West Babylon, N.Y. - On the heels of a fourth East Coast Conference Championship in six years, St. Thomas Aquinas was a near unanimous favorite in the conference's preseason coaches' poll. The coaches also selected Molloy sophomore outfielder Matt Overton (Smithtown, N.Y.) as the Preseason Player of the Year and LIU Post senior James Varela (Levittown, N.Y.) as the Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
St. Thomas Aquinas received seven out of eight first place votes to top the poll with 63 points. The Spartans, also ranked No. 19 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and No. 29 by Collegiate Baseball Magazine in those publication's national preseason polls, look to continue their run of success after extending a streak of consecutive years with either an ECC regular season or tournament championship to seven in 2018. St. Thomas Aquinas will have to overcome the loss of Oakland A's draft picks, Giovanni Dingcong and Joseph Pena, and two-time All-Conference First Team pitcher, Frankie Moscatiello.
The Spartans are far from bereft of talent, however. Four starting position players and three of their top five pitchers in terms of innings pitched from a year ago are back in the fold including All-Conference honorees Chris Cepeda (Sr. SP), Angelo Baez (Jr., IF/RP), Cris Ruiz (Sr., C), and Tyler Patane (Jr., UTL).
LIU Post earned the final first place vote and 54 points to come in second place.th 41 points. Molloy, who was Co-Regular Season Champions with St. Thomas Aquinas last season, was third in the poll with 48. points. Bridgeport came in fourth place with 41 points to round out the expected playoff participants.
Mercy and NYIT tied for fifth in the poll and were followed by Queens at No. 7. Conference newcomer, Lincoln (Pa.), wraps up the poll in the No. 8 spot.
Overton had an outstanding debut season for the Lions to earn the ECC Rookie of the Year honor. Also an All-Conference Second Team honoree, Overton finished his freshman campaign with a .342 batting average, 11 doubles, two homeruns, and 36 RBI. He also finished on the conference leader board with his marks of 67 hits, 88 total bases, 30 walks, .439 on-base percentage, as well as his batting average and RBI totals, ranking among the top-10 in the ECC.
Varela earns the preseason honor after a breakout 2018 campaign. As a junior, Varela finished with an 11-1 record with a 2.40 earned run average and 116 strikeouts over 101.1 innings pitched. His win, strikeout, and inning totals were tops in the ECC, while his ERA was good for second. He also led the conference with seven completes games and three shutouts. Varela's name was among the national leaders too, as he finished fifth in all of Division II in wins and complete games. His outstanding season earned him a spot in the ECC record book as well, as his strikeout and shutout totals are third best in league history and his win total is sixth. Varela's success led to a slew of awards including the ECC Pitcher of the Year and a spot on three different publication's All-America Team. In addition to the ECC preseason honor, Varela has also been named a Preseason First Team All-American by the NCBWA.
2019 ECC Baseball Preseason Poll
|School||Pts.||Last Year's Record|
|1. St. Thomas Aquinas (7)||63||39-15 (18-6 ECC)|
|2. LIU Post (1)||54||29-20 (16-8 ECC)|
|3. Molloy||48||31-21 (18-6 ECC)|
|4. Bridgeport||41||14-34 (11-13 ECC)|
|T5. Mercy||26||21-28 (10-14 ECC)|
|T5. NYIT||26||13-25-1 (6-18 ECC)|
|7. Queens||23||16-27 (5-19 ECC)|
|8. Lincoln (Pa.)||8||0-25 (n/a)*|
( ) - first place votes
* - Lincoln (Pa.) played 2018 season as Division II Independent
Preseason Player of the Year: Matt Overton, So., OF, Molloy
Preseason Pitcher of the Year: James Varela, Sr., LIU Post