The Eastern baseball team is ranked No. 9 nationally in the 2012 ABCA/Collegiate Baseball Division III national pre-season poll. A winner of 34 of 47 games last year en route to its 11th straight 30-win season and 28th in the last 39 years, Eastern returns 13 letter winners in 2012 from last year's team, which qualified for its 32nd NCAA tournament in 36 years last season and competed the New York Regional Tournament on an at-large basis.
Eastern is top-rated among five New England institutions in the poll. 2011 New England Regional champion Western New England University is 11th, Wheaton College 16th, Tufts University 20th, and the University of Southern Maine 21st.
Eastern was ranked first in the first five weeks of last year's New England poll, second in the next two and fourth in the final two polls. From a starting lineup which dropped a 6-3 decision to College at Brockport in the 2011 finale, Eastern returns four position players, as well as five of the seven pitchers who saw mound work. Top returning position players are senior all-conference catcher Steve Cammuso (Rutland, MA), sophomore all-conference shortstop Danny O'Connell (Braintree, MA) and junior third baseman Joe Balowski (Berlin). Projected as top returning pitchers are senior righties Jim Dimon (Seymour), Michael Hepple (Newington), Mike Riemer (Ellington) and Evan Chamberlain (Amston), and junior righties Matt Purnell (Stafford Springs) and Andrew Merritt (Norwalk).
A 12-time NCAA regional champion since 1982 and four-time national champion, Eastern won regional titles five times in the first eight years of the last decade, last claiming a national championship in 2002 with an 8-0 shutout of Marietta College in the championship round at Grand Chute, WI.
Eastern is scheduled to open its 45th season under head coach Bill Holowaty March 24-26 with four games in three days at Whitman College (WA). Whitman is coached by Holowaty's son, Jared (now in his third year), a former four-year Eastern letter winner and captain on the 2002 national championship team. The Warriors return home and will visit Kean University on March 10 before playing eight games in eight days in California and Arizona. Eastern is scheduled to host Suffolk University March 26 in its home-opener.