By Catherine Morrison

To no one’s surprise, Northeastern topped the CAA preseason poll after winning their first conference tournament last season and advancing to the NCAA playoffs. Starting pitcher Cam Schlitter was chosen as the 2022 CAA preseason co-player of the year, and joined four of his teammates in the preseason All-CAA team. Last season, the Huskies took a bit of time to find their cohesiveness as a team in pre-conference play, but with the majority of the players returning this year, they look to be strong from day one. 

Aside from a tournament at the beginning, Northeastern starts off their season facing a tough competitor: North Carolina State. NC State went all the way to the College World Series last season, but was sent home due to a COVID outbreak on the team. The Wolfpack will be looking to regain their former glory and make up last season, making them a dangerous opponent. The NC State Wolfpack ranked No. 10 in the NCAA preseason poll rankings, and will be a tough competitor for the Huskies, particularly in the beginning of the season. However, facing off against a strong competitor can often be a bonus for lower tier teams, as it allows them to get to know their weaknesses and what they need to work on early in the season before conference play. They’ll face NC State March 4, 5, and 6. 

One of Northeastern’s most challenging competitors in the CAA will be the UNCW Seahawks, who placed second in the preseason poll. The Seahawks went 32-22 in the season, 13-8 in conference play, and received runner up in the conference tournament after losing to Northeastern in a walk-off. Fittingly, UNCW had the other 2022 CAA preseason co-player of the year: Brooks Baldwin, a redshirt junior who won the Seahawk triple crown, when you lead in three statistical categories, with a .325 batting percentage, 15 home runs, and 45 runs batted in. While UNCW is strong offensively, only one of their pitchers, Hunter Hodges, was named to the preseason All-CAA team and is only a reliever. Their starting weekend rotation has all left, due to graduation or injuries, and should be tough to replace. UNCW will do their best with some exciting transfers, but only time will tell whether they can pull it off.  

The Seahawks play the Huskies at the tail-end of their season May 13, 14, and 15. 

The College of Charleston is predicted to place third in the CAA — the same spot as last year. They have 10 returning starters, three of whom were named to the preseason All-CAA team: Trotter Harlan, Ty Good, and Tanner Steffy. Harlan had a team-leading 12 game hitting streak last season with a .330 batting average, making him a key part of the Cougars offense. Steffy, the designated hitter, was also a huge offensive contributor with a batting average of .333, five home runs, and 29 RBIs. Rounding them out, Good was a utility pitcher for Charleston, filling in almost every slot with an ERA of 3.71 in a team high 77.2 innings. One major loss for the Cougars was Jordan Carr, who signed with the Minnesota Twins after last season. Carr was an ace pitcher for Charleston and will be a large hole to fill in their rotation. 

Northeastern will take on Charleston in late March, the 24, 25, and 26. 

Placing fourth was Elon, who had an even record of 22-22 last season, and a conference record of 10-8. Although Elon has earned a reputation as a strong baseball program, the Phoenix have struggled in recent years and haven’t made regionals in seven years. It looks like that drought will continue, with Elon only returning a few of their main offensive producers by way of Alex Iadisernia, Cole Reynolds, and Justin Cassella. Their starting rotation is a better story, with the only major question being who will be their third starter. Elon will look to plug their holes with a number of transfers, but only time will tell if their strategy works or if they’ll need a season to gel together. 

Elon will travel up to Friedman Diamond April 8, 9, and 10 in the weekend between the Beanpot games. 

The Beanpot semifinals will be held on April 5th and will be a welcome return for the Huskies, as the two previous Beanpot were canceled due to COVID-19. The baseball beanpot is a little different than the hockey beanpot because Boston University does not have a D1 baseball team and is replaced by UMASS Boston. Northeastern will look to face Boston College in the semis who went 21-28 last season. Although Boston College has won 18 beanpots to Northeastern six, the tide appears to have changed in the last two years as BC has hit a bit of a skid and Northeastern is on a hot streak after making the NCAA playoffs. 

James Madison University placed fifth in the preseason polls, but the real question here is how much that matters. JMU is in a sticky spot this season, because their athletic program is moving to the Sun Belt Conference July 1, soon after the baseball season ends. Because of this, the Dukes will not be allowed to participate in the CAA Tournament, which is unfortunate for all of their athletes but not such a bad thing for Northeastern, who will certainly need to beat JMU in the regular season in order to climb up the rankings. It is unfortunate for JMU’s players because they do have some bright spots on their team this year, like Chase DeLauter who was the only Duke named to the All-CAA team. DeLauter is a rare two-way player, playing both in the outfield and as a left handed pitcher with an ERA of 1.23 and a batting average of .386. 

The Huskies take on JMU April 15, 16, and 17 in Harrisburg, Virginia. 

Placing sixth was William & Mary, who had a season record of 14-29. They did slightly better in conference play, going 10-14. William & Mary also had a two way player make the preseason All-CAA Team: Jack Cone. Cone played center field with a batting average of .304 and a team leading on base percentage of .394. Cone made ten appearances as a pitcher but didn’t do as well, with an ERA of 7.36. Cone was injured for a lot of the 2021 season, but if he stays healthy this season, he could be a key part of William & Mary’s winning strategy. Third baseman and leadoff hitter, Ben Williamson, was also named to the All-CAA team due to his team leading 51 hits. Although William & Mary has some bright spots, the team as a whole doesn’t have enough talent to compete with teams like Northeastern.

In the bottom three spots are Towson (21-36, 11-12), Delaware (12-22, 8-16), and Hofstra (17-22, 8-16), respectively. Northwestern will play Towson on April 29th – May 1st, Delaware May 19th – 21st, and Hofstra May 6th – 8th. All teams finished below a .500 winning percentage for the season, and only Delaware and Hofstra had a player named to the All-CAA team. Hofstra named a new head coach, Frank Calonotto, who has no collegiate coaching experience and should find himself tested in a competitive CAA conference. Overall, these  three teams lack experience and are currently in the process of building up their programs, meaning it’ll be a little while before they are true contenders.