By Mac Cerullo, Sports Editor
The UConn baseball team has been picked as the preseason favorite to win the Big East conference by the leagues 12 head coaches. UConn received 9 out of 11 possible first place votes to lift them ahead of St. John’s (picked second) and Louisville (picked third). The first place preseason pick is the highest of coach Jim Penders’ tenure at UConn.
Last season UConn finished 48-16 overall with a 20-6 mark in the Big East. The Huskies finished a half game out of first place behind Louisville in the regular season, and then lost out on the Big East tournament championship when they fell to St. John’s. The Huskies did earn an NCAA Tournament berth, and hosted a regional in Norwich, CT. There, the Huskies won their first NCAA Tournament game since 1979, but did not advance after being beaten by the University of Oregon twice in the opening double elimination round.
This year’s UConn team looks to build on last years success, as the team will return seven starters from last season, including the preseason player of the year in George Springer, and the preseason pitcher of the year in Matt Barnes. Both players are juniors and both spent time over this past summer playing for Team USA’s collegiate national team.
Springer hit .337 with 18 home runs, 62 RBIs and 33 stolen bases last season, and will be joined in what again promises to be a potent lineup by senior first basemen Mike Nemeth and junior designated hitter Kevin Vance, both of whom were also named to the preseason All Big East team along with Springer and Barnes.
The Huskies open their season on Feb. 18 in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge against Purdue in Florida.