(Farifield, CT) – A year after the Sacred Heart Baseball team won a school-record 31 games and reached the Northeast Conference Championship game for the third time in five years, the Pioneers have been picked fifth in the NEC preseason coaches' poll.
The Pioneers return seven starters and seven pitchers. Junior first baseman Robert Griffith (Lake Ronkonkoma, NY) is the team's top returning hitter from last year, when he led Sacred Heart with a .401 batting average and .455 on-base percentage. Sophomore infielder John Murphy (Seymour, CT) is the leading returning RBI man after knocking in 44 runs last year to go with a .358 batting average. Senior outfielder Steve Tedesco (Mission Viejo, CA) returns as the Pioneers' top run producer and stolen base threat, having scored 56 runs with 17 thefts last season.
On the mound, sophomore right-hander Troy Scribner (Washington Depot, CT) looks to build upon a successful freshman season in which he was named NEC Pitcher of the Week twice. His five wins, 4.50 ERA, 59 strikeouts, and 78 innings pitched lead all returning Pioneer pitchers.
Along with Tedesco, the captains of the 2011 Pioneers are JJ Edwards (Endwell, NY), MJ Schifano (Monroe, NY, and Matt Fitton (Lebanon, CT). Edwards, a corner infielder, hit .304 last season with an on-base percentage of .364 in 50 games. He only made three errors on the season while splitting time between first and third base for a fielding percentage of .967. Schifano, a slick-fielding infielder, posted a fielding-percentage of .937 while splitting time at second, shortstop, and third. He accumulated 101 assists and 47 putouts in 46 games, and hit .254 on the season. Fitton, a 6-9 left-handed pitcher, appeared in 15 games and made three starts for a record of 4-3 on the season.
Sacred Heart opens the season with three games at the Palm Beach Challenge in West Palm Beach, FL, with games against Northeastern, St. Bonaventure, and Rhode Island on February 25-26. The Pioneers will stay south the following week with four games at Southeastern Louisiana (March 4-7), a game at #22 LSU (March 7), and a three-game set at Mississippi State (March 11-13). SHU then returns home to host #9 UCONN at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard March 15 for the home opener.
Other highlights include the beginning of conference play with a four-game set at Monmouth March 18-20, and a four-game set at CCSU May 6-8 in a rematch of last season's NEC Championship. The Blue Devils are this season's top pick in the NEC Preseason Coaches' Poll.