Panthers picked fifth in LEC poll

GORHAM, Maine -- The University of Southern Maine is the preseason favorite in the first annual Little East Conference baseball coaches preseason poll, according to a vote by the league's eight head coaches. Little East Conference Commissioner William M. Moore made the announcement Friday.

The Huskies, last year's Little East Conference regular season co-champion, received four first-place votes and a total of 72 points. Southern Maine was awarded an NCAA tournament at-large bid last season and advanced to the Division III World Series. Eastern Connecticut State University received three first-place votes and 64 points for second place. The Warriors shared the LEC regular season title with USM last season.

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth garnered the remaining first place vote and 56 points to finish third in the poll. The Corsairs won last year's Little East Conference tournament to secure the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Keene State College was the unanimous choice for fourth place, totaling 40 points. Plymouth State College received 31 points for fifth place while Western Connecticut State University tallied 17 points for sixth. The University of Massachusetts Boston and Rhode Island College tied for seventh with 16 points each to round out the poll.

Six of the eight conference teams will qualify for the LEC tournament. Single-elimination first round games will be played on May 8. The third seeded team will host the number six seed and the fourth seeded team will host the number five seed. The two first-round winners will join the top two regular season finishers in a double-elimination final-four format on May 10-12 at the site of the top-seeded team. The winner of the Little East Conference will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national tournament.

2001 Little East Conference Preseason Baseball Poll 1) Southern Maine (4) 72 2) Eastern Connecticut (3) 64 3) UMass Dartmouth (1) 56 4) Keene State 40 5) Plymouth State 31 6) Western Connecticut 17 7) UMass Boston 16 7) Rhode Island College 16

(first place votes in parentheses)