The Husson University baseball team is a unanimous pick to finish atop the North Atlantic Conference baseball standings, according a poll of league coaches released this week.
Coach Jason Harvey’s Eagles received all five first-place votes and 25 points, followed in the poll by Northern Vermont-Lyndon (18 points), Thomas College of Waterville and the University of Maine at Farmington (12 points each), and UMaine-Presque Isle (8).
The Eagles open their season Saturday in Auburndale, Florida, with a doubleheader against Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
With three schools, including defending champion Castleton (Vermont), leaving the NAC after last season, the league has only five baseball-playing members this spring after adding UMPI. The State University of New York Canton is scheduled to join the NAC as a sixth member for baseball in 2020.
But NCAA Division III rules say a conference needs seven members in each team sport to receive an automatic qualifier to the national tournament.
To maintain access to an automatic NCAA berth, the NAC and the City University of New York Athletic Conference — another conference with five baseball programs — agreed last summer to align their baseball championships for the next two years.
Under the arrangement, each conference will complete separate regular seasons and determine separate league champions through their own conference tournaments.
The two conference champions then will meet during the second weekend of May in a best-of-3 series to determine who earns the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The NAC will hold its four-team, double-elimination tournament the first weekend of May.
The five baseball schools in the CUNY Athletic Conference are Baruch College, City College of New York and John Jay College, all from New York City, Lehman College (Bronx, New York) and College of Staten Island.
Saturday’s doubleheader marks the first of 11 games the Eagles will play in Florida before they open their northern schedule March 23 with a doubleheader at Newbury College in Massachusetts.
Husson’s home opener is set for 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, against in-state rival Saint Joseph’s College of Standish.
Among the leading returning players for Husson are junior infielder Nick Guerrette of Hermon, senior outfielder Conor Maguire of Ellsworth and senior infielder Alex Chapman of Westford, Vermont.
Junior Jesse Colford of Bangor and senior Austin Smith of Lincoln are veterans on the pitching staff.
Freshmen include infielder Kobe Rogerson of reigning Class B state champion Brewer High School, pitcher-infielder Ethan Stoddard of Old Town, outfielder Nick Canarr of Class A state champion Bangor and pitcher Nick Perfitt of Class C North champion Houlton.
The Eagles finished last season 14-22 overall and 9-13 in NAC play.
Hudson earns All-NE 10 honors
Chris Hudson of Hodgdon, a junior forward for the Bentley University men’s basketball team, has been named to the All-Northeast 10 men’s basketball third team.
The 6-foot-5-inch Hudson led Hodgdon to the 2014 Class D state championship before concluding his high school career at Williston Northampton prep school in Massachusetts. He is averaging 14.4 points per game this season for the Falcons, an NCAA Division II program, and his 8.4 rebounds per game rank fourth in the Northeast 10.
His 81 offensive rebounds are a conference high, and he leads Bentley in field-goal percentage (.508), double-doubles (9) and blocked shots (24).
Hudson’s 35.8 minutes per game for coach Jay Lawson rank sixth most in the conference.
He has three-year career averages of 11.0 points and 8.2 rebounds.
Also on this year’s Bentley roster is 6-5 senior forward Zach Gilpin of Hampden. Gilpin, who like Hudson has started all 29 games for the Falcons, is averaging 8.7 points and 4.6 rebounds.
Bentley (19-10) will learn Sunday evening whether it will receive an NCAA tournament bid.