Coaches pick Wildcats to finish tenth place in Big East conference

Nathan McGann

With the ’09 baseball season right around the corner, the Wildcats certainly have a difficult road ahead after a pair of preseason polls have the team near the bottom of the Big East standings.

In a poll of head coaches from the Big East, the Wildcats were picked to finish 10th among the 12 teams, finishing ahead of only Pittsburgh and Georgetown. Last season’s conference champion, the Louisville Cardinals, was the unanimous first-place selection, receiving 11 of 12 first-place votes. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.

In a separate poll of college baseball experts, Villanova’s future looks a bit brighter with the voters predicting an eight-place finish in the Big East.

“I was not surprised to see where we were picked in the two preseason polls,” Villanova Head Coach Joe Godri said. “I think the perception of Villanova is that on paper we have suffered a lot of losses from last season’s graduating class. We have many new names coming in that the league is not familiar with yet.”

The Wildcats graduated 16 players in one of its largest senior classes in recent history, but they return 18 letterwinners to a squad that went 30-28 (12-15 Big East) and advanced to the semifinals of the Big East Championship, the squad’s second consecutive playoff appearance.

Villanova is one of only five Big East teams to play for the conference championship in the past two seasons.

Of the 18 returning players, five were everyday starters in the lineup, two were mainstays in the ‘Cats’ rotation and another was the team’s top reliever.

Godri will also welcome in 16 freshman newcomers in a recruiting class that ranked in the top 100 nationally, according to Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. “I think the predictions of how the Big East will end up this year are accurate,” Godri said. “We hope that an eighth-place finish is more accurate from our standpoint as we work toward contending for a third-straight playoff berth. “

Villanova’s season begins on Feb. 21 in a three-game series against the SEC’s Louisiana State, which advanced to last year’s College World Series. The last two times Villanova played an SEC opponent – Florida in 2005 and Alabama in 2007 – the Wildcats were able to win each of the opening games.