The University of Maine baseball team was chosen to finish fourth in the America East coaches’ preseason poll, but interim head coach Nick Derba said he fully expects his team to contend for the conference championship.
Derba replaced 11-year head coach Steve Trimper on an interim basis in December 2016 after Trimper was named the head coach at Stetson University in Florida.
“The poll doesn’t faze me,” said Derba, who wasn’t surprised that his team was picked fourth.
“It is what it is,” he added. “I don’t care what the preseason poll looks like, I just care what [the standings] look like in the postseason.
“I think we’re the best team around,” he said.
Derba said one of the reasons the Black Bears weren’t picked higher is that they have 16 new players.
“We’re going to have a lot of new faces on the field,” said Derba.
Binghamton was picked to win the conference, earning 36 points and six of the seven first-place votes. Stony Brook was second with 30 points and the other first-place vote.
They were followed by Hartford (26 points), UMaine (22), the University of Maryland Baltimore County (13), Albany (11) and UMass Lowell (9).
UMass Lowell is in its final probationary year after making the move from NCAA Division II, so the River Hawks can’t participate in the postseason tournament.
The Black Bears went 20-35 last season, including an 8-15 conference record. They beat Stony Brook 11-1 in their America East tournament opener before losing to UMBC 1-0 and Albany 9-8.
Trimper compiled a 309-292-2 record in his 11 seasons, including a 140-115 record in America East regular-season play.
Derba said the transition is going smoothly.
“Things have gone real well,” said Derba. “There are a lot of good things going on. The guys have high energy.”
UMaine returns 13 players off last year’s team including America East All-Rookie Team selections Danny Casals, Colin Ridley and Jeremy Pena.
Ridley, who is sidelined by a hand injury, is the left fielder, Pena is the shortstop, and Casals is the third baseman.
UMaine opens the season Feb. 17-19 with a three-game series against Winthrop University at Rock Hill, South Carolina.
UMaine softball trip cancelled
The defending America East tournament champion University of Maine softball team will not be participating in the Belmont University Winter Fest Tournament at Nashville, Tennessee, this weekend.
The Black Bears were forced to pull out of their season-opening series because of flight complications caused by the snowstorm that hit the Northeast on Thursday.
Coach Mike Coutts’ UMaine team, picked unanimously to win the conference in the preseason coaches poll, will now open its season on March 3 when it travels to Phoenix to play in the Grand Canyon University Invitational.