College Preview

2013 America East Conference Preview




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AMERICA EAST CONFERENCE
HOW THEY'LL FINISH
  Conference Overall
  W L W L
*Stony Brook 21 3 52 15
Binghamton 13 9 23 26
Maine 11 11 28 28
Albany 16 8 22 32
Hartford 7 17 16 40
Maryland-Baltimore County 2 22 10 42
*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): Stony Brook.
Conference Schedule: 30 games, begins March 16.
Conference Tournament: Four teams, May 22-24 at highest seed.
Player of the Year: Michael Fransoso, ss, Maine.
Pitcher of the Year: Brandon McNitt, rhp, Stony Brook.

TOP PROSPECTS, 2013-14 DRAFTS
1. Sean Newcomb, lhp, Hartford (2014)
2. Kevin Krause, c, Stony Brook (2014)
3. Cole Peragine, ss, Stony Brook (2014)
4. Brian Hunter, rhp, Hartford
5. Mark Palumbo, rhp, Binghamton
TOP NEWCOMERS
1. Johnny Caputo, 3b, Stony Brook (HS—Toronto)
2. Billy Walker, c, Hartford (HS—Warwick, R.I.)
3. Manny Colon, c, Maryland-Baltimore County (HS—Buena, N.J.)
4. Daniel Zamora, lhp, Stony Brook (HS—La Puente, Calif.)
5. Aaron Wilson, ss, Hartford (HS—Hartford)

QUICK HITS

• What can Stony Brook do for an encore? The Seawolves were college baseball's darlings in 2012, becoming the first America East team to get to the College World Series and the second No. 4 regional seed to make it in the 64-team era. The core of last year's spectacular junior class, 3B/RHP William Carmona, OF Travis Jankowski and 2B Max Tissenbaum, have all gone pro along with seniors RHP Tyler Johnson and C Pat Cantwell. Nonetheless, the Seawolves have the most talent in the league and set out as the favorites to defend their AEC title. Even with the loss of Johnson, the Seawolves should still have a stout rotation, now led by Jr. RHPs Brandon McNitt (8-4, 2.76) and Frankie Vanderka (3-3, 2.33). McNitt and Vanderka profile similarly as competitors who pound the strike zone, and they'll be joined in the weekend by rotation by Fr. LHP Daniel Zamora, who chose Stony Brook over signing with the Blue Jays as a 27th-round pick last year and fits the same strike-throwing mold as the two upperclassmen. So. C Kevin Krause (.327/.397/.428), last season's DH, takes over for Cantwell behind the plate and should anchor the lineup. The Seawolves are also excited about the power potential of Fr. 3B Johnny Caputo, while So. SS Cole Peragine (.304/.386/.411), last season's AEC rookie of the year, looks like he has what it takes to be a new clubhouse leader.

• Before Stony Brook's rise to power, Binghamton had been the AEC's top program, winning four straight regular-season titles from 2007-10. The Bearcats slipped to third-place finishes in each of the last two seasons but are primed to be Stony Brook's toughest challenger once again. Binghamton is loaded with experience on both sides of the ball, beginning with its weekend rotation led by Sr. RHPs Jake Lambert (6-4, 3.79) and Jay Lynch (2-5, 5.05). The two seniors lead a staff deep with veterans that control the zone and won't beat themselves. If Binghamton is going to threaten Stony Brook though, it will need more from a lineup that managed just 4.6 runs per game in 2012. They'll be counting on the production of So. 3B Brian Ruby (.371/.422/.422), a strong-armed defender with power, and sweet-swinging So. OF Jake Thomas (.296/.424/.407), who could be poised for a breakout second season. The Bearcats should also benefit from having a real home field, as they were essentially a travel team last year, playing their "home" games at their opponents' ballparks while their on-campus park, Varsity Field, was extensively rebuilt.

• In his former post as Connecticut's recruiting coordinator, second-year Hartford coach Justin Blood was a key figure in building the Huskies squads that made regionals in 2010 and 2011. A rising star in the coaching ranks, Blood took on a massive rebuilding project for his first head job, as the Hawks went just 6-43-1 the year before he was hired and haven't had a winning season since 1992. But Blood proved his recruiting chops at UConn, and now he's got the Hartford program making headway. With four freshmen penciled into the starting lineup, the Hawks will be young but considerably more athletic in 2013, led by C Billy Walker and exciting SS Aaron Wilson. So. LHP Sean Newcomb (2-4, 4.17), the expected Friday starter, has started generating scouting buzz with the 94 mph velocity he showed last summer and fall to go with his 6-foot-5 frame, and all three of Hartford's weekend starters have been clocked over 90. For now, with as much youth as they have, the goal for the Hawks is to reach the AEC conference tournament—they haven't even done that in 16 years—but the progress of this program and its coach bear watching.