GORHAM, Maine -- Defending Little East Conference regular-season and tournament champion Eastern Connecticut State University received seven first place votes and 63 total points to earn top honors in the annual preseason poll of the league's eight baseball head coaches.
After capturing its fourth NCAA Division III Championship in 2002, Eastern Connecticut returned to the College World Series in 2003, and posted a 2-2 mark to conclude the year with an overall record of 43-9. Along the way, the Warriors compiled a 23-game regular-season winning streak, captured the regular-season league title with a 13-1 slate, and secured their third conference tournament title in the seven-year history of the event.
The University of Southern Maine tallied 54 points to narrowly edge the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for second place. The Corsairs received the lone remaining first-place vote and 51 total points to place third. A year ago, the Huskies finished second in the regular-season with an 11-3 record, swept a doubleheader with the Corsairs on the final day of the season, and compiled a record of 28-16.
However, UMass Dartmouth eliminated Southern Maine in the conference tournament before bowing to Eastern Connecticut in the championship game. The Corsairs finished third in the regular-season race, with a final mark of 8-6, and compiled an overall slate of 20-19-1.
Keene State College finished fourth in the poll with 36 points, while Rhode Island College followed in fifth (31) and Western Connecticut was right behind in sixth place (26). A year ago Keene State finished fourth in the regular season with a 6-8 league ledger, and won a single game at the conference tournament, before concluding the year with a 12-23 record. After registering a 10-25 slate in 2002, Rhode Island College ranked among the region's most improved teams a year ago with a 20-19-1 mark. The Anchormen finished sixth in league play with a 5-9 record and earned a bid to the conference tournament. Western Connecticut, the 2002 conference tournament champion, finished fifth in the regular season a year ago with a 5-8-1 record and concluded the campaign at 17-23-1.
Plymouth State University placed seventh in the poll with 16 points and the University of Massachusetts Boston was eighth with 11 points. Their order was reversed in the final 2003 regular season standings, with UMass Boston placing seventh at 4-9-1 in the league and 6-23-2 overall, while Plymouth State was 3-11 and 14-19.
2004 Little East Conference Preseason Baseball Coaches' Poll
1) Eastern Connecticut 63 (7)
2) Southern Maine 54
3) UMass Dartmouth 51 (1)
4) Keene State 36
5) Rhode Island College 31
6) Western Connecticut 26
7) Plymouth State 16
8) UMass Boston 11
(first place votes in parentheses)
(Courtesy of the Little East Conference)
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