2014 College Preview: America East

BA breaks down the America East Conference, including our projections for regional teams, player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.

America East Conference

1. Sean Newcomb, lhp, Hartford
2. Mike Urbanski, rhp, Binghamton
3. Kevin Krause, c, Stony Brook
4. Johnny Caputo, 3b, Stony Brook (2015)
5. Brian Hunter, rhp, Hartford
6. Cole Peragine, ss, Stony Brook
7. Nick Brass, rhp, Stony Brook
8. Cameron Sorgie, rhp, Albany
9. Tyler Honahan, lhp, Stony Brook (2015)
10. Jack Rogalla, rhp, Binghamton

Baseball Members (First Year): Albany (2002), Binghamton (2002), Hartford (1990), Maine (1990), Maryland-Baltimore County (2004), Massachusetts-Lowell (2014), Stony Brook (2002).

Checking out: None.

Conference Tournament: Four teams, double-elimination. May 21-23 at Lowell, Mass.

Team to Beat: Binghamton.

All nine everyday starters return from last year's regional team, and the rotation has a senior ace in RHP Jack Rogalla, a Coastal Plain League all-star with an 88-91 fastball and good command of his slider and changeup. Jr. RHP Mike Urbanski, who ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Perfect Game Collegiate League last summer thanks to a 91-94 fastball and biting slider, looks ready to give the rotation a dominant Saturday starter. Led by the rock-solid double-play tandem of SS John Howell and 2B Dan Nevares, the Bearcats fielded .976 last year (24th in the country) and should be airtight on defense this year. Nevares and Jr. OF Jake Thomas (.371/.517/.522) anchor a gritty lineup that doesn't give away outs.

Player of the Year: Jake Thomas, of, Binghamton

A talented lefthanded hitter who really stands out for his control of the strike zone (45-22 BB-SO last year), Thomas ranked third nationally in OBP last year.

Pitcher of the Year: Tommy Lawrence, rhp, Maine.

The wily Lawrence sat out 2012 after transferring from Winthrop, then carved up the America East (11-3, 2.32) and the Cape League (1.58 ERA, 23-1 SO-BB) in 2013.

Freshman of the Year: Stephen Woods, rhp, Albany.

An unsigned sixth-round pick, the projectable Woods has flashed 89-93 mph heat and good feel for a curveball, making him a likely weekend starter this spring.

Dan Nevares

Dan Nevares (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode)

Notable Storylines: A year after winning 52 games and reaching the College World Series, Stony Brook went 25-34 last year, its fewest wins since 2006. But Omaha veterans remain at catcher (Kevin Krause), shortstop (Cole Peragine), first base (Kevin Courtney) and in the top two spots in the rotation (Frankie Vanderka and Brandon McNitt). Krause,a multi-tooled player who rates as the team's top prospect, must revert to his freshman year form (.330/.399/.431) after hitting just .211/.313/.268 in an injury-plagued sophomore campaign last year . . . Maine went 37-22 overall and 20-9 in the AEC to win the regular-season crown by four games, then fell flat in the conference tourney. The Black Bears hit .305 as a team last year and welcome back their best hitter, Sr. SS Troy Black (.363/.414/.429). Lawrence is also back to lead a re-tooled pitching staff . . . Third-year head coach Justin Blood has worked hard to upgrade Hartford's pitching, defense and athleticism, hoping the athletes can develop into solid hitters. That process takes time, but Blood expects the defense to be much improved and the team speed to be a strength, led by athletic So. CF Chris DelDebbio and steady shortstop Trey Stover. But Hartford will go as far as its pitchers take it. Jr. LHP Sean Newcomb can run his fastball up to 97 mph and could be a first-round pick this June, while Sr. RHP Brian Hunter has made strides commanding his 88-92 sinker, which bumps 94. Keep an eye on live-armed two-way talent David MacKinnon, a freshman who also serves as the goalkeeper for Stony Brook's soccer team (and broke the school record for shutouts this fall) . . . After winning 10 or fewer games in four straight seasons, UMBC won 18 games in coach Bob Mumma's second year at the helm. Sr. RHP Mac Gill is back to anchor the Retrievers' pitching staff, and Mumma said he was pleased with the team's overall offensive improvement in the fall . . . UMass-Lowell joins the America East in its first at the Division I level. The River Hawks went 30-19 in their final season in D-II last spring, two years after going 37-14. Ace Sr. RHP Shane Beauchemin, who went 9-0, 1.53 last year, should keep Lowell competitive on Fridays, and leading hitter Geoff DeGroot (.345) is back to lead the offense.