For the first time in America East history, two teams have been selected as co-favorites in the preseason baseball coaches poll.
Neither was the University of Maine.
Defending league champion Binghamton University and 2012 titlist and College World Series participant each received three first-place votes and 31 points in a vote of America East head coaches.
Hartford earned a first-place vote and was picked fourth with 23 points and Albany was fifth (17), followed by Maryland Baltimore County (9) and newcomer UMass Lowell (8).
Coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears, who last season went 37-22 on their way to the program’s first regular-season crown since 2002, was third in the voting with 28 points.
“I think the poll was very fair, but we’ve won it when we were picked third, and we’ve finished third when we were picked to win it,” said Trimper, who said he doesn’t put much stock in the sampling.
UMaine suffered several key losses, including shortstop Mike Fransoso, catcher/pitcher Mike Connolly and third baseman Eric White of Brewer, along with starting pitching A.J. Bazdanes and reliever D.J. Voisine.
The Black Bears’ top returnees include senior second baseman Troy Black, outfielders Brian Doran, Sam Balzano, Colin Gay and Kyle Silva, and infielders Alex Calbick and Scott Heath.
Senior right-hander Tommy Lawrence, the reigning America East pitcher of the year and a preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball Daily, anchors a pitching staff that also features Shaun Coughlin and Jake Marks.
“Our offense, I think, is going to be outstanding, our pitching is going to be better than it was last year, and our defense is going to be our question mark,” Trimper offered.
UMaine is now less than a week away from its season-opening series against the University of Miami that begins Feb. 14.
Binghamton, which beat UMaine in the 2013 title game and finished 30-25, returns all of its position starters and two of its top four starting pitchers. Jake Thomas, who led America East with a .371 batting average, is among the top returnees.
Stony Brook is No. 1 in the poll for the fourth year in a row coming off a 25-34 campaign. Veterans include starting pitcher Frankie Vanderka.
Pyne named volunteer coach
UMaine has a new face on its baseball staff in volunteer assistant coach J.P. Pyne.
Pyne came on board in December after spending six seasons as the head coach at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, N.H. He was a three-time Northeast College Conference Coach of the Year and led Daniel Webster College to league titles in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Pyne’s team reached the NCAA tournament each of the last two seasons.
He previously served as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Saint Joseph College in Standish and spent two years as the head coach at St. Anselm College. Pyne also was an interim pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays’ Gulf Coast League affiliate and was the bullpen coach for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Toronto’s Eastern League entry.
Pyne is a 2001 graduate of Saint Joseph’s, majoring in communications and was a four-year letterwinner for the Monks, captaining the team as a senior.