KINGSTON, R.I. - The Rhode Island baseball team has been picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10 this season, in voting conducted among the conference's head coaches. The Rams finished the 2018 season tied - with George Washington - for seventh place in the conference, but lost the tiebreaker with the Colonials for the final spot in the A-10 Tournament.
Last year's regular season and tournament champion Saint Louis is the preseason favorite, receiving nine of a possible 13 first-place votes. VCU came in just behind the Billikens with two first-place votes while Davidson (picked third) and Fordham (picked fourth) each had one. Richmond, George Mason and Rhode Island rounded out the top-7.
Despite graduating weekend starter Matt Murphy and top relievers Nick Johnson and Tyler Barss, the Rams return a pitching staff that combined to make 30 of the team's 49 starts in 2018. Most notable is the return of the program's most decorated pitcher, redshirt senior Tyler Wilson - a consensus All-American in 2016 - as well as 2017 Freshman All-American Vitaly Jangols. Seniors Dom Grillo, Cam LaFleur and Mark Silvestri, as well as juniors Nick Robinson, Jake Walker and Tyler Brosius - will add veteran depth to Rhode Island's staff having combined for 74 total appearances last season.
Offensively, Rhody returns four of its top five hitters from a year ago. Sophomore Jackson Coutts leads the way after hitting .315 as a freshman en route to earning All-Atlantic 10 and All-New England accolades. Sophomore Xavier Vargas and juniors Sonny Ulliana and Greg Cavaliere will also be looked on to lead the Rhody offense. Additionally, seniors Laurence Hill, Kevin Heiss, Brett McManus, and Sam Ilario will look to make one last run at another Atlantic 10 title after having been a part of Rhody's 2016 A-10 Championship team.
Led by two-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year Raphael Cerrato, Rhode Island opens the 2019 season with a three game set at Rice (Feb. 15-17). The Owls - who have appeared in 23 of the last 24 NCAA Tournaments - are in their first year under new head coach Matt Bragga. Bragga replaced National College Baseball Hall of Famer Wayne Graham, who retired - at age 82 - following the conclusion of the 2018 season. In his 27 years at Rice, Graham built the program into a national power, leading the Owls to the 2003 national title as well as six trips College World Series and 10 Super Regional appearances.
2019 Atlantic 10 Conference Baseball Poll
(first-place votes in parenthesis)
1. Saint Louis (9)
2. VCU (2)
3. Davidson (1)
4. Fordham (1)
5. George Mason
7. Rhode Island
8. George Washington
10. Saint Joseph's
11. St. Bonaventure
12. La Salle