Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The Elms College baseball squad was selected to finish second in the 2016 New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Baseball Coaches' Preseason Poll, announced by the conference office Friday afternoon. The Blazers collected 37 total points, including one first-place vote, to earn their highest finish in the preseason poll since being picked second in the 2010 edition.
The Blazers are returning 17 players, including six starting fielders and three starting pitchers, from a 2015 team who finished as championship runner-up after a three-game battle with reigning champions Mitchell College. Junior Jordan Zima (Berlin, Conn.) had a breakout season as a sophomore en route to his first NECC First Team selection. Jordan led the Blazers in batting average (.382), hits (52), runs batted in (24) and slugging percentage (.478) during the 2015 season. Jordan ranked second in the NECC in hits, and third in batting average. Zima set the single season record for putouts, registering 292 putouts at first base this season. Senior arms Tom Weldon (Springfield, Mass.) and Andrew Sadowski (Northampton, Mass.) look to anchor the Blazers pitching staff in 2016. Weldon claimed NECC First Team honors as a sophomore and delivered a 7-3 record with a 3.43 earned run average (ERA), five complete games and led the NECC in strikeouts with 65. Sadowski went 6-4 as a junior with a league-high six complete games, 60 strikeouts and a 3.30 ERA.
Mitchell College was selected to defend their NECC Title as they finished the Baseball Preseason Coaches' Poll with 48 points and six of the seven first place nods. The Mariners are coming off their best season in school history and will need to replace production from 12 seniors lost to graduation.
Mitchell will look to the NECC top pitching staff from 2015 which includes the reigning NECC Pitcher of the Year, Al Jordan Johnson. He will share the work with senior classmate, Tyler Shamas, who has been honored three times on the NECC First team and was awarded the NECC Pitcher of the Year in 2013 and 2014. The Mariners have two returning fielders Neftali Arroyo in right field and Kyle Hartenstein at second base.
Finishing with 31 points is Newbury College who landed in third place. The Nighthawks are led by three members of the NECC All Conference Second team juniors Ethan Forrest, Billy Stephen and senior Craig Barnett.
Ranking fourth in the polls is Becker College who tallied 28 points. The Hawks will look to the 2015 NECC Player of the year, junior, Niko Bedell. While Bedell will power the offense, the Hawks will also look to their two top aces from last season in junior Tyler Wagar and senior Nick Lemay.
Placing fifth in the NECC Coaches' poll is Lesley University with 22 points, who will seek a spark from the 2015 NECC Rookie of the year, pitcher,Tom Muratore and also second basemen Gustavo Polidor who was named to the 2015 NECC All Conference Second Team.
Closing out the polls tied for sixth with 15 points each are Daniel Webster College and Southern Vermont College.
Baseball begins their season on Sunday, February 14th with non-conference matchups. The NECC schedule begins on Saturday March 6th with two scheduled games between Newbury College and Mitchell College.
2016 NECC Baseball Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Mitchell – 48 (6)
2. Elms – 37 (1)
3. Newbury – 31
4. Becker – 28
5. Lesley – 22
T6. Daniel Webster – 15
T6. Southern Vermont -15