RICHMOND, Va. – The University of Delaware baseball team, who its second consecutive Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) post-season tournament appearance in 2013, was picked to finish eighth in the conference this spring according to the league’s head coaches.

The CAA is coming off one of its best baseball season ever as three teams received NCAA Tournament berths for the first time in the 2001 season. Seven CAA teams, including Delaware, reached the 30-win mark for the first time in conference history. The Blue Hens were also one of six teams who hit the 30-win mark in 2012. Delaware went 33-22 overall last season including a 15-12 league mark and finished third overall in the CAA.

"Not exactly the place you want to be picked to finish,” said Delaware head coach Jim Sherman. “However, I think coaches around the league realize we are young and that we lost one of the best pitchers in the CAA after his junior year in Chad Kuhl, who signed with the Pirates. We also lost the best offensive player in CAA and Player of Year Jimmy Yezzo after his junior season. It's only what's on paper. We still need to go play the games and we will be okay!"

Two-time defending CAA regular-season champions UNCW, was chosen to win the league’s automatic NCAA bid this season while league newcomer, College of Charleston was picked to finish second. The Tribe of William & Mary was selected to place third and last season’s CAA tournament champion Towson, wrapped up the top four selections.

This season, Delaware returns junior infielder Brock Niggebrugge who was a 2013 All-CAA second team selection at second base. Niggebrugge is the only 2013 All-CAA selection who will return for the Hens. The Delaware native was one of just three players who started in all 55 games for the Blue Hens and owned a team-best 13-game hit streak. Niggebrugge tallied 51 hits in 180 at bats to register a .283 batting average and ranked second on the squad with 177 assists to go along with 70 putouts.

The Hens also return juniors Joe Giacchino, Ty Warrington, and Zach Lopes along with seniors, E.J. Stoltzfus, Alex Mottle, Adam Davis and Dan Gatto.

Giacchino started in 47 games for Delaware in center field while also hitting lead off. Giacchino registered a .307 average totaling 65 hits including 12 doubles, two triples and two homeruns. The outfielder led the Hens with nine stolen bases.

Warrington saw action in 42 games behind the dish for the Hens. The Delaware native caught a team-high 23 runners stealing. Warrington recorded 309 putouts and 38 assists to tally a .994 fielding percentage. He record 39 hits, including seven doubles in his sophomore campaign.

Lopes and Stolzfus shared time at third base during the 2013 season while Lopes also served as a designated hitter. Lopes recorded a .306 batting average with 12 multi-hit games. Stolzfus registered 41 hits with a .354 average with runners in scoring position.

Mottle also served as a designated hitter for Delaware last season. The New Jersey native hit .308 with 16 hits and 10 RBIs in 52 at bats.

On the mound, Delaware returns Davis and Gatto. Davis made 15 appearances with 14 starts last season leading the team with 74 strikeouts. He threw 97 innings for the Hens owning a 3.99 earned run average.

Gatto, who appeared in a team second-best 18 games, owned a 4-3 record in 2013. The right-handed pitcher struck out 47 batters and held opponents to a .256 average giving up only 25 earned runs.

Sherman, in his 14th season, welcomes back a total 17 letterwinners and adds 12 newcomers to the squad.

The Blue Hens kick off the 2014 slate at The Citadel on February 14th. Delaware will compete in the Citalel’s Homewood Suites Tournament and will face the Citadel, West Virginia and nationally ranked Louisville.

Delaware will begin its home schedule the weekend of February 28, when the Hens welcome the Fordham Rams for a three-game series at Bob Hannah Stadium. 


2014 CAA Preseason Poll

UNCW – 48 (six first-place votes); College of Charleston – 41 (one first-place vote); William & Mary – 35; Towson – 31 (one first-place vote); Northeastern – 21; James Madison – 17; Hofstra – 16; Delaware – 15.