Golden Bears coming off sixth CCC title last spring
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (January 11, 2019) – The defending Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) champion Western New England University baseball team has received national recognition heading into the 2019 campaign.
The Golden Bears are ranked No. 32 in the Collegiate Baseball publication's preseason poll, which ranks the nation's top-40 teams. Western New England is the only CCC squad and one of four New England programs, joining No. 9 UMass Boston, No. 12 Southern Maine and No. 17 Babson, to receive a preseason national ranking.
The 2018 campaign saw the Golden Bears return to glory as they captured their sixth CCC title (10th conference championship overall) and appeared in the NCAA New England Regional for the 11th time. Western New England went 32-15 last year (11-5 in CCC play)
Two-time CCC Coach of the Year (2016 & 2018) Dan Gomez brings back a loaded roster in 2019 that includes the 2018 CCC Player of the Year in senior shortstop Alex Loparco (Riverside, Conn.) and the 2018 CCC Pitcher of the Year in senior southpaw Bob Hamel (Southwick, Mass.). Loparco hit .382 with 37 RBI, 55 runs scored and 19 stolen bases last spring, while Hamel went 7-0 with an NCAA Division III-leading 0.95 earned run average and 53 strikeouts in 57 innings pitched.
Both Loparco and Hamel earned All-Region accolades as well, along with senior designated hitter Joe Cassella (Wallingford, Conn.), who hit .378 with ten doubles, 42 RBI and 21 steals last season.
Five other All-CCC performers from last season's squad return in 2019 – senior outfielders Erik Lacaire (Worcester, Mass.) and Ben LaCroix (Branford, Conn.), senior right-handed starter Paul Wetmore (Hamden, Conn.), senior left-handed reliever Sean Halligan (Branford, Conn.), and junior first baseman Zac Nussbaum (Bridgewater, Mass.).
Western New England's 2019 schedule features four teams ranked in the Collegiate Baseball poll – UMass Boston, 2018 New England Regional Champion Oswego State (No. 14), Babson & Case Western Reserve (No. 40). The Golden Bears will also play an additional four teams (Suffolk, Westfield State, Endicott, Salve Regina) that are receiving votes in the poll.
The 2019 campaign gets underway on Saturday, March 2, when Western New England takes on Wheaton College at Clark University in Worcester. After playing seven games at the Spartan Southern Classic in Lexington, South Carolina from March 15-21, the Golden Bears open their home and CCC schedules against Wentworth Institute of Technology at Trelease Park on Saturday, March 23.