After winning their first ever NCAA Tournament game last season, Central Connecticut baseball is heading into their ___ season as preseason favorites to repeat as Northeast Conference Champions.
Last season’s NEC Championship was the second in three year’s for the Blue Devils. On their road to the postseason, Central Connecticut finished second in the NEC standings at 31-23 and a 16-8 in-conference record.
CCSU defeated top seeded Bryant (40-20) 3-2 in the Championship before taking on Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The team fell to the Razorbacks 11-5 before defeating the 24th seeded California team 7-4.
CCSU’s entire batting lineup will be returning this season, highlighted by a strong core of upperclassmen, nine of which were on last year’s team as well as the 2017 NEC Championship team (per CCSU Athletics).
When looking at the numbers, senior infielder Dave Matthews looks to be one of the biggest sparks in the lineup this season. After transferring from Johnson and Wales, Matthews led the Blue Devils last year with seven home runs, 40 runs scored and 43 runs batted in (RBIs). In the team’s NCAA Tournament win, Matthews drove in four runs on a three-for-four day at the plate.
Classmate Buddy Dewaine was right behind Matthews in his production at the plate, collecting 58 hits and 29 RBIs.
Junior TT Bowens returned from his second ACL tear last season and had an instant impact on both ends. Bowens batted .376, good for third best in the NEC (minimum seven games played) while slugging a team best .640. Bowens’ defense was an added bonus to a squad that had the best fielding percentage in the conference (.968 percent).
While hitting will not be a problem for the Blue Devils this year, there are some concerns regarding the starting pitching staff heading into the year.
Two of Central’s three most used starters graduated this past year, including the team’s top three pitchers in earned run average. Last season, the Blue Devils were second in the NEC as a team with a 4.51 ERA.
The lone returning starter for the Blue Devils will be senior Brandon Fox. In his 15 starting appearances on the mound, Fox punched out 44 batters, tied for second among the Blue Devils’ rotation.
Tim Buchek and Matt Shane are the only other returning pitchers on staff to start more than one game.
Apart from Jared Gallagher, the Blue Devils will be returning most of their relievers, including senior Andrew Braun, who had 23 strikeouts in his 17 appearances in relief.
Similar to last year’s team, much of Central Connecticut’s team will be “home grown,” with 29 of the team’s 35 coming out of New England.
Central Connecticut will start their season off with a three game weekend on the road, traveling to Bethune-Cookman from March 21-23. The Blue Devils will be playing in their first home game on March 3, taking on in-state opponent Hartford at 3 p.m.