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Little East Conference preseason diamond polls released

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The pressure is off the Plymouth State University baseball and softball teams this spring, according to the Little East Conference pre-season coaches polls that were announced this week. Both Panther squads were picked in the lower half in the polls, which were announced by new LEC Commissioner Jonathan Harper.

            The Panther softball team, which finished in sixth place in the LEC a year ago, was voted to end up in the same spot again this spring.  Western Connecticut State University, which was runner-up in the LEC a year ago before capturing the ECAC New England Championship, was picked to win this year's conference title, receiving four first-place votes and 45 points.  Three-time defending regular season champion and two-time defending tournament champion Rhode Island College was picked second, getting three top votes and 43 points.  Keene State College received the other first-place vote and finished third with 40 points.

            The rest of the softball poll included Eastern Connecticut State University in fourth with 30 points, the University of Southern Maine fifth (26), PSU sixth (20), UMass Dartmouth seventh (11) and UMass Boston eighth (9).

            The Panther baseball team, which tied for sixth in last year's LEC race, was picked in the cellar in this year's preseason poll.  Eastern Connecticut State University, which went undefeated in league play last spring and captured its second straight LEC Tournament title and fourth in the past five years, received seven first-place votes and is the top pick this season with 49 points.  Keene State College, regular season co-champions in 2006 and runner-up last year, received the other top vote and finished second in this year's poll with 42 points.  The University of Southern Maine finished third in the poll with 36 points, while Rhode Island College was fourth with 31.

            The bottom half of the baseball poll includes UMass Boston in fifth (26 points), UMass Dartmouth sixth (14), Western Connecticut seventh (13) and PSU eighth (12).

            The LEC softball tournament is scheduled for the first week in May, with the baseball tourney the second week in May.  The conference champions in both sports receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.

The complete Little East Conference baseball and softball preseason poll results are listed below:

2008 LEC Baseball Pre-Season Poll
1.        Eastern Connecticut (7)            49
2.        Keene State (1)                          42
3.        Southern Maine                          36
4.        Rhode Island College                 31
5.        UMass Boston                           26
6.        UMass Dartmouth                      14
7.        Western Connecticut                 13
8.        Plymouth State                         12

 (first-place votes in parentheses)

2008 LEC Softball Pre-Season Poll
1.        Western Connecticut (4)           45
2.        Rhode Island College (3)           43
3.        Keene State (1)                          40
4.        Eastern Connecticut                  30
5.        Southern Maine                          26
6.        Plymouth State                         20
7.        UMass Dartmouth                      11
8.        UMass Boston                           9

(first-place votes in parentheses)

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