House Field and Dunedin Stadium, the spring homes of the Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays, respectively. Games will also be played at Clearwater’s Jack Russell Memorial Stadium, and St. Petersburg’s Al Lang Field and the Walter Fuller Baseball (Naimoli) Complex.

“Hosting this event gives us a great opportunity to highlight the St. Pete/Clearwater area and why we are a leader in sports tourism,” said Kevin Smith, Director of St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission. “Kicking off the baseball season is what our area has done for decades and we look forward to continuing that tradition with the BIG EAST and Big Ten Conferences.”

The 2011 Challenge will feature tripleheaders at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium and Al Lang Field on Friday and Saturday, while the same ballparks will host doubleheaders on Sunday morning and afternoon. Friday also features an evening doubleheader at Dunedin Stadium, while Bright House Field hosts a twin bill on Saturday night. The Challenge also includes four games played Sunday morning and afternoon at the Walter Fuller Baseball Complex.

The Big Ten won the inaugural Challenge in 2009, 15-9, while the Big East was victorious in the 2010 event, 17-13.

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