NEW HAVEN, CT (February 10, 2009) - Caldwell College is the preseason favorite to win the 2009 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) regular-season baseball championship according to balloting released today. Four teams picked up first-place votes, with the Cougars leading the way with four. Dominican College received three first-place votes, Philadelphia University garnered two and Felician College was voted first on one ballot. The ten CACC head baseball coaches were the voters.
Caldwell, which is ranked 28th nationally according to the PING! preseason rankings, tied for the CACC regular-season championship last season and went on to take the CACC Tournament title. The Cougars earned the CACC's automatic berth into the 2008 NCAA Division II Regional and faired well as the Number Four seed in the six-team tournament. Caldwell won its first two games before being eliminated with two losses. The Cougars also played in the 2007 Regional.
The Cougars return 16 players from last season's team. Junior outfielder Adric Saxon and junior infielder Ray Keelan lead the returning bats. Saxon earned first team All-Northeast Region and All-CACC honors and Keelan was an All-CACC second team pick. 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. 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 and Eric Hines are back for their senior seasons. In the bullpen, junior Buddy Riggs returns after setting a school record for saves with five. Caldwell will be guided by first-year head coach, Jay Messina. Messina served as an assistant coach for the past five seasons.
Dominican College and Philadelphia University tied for second in the balloting with 79 points apiece, with the Chargers collecting three first-place votes and Philadelphia getting two. The Rams tied for the CACC regular-season championship last season with a 19-8 conference mark and a 22-22 overall record. Dominican was just one game back at 18-9 to go with a 28-25 overall showing.
Philadelphia will be led by fourth-year head coach Mark Heineman, who was voted CACC Coach of the Year last season. Returning for the Rams will be first team All-CACC second baseman Tyler Mentzer and second team right-hander Kyle Noonan. The Rams also welcome back sophomore right-hander Jared Farbman, who led the team in both wins (6) and ERA (2.89) en route to All-CACC honorable mention status.
Dominican will feature one of the youngest teams in the CACC with a roster that includes just one senior, five juniors, 11 sophomores and 13 freshmen. Heading the returning players is second team All-CACC first baseman Tommy Maloney. Also back is sophomore Tom Kahl, who tied for the team lead with six victories in 2008, and senior Brian Craig, who posted a 3.60 ERA last season.
Wilmington University was picked fourth with 76 points and Felician was fifth with 66 points. The Wildcats and Golden Falcons battled for the fourth and final playoff spot in 2008 and it came down to the final game of the regular-season. The two clubs played a three-game series to end the campaign and the Golden Falcons took two of the meetings to gain a playoff berth.
Felician returns two first team All-CACC selections in junior catcher Marcos Torres and sophomore relief pitcher Joe Brescia. Brescia set a conference record with seven saves in 2008. All-CACC second team outfielder Vinnie DiBenedetti will also be back in center field for his senior season.
Senior outfielder and first team All-CACC selection Cody Holliday will lead Wilmington in 2009. Holliday ranked third in the CACC in home runs last season with eight, tied for second with 14 doubles and tied for third with 41 runs scored. Also back is junior Phil Aviola, who will share catching duties and serve as a relief pitcher after posting a 2.66 ERA in 19 appearances last season.
The rest of the poll is rounded out by Post University (51), Nyack College (42), Bloomfield College (29), University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (20) and Chestnut Hill College (18).
The 2008 CACC Player of the Year, Nyack's Cody Levins, returns after pacing the conference in batting average (.421), doubles (18), on-base percentage (.500) and slugging percentage (.684) last season.
The complete 2009 CACC Preseason Baseball Poll is listed below.
|2009 CACC Preseason Baseball Poll|
|1. Caldwell (4)||34-19/19-8 CACC||90|
|T2. Dominican (3)||28-25/18-9||79|
|T2. Philadelphia (2)||22-22/19-8||79|
|10. Chestnut Hill||7-34/5-22||18|
|First Place Votes in ( )|