Central Connecticut was picked as the winner in the 2020 Northeast Conference Preseason Baseball Coaches' Poll it was announced on Tuesday. CCSU, the defending league champion, collected six first-place votes. The league's head coaches voted in the poll and were not able to vote for their own squad.
The Blue Devils are slated to open the 2020 season with a three-game series on the road at Behune-Cookman. The teams will play single games on Feb. 21, 22 and 23.
CCSU went 31-23 in 2019 and won the program's sixth conference title under head coach Charlie Hickey. The Blue Devils posted a 7-4 win over #24 Cal for the program's first NCAA Tournament win in 2019. The Blue Devils have won two NEC titles in the past three seasons and have a core of nine players who have played on both championship squads.
The Blue Devils are slated to return its entire batting lineup, led by a pair of All-NEC selections. Senior Dave Matthews was named All-NEC Second Team and also to the NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team. He led CCSU in homeruns (7), runs (40) and RBIs (43), while batting .303. Junior TT Bowens earned All-NEC Second Team and NEC All-Tournament Team honors after hitting .376 with 26 RBIs and 26 runs scored in just 32 games. He hit a three-run homerun in CCSU's NCAA Tournament opener at #5 Arkansas. The Blue Devils lineup will also return senior Buddy Dewaine who was named to the NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team and NEC All-Tournament Team. He started all 54 games as a junior and scored 34 runs, while driving in 29 others. He led Central batting .471 with six RBIs at the conference tournament. Senior Chris Kanios has started 106 games in the outfield in his first three seasons.
On the mound, Central will be led by senior Brandon Fox. Fox started 15 games as a junior and tossed 89.0 innings. He collected three wins and 44 strikeouts, while also getting the ball for CCSU's NCAA-opener at 5th-ranked Arkansas. Junior Matt Shane made four starts in 2019, while sophomore Tim Buchek made five starts in his rookie campaign. Central will also return experienced arms in seniors Michael Delease and Andrew Braun, and sophomore Ron Grant. Delease and Grant both appeared in the 2018 NCAA Tournament as frehmen with CCSU.
The Blue Devils topped the preseason poll, while Bryant was picked second and collected two first-place votes. Wagner was picked third, followed by Sacred Heart. The top four teams qualify for the Northeast Conference Championship, which will be held at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, CT, on May 20-23.
The Blue Devils will play their home-opener on March 3 against Hartford