After being picked as the preseason favorite to win the BIG EAST, the Connecticut Huskies earned a No. 9 ranking in the Baseball American Preseason Top 25. The Huskies were one of two BIG EAST teams to appear in the poll, with St. John’s coming in at No. 23. The Florida Gators will start the year at No. 1 in the in country.
Connecticut returns seven starting position players and its top two pitchers from last year’s team, which went 48-16 overall and 20-6 in the BIG EAST Conference, finishing a half-game behind Louisville in the regular-season standings. The Huskies advanced to the BIG EAST Championship final for the third time in the last four years and hosted the Norwich Regional of the NCAA Championship. Connecticut’s returning starters include George Springer, who hit .337 with 18 home runs, 62 runs batted in and 33 stolen bases last season, and Matt Barnes, the Huskies’ Friday starter who went 8-3 with a 3.92 ERA in 2010.
St. John’s went 43-20 overall and 16-11 in BIG EAST play last season. The Red Storm won a record sixth BIG EAST Championship last season and were selected for the NCAA Regionals for the third time in the last four years. Outfielder Jeremy Baltz (.396, 24 HR, 85 RBI), a Baseball America All-America First Team pick and the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year last season, was named to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, along with righthanded pitcher Kyle Hansen (8-3, 3.71 ERA), who was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2010 BIG EAST Championship.
The BIG EAST baseball season kicks-off on Feb. 18. Both Connecticut and St. John’s will take part in the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge in Clearwater, Fla.