FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
RICHMOND, Va. (January 22, 2014) – UNCW, which has captured the past two CAA baseball regular-season titles, has been picked to win the conference championship in 2014 according to a vote of the league’s head baseball coaches.
The Seahawks received six first-place votes and finished atop the poll with 48 points, followed by CAA newcomer College of Charleston, which got one first-place vote and was chosen second with 41 points. William & Mary, which is coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, was third in the voting with 35 points and defending CAA champion Towson received one first-place vote and was picked fourth with 31 points. Rounding out the poll were Northeastern, James Madison, Hofstra and Delaware.
UNCW returns five positional starters and every pitcher that started a game from last year’s squad that went 38-23 overall, won the CAA regular-season championship with an 18-8 mark and earned an NCAA Tournament berth for the second year in a row. Senior third baseman Ryan LaGrange (.370, 38 RBI’s) earned first-team All-CAA honors in 2013 and the Seahawks have a trio of third-team All-CAA selections back with outfielder Luke Dunlap (.336, 46 RBI’s), first baseman Corey Dick (.294, 40 RBI’s) and shortstop Terence Connelly (.290, 28 RBI’s). On the mound, senior lefty Mat Batts (9-4, 3.47 ERA, 116 K’s) was the CAA Pitcher of the Year last season and junior right-hander Jordan Ramsey (6-6, 2.34 ERA, 83 K’s) was a third-team All-CAA pick. UNCW also returns first-team All-CAA closer Kelly Secrest (3-1, 8 saves, 3.57 ERA).
College of Charleston, which over the past four years has averaged 38 wins and made two NCAA Tournament appearances, should be an immediate contender in its first year as a CAA member. Eight of the Cougars’ nine positional starters are back off last year’s 31-26 squad. Junior shortstop Gunnar Heidt (.349, 54 RBI’s) tops that group along with first baseman Carl Wise (.321, 10 HR), second baseman Blake Butler (.321, 21 RBI’s) and outfielder Brandon Murray (.306, 54 RBI’s). Butler and Murray made the All-Southern Conference second team last season and Wise a member of the NCBWA Freshman All-America team. CofC’s top returning pitcher is sophomore Nathan Helvey, who went 5-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 2013.
William & Mary looks to build on an excellent 2013 season in which it won a school-record 39 games and earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Back to lead the Tribe are senior second baseman Ryan Lindemuth (.351, 49 RBI’s) and junior first baseman Michael Katz (.358, 47 RBI’s), who both received All-CAA accolades last year and were named to the NCBWA preseason All-America third team. CAA All-Rookie catcher Ryan Hissey (.281, 36 RBI’s) is also back. W&M’s top returning pitcher is senior Jason Inghram (9-6, 3.36 ERA, 99 K’s), who was a third-team All-CAA selection a season ago.
Towson returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991 last year after capturing its first CAA baseball championship. Topping a group of eight returning positional starters is senior designated hitter Kurt Wertz, who received first-team All-CAA and third-team NCBWA All-America honors in 2013 after batting .338 with 13 homers and 65 RBI’s. He is joined by four other all-conference selections in third baseman Zach Fisher (.320, 40 RBI’s), outfielders Peter Bowles (.335, 50 RBI’s) and Dominic Fratantuono (.342, 53 RBI’s), and pitcher/outfielder Brandon Gonnella (4-4, 5.52 ERA/.303, 24 RBI’s).
The CAA is coming off one of its best baseball seasons ever as three teams received NCAA Tournament berths for the first time since 2001 and seven teams reached the 30-win mark for the first time in league history.
2014 CAA BASEBALL PRESEASON PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. UNCW (6 first-place votes) 48
2. College of Charleston (1 first-place vote) 41
3. William & Mary 35
4. Towson (1 first-place vote) 31
5. Northeastern 21
6. James Madison 17
7. Hofstra 16
8. Delaware 15