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Little East Conference preseason polls released in two spring sports

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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Panthers picked fourth in LEC softball poll

GORHAM, Maine -- Defending Little East Conference tournament champion Keene State College received three first-place votes and 55 total points to finish first in the annual pre-season poll of the league's eight coaches.

A year ago, the Owls were among the more resilient teams in college softball. After finishing the regular season in a tie for fifth place with an 8-6 record, Keene State rallied to capture the conference tournament. The club suffered an opening-round loss in the NCAA Tournament, but won its next two games, before bowing in its fourth contest. The Owls finished the year with an overall mark of 27-14.

Rhode Island College also received three first-place votes and 50 total points to place second, while Southern Maine was third with 48 points, and Plymouth State, which collected the two remaining first place votes, was fourth with 46 points.

The three teams also finished second through fourth in the final regular-season standings a year ago. Rhode Island College, the regular-season runner-up with a 9-4-1 slate in league play, received a bid to the ECAC Tournament, where it concluded the year at 20-14-1. Plymouth State and Southern Maine finished in a tie for third in the regular-season with identical 9-5 records. The Panthers went on to capture the 2003 ECAC title and conclude the year at 30-9, while the Huskies, who advanced to the final four of the ECAC Tournament, compiled an overall record of 26-14.

Four-time, regular-season champion Western Connecticut State University placed fifth in the pre-season poll with 39 points. The Colonials, who saw their two-year reign as tournament champions come to a halt last spring, finished first in the regular-season with a 10-4 ledger, and compiled an overall slate of 24-9.

Eastern Connecticut State University followed in sixth place with 25 points, while the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the University of Massachusetts Boston collected 12 points apiece to tie for seventh. Eastern Connecticut compiled a regular-season mark of 8-6 to earn a share of fifth place, and an overall record of 17-18. UMass Boston finished seventh at 1-12-1 and 8-19-1 overall, while UMass Dartmouth was eighth at 1-13 and 1-18-0.

2004 Little East Conference Preseason Softball Poll

1) Keene State 55 (3)

2) Rhode Island College 50 (3)

3) Southern Maine 48

4) Plymouth State 46 (2)

5) Western Connecticut 39

6) Eastern Connecticut 25

7) UMass Boston 12

7) UMass Dartmouth 12

(first place votes in parentheses)

(Courtesy of the Little East Conference)

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