UNCW was the overwhelming choice among the Colonial Athletic Association baseball coaches to defend its championship in the association’s preseason poll released on Tuesday.
The Seahawks garnered seven of a possible nine first-place votes, with the College of Charleston and Elon splitting the other two first-place votes.
“We’re excited to get back on the field and compete,” said UNCW Head Coach Mark Scalf. “Every weekend is a tough one in the CAA. There are solid clubs throughout the league.”
UNCW, who finished second in the CAA standings last season, posted a 41-18 overall record in 2015 and swept its way to the CAA Tournament Championship in Charleston, South Carolina. The Seahawks were the number two seed in the Baton Rouge Regional where the team topped Tulane twice and dropped a pair of 2-0 decisions to top-ranked LSU.
Five Seahawks were named preseason All-CAA, with Gavin Stupienski, Terence Connelly, Casey Golden and Jared Gesell joining 2015 All-CAA first-teamer Steven Linkous on the squad.
Stupienski, Connelly and Golden were All-CAA second-team honorees last spring. Stupienski hit .344 with six home runs and 37 runs batted in. Connelly and Golden hit .344 and .283, respectively. Golden tied Stupienski for the team lead with six home runs and paced the lineup with 45 RBI’s. Connelly posted a team-high .478 on base average with 41 walks and 11 hit by pitches.
Linkous set the tone at the top of the order, stealing a career-high 30 bases and scoring 62 runs, also a career high.
Gesell will move into the closer role as a senior. Last season the righthander went 2-1 with five saves and a 2.27 ERA. Opponents hit just .180 against him.
The Seahawks open team practice on Friday and host Western Carolina on Feb. 19 in the season-opener for both teams.