Black College Nines (BCN) predicts the large school order of finish for the 2018 Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) baseball season. As we analyze teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) reviewing what team needs from returning players, the addition of JUCO transfers, and top incoming stout freshmen who can help their teams reach the top of the standings.
Large school HBCU Baseball, at least one team from both conferences will find the driver’s seat for their respective conference championship hunt looking to be the first HBCU baseball program to advance past regional post season. Bethune-Cookmen was one win away from defeating eventual national champion Florida Gators in the NCAA regional final a year ago.
The large school 2018 season opens this weekend with nineteen teams in HBCU DI baseball vying for Black College Nines Top 10 ranking with the Week 1 first Poll Dates of March 13, 2018.
There are 64 chances for two of the large school HBCU baseball programs to make the final eight in the College Baseball World Series, but first, they must fight their way to Omaha.
Let’s take a look at why HBCU large school baseball will be one of the more exciting conferences to watch this season.
Black College Nines presents its predictions for the HBCU large school conference and some ball players who can help their teams reach the top:
2018 Predicted Order of Finish
Overall/conference win-loss records from 2017 indicated
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC)
- Delaware State 22-25
- Coppin State 11-31
- University Maryland Eastern Shore 12-40
- Norfolk State 26-22
- North Carolina A&T 28-25
- Bethune-Cookman 36-25
- North Carolina Central 22-28
- Florida A&M 27-26
- Savannah State 12-39
Last season’s team went 22-25 with a young team. The pitching staff can turn the conference into an arms race with five returning seniors on the mound, Gabe Rivera, Travis Dill (4.80 ERA), Lane Deleon (2.84 ERA), Garrett Coverdale (2.65 ERA), and Hunter McVey (5.59 ERA). Along with those seniors, DSU returns LHP Garrett Lawson, who had a 4.72 ERA as a freshman last year, and Sean McGrath, who had a 3.41 ERA as a sophomore, last year. Pitching and defense will be its strong point this year.
This year’s talented team is heavily stacked with juniors and seniors. Last year’s biggest weakness was poor infield defensive play. The infield will have two new defensive starters, led by slick fielding Freshman shortstop Derek Lohr from Seattle, Washington and they will be led by one of the nation’s top Division I hitters in junior Nazier McILwain who finished 25th (.377 BA) in hitting and 43rd in on base percentage nationally.
University Maryland Eastern Shore
Very young team with some hard throwing young arms. Should surprise some teams within the division.
Norfolk State, winner of the last three MEAC Northern Division regular-season titles. That will be in jeopardy as they faces 2018 as rebuilding the program. Head coach Claudell Clark resigned which elevated assistant coach Keith Shumate, who was hired two months prior to Clark’s departure. This year is a wait and see season.
North Carolina A&T
If you find it shocking that Black College Nines picks the Aggies to finish atop of the MEAC South standings, don’t be. They return a large group of experienced players, on the field and on the mound. Loaded at every position and competitive. NCA&T strength hitting, fielding, power at the plate. But they will need a closer to replace Cutter Dyals who was drafted in 2017 by the Atlanta Braves.
After advancing to the program’s first NCAA Regional Final, Bethune-Cookman sixth-year head coach Jason Beverlin announced his departure to become a regional scout for the Toronto Blue Jays in the Carolinas. Assistant coach Barrett Shaft will serve as Acting Head Coach for Bethune for the 2018 campaign. Can Shaft guide the Cats back for another NCAA Regional that lost only one player from last year’s team?
North Carolina Central
NCCU Baseball return nearly their entire line up from last year’s team. Experience ball club has three freshman All-Americans who are now sophomore’s. Corey Joyce, Carter Williams and Jacob Raby. The keys for success this year will be quality starts from both weekend and mid-week arms, and more innings from ace of the staff Devin Sweet.
FAMU has a veteran lineup returning eight starting position players including four that hit over .300 last year and number one starting pitcher Ryan Anderson. The mound will be the biggest question mark for the Rattlers, the bullpen will be a bigger concern.
The offense will add speed to go station to station and power at the plate to put pressure on defenses. Pitching has depth, bullpen looks better that in recent years to go along with outfield speed.
Black College Nines Pre-Season Elites From The MEAC:
1B Danny Rodriguez (Bethune-Cookman University)
2B Corey Joyce (North Carolina Central University)
OF Miles Sowell (North Carolina A&T University)
C Adan Ordonez (North Carolina A&T University)
P Anthony Maldonado (Bethune Cookmen University)
P Tyler Norris (Bethune Cookmen University)
P Devin Sweet (North Carolina Central University)
RP Ivan Coutinho (Bethune Cookmen University)
SS Brandon Melendez (North Carolina A&T University)
OF Carter Williams (North Carolina Central University)
OF Greg White (North Carolina A&T University)
C Evan Regez (Delaware State University)
DH Ryan Rotondo (University Maryland Eastern Shore)
P Tyler Krull (Bethune Cookmen University)
2018 Predicted Order of Finish
Overall/conference win-loss records from 2017 indicated
Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC)
- Jackson State 38-17
- Alabama State 31-25
- Alcorn State 12-33
- Alabama A&M 12-45
- Mississippi Valley State 7-32
- Texas Southern 20-34
- Grambling State 22-30
- Prairie View A&M 20-37
- Arkansas Pine Bluff 15-31
- Southern 16-27
The Tigers will look to pitching to lead a group and replace the three starters that won 25 games last year that finished the season 30-17. Even with its top four offensive weapons at the plate returning in 2018. JSU will have new faces both defensively and offensively in the lineup.
The Hornets top offensive contributors are back including All-Conference selections Gustavo Rios, Cage Cox, Joseph Estrada, and the big bat of Ray Hernandez. The Hornets will look to rebuild their pitching staff where they lost two Tyler Howe and Austin Bizzle to the minor league last season. They will score runs which should get some nice victories in 2018 but a couple of quality starter’s on the mound can get ASU rolling.
This is my dark horse team to shock the SWAC in 2018. if pitching starts off well in my opinion, I think they have a chance to compete for the SWAC division crown. 13 seniors in the program, they return some very good experienced hitters and have depth at every positions. Dynamic speed in the outfield from the Barna brothers, Justin and Brandon who can add numbers at the plate.
The Bulldogs will rely on three seniors and one redshirt junior. First baseman Carson McGregory and utility player Dalton Mitchell and JT O’Reel who lead the NCAA in 2016 as the toughest to strike out. Carlton Peppers, an outfielder, returns for his senior season as does Blaine Milam, a RHP pitcher who is the lone senior on the staff who has to replace Brandon Marsonek now in the minor league.
Mississippi Valley State
Three freshmen will see a ton of playing time this spring. But will it be enough?
The Tigers will make another run for the SWAC championship and NCAA Regional appearance. Last year’s roster, good sticks in the lineup. Cameron Dukes, Jose Camacho, Gaudencio Lucca, Olijade Oluntimilehin, Christian Sanchez, Seth Oliver and Michael Villenueva. Get pass a tough non-conference schedule against Kansas, Mississippi State, University of Houston, University of Texas, Baylor, Tulane and Missouri. Watch out SWAC.
The Tigers have nice offensive pieces in 2018 to continue upon 2017 success after winning the SWAC Western Division title. They have the offensive production with a senior led team will make that a strong part of its ball club this year. Returnees include Alexander Felder, Kristina Franklin, Nick Wheeler Along with Black College Nines HBCU Baseball and SWAC Player of the Year Marshawn Taylor whose .402 batting average was one of the best in the country last season. Pitching will look to compete as recruiting filled some voids which leaves question marks.
Prairie View A&M
The Panthers will have a host of pitchers who will make strong contributions to this year’s team anchored by Black College Nines Elite senior Darrien Williams. PVAMU baseball team will be a more athletic team, returning six position players who are projected to start this season. They were the top recruiting program in the SWAC.
Arkansas Pine Bluff
UAPB make-up for this season has more depth than previous years on both sides offense and defense. The Golden Lions strength for the 2018 season is going to be hitting. Pitching is not necessarily a weakness. UAPB will have a stronger pitching staff than last year.
New head coach Kerrick Jackson comes into the program to lead Southern back to “prominences.” Southern returns offensive weapons in Black College Nines Elite John Pope (.339/.424/.558, 12 2B, 8 HR). On the Hill, Jacob Snyder returns this year. In 13 appearances, he had a 2.89 earned run average in 56 innings. The Jaguars also return Daniel Franklin. Coach Jackson is the right hire to get the program back to winning.
Black College Nines Pre-Season Elites From The SWAC:
3B Jesus Santana (Jackson State University)
SS Marshawn Taylor (Grambling State University)
OF Cage Cox (Alabama State University)
OF Joseph Estrada (Alabama State University)
DH Lamar Briggs (Jackson State University)
1B John Pope (Southern University)
2B Gaudencio Lucca (Texas Southern University)
3B Ray Hernandez (Alabama State University)
OF Olajide Oloruntimilehin (Texas Southern University)
P Mark Watson (Jackson State University)
P Derrin Williams (Prairie View A&M University)
RP Michael Villanueva (Texas Southern University)