first_imgThree times this season the Syracuse softball team has put together a four-game winning streak. But just as the momentum starts to build, losses in the next game have twice spoiled SU’s chances of making a major run in the Big East.Perhaps the third time will be the charm.If ever there was a time for the Orange (27-20, 9-7 Big East) to make a statement to the rest of the conference, this is it. After two wins each over Connecticut and Penn State, Syracuse has tied its longest winning streak of the season at four games. This weekend the team travels to Pennsylvania for three games against Pittsburgh (24-20, 8-8) in its second-to-last series of conference play. With only two weeks left in the Big East regular-season, the Orange is looking to sure up its spot in the conference tournament by way of a strong performance against the Panthers.‘We need a sweep,’ SU sophomore pitcher Jenna Caira said. ‘We can’t say that we can have two out of three (games). We need to make sure we go in there and take care of some business. Every game counts here.’The importance of this series is elevated by the log-jam that is the Big East this season. The top eight teams in the conference qualify for the Big East Championship in May, and at this point only one team has clinched a spot. Notre Dame (40-9, 15-3) has cemented itself at the top of the league, but seven other spots are up for grabs.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse and Pittsburgh currently sit fourth and fifth in the standings respectively and are separated by only one game. The difference from fourth place to last place is just four games, meaning a sweep for either team would be devastating. No team in the conference has been mathematically eliminated from tournament contention either.‘I would say it’s a very important series,’ Pittsburgh head coach Holly Aprile said in a phone interview Monday. ‘I don’t want to overrate this series, but obviously, you know, because of the standings and where we are shaping up it’s important for both of us.’If the Orange sweeps this weekend, it could tie or even pass Louisville for third place depending on the results of the Cardinals’ series with South Florida.And if history is at all an indication of what will take place this weekend, SU can rejoice. Under head coach Leigh Ross, Syracuse is a perfect 6-0 against the Panthers. Pittsburgh is the only team in the Big East that doesn’t have a victory against Ross while she has coached the Orange. Her teams have outscored the Panthers by 19 runs during the current streak and out-hit Pittsburgh 63-37.‘I don’t really understand why (we play well against Pittsburgh), but I like it,’ Ross said. ‘I like that we’re comfortable going up against them.’Although Ross may not be able to offer an explanation for the current winning streak, Aprile found a reason quite easily.‘I don’t know that it’s something particular against us necessarily,’ she said. ‘I think that they’ve just been better. They’ve out-hit us, and they’ve out-pitched us.’Pitching is what got it done for the Orange against the Panthers last season, particularly Caira. She threw a complete game one-hit shutout for SU and that lone single was the only thing between Caira and her first-career perfect game.Heading into this weekend, Caira says she feels ‘really good’ despite throwing 12 innings on Tuesday. She was virtually unhittable against the Nittany Lions and is looking for a repeat performance against the Panthers.‘I went to (the trainer) yesterday, and she worked on my arm,’ Caira said. ‘She did a good job with that, and I feel loose and relaxed. I’ll be ready to go this weekend and hopefully have the same performance as when we played Penn State.’After this weekend the team has one Big East series remaining when it hosts second-place DePaul May 8-9. The Orange has never beaten the Blue Demons under Ross, which is a major reason why she wants to lock up a berth in the tournament before they come to town.‘I just think getting it done right now (is important),’ she said. ‘Take care of our business and ensure us a spot in the (Big East) tournament. That will give us a little leeway and take a little pressure off for DePaul, being able to go out there and relax and know that we have clinched a spot.’ Published on April 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @Michael_Cohen13 Comments [email protected] Facebook Twitter Google+last_img