FROM CONFERENCE PRESS RELEASE
Somerset, NJ — Defending Northeast Conference champion Monmouth sits atop the 2008 NEC Baseball Coaches Poll as the favorite to capture its fourth league title. The Hawks received six first-place nods to finish ahead of Quinnipiac in the voting. Central Connecticut State, a three-time champion this decade, claimed third. Mount St. Mary’s, picked fourth, received the remaining two first-place votes. Long Island sits fifth followed by Wagner, Sacred Heart and Fairleigh Dickinson.
The top-notch pitching staff that powered Monmouth (36-24-1, 17-10 NEC) to a program-record 36 wins last season remains in tact. Right-handed hurlers Brad Brach (Freehold, NJ/Freehold Twp.) and Ryan Buch (Yardley, PA/Conwell Egan Catholic) both enjoyed all-NEC honors last season after posting two of the league’s top-five earned run averages. Brach, a senior, twirled four complete game shutouts last season en route to a 2.89 ERA. The NEC Pitcher of the Year struck out a conference-best 84 batters and posted a 9-3 win-loss tally. Brach’s masterful control yielded only 21 walks over a league-high 99.2 innings. The hard-throwing Buch, a sophomore, logged one of the better freshman campaigns in conference history to nail down the NEC Rookie of the Year award and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America honors. The NEC’s only other nine-game winner, Buch struck out 76 batters and posted a 2.44 ERA in 81 innings. Long-time head coach Dean Ehehalt also has one of the league’s most-dominant closers on his staff. Senior Justin Esposito (Red Bank, NJ/Middletown North) led the conference in saves (10) while striking out 21 opponents 22.1 innings of relief. In addition to posting the NEC’s second-best team ERA (4.49), the Hawks ranked second in overall batting average (.302) thanks in part to the bat of all-NEC first baseman Andy Meyers (Stratford, NJ/Sterling). The lefthanded slugger hit .395 and drove in a conference-best 65 runs. Meyers, a senior, and Buch are members of the Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award Watch List.
Quinnipiac (29-18-1, 21-7 NEC), the 2007 regular season co-champion, must find a way to compensate for the loss of its top three hitters, including 2007 NEC Player of the Year Tim Binkoski and his .424 batting average. The answer may be on the mound. Three of the Bobcats’ four weekend starters are back for their junior seasons. Right-hander Andy Mayer (Trumbull, CT/Trumbull) led the staff with an 8-2 record and 3.20 ERA. Junior southpaw Chris Gloor (Bay Shore, NY/Bay Shore), who made nine starts, struck out 68 hitters over 59.2 innings. Joe Duffy (Commack, NY/Commack), a 6’4″ right-handed twirler, surrendered only 27 earned runs in 55.0 innings. Graduate student Pete Kummerfeldt (Pompton Lakes, NJ/Pompton Lakes), who started 48 games at first last season, has some pop in his bat. The left-handed slugging first-baseman hit 12 round-trippers on his way to a .292 batting average. Junior utilityman Bryn Doyle (Manchester, NH/Manchester Memorial) provides another source of offensive production for veteran head coach Dan Gooley, who saw his Bobcats lead the league in hitting last year (.305).
Central Connecticut State (26-26, 14-14 NEC) looks to avenge last season’s NEC title game loss to Monmouth, but the Blue Devils and eighth year head coach Charlie Hickey will have to do it without their top battery from a year ago. First team all-NEC catcher Adam Taha and pitching ace Evan Scribner are gone, the latter landing with the Arizona Diamondbacks via the MLB Draft. All-conference second team southpaw Ken Kerski (Waterbury, CT/Crosby) has the ability to headline the rotation as evidenced by his team-high seven wins a year ago. The effective lefty logged a 3.36 ERA. Sophomore righthander John Tesseyman (High Falls, NY/Maine) threw three complete games en-route to a 6-4 record and the NEC’s fourth-lowest ERA (2.79). Senior outfielder Jack Kidd (Casper, WY/Cook CC) started all 52 games, producing a .280 batting average and a team-high 39 RBI.
Mount St. Mary’s (35-22, 21-7 NEC) enjoyed the best season in program history last year under NEC Coach of the Year Scott Thomson. The Mountaineers lost centerfielder Ivor Hodgson and pitcher Dustin Pease to professional contracts, but the defending regular season co-champs welcome back their batting and ERA leaders. Senior outfielder Ryan Murray (Enola, PA/East Pennsboro) blasted 10 homers and drove in 39 runs over a short 37-game sample while posting a team-best .385 average to earn first team all-conference accolades. The NEC’s top team in total bases (838) also returns second team all-league choice Josh Vittek (Eldersburg, MD/Liberty). The Mount’s all-time doubles’ leader (44), Vittek ranked third in the NEC in both slugging percentage (.517) and runs scored (42). Vittek, who hit 12 longballs last season, needs three more home runs to tie the all-time Mount record of 27. Adding more experience to a battle-tested squad, right-handed pitcher Andrew Germuth (Severn, MD/Archbishop Spaulding) returns for his senior season after posting a 8-5 record and a team-low 4.59 ERA. Germuth is ranked seventh in program history in both innings pitched (180) and Ks (138).
Long Island (16-35, 10-17 NEC) is coming off a seventh-place NEC finish, but one must beware of the Blackbirds. Sophomore James Jones (Brooklyn, NY/Telecommunications) is one of the conference’s top all-around players. The lefthanded hitting first baseman amassed a team-high 81 total bases while batting .299 with 10 round-trippers and 32 RBI. Junior lefty Kenny Cedel (Staten Island, NY/Tottenville) headlines an LIU rotation that may also include Jones. Cedel struck out 62 batters in 68.0 innings as a weekend starter. Six of the 62 Ks came in a complete game, 1-0 shutout of CCSU. Jones started eight games on the mound for the Blackbirds, picking up wins over Longwood and Fairleigh Dickinson. Sophomore right-hander Matt Owens (Metuchen, NJ/St. John’s) should also factor into the mix after transferring from St. John’s.
Wagner (17-34, 11-17 NEC) sees its chances of winning skyrocket every time lefty Joe Testa (Brick, NJ/Brick) takes the mound. The senior southpaw, who can hit 92 miles per hour on the radar gun while also exercising precise control, struck out 82 batters in 80.2 innings of work. Only 10 strikeouts short of becoming the program’s all-time leader, Testa looks to improve on his 3.01 ERA from a year ago. Testa, who struck out 12 in a 3-0 shutout of Monmouth, should be excited to have his battery mate back in the form of junior Chris Drechsel (Cranford, NJ/Cranford). The all-NEC second team receiver hit .296 and drove in 18 runs over 50 starts. Sophomore first baseman Vin Avella (Matawan, NJ/Christian Brothers Academy), the team’s biggest power source, went deep seven times and recorded 10 two-base hits last season.
Sacred Heart (22-31, 12-15 NEC) has one of the conference’s most feared bats in designated hitter Jeff Hanson (Woodstock, NY/Onteora), a first team all-NEC pick. An intimidating presence in the batter’s box at 6’5″ and 230 pounds, Hanson ranked fourth in NEC for both hitting (.376) and RBI (46). The senior slugger smashed 19 doubles and seven homers in 52 starts. The hot corner is occupied by athletic sophomore Steve Tedesco (Mission Viejo, CA/Trabuco Hills). The sophomore third baseman doubles as an all-NEC wide receiver on the gridiron. Tedesco hit .285 with 15 RBI, but is most dangerous on the basepaths where he successfully stole 13 bases in 17 tries. The loss of NEC ERA leader Jay Monti, who twirled a complete game shutout against Notre Dame, may be the biggest around the league. With the Pioneers’ top three starters gone, there is plenty of room for sophomore left-hander Jared Balbach (Pine Bush, NY/Pine Bush) to step up. The southpaw struggled a bit with control, but flashed his brilliant ability in hurling seven innings of one-run ball in 6-1 victory over Long Island.
Fairleigh Dickinson (9-45, 4-23 NEC) returns its top batsmen and pitcher as the Knights look for continued growth under fourth-year head coach Jerry DeFabbia. Junior infielder Jeff Vincent (Murraysville, PA/Franklin Regional) logged a .335 batting average and .435 on-base percentage over 52 games. Senior lefty John O’Hara (Staten Island, NY/St. Peter’s) struck out 66 batters over a team-high 64.2 innings en route to a 4.59 ERA. The senior starter twirled his share of gems last season, including six scoreless innings in a 12-2 victory over Quinnipiac.
Now in its 27th season, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 11 institutions of higher learning located throughout five states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to four of the largest markets in the United States – New York (#1), Pittsburgh (#22), Baltimore (#24), and Hartford/New Haven (#29).
Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Monmouth (6)
3. Central Connecticut State
4. Mount St. Mary’s (2)
5. Long Island
7. Sacred Heart
8. Fairleigh Dickinson
First place votes in parentheses ().