CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— The 2011 America East Regular Season Champion Stony Brook University Seawolves top the 2012 Preseason Coaches’ Poll with a deep group of returners back for this season. University of Maine, the 2011 America East Tournament Champions, are close behind the Seawolves and second in the poll.
Stony Brook received four first-place votes and 24 points, while Maine captured the remaining two first-place votes and 22 points. Head coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
University at Albany and Binghamton University are third and fourth with 15 and 14 points, respectively. University of Hartford (10 points) and UMBC (five points), both led by first-year head coaches, rounded out the six-team poll.
The 2012 America East Baseball Championship, a four-team double-elimination format, will be held at the field of the top seed May 23-25. The winner of the tournament will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Championship where three different America East teams have knocked off Regional Round opponents over the last three years.
Stony Brook (42-12 overall 2011 record, 22-2 in America East) brings back 20 letterwinners from last year’s team which won a school-record 42 games and the regular season title. Among those returners are Player of the Year Willie Carmona and Rookie of the Year Brandon McNitt. Carmona can play both sides of the ball effectively, leading the conference with a .357 batting average, 80 hits, 27 doubles and 131 total bases, while also pacing the Seawolves with four saves and compiling a 1.76 ERA in 11 relief appearances. McNitt finished second in America East with a 2.03 ERA in his freshman campaign. He also finished the season with a 7-3 record, three saves and two complete games. Stony Brook’s pitching staff, which led the league last year with a 3.36 ERA, will also boast first-team all-conference starter Tyler Johnson who went 9-3 last season with a 2.30 ERA. All-conference honorees second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum (.343 BA, 55 runs, 20 2b, 43 RBIs) and outfielders Travis Jankowski (.355, 39 runs, 38 RBIs, 30 sb) and Tanner Nivins (.313, 38 runs, 14 2b) are also back in the fold in 2012 and hope to bring Stony Brook’s fourth America East Championship back to Long Island.
Maine (33-24, 18-6 AE) earned its first America East title since 2006 and has a young core who could have the Black Bears competing for a championship once again in 2012. All four all-conference infielders from a year ago return for the Black Bears led by senior first baseman Justin Leisenheimer. Leisenheimer led the league with eight home runs and hit for a .327 average. Junior shortstop Mike Fransoso (.317, 32 RBIs, 5 hr, 17 sb) and all-rookie selections second baseman Troy Black (.386, 32 hits) and third baseman Alex Calbick (.286, 30 RBIs, 29 runs) round out that group. Three of four pitchers in the starting rotation a year ago are back, including junior hurler Jeff Gibbs (3.69 ERA, 7-5 w-l), another second-team pick. Sophomore pitcher Shaun Coughlin earned second-team honors as a reliever as a freshman after compiling a 2.44 ERA, two saves and a 3-1 record in a team-high 19 appearances in 2011, but will likely see time on the mound as a starter this year.
The Albany (21-31, 11-11 AE) seniors have advanced to the America East final in each of their first three years and hope to get back there in 2012 along with the help of some younger players. Seniors Mike Tirri and Pete Diresta led the team at the plate with batting averages of .325 and .316, respectively, and 10 doubles a piece. Leadoff man Nolan Gaige, a junior outfielder and second-team all-conference recipient, scored the second-most runs in the league with 48 and went 11-for-12 on stolen base attempts last season, while sophomore catcher Josh Nethaway (.280, 13 2b) led the team with 36 RBIs as a freshman to earn a spot on the all-rookie team. Senior Zach Kraham (4.48 ERA, 5-6 w-l), one of the top returning strikeout pitchers in the league with 65 strikeouts in 82.1 innings pitched, and junior Kasceim Graham (3.88 ERA, 4-2 w-l) will likely get the bulk of the innings on the mound for the Great Danes.
Binghamton (21-28, 13-10 AE) will once again build their pitching staff around ironman Mike Augliera, a senior right-handed hurler, who pitched 92.2 innings over 14 starts and recorded four complete games and two shutouts. Augliera, a first-team all-conference selection, led the team and finished fifth in America East with a 3.01 ERA while striking out 71 opposing batters. Sophomore all-rookie outfielder Bill Beresziewicz batted .353 in 33 games in 2011, while senior first baseman Dave Ciocchi, another first-team pick, batted .343, slugged .528 and led America East with a .445 on-base mark.
Head coach Justin Blood begins his first season at Hartford (6-43-1, 3-20 AE) and will have three 2011 all-rookie choices to begin building his program around. Providing veteran leadership to a young Hawks team will be senior shortstop Simon Kudernatsch who was the only player to start all 50 games last season and led the team in runs (20), hits (42), triples (two) and runs batted in (21). An offensive leader two years ago with 12 home runs, senior catcher and outfielder Andy Drexel returns after only playing 13 games a year ago due to injury.
UMBC (10-37, 2-20 AE) also enters a new era for its baseball program as former assistant Bob Mumma enters his first season at the head of the helm. Senior designated hitter Max Himmelstein will be expected to provide pop in the lineup again after putting up a .315 batting average, 53 hits, 12 doubles and 31 runs batted in in 2011 to earn second-team all-conference honors. Sophomore catcher and outfielder Rob McCabe could also add some depth at the plate after hitting .270 with 23 runs in 2011.
2012 Preseason Poll
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Total
1. Stony Brook (4) 24
2. Maine (2) 22
3. Albany 15
4. Binghamton 14
5. Hartford 10
6. UMBC 5