by Alex Nordstrom
The Central Connecticut State Blue Devil baseball team has had an up and down run in the Northeast Conference, which has been highlighted by a stretch from 2002-2004 when they won title for three consecutive years.
In the past few years however, the Blue Devils have been inconsistent in where they have ended up among conference competition.
Last year, CCSU made the NEC tournament finishing fourth during the regular season with a 15-17 record. However, the season before that they missed the tournament finishing in last pace. Two years ago, in 2014, they were runner’s up in the regular season for the NEC conference.
In the NEC pre-season poll this season, the Blue Devils received a number two ranking in the conference behind reigning tournament champion Bryant and ahead of last year’s runner-up Sacred Heart.
Leading the way for the Blue Devils this year will be their All-NEC junior second basemen Dean Lockery, who was third in hits (72) and seventh in batting average (.344) in the conference last season. CCSU also has a returning All-League first team starting pitcher in senior Andrew Hinckley, anchoring the pitching staff who was fourth in the conference last year in wins (8).
With such a high ranking and spot to be in heading into the 2017 season, 18th year head coach of the Blue Devils, Charlie Hickey, says that rankings mean nothing to his team.
“I don’t think it means anything in terms of pre-season rankings and to be honest about it, I didn’t even know about it,” said Hickey. “We have to sure up some things with our pitching staff with a couple of injuries before heading into conference play first of all.”
Hickey did point out that his team will benefit from more three game weekends than four this season.
“The first two weekends are only going to be three games which will be beneficial to us at this time of the year,” said Hickey.
With two of the team’s top pitchers in, senior Brett Susi and junior Cody Brown coming off injuries, Hickey says that shorter game match ups early on in the season will give these two the time to get back fully healthy without the need to rush.
Hickey said another positive thing that his Blue Devils have going for them right now is a lot of different position combinations that has created good competition for his players.
“Competition creates a little anxiety and people come to the ballpark having to prove themselves,” said Hickey. “It is not going to be a team that we are going to just write down the same nine guy’s everyday which is fine and it will keep everyone going.”
Bryant is a team at the top of the list that CCSU is looking to take down this year, especially as they come into this season as reigning conference champions, in addition to a top ranking in the conference.
“They are a good team, and they have been a good team,” said Hickey. “They are re-building a little bit this year after having seven kids drafted off of last year’s team, which is pretty remarkable in this conference and part of the country.”
When it comes down to it, Hickey puts it very simple regarding his expectations for this upcoming season, pre-season rankings and everything else set aside.
“I think our expectations are to be able to compete at the top level of the conference, it’s where we should be and what we are capable of doing.”
Currently on the young season, CCSU sits at 9-7 in non-conference play, good enough for the best record in the conference so far. They started conference play this weekend with three wins against Mount St. Mary’s, as they began their run towards a conference title.