The Central Connecticut baseball team was picked second in the Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll it was announced by the league on Friday. The Blue Devils, the defending NEC champions, collected three first-place votes in a vote of the league's head coaches.
The Blue Devils open the 2018 season against North Dakota State in a three-game series in Port Charlotte, FL, beginning on Feb. 23.
CCSU posted a 36-22 record overall and went 21-7 in conference play last season. Central won its fifth conference title in 2017 and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the 5th time under head coach Charlie Hickey. Hickey, the 2017 NEC Coach of the Year, reached a pair of milestones last season when he won his 600th career game and also his 500th at Central Connecticut. He returns an experienced roster this season, including a trio of First Team All-NEC choices. Senior Mitch Guilmette led the Blue Devils with a .331 average and earned all-conference honors as a designated hitter. Senior Dean Lockery hit .330 and tied the single-season program record with 22 doubles and was named to the All-Conference team at second base. Junior Jared Gallagher was the First Team relief pitcher after posting a 2.35 earned run average with eight saves.
The Blue Devils are also slated to return senior Andrew Hinckley who earned All-NEC First Team honors in 2016 after going 8-4 and ranking seventh in the NCAA with seven complete games. Sophomore TT Bowens is also returning after earning NEC Tournament MVP honors when he batted .636 (7-for-11) with two homeruns, five runs scored and three RBIs in three games. He added a double and a triple to hit for the cycle in helping CCSU to the title.
Bryant was tabbed as the league's preseason favorite after collecting four first-place votes. Sacred Heart was picked third, followed by Wagner, LIU Brooklyn, Fairleigh Dickinson and Mount St. Mary's to round out the poll.
The top four teams qualify for the Northeast Conference Championship, which will be held at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, CT, on May 24-26.
Central plays a three-game series against North Dakota State to open the season. The games will be played in Port Charlotte, FL, Feb. 23-25. The games on Friday and Sunday will take place at South County Regional Park (670 Cooper St., Punta Gorda, FL 33950). The game on Saturday will be played at North Charlotte Regional Park (1185 O'Donnell Blvd, Port Charlotte, FL 33953)