Jan. 26, 2012

click here for coaches' preseason All-CAA team


James Madison tops CAA preseason poll


After capturing its second conference title in the past four years this past season, James Madison is the favorite in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll, in voting by the league’s head coaches and as released by the conference office.


The Dukes earned five first-place votes and tallied 95 points. UNC Wilmington picked up two first-place votes and 88 points to place second. Old Dominion also got a pair of first-place votes and edged Georgia State for third. The Panthers received the final two first-place votes and 74 points. VCU finished fifth and George Mason came in sixth. Delaware and William and Mary tied for seventh, followed by Towson, Hofstra and Northeastern.


JMU returns five position starters from last year’s team which went 42-19 overall and 21-9 in the CAA for its second straight regular-season crown. Junior outfielder Johnny Bladel hit .360 a season ago with 41 RBI and 26 steals to earn second team All-CAA honors. All-conference hurler Sean Tierney (10-1, 3.43 ERA) headlines the pitching staff.


The Seahawks have four all-conference performers returning, led by senior outfielder Thomas Pope. The preseason All-American led the CAA with a batting average of .396 in 2011. Junior first baseman Hunter Ridge hit .354 a year ago with nine homers and 60 RBI.


The Monarchs enter 2012 with a new head coach, former Western Kentucky skipper Chris Finwood. ODU brings back seven position starters, including all-conference shortstop Josh Wright, who hit .369 a season ago with 12 homers, 44 RBI and 18 steals. Senior Ben Tomchick (8-4, 3.14 ERA) will lead the pitching staff.


Georgia State welcomes back a pair of all-conference performers in senior infielder Brandon Williams (.342, 36 RBI) and junior infielder Drew Shields (.321, 20 RBI). Senior closer Jake Dyer went 3-0 with eight saves and a 1.67 ERA in an all-conference season in 2011. He is a preseason All-American.


The 2012 campaign begins on Friday, Feb. 17, with 10 of the 11 teams in action. Conference play starts on March 9. The 2012 CAA Championship will be held May 23-26 at JMU’s Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park in Harrisonburg, Va.


2012 CAA Preseason Poll


Team, Points (First Place) (2011 CAA, Overall Records)

1. James Madison, 95 (5) (21-9, 42-19)

2. UNCW, 88 (2) (18-12, 31-28)

3. Old Dominion, 76 (2) (19-11, 30-26)

4. Georgia State, 74 (2) (17-13, 37-21)

5. VCU, 63 (12-18, 22-32)

6. George Mason, 46 (7-23, 21-32-1)

t7. Delaware, 44 (16-14, 27-26)

t7. William and Mary, 44 (16-14, 26-29)

9. Towson, 30 (15-15, 26-28-1)

10. Hofstra, 27 (12-18, 15-32)

11. Northeastern, 19 (12-18, 18-33)