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Eastern Connecticut Projected As Little East Baseball Favorite

Eastern Connecticut Projected As Little East Baseball Favorite

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Eastern Connecticut State University has been predicted to capture the 2010 Little East baseball regular-season championship, according to a vote by the league’s coaches. The Warriors received seven first place votes and 63 total points to begin the campaign as the preseason favorite for the fourth time in the 10-year history of the survey.

Keene State College earned the remaining first-place tally to earn the second place ranking with 54 points, outdistancing themselves from the University of Southern Maine by six markers. The University of Massachusetts Boston is fourth in the eight-team field with 40 points.

Under the direction of Bill Holowaty, Eastern Connecticut is currently ranked among the elite teams in the two premier Division III preseason publications: third in the American Baseball Coaches’ Association (ABCA) and fourth in the D3Baseball.com polls, respectively. In 2009, the Warriors raised the program’s seventh Little East championship trophy, and advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament as the top seed in the New England Region. Eastern Connecticut was edged by Trinity College (Conn.) in the championship round of the regional to complete their season with an overall record of 39-8. The Warriors led the conference circuit in the majority of pitching categories: earned run average (3.24), hits allowed (361), opposing batting average (.232), strikeouts (144), and wins (39). Eastern Connecticut will enter 2010 with the deepest pitching rotation in the league with a pair of All-Little East starters returning in seniors Matt Fontaine (Cranston, R.I.) and Will Musson (Wethersfield, Conn.). Holowaty will welcome back 20 student-athletes from last spring, including 10 starters. Eastern Connecticut opens its 2010 schedule against Albertus Magnus at 2 p.m. on March 6.

Ken Howe led Keene State College to the program’s fourth consecutive season with at least 25 victories in 2009, sporting an overall record of 25-16 and an 8-6 mark in the Little East. The Owls entered the conference tournament as the No. 3 seed and advanced to the championship round before falling to the Warriors. Keene State featured a potent batting order last spring with seven student-athletes hitting over .350 to sit atop the conference team standings in batting average (.370), on-base percentage (.449), slugging percentage (.588), and triples (25), while ranking second in total bases (891). The Owls are projected to boast another outstanding lineup with the return of four All-Little East players, including 2009 All-American outfielder Bobby Doyon (Keene, N.H.) and ECAC Rookie of the Year Cody Callahan (Seekonk, Mass.). Keene State begins its season in Arizona with a doubleheader against the College of New Jersey on March 13.

Under the watchful eye of Ed Flaherty, University of Southern Maine earned the program’s 18th berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament as an at-large selection in the New England Region. The Huskies (36-9) captured the regular season crown outright for the second time in program history in 2009 with a 12-2 record, and earned home-field advantage throughout the annual conference tournament. Southern Maine is currently ranked in both national preseason polls, debuting at No. 12 in the ABCA and No. 16 in the D3Baseball.com listings, respectively. The Huskies will lean on senior Collin Henry (Penobscot, Maine) and junior Mike Eaton (Sabbattus, Maine) to shoulder the offensive load and pitching staff, while a handful of young, talented underclassmen ease into the starting lineup. A year ago, Henry and Eaton offensively combined to record 43 extra base hits—28 doubles, three triples, and 12 home runs—and 102 runs batted in. On the mound, they posted a cumulative mark of 8-3 with 70 strikeouts and just 22 walks in 167 innings. Southern Maine will open its season against Albertus Magnus at 10 a.m. on March 7.

Brendan Eygabroat led UMass Boston to its most successful season in the Little East in terms of conference wins in 2009, posting an overall record of 19-22 and an 8-6 mark in conference play. The fourth-seeded Beacons swept fifth-seeded Rhode Island College in the quarterfinals of the Little East Tournament to advance to the final-four, double elimination round. Eygabroat’s charges will try to build off last year’s momentum as they return 17 student-athletes, including eight starters. Junior second baseman Ryan Walsh (Newton, Mass.) returns after leading UMass Boston in batting average (.424), doubles (18), hits (70), on-base percentage (.503), slugging percentage (.594), and total bases (98). The 2009 All-New England, second-team selection and the Beacons face Amherst College on March 15 in Vero Beach, Fla.

The Little East sponsors a 14-game conference schedule with each team squaring off twice. The top-six teams in the final standings advance to the 2010 Little East Baseball Championship. The four-day, double elimination tournament will commence on Wednesday, May 12 and the conference champion will be crowned on Saturday, May 15. The Little East champion will earn the conference’s automatic qualifier into the 2010 NCAA Division III Tournament.

Completing the preseason poll in projected order of finish in the final regular season standings are Rhode Island College (32), Western Connecticut State University (22), Plymouth State University (15) and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (14).

2010 Little East Baseball Preseason Coaches' Poll

Rank Institution (2009 Record) First Place Total Points
1 Eastern Connecticut State University (39-8, 11-3) 7 63
2 Keene State College (25-16, 8-6) 1 54
3 University of Southern Maine (36-9, 12-2)   48
4 University of Massachusetts Boston (19-22, 8-6)   40
5 Rhode Island College (24-15, 6-8)   32
6 Western Connecticut State University (12-25, 4-10)   22
7 University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (12-26, 6-8)   15
8 Plymouth State University (17-25, 1-13)     14