BOSTON – Fresh off a GNAC threepeat, the Suffolk baseball team has been picked to hoist the conference trophy yet again in 2018 as the Rams sit atop the GNAC Coaches Preseason Poll, the league office announced Friday afternoon.
Suffolk is considered the conference's top contenders for the second straight season with 62 points after a vote by the conference coaches, with six first-place nods. Anthony Del Prete's Rams are picked to do what no Suffolk squad has done before in the blue-and-gold's 18-year history in the league, win four consecutive conference crowns.
Suffolk's quest will be no easy feat as they will have to go through projected second-place finish, Saint Joseph's (Maine), who collected two first-place picks for 56 points.
The historic rivals have all season to prep for one another, however, as the Rams and Monks will not meet until the final conference twinbill of the regular season, Saturday, April 28 in Eastie.
The preseason frontrunner has gone on to win the regular season on five occasions and hoisted the postseason trophy a league-best seven times. The predicted runners-up, meanwhile, hold six postseason wins and five regular season titles.
Johnson & Wales (49) checks in at No. 3, while Lasell (38) and Albertus Magnus (30) close out the top five. Rivier (21), Norwich (19) and Anna Maria (13) file out the remainder of the poll.
Del Prete, who has guided the Rams to three straight GNAC banners in as many years as Suffolk's manager, welcomes back 16 letterwinners from a season that will go down in the record books as one of the greatest in the program's 70-year history. After reaching GNAC glory for the third consecutive campaign and seventh time overall, Suffolk made more noise at the NCAA Division III New England Regionals. The blue-and-gold appeared in the winner's bracket for the first time in seven Big Dance appearances with back-to-back wins to open the tournament en route to its first-ever contest on championship Sunday in the national regionals.
In that historic season, Suffolk took down six ranked opponents and landed on the right side of 15 one-run outings 11 times with five walk-offs and three extra-inning victories. The Rams, who finished 28-17 overall, also won the most conference contests under Del Prete with a 12-2 league ledger and garnered a spot in the D3Baseball.com/NCBWA Top 25 for just the third time in program history at No. 24 March 14.
The Rams' lineup will have a much different look as six positional starters and reigning GNAC Pitcher of the Year Chuck Gibson '17 are lost, however, headlining Suffolk's 16 returning student-athletes is D3Baseball.com Preseason Second-Team All-American, three-time All-GNAC first-teamer and Gold Glove recipient, senior centerfielder Brady Chant. Fellow outfielder, senior Seth Coiley, an All-GNAC third team and GNAC All-Tournament selection, and All-GNAC third team honoree, senior RHP Ryan Pordes are back in blue-and-gold for their final collegiate campaigns. Senior RHP Mark Fusco returns to the starting rotation to provide a 1-2 punch on the hill, while senior Greg Speliotis is back in the order as Suffolk's DH. Suffolk also welcomes 15 newcomers to this year's fold to round out the 2018 squad.
Suffolk is set to throw its first pitch of the season in three weeks as the Rams make the trip to the Sunshine State for a nine-day Spring Break trip. The 2018 season opener pits the Rams against Albion under the lights Friday, March 9 at Chain of Lakes Stadium in Winter Haven, Florida.
|2018 GNAC BASEBALL PRESEASON COACHES' POLL|
2. St. Joseph's (Maine)
3. Johnson & Wales
5. Albertus Magnus
8. Anna Maria
|2017 GNAC RECORD