The Central Connecticut softball team has been slated to finish third in the Northeast Conference by the 2013 NEC Coaches' Poll. Third is CCSU's highest NEC preseason ranking in program history.
Last season, the Blue Devils finished conference play in fifth overall. Despite narrowly missing an NEC tournament berth, the 2012 squad boasted a record-breaking season, accumulating 31 wins, the most in a single season in program history.
"Being picked third in the NEC preseason poll is great because it shows that we have gained the respect of our peers in the NEC," Head Coach Jeff Franquet said, "however our primary goal this season is to make it to the NEC Tournament and work toward winning our first conference championship."
The 2012 season-win record surpasses the previous record of 29, set by Franquet's 2011 squad in his second season at the helm of the Blue Devils. The 2011 team finished fourth overall in the NEC and was the first to make a tournament appearance.
Messina, who set four single season pitching records in 2012, including most appearances (35), most innings pitched (219.2), most wins (22) and most strikeouts (207), is also a two-time 2012 NEC Pitcher of the Week and a two-time 2012 NEC Rookie of the Week. Her 207 strikeouts place Messina third all-time in career pitching records after her freshman season. She also ranks third in shutouts (seven) in the all-time career pitching records.
At the plate, Springer had her own impressive season boasting a .319 batting average, smacking 10 homeruns and driving in 45 RBI for single-season highs in both categories. Her 10 homeruns ties classmate Kelsey Barlow's record set in 2010.
CCSU also returns two 2012 NEC Players of the Week, juniors Arielle Bruno and Tessa Brown. Bruno posted a .312 batting average in 2012 while besting the team in hits (54) and runs (38). Brown finished first on the team in doubles with 11 while also earning a .293 batting average.
The NEC preseason rankings are as follows:
1. Robert Morris
2. LIU Brooklyn
3. Central Connecticut
7. Sacred Heart
8. Saint Francis U
9. Mount St. Mary's
11. Fairleigh Dickinson
The Blue Devils kick off the 2013 season March 1 at the Clearwater Softball Tournament hosted by the University of South Florida. Central will compete against Georgia State, Stephen F. Austin, Eastern Kentucky, University of Illinois-Chicago and Loyola Marymount in the tournament.