*2011 automatic qualifier. 2011 NCAA regional participants in bold (2011 records listed; 2012 national rankings in parentheses)
|METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC CONFERENCE|
|HOW THEY’LL FINISH|
|Projected NCAA Teams (1): Marist.|
|Conference Schedule: 24 games, begins March 24.|
|Conference Tournament: Four teams, May 24-27 at Siena.|
|Player of the Year: Chris Burke, 3b Iona.|
|Pitcher of the Year: John Soldinger, rhp, Manhattan.|
|TOP PROSPECTS, 2012-13 DRAFTS|
|1. Justin Brantley, rhp, Siena|
|2. Kevin McCarthy, rhp, Marist (2013)|
|3. John Soldinger, rhp, Manhattan|
|4. Chris Burke, 3b, Iona|
|5. Chad Gallagher, lhp, Marist|
1. Dan Sullivan, of, Siena (HS—Merrick, N.Y.)
|2. Devon Stewart, rhp, Canisius (HS—Maple Ridge, B.C.)|
|3. Seb Salvo, c/dh, Fairfield (HS—Fall River, Mass.)|
• Manhattan dominated the league last year, winning the MAAC regular season and conference titles and placing six players on the all-conference team, but most coaches expect the Jaspers to take at least a small step back this season. There were graduation losses to be sure, but the biggest loss was conference coach of the year Kevin Leighton, who moved on to Fordham. Leighton’s six seasons were the best in program history, as his teams all won at least 30 games and made the school’s first two regional appearances, in 2006 and 2011. The Jaspers hired Seton Hall assistant Jim Duffy to replace Leighton, and he’ll count on OF Anthony Vega, a strong all-around athlete, and RHP John Soldinger (10-3, 3.57) to continue the winning tradition. Soldinger was the MAAC pitcher of the year last season, leading the conference in wins and innings (106), and he’ll continue as the team’s Friday starter.
• Fairfield will be breaking in a new coach as well, though he was hired by the school a year earlier and is hardly new at leading a program. Longtime coach John Slosar retired after 27 seasons at the helm, and associate head coach Bill Currier stepped in to take his place in a planned succession. Currier lost his job as Vermont’s head coach after 22 seasons when the school folded its baseball program in 2009, and after spending a year at Tennessee he was hired by Fairfield to be Slosar’s successor. Currier will have an incredibly young group of Stags in his first season at the helm, with 14 freshman joining the program and about half of them being counted on to produce right away. The most notable of the group is DH/C Sebastian Salvo, a lefthanded hitter with above-average power. His father Keiron Bigby was a standout wide receiver for Brown in the 1980s and played in one game for the Redskins in 1987.
• After a mediocre season, Marist is the conference favorite thanks to nine upperclassmen who are expected to play prominent roles with the team. The best hitter is Sr. OF Eric Helmrich (.364/.449/.515), who was the all-MAAC DH last season. He’ll go to right field this season and bat in the middle of the lineup. Fifth-year Sr. LHP Chad Gallagher (9-3, 2.87) anchors the rotation, relying on sink and command, allowing just 17 walks last season against 56 strikeouts in 97 innings. So. RHP Kevin McCarthy is the team’s best pro prospect, but he hurt his knee in the offseason. He’s expected back for conference play. He posted a 1.38 ERA in the Atlantic Collegiate League last summer and was the league’s No. 3 prospect, showing an 89-91 mph fastball, smooth arm action and good three-pitch mix. He will probably work his way back into form in a relief role.
|• The conference’s top prospect is Siena RHP Justin Brantley (6-6, 3.28), the nephew of former big league player and coach Mickey Brantley and cousin of current Indians OF Michael Brantley. He pitches from 90-93 mph with a good curve and slider and has improved his pitchability, and scouts see upside there, so he could go in the first 10 rounds. He’ll be the Saints’ Friday starter.|