Two weeks from Friday, the college baseball season will begin. With that pre-season polls are starting to become public. In the America East Conference, such a poll was held to determine who should be the favorites heading into the 2023 baseball season. The Binghamton Bearcats, last year’s tournament champions, have been selected as the favorites to win the regular season title and be the number-one seed in the postseason tournament. By the way, the America East Postseason baseball tournament just happens to be scheduled for Binghamton, May 24-27.
The Bearcats got 31 points and four first-place votes. They return 25 players from last year’s team that went to the NCAA tournament and played in the Stanford Regional. At the top of that list, is the conference Rookie of the Year Evin Sullivan. He played all 49 games for the Bearcats last season and hit .365 with 70 hits, and 22 extra-base hits, including 15 doubles and 42 RBI. He was the first freshman to bat cleanup in Binghamton’s 21 years as a division one baseball program. In the AE tournament, Sullivan went 6-for-11 with seven RBI. He was the only freshman named to the All-Conference team. In the NCAA regionals, Sullivan went 6-for-9 with one run batted in. He was also named a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American.
Senior pitcher Thomas Babalis is back to be the number-one starter for the Bearcats. A season ago, he made 16 starts which tied for the team lead. He posted a 4.98 ERA in those starts, with four wins, and struck out 86 hitters in 85 innings. The strikeout total is the third highest in program history. He punched out seven or more hitters six times last season. His high water mark in K’s was nine which he did twice including in the AE tournament vs NJIT in six innings of work. The left-hander is a good one and will be counted on to be the ace of the staff again this season.
The UMass Lowell River Hawks have been picked to finish second this season. That is the highest placement since joining the league. They received 28 points and two first-place votes. This will also be coach Ken Harring’s most experienced team with several grad students back to give it one more go. Speed was a big part of how the River Hawks created offense last year. Jacob Humphery was at the top of that list. The sophomore outfielder was one of the top base stealers in the league as well as the country. His 46 stolen bases were an America East Conference record. He played in 53 games, which were all starts. He led the team in hitting with a .337 batting average and added six doubles, two home runs, three triples, and 23 RBI. He had a team-leading 36 walks, scored 50 runs, and had a .456 on-base percentage. He was pretty good in the field as well posting a .958 fielding percentage. Humphrey was named to the AE second-team all-conference as well as to the Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American team.
On the mound, the River Hawks will look to sophomore pitcher LJ Keevan. The left-hander started 14 games last season. He posted a 5-5 record with a 4.71 ERA which led the team. He struck out 60 batters in 80 innings of work. He ended his year as a member of the conference’s All-Rookie Team, and second-team All-Conference as well. Keevan will be the projected ace of the staff and should be the Friday starter in conference games.
Binghamton and UMass Lowell were the two teams that faced each other for the conference title last May in Maine. They have a chance to battle it out again during the regular season and just maybe have round two this May in Binghamton.
The new kids on the block are the Bryant Bulldogs. They come to America East from the Northeast Conference where they were 30-27 and 17-10 in league play. One of the players that the Bulldogs will be counting on is senior OF Derek Smith who started all 54 games for Bryant a season ago. He hit .268 with 12 doubles, 26 RBI, and 42 runs scored. He was 15-for-18 in stolen bases, had 14 multi-hit games, and led the team in walks with 26. In the NEC tournament, he had six hits of which three of them came in the championship game where he went 3-for-4. Logan Frasier was possibly the Bulldogs’ best pitcher a season ago. He appeared in 14 games, 13 of them starts. Had a 5-3 record with a 4.45 ERA in 58.2 innings pitched. He had the only complete game thrown by the Bulldogs staff. That took place in the tournament vs Long Island University in a must-win for Bryant when he allowed two runs on eight hits and struck out seven in getting the win.
Another pitcher to keep an eye on is Ryan Fischer of NJIT. He was named the America East Pitcher of the Year a season ago. The senior right-hander had a seven-win season for the Highlanders. It was one win shy of the program record for wins in a season. Had a team-best 3.97 ERA, 95.1 innings pitched, and struck out 90 hitters. His best outing came on April 29 when he threw a complete game and struck out a career-high 14 vs Stoney Brook. One of three double-digits strike-out games to Fischer’s credit. NJIT was picked to finish fifth in the regular season.
Last season’s regular season champs, the Maine Black Bears were picked fourth They did get the other first-place vote. UMBC was selected sixth, and UAlbany was picked seventh.
The top six teams will make the tournament in Binghamton this May. With the top two teams getting byes. The remaining four teams will play a single game to advance to the double-elimination format that will be played over the final three days of the event. It all gets started on February 17 with league play set to begin on March 17.
- ACC2023.03.23ACC Baseball News & Notes: Tight Early Season Division Races
- America East Conference2023.03.22America East Baseball News & Notes: Conference Play Has Begun
- College Hockey2023.03.21Boston University and Merrimack make the NCAA Hockey Tournament
- America East Conference2023.03.18America East Basketball Postseason News