CASTLETON, Vt. – After capturing its third consecutive North Atlantic Conference championship last season, the Castleton baseball team has landed atop the 2017 NAC preseason poll, as announced Thursday morning by the league office.
In a vote conducted by the conference's head coaches, Castleton swept the first-place votes en route to 49 total points. Husson, which has faced the Spartans in two of the last three conference championships, took second place in the poll with 41 points. Colby-Sawyer secured third place with 25 points, just ahead of fourth-place Lyndon's 24 points. UMaine-Farmington (21) and Thomas (20) were projected to finish fifth and sixth, respectively, while New England College rounded out the poll in seventh with 16 points.
Castleton crowned its third-straight conference title last season with a 6-5 victory over Husson in the championship game. The Spartans swept the tournament with wins over Thomas and Husson to get into the title game. The Eagles, on the other hand, downed UMaine-Farmington in the first round before punching their ticket to the championship with a win over Thomas.
The Spartans return 22 players from last year's squad that finished 33-12 overall, including First Team All-Conference members Charles Stapleford and Zach Bahan. Stapleford, named last season's NAC Rookie of the Year, finished his freshman campaign ranked second in the NAC with six wins, 46 strikeouts, and a 2.48 earned run average. Bahan looks to continue his power presence in the middle of the order, leading all returners with three home runs, 12 doubles, 34 runs batted in, and a .459 slugging percentage last season. Senior pitchers Michael LaBeau, Devin Hayes, and Steven Jurkiewicz all return to anchor a pitching staff that led the conference with a 3.20 earned run average a season ago.
With five preseason games in the Dominican Republic under its belt, Castleton will open the 2017 regular season on March 11 against Middlebury at Franklin Pierce University. The following week, the Spartans will head to Newport News, Va. to face Apprentice and Tufts on March 16 and 17.
To view the full NAC preseason poll release, click here.
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