WINTHROP, Mass. – Fifth-year Rams head coach Anthony Del Prete and Suffolk University baseball had witnessed longtime GNAC power Saint Joseph's College of Maine win five straight conference championships from 2010-14 when he took over the program prior to the 2015 campaign.
Now, it is Suffok that will be seeking its fifth straight GNAC Championship this spring, as the Rams have won each of the last four under Del Prete, including going head-to-head against the Monks for the title in both 2016 and 2018.
The rival Rams and Monks finished 1-2 in the 2019 GNAC Baseball Preseason Poll, as voted upon by the league's head coaches, with Suffolk receiving eight first-place votes and 80 points, while SJC garnered 71 points and the final first-place nod.
Head coach Will Sanborn's SJC squad had a better overall record (29-13) than Suffolk (25-19) a year ago, but the Rams went 13-1 in GNAC play to capture the regular-season title.
Suffolk is next up in the GNAC Tournament host rotation for baseball, as the Rams will host the final two days of this year's postseason at historic Fraser Field in Lynn, Mass. on Saturday-Sunday, May 4-5, 2019.
Johnson & Wales University, which advanced to the GNAC Championship against Suffolk in 2015 and 2017, finished third in the poll with 63 points. The Wildcats will be led by first-year head coach Kevin Casey in 2019, as Casey previously was an assistant at Northeastern and a an assistant at Tufts, where he played for the Jumbos from 2006-09.
Anna Maria College was selected fourth in the poll with 45 points, as the AMCATS look to take another step forward under second-year head coach Dan Briand. After going just 7-31 and 0-14 in GNAC play back in 2017, Anna Maria went 16-24 overall and 6-8 against league foes last spring in Coach Briand's first season.
Lasell College finished fifth in the poll with 43 points, followed by Albertus Magnus College with 33 points and Colby-Sawyer College with 29 points. Rounding out the poll was Norwich University with 25 points and Rivier University with 16 points.
For Colby-Sawyer, it marks the Chargers' first season as a GNAC core member. They will compete in the league for the first time this spring under 25th-year head coach Jim Broughton, who has 339 career wins with the Chargers.
The 2019 GNAC Baseball Tournament will feature the top-six teams from the regular season, beginning on Tuesday, April 30 with the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds hosting a single-elimination round. Following bye protection for the top two seeds, those two programs will host one contest as part of the double-elimination portion of the playoffs, prior to the tourney switching to Fraser Field.
For the regular season, league doubleheaders will begin on Saturday, March 23. Suffolk will be at Saint Joseph's this year on the final weekend of the regular season (Apr. 27).
For upcoming spring trips down south, JWU will head to Myrtle Beach, S.C. beginning February 27, SJC will be in Winter Haven, Fla. on March 3, and Suffolk will wait until March 8 to travel to Central Florida.
The Monks return six starters in the 2019 lineup under the watch of 27th-year Head Coach Will Sanborn '86. The offense will be led by reigning first team all conference honorees seniors Joey Murphy (Derry, N.H.) and Jared Gagne (Dover, N.H.) the Monks will look to end a four year GNAC championship drought. The team will also return second team honoree junior Will Martin (Arlington, Mass.) and third team honorees seniors Noah McDaniel (Eliot, Maine) and Anthony DiPrizio (Rochester, N.H.). On the mound the top returns include senior Grayson Jennings (Mililani, Hawaii), sophomore reliever Jonathan Marchia (Chicopee, Mass.), and sophomore Zach Begin (Georgetown, Mass.).
2019 GNAC BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL
1) Suffolk (8) - 80
2) Saint Joseph's Maine (1) - 71
3) Johnson & Wales - 63
4) Anna Maria - 45
5) Lasell - 43
6) Albertus Magnus - 33
7) Colby-Sawyer - 29
8) Norwich - 25
9) Rivier - 16