CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— The Stony Brook Seawolves are the unanimous picks to win the 2011 America East Baseball Championship according to the preseason coaches’ poll and as voted on by all six of the league’s head coaches. After winning their second tournament title in three years in 2010, the Seawolves received all five possible first-place votes as head coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
Stony Brook earned 25 points overall, while University of Maine garnered the final first-place vote and 20 points to finish second in the poll. Binghamton University (18 points) and University at Albany (13) finished third and fourth, while University of Hartford (8) and UMBC (6) rounded out the six-team poll.
The 2011 America East Baseball Championship, a four-team double-elimination format, will be held at the field of the top seed May 25-27. The winner of the tournament will receive in automatic berth to the NCAA Championship where an America East team has won a game in the regional round in each of the past two years.
Stony Brook (30-27 overall 2010 record, 15-9 America East record) had some young talent step up to the plate last season en route to the 2010 championship, and with NCAA Tournament experience and another offseason of training under their belts, this group is predicted to be strong again. The league’s most-feared pitcher, 6-4 righty Nick Tropeano (West Islip, N.Y./West Islip), is back for his junior campaign. He led the league with 106 strikeouts and was second with a 2.44 earned run average (ERA) last year. Along with classmate Tyler Johnson (Chatsworth, Calif./Crespi Carmelite; 3.95 ERA, 10-3), the Seawolves have a strong 1-2 punch on the mound. In the batter’s box, sophomore designated hitter/pitcher William Carmona (Hempstead, N.Y./Hempstead) returns after leading America East with a .387 batting average and picking up the Rookie of the Year award, while America East Championship Most Outstanding Player junior outfielder Pat Cantwell (West Islip, N.Y./West Islip) finished with .361 batting average, 74 hits and 15 doubles. The veterans of the group, senior third baseman Stephen Marino (Lake Grove, N.Y./Centereach;.339 BA, 19 doubles) and senior shortstop Chad Marshall (Paris, Ontario/Paris District; .299, 7 HR) provide stability in the infield.
Maine (34-22, 17-7) returned to the conference tournament last year for the first time since 2007, doing so with the lowest team ERA in America East. The Black Bears’ deep pitching staff was led by then-rookie right-hander Jeff Gibbs (Toronto, Ontario/Birchmount Park) who was a second-team all-conference selection with a 3.94 ERA, 5-4 record and 72 strikeouts. Junior righties A.J. Bazdanes (Nashua, N.H./Nashua South; 5.05 ERA, 7-5) and Keith Bilodeau (Bourne, Mass./Bourne; 5.98 ERA, 4-2) provide experience behind Gibbs in the rest of the rotation. First team junior outfielder Taylor Lewis (Montville, Conn./Montville) hopes to pick up where he left off a year ago on the base paths, legging out a conference single-season record 13 triples and swiping 21 of 22 stolen base attempts. He also finished fourth in America East with a .369 batting average, fourth with 52 RBIs and tied for fifth in 53 runs scored.
Binghamton (31-20, 21-3) has won four straight regular-season titles and hopes to contend for another in 2011. The Bearcats have reigning America East Player of the Year Corey Taylor (Vestal, N.Y./Vestal), a senior outfielder, on their side again after leading the league with 14 home runs, 66 RBIs and a .679 slugging percentage as a junior. Taylor finished third with a .370 batting average and fourth with 54 runs scored while hitting out of the cleanup spot. As a team, Binghamton hit .332, tops in the conference, and scored a league-best 418 runs. On the mound, the America East co-Pitcher of the Year and ERA-leader James Guilietti (Plainview, N.Y./Plainview JFK) dominates opponents. Guilietti recorded an 8-2 record with a 2.15 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 88.0 innings pitched.
Albany (13-40, 10-14) advanced all the way to the final game of the 2010 championship as the four seed, knocking off top-seeded Binghamton twice in the process. The Great Danes enter 2011 with a solid number one starter in first-team all-conference senior Dave Kubiak (Southhold, N.Y./Southhold), a 6-6 righthander who tabulated a 4.57 ERA. At the end of the game, Albany has a weapon in junior lefty reliever Greg Lutton (New Haven, Vt./Mt Abraham/Vermont), who made 19 appearances a year ago and saved three games. The Great Danes also have an up-and-coming star in sophomore second baseman Brian Bullard (West Nyack, N.Y./St. Joseph), who earned a spot on the second team as a freshman after batting .326, driving in 32 runs and scoring 37 more.
Hartford (11-37, 5-19) returns one of America East’s best power threats in senior catcher Andy Drexel (Pequea, Pa./Penn Manor). Drexel smacked 12 home runs last year, ranking second in the conference, and led the Hawks with 15 doubles, 36 RBIs, 101 total bases and a .631 slugging percentage. Junior lefthanded starting pitcher Mike Thatcher (Willington, Conn./EO Smith) finished the 2010 season off strong with two straight quality starts. After starting out the season in the bullpen, he made eight starts and finished with a 6.68 ERA and two complete games.
Junior first baseman Max Himmelstein (Moorestown, N.J./Moorestown) led UMBC (9-39, 4-20) last season with a .316 batting average, 49 hits, and four home runs, while senior outfielder Bryan Russo (Westbury, N.Y./Clarke) totaled a team-best 28 RBIs to go along with 10 doubles. Head Coach John Jancuska, who is beginning his 34th season, has the Retrievers at home at UMBC’s Baseball Factory Field for eight of their first nine games this spring.
Maine kicks off the spring slate with a four-game weekend series against UNLV in Las Vegas on February 18. Albany also heads west to open the season with a mid-week date at San Jose State on February 23. Binghamton and Stony Brook head to VMI and Florida Atlantic, respectively, later that week to begin their 2011 campaigns. UMBC opens at home on March 1 with Delaware, while Hartford begins with the tough task of traveling to Oregon State for four games March 4-6.
2011 Preseason Poll
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Total
1. Stony Brook (5) 25
2. Maine (1) 20
3. Binghamton 18
4. Albany 13
5. Hartford 8
6. UMBC 6