|HOW THEY’LL FINISH|
|Central Connecticut State||19||13||28||24|
|Mount St. Mary’s||7||25||14||40|
|*2012 conference champion
Teams in bold are 2012 NCAA tournament participants. Teams are listed in order of predicted finish. Records listed are from 2012 season.
|Projected NCAA Teams (1): Bryant.|
|Conference Schedule: 32 games, begins March 22.|
|Conference Tournament: Four teams, May 23-26 at site to be determined.|
|Player of the Year: John Murphy, ss, Sacred Heart.|
|Pitcher of the Year: Peter Kelich, rhp, Bryant.|
|TOP PROSPECTS, 2013-14 DRAFTS|
|1.||Justin Topa, rhp, Long Island-Brooklyn|
|2.||Ian Miller, of, Wagner|
|3.||Derek Lamacchia, rhp, Quinnipiac|
|4.||Brendan Butler, rhp, Fairleigh Dickinson (2014)|
|5.||John Ziznewski, ss, Long Island-Brooklyn|
|1.||John Ziznewski, ss, Long Island-Brooklyn (Tr.—Rockland, N.Y., CC)|
|2.||Anthony Ciavarella, lhp, Monmouth (HS—Phillipsburg, N.J.)|
|3.||Mike Adams, rhp, Wagner (HS—Absecon, N.J.)|
• Bryant has waited out a four-year transitional period following its move up from Division II to Division I in 2008, during which it wasn’t eligible for the postseason. The Bulldogs began play in the Northeast Conference in 2010, and all they’ve done is win two NEC regular-season titles in three years. Those Bryant teams couldn’t go to the NEC or NCAA tournaments, but in 2013, the Bulldogs can finally play their way to the postseason. The Bulldogs bring back all the key pieces from what was easily the NEC’s top pitching staff in 2012, when their 3.05 team ERA was more than a run better than their closest NEC competition. Three of Bryant’s four regular starting pitchers had ERAs under 3.00, led by Sr. RHP Peter Kelich (8-3, 1.81), the 2012 NEC pitcher of the year. There’s no letup in the Bullpen either. The Bulldogs were 28-2 when leading after six innings last season, and they bring back relief stalwarts So. LHP Trevor Lacrosse (0-1, 2.51) and Sr. RHP Sal Lisanti (2-3, 1.54, nine saves). The lineup will need some time to gel around Sr. OF Kevin Brown (.281/.365/.520, nine homers), one of the NEC’s top home run hitters, and may struggle early on. They do have high hopes for Fr. OF A.J. Zarozny’s potential to be an impact hitter at the top of the order.
• Long Island-Brooklyn ought to improve on its seventh-place finish from 2012 after getting back its ace, Jr. RHP Justin Topa. Topa had Tommy John surgery in 2011 and didn’t pitch for the Blackbirds last spring, but he did return to mound over the summer for Madison of the Northwoods League, ranking as the NWL’s No. 7 prospect. Topa reaches 95 mph and commands three pitches, and he’ll give a huge boost to a staff that already ranked fourth in the NEC with a 4.57 ERA last year. The Reds took a chance on Topa in 33rd round of last year’s draft, but he didn’t sign and will pitch this season for LIU as a redshirt junior. Topa isn’t the Blackbirds’ only key addition either, as Jr. SS John Ziznewski should step immediately into the middle of the order after transferring in from Rockland (N.Y.) CC. Ziznewski was the star of LIU’s fall practices, driving balls all over the field and adding strength since his arrival on campus. Another juco transfer, Jr. OF/RHP Kevin Needham, should help both with his power at the plate and in the bullpen with a fastball that reaches the low 90s.
• Sacred Heart has won the last two NEC tournaments and brings back its entire weekend rotation from 2012, fronted by Sr. RHP Troy Scribner (7-5, 4.04), the younger brother of Athletics reliever Evan Scribner, and Jr. LHP Nick Leiningen (6-5, 4.04). Monmouth should still be competitive after finishing second in last year’s NEC standings, but the Hawks figure to take a step back after losing RHP Pat Light, who became the highest-drafted player in school history when the Red Sox took him in the supplemental first round (37th overall) last June. The good news is Monmouth does bring back the other two members of last year’s weekend rotation, Jr. LHP Andrew McGee (7-4, 4.58) and Sr. LHP Danny Smith (6-6, 4.88), along with all-conference second baseman Jr. Jake Gronsky (.313/.377/.436).