2016 CCC Baseball Championship Contenders Tie As 2017 Preseason Favorites

2016 CCC Baseball Championship Contenders Tie As 2017 Preseason Favorites

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The two teams that finished off last year's Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) baseball season will begin this season tied as preseason favorites as Salve Regina and Endicott both earned 74 points in the 2017 CCC Preseason Coaches' Poll.

The Seahawks, the reigning CCC Baseball Champions, earned five of the nine possible first place votes in the voting conducted by the league's baseball head coaches.

Salve Regina finished the regular season in fourth place last year with a 10-6 CCC (26-18-1 Overall) record. In the tournament, the Seahawks picked up a road win against No. 3-seed Nichols, before being bumped into the losers' bracket with a 6-5 loss to No. 2-seed Endicott. Salve staved off elimination with a win against No. 6-seed Curry and then defeated top-seeded Western New England to earn a spot in the tournament's championship matchup. Needing two wins to claim the title over the Gulls, the Seahawks picked up a decisive 10-3 victory to force a final game. The final game of the season was a pitchers' duel, but two runs by the Salve in the sixth were enough to propel the team to its first conference title in over a decade.

The 2016 CCC Champions earned a spot in the Mid-Atlantic Regional of the 2016 NCAA Baseball Championship Tournament, but dropped close games to St. John Fisher and Salisbury to eliminate them from championship contention.

The Gulls, earned two first place votes in this year's poll after competing in the 2016 CCC Tournament as the No. 2 seed. Endicott finished the regular season with a 13-3 CCC (29-15 Overall) record, tied for the top spot in the standings. The Gulls were seeded second after losing the tiebreaker to Western New England. They made their way through the CCC Tournament through the winners' bracket without dropping a game until the championship pairing with the Seahawks.

Western New England ranked third in this year's voting. The Golden Bears claimed 62 points and the last two first place votes. Western New England, last season's CCC Tournament No. 1 seed, went 13-3 (30-11 Overall) in the CCC last year, but had its championship run cut short with losses to the two championship teams.

Nichols, coming off the most successful season in program history, was picked fourth in the poll with 57 points. Curry ranked fifth on the ballot with 43 points, followed by Roger Williams with 34 points.

Gordon (33 points), Wentworth (18), and Eastern Nazarene (10) closed out the poll in that order.

First pitch for CCC baseball teams is this Saturday, Feb. 18 as Curry heads down south for a three-game series with Oglethorpe. Other teams will be making spring trips in early March to get their seasons underway. The first set of conference doubleheaders are scheduled for Saturday, March 25.

The top six teams in the conference standings will qualify for the CCC Baseball Championship Tournament, which will have a modified format starting this year. Starting on Friday, May 5, the six tournament teams will play a double-elimination format tournament to determine the two championship contenders. The two teams remaining will then play a best-of-three series on Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 to determine the 2017 CCC Baseball Tournament Champion. The CCC Tournament Champion will earn the league's automatic qualifier into the NCAA Baseball Championship.

Click HERE to view the whole 2017 CCC baseball schedule.

 

 2017 CCC Baseball Preseason Coaches' Poll

 

Team

Points (First Place Votes)

T-1.

Salve Regina

74 (5)

T-1.

Endicott

74 (2)

3.

Western New England

62 (2)

4.

Nichols

57

5.

Curry

43

6.

Roger Williams

34

7.

Gordon

33

8.

Wentworth

18

9.

Eastern Nazarene

10


2017 CCC Baseball Previews

T-1. Salve Regina

Defending champion Salve Regina returns seven of its nine All-CCC players from last season including three All-Region (D3baseball.com and NEIBA) performers in Tristan Dacey (Wyccckoff, N.J.), Alex Perry (North Attleboro, Mass.), and Zack Smith (New Canaan, Conn.). Seniors Cory Poplawski (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Hunter Sleeper (Arlington, Mass.) provide the most experience for fourth-year head coach Eric Cirella, who has consistently produced 26 wins in each of his first three seasons.

"Obviously it's an honor to be picked to finish first in the conference by the CCC coaches, but it's irrelevant when you look at the big picture because there are a lot of talented teams in this conference who will beat you if you don't show up ready to play. At the end of the day, we can't look at what people think May playoff seeding will look like. As a ball club we have to focus on what we can control each day we get an opportunity to practice or play. There is an element of luck involved as well because staying healthy is a big factor. Overall, we have to prepare and think like a champion, and then we have to back that up on the field every day. That is the way we would look at it no matter what the preseason polls predict, that's why we play the games."

 

 
Cory Poplawski, SRU

T-1. Endicott

Winners of two out of the last four CCC championships, the Endicott baseball team will look to return to championship form in 2017 behind reigning conference Player of the Year Mike Kochiss (Fairfield, Conn.), and several other talented student-athletes on the roster.

The Gulls' lineup will feature several 2016 CCC All-Conference selections in Nick Berno (St. Albans, Vt.), Michael DeDonato (Chelmsford, Mass.), Anthony Serina (Portsmouth, R.I.), and Chris Seidl (Dracut, Mass.), while the pitching staff will showcase arms such as Nick Quattro (Canton, Conn.), Colby Morris (Newburyport, Mass.), Owen Bautze (Sudbury, Mass.), and Will Ferreira (Nantucket, Mass.).

Endicott will prep for a CCC Tournament run behind its strength of schedule, which features three teams out of the gate in Florida that are either currently nationally ranked, or made the NCAA Tournament last season. The Gulls' schedule will also national powerhouse programs such as Wheaton (Mass.), Southern Maine, MIT, Saint Joseph's (Me.), Tufts, and UMass Boston.

 


Mike Kochiss, EC

3. Western New England

After winning 30 games and claiming the CCC regular season title last spring, Western New England has its sights set on another successful campaign in 2017.

Despite losing four All-CCC performers to graduation, Western New England returns the 2016 CCC Rookie of the Year in sophomore left-handed pitcher Bob Hamel (Southwick, Mass.), who went 7-1 with a 1.88 earned run average during his freshman campaign.

Senior first baseman Dan Morin (Salem, N.H.), a two-time All-CCC selection, will be a key offensive piece for the Golden Bears this spring after leading the team in home runs (six) and RBI (42) last season.  Additionally, sophomore infielder Alex Loparco (Riverside, Conn.) and sophomore outfielder Erik Lacaire (Worcester, Mass.) are back after making significant contributions as freshmen.

Head coach Dan Gomez begins his fourth season at the helm of the baseball program in 2017 with a career record of 68-50-1. Gomez was named both ECAC DIII New England Coach of the Year and CCC Coach of the Year following Western New England's successful 2016 campaign.

The Golden Bears open up their 2017 season with a three-game series against SUNY Old Westbury on March 4-5, before heading down south for eight games at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational from March 10-18. Western New England hosts crosstown rival Springfield College for its home opener on March 22, while CCC play gets underway at Salve Regina on March 25.

 


Bob Hamel, WNE

4. Nichols

Coming off the most successful season in program history, the Bison seek a return trip to the postseason and to avenge last season's playoff disappointment. Three student-athletes – juniors Cam Cook (Phoenixville, Pa.) and Nick Roy (Middletown, Conn.), along with sophomore Joe Assenza (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) – will anchor the lineup, along with senior Matt Hardy (North Attleboro, Mass.). Hardy is 55 hits shy of becoming the all-time leader at Nichols. Senior Adam Rigney (Niantic, Conn.), along with juniors StigErik McElhinney (Dracut, Mass.) and Vincent Amato (Brooklyn, N.Y.), anchor the rotation while All-Conference reliever Kevin Kirley (Clinton, Mass.) returns to close out games for head coach Nick Puccio.

 

 
Cam Cook , NC

5. Curry

The Curry Baseball program will continue to focus on developing a strong and deep pitching staff this year. The 2016 staff featured two All-CCC performers, the 2016 CCC strikeout leader and First Team selection David Griffin (Hanover, Mass.) and Second Team honoree Matt Fogarty (Millis, Mass.). The Colonels will also return Second Team All-Conference Selection catcher Nick Crivello (Millville, Mass.). Curry has an infusion of young talent as the team added 12 newcomers to the program.

 

   David Griffin, CC

6. Roger Williams

After not making it into the playoff last season, the Roger Williams baseball team is looking to qualify for the playoffs this season and compete for the CCC Championship title.

The Hawks bring back sophomore, Chris Bosco (North Andover, Mass.). Bosco played in 36 games in the 2016 season with 35 starts. He was fourth on the team with a .280 batting average, second on the team with a .406 on-base percentage, and third on the Hawks with 23 runs scored and 33 hits. Bosco was also, fourth on the team with 12 runs batted in. He tied for the team lead with 14 drawn walks.

The Hawks also bring back junior, Jimmy Smith (Walpole, Mass.). Smith appeared in nine games on the season with seven starts. Smith was second on the team with four wins on the year, finishing with a 4-4 record, fourth on the team with a 3.81 earned run average, second on the team with 49.2 innings pitched and a .225 opposing batting average, and third on the Hawks with 40 strikeouts.

The Hawks also bring back senior, George Lund (West Hartford, Conn.). In the 2016 season, Lund started in seven games on the season for the Hawks and led the team with five wins, going 5-1 overall on the year, was second on the team with a 2.98 earned run average fourth on the team with 36 strikeouts and 42.1 innings pitched and third on the team with a .241 opposing batting average. Lund also made 1st Team All-CCC, New England Pitcher of Year, ECAC All-Star, NEIBA All-New England, ABCA All-American, d3baseball.com All- America, and 2015 Pre-season All-American in the 2014 season.

RWU will also welcome seventeen new players on the team who will all be expected to make contributions at some point in the season.

 

 
Chris Bosco, RWU

7. Gordon

Gordon expects to remain competitive in the CCC for the third year in a row under head coach Rob Mansfield, who has led the Fighting Scots to the postseason in each of his previous two years. The Fighting Scots lost a couple of key players in the middle of the diamond, but return a majority of its nucleus from last year. Dean Demers (Sandy Hook, Conn.) headlines the list after hitting a league-best .417 and will give Gordon versatility moving forward by splitting time at first and the outfield. Starting pitcher Matt Amore (Pequannock, N.J.) led the conference in pitching stats for a majority of last season and finished in the conversation among the league's best with a 2.42 ERA and six wins. Junior Addison Tarr (Oxnard, Calif.) returns to his role as leadoff man and commander of the outfield after turning in his second straight year of plus-.300 play. Several sophomores who saw extended looks as rookies will also be relied on to carry the team in the right direction.

 


Dean Demers, GC

8. Wentworth

While the Wentworth Institute of Technology baseball team may have missed the CCC Tournament a season ago, the Leopards played a lot of close contests, including dropping 11 games by a single run and having 14 of their losses be by a total of 17 runs.

Offensively Wentworth returns five of its top eight hitters including senior Jordan Burst (Jackson, N.J.) who hit .382 (42-for-110) with four doubles 26 runs scored, 20 runs batted in, and seven stolen bases. Burst also had an on-base percentage of .382. Sophomore Matt Smith (Horseheads, N.Y.) had a rookie campaign which saw him hit .330 (31-for-94) with 17 runs scored and four stolen bases. Senior Jimmy Temte (Northborough, Mass.) returns to the lineup after hitting .303 (33-for-109) with seven doubles, three triples, and two home runs to go along with 28 RBI and a slugging percentage of .477. Junior Tyler Weninger (Chandler, Ariz.), a 2015 All-CCC selection, hit .298 (34-for-114) with nine doubles, two triples, and a home run as a sophomore while senior Christian Ferri (Bloomfield, N.J.) hit .295 (33-for-112) with six doubles, six stolen bases, and a .444 on-base percentage.

On the mound, Senior Aaron Denis (Dover, N.H.) posted a pair of wins last year to go along with a save and 42 strikeouts in 54.2 innings of work. Weninger will also be called on to help the Leopards after recording a pair of wins and striking out 28 batters in 48 innings of work. Sophomore Mike Callagee (Emerson, N.J.) also had two wins (2-3) for the Black & Gold a season ago with three of his six starts resulting in complete games. He walked just five batters in 34.2 innings of work.

 

Aaron Denis, WIT

9. Eastern Nazarene

Head coach Kameron Konert enters his first season managing the Lions' baseball club.

Junior pitcher Brent Houle (Westfield, Mass.) returns after earning All-CCC Third Team honors last spring. Houle posted a 5-2 record on the mound with a 1.51 ERA and 28 strikeouts.

Eastern Nazarene finished with a 15-24 overall record in 2016 and a 2-14 mark in the Commonwealth Coast Conference.
 
The Lions open the 2017 season with a doubleheader against Geneva March 7 in Fort Pierce, Fl.

Brent Houle, ENC

 

Season previews contributed by each school's sports information department.

 

ABOUT THE COMMONWEALTH COAST CONFERENCE

The Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC), founded in 1984, is an NCAA Division III athletic conference comprised of ten full member and three associate member institutions throughout the New England region. Its membership aims to provide student-athletes with a positive experience in their pursuit of excellence through high academic standards, quality competition, and a meaningful student life. The conference currently administers championships in 16 intercollegiate sports with that number set to increase next year with the addition of football.

 

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