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Spring must be near

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Boston, Mass. – UAlbany was picked fourth in the America East Conference preseason baseball poll, as announced by the conference office on Wednesday afternoon. Stony Brook, the defending America East champion, was chosen first in the rankings, as voted on by the league’s head coaches. Maine was second, followed by Northeastern, UAlbany, Vermont, Binghamton, UMBC and Hartford.


Head coach Jon Mueller, who is entering his sixth season at the helm of the Great Danes, was named the America East Conference Coach of the Year last season after leading UAlbany to a program-best record of 37-14, including 14-7 in league play. UAlbany lost 2004 Player of the Year Dan Schoonmaker to graduation along with major league draft pick Adam Kroft, but returns a solid corps of upperclassmen.


Shortstop Joe Lamb and first baseman Derek DeGrazio, a pair of first team All-America East selections, return to the diamond for the Great Danes. Lamb (.321 BA) led the conference in runs scored with 48, while DeGrazio (.369 BA) totaled 45 RBI and did not commit an error on the season. Also returning for UAlbany is starting pitcher Ethan Vaiana, who tallied a 6-1 record with a team-best 3.08 ERA. Shawn Ryan, the Great Danes top closer, finished the 2004 season ranked third in the nation with 14 saves.


Right-hander Nick Murphy will be another stand-out on the mound for the Great Danes. Murphy posted a 5-3 record on the mound with a 4.66 ERA. Senior captain Tony Vallone hit .279 as the starting center fielder last year.


“We are optimistic about our chances to return to the conference tournament,” said Mueller, whose team competed in the postseason in 2004 for the first time in the program’s history. “Over the last two years, the four seed has advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully we will follow suit and move one step further than last year.”


UAlbany opens the 2005 season on Saturday, Feb. 26 with a non-league doubleheader at La Salle, beginning at 12 noon. The Great Danes begin their home slate on March 13, as they host Holy Cross, plus open up conference play by hosting Maine on April 9.


2005 America East Conference Baseball Preseason Poll


1. Stony Brook (6) 58, 2. Maine (2) 51, 3. Northeastern 50, 4. UAlbany 37, 5. Vermont 36, 6. Binghamton 28, 7. UMBC 19, 8. Hartford 9. ( ) – first-place votes






Boston, Mass. -- University at Albany was voted third in the 2005 America East Conference preseason softball coaches' poll, as announced by the conference office on Feb. 22. Boston University was selected first, while defending America East tournament champion Maine was picked second.


The Great Danes finished 34-18 overall and 17-2 in conference play last spring. UAlbany qualified for the conference tournament for the third time in as many years. Head coach Chris Cannata, the reigning two-time coach of the year, returns seven starters and 13 letterwinners. Junior second baseman Katrina Dunning, sophomore third baseman Kelly Ogden and junior first baseman Ashley Rios, all first-team all-league selections, are back for UAlbany in 2005. Second-team All-America East choice Casey Halloran leads the Great Danes pitching staff.


Dunning, who played in 48 games, hit .317, drove in 21 runs and had 15 multi-hit games for the Great Danes in 2004. Ogden, who was also selected to the all-rookie team, tied for the team lead in home runs with three, was second on the team in RBI with 28 and had multiple hits in 10 games. Rios finished second on the team with a .386 batting average and tied Ogden for the team lead in home runs. Halloran, an all-rookie team member, won her last 10 decisions, going 11-3 with a 1.63 ERA. She tossed 10 complete games and three shutouts.


"Boston U., Maine and Stony Brook pretty much return their entire teams, so it would be hard not put them ahead of us," commented Cannata, who guided her team to the conference's regular-season title in 2004. "We graduated a lot of talented players from last year's team, but we still have a strong corps of returning players. Along with our newcomers, we are hoping to take the next step."


UAlbany will open its schedule in El Paso, Texas against Northern Colorado at 12 noon on Friday, Feb. 25 at the UTEP Tournament. The Great Danes will also play in the Patriot Classic at George Mason University, the Mizuno Bash at the Beach in Georgetown, Del. and the Rebel State Games in Kissimmee, Fla. in the month of March. The home and conference opener for UAlbany will be on Saturday, April 2 at 1 p.m. against Hartford.


2005 America East Conference Softball Preseason Coaches' Poll


1. Boston U. (5), 61, 2. Maine (1) 50, 3. UAlbany (2) 49, 4. Stony Brook 47, 5. Binghamton 32, 6. Hartford 20, 7. UMBC 17, 8. Vermont 12. ( ) - first-place votes

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