Courtesy of Matt McLagan, Caldwell SID
CALDWELL, N.J. - The Caldwell College baseball team is ranked
28th nationally in Ping! Baseball's 2009 Division II Preseason
Rankings, the online publication announced. The ranking follows a
2008 season that saw the Cougars capture the Central Atlantic
Collegiate Conference Tournament and advance to their second
straight NCAA Northeast Region Tournament. This is the first
national ranking for Caldwell in the 13-year history of the
The Cougars return 16 players from last season's team, including five of their top eight hitters and their top four starting pitchers. Junior outfielder Adric Saxon (Coral Springs, FL/Broward CC) and junior infielder Ray Keelan (Barnegat, NJ/Southern Regional) lead the returning bats. Saxon hit .312 with 10 home runs and 42 runs batted in en route to earning first team all-Northeast Region and all-CACC honors. Keelan, a second team all-CACC selection, batted .312 with nine homers and 30 RBI as a sophomore in 2008. Junior centerfielder Omar Velazquez (Astoria, NY/Long Island City) led the team in runs and received all-CACC honorable mention.
The pitching staff, which ranked fifth nationally with a team earned run average of 3.11, has virtually everyone back, including 2008 CACC Pitcher of the Year Robert Casal (Howard Beach, NJ/St. Francis). Casal, who also was named to the all-Northeast Region first team, went 9-4 with an ERA of 1.89 and 106 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings. First team all-CACC pitcher Stephen Pfeil (Hampstead, NH/Pinkerton Acad.), who was 5-4 with an ERA of 1.75, and Eric Hines (Milltown, NJ/Spotswood), who was 5-2 with an ERA of 3.23, are back for their senior seasons. In the bullpen, junior Buddy Riggs (Coral Springs, FL/Taravella) returns after setting a school record for saves with five in 2008.
Jay Messina takes over the program after serving as an assistant coach at Caldwell for the past five years. During his time at Caldwell, the Cougars have made three appearances in the NCAA Northeast Regional, won two CACC Tournament titles and clinched two CACC regular-season crowns.
The Cougars open the 2009 season on Mar. 12 with a non-conference game at Pace University.