2018 HBCU Preseason Baseball Overview-Large School Division

Black College Nines continues its annual overview of HBCU baseball filing this pre-season report on 19 NCAA Division I teams


Alabama A&M University
2017 Record: 12-45 .211
Conference: SWAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

The Bulldogs return key players for the 2018 season, three seniors and one redshirt junior. First baseman Carson McGregory and utility player Dalton Mitchell return for the 2018 season. A&M also returns redshirt senior 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 righthanded pitcher who is the lone senior on the staff.

Freshmen and transfers will make a difference in 2018. Johnathan Smith, a transfer from Wallace State hit .327 with 14 runs, 2 doubles, 7 RBI. Justin Lott, a transfer from Southeast Community College, hit .306 with 3 homeruns and 29 RBI. Freshman Brandon Moore, an outfielder from Atlanta Georgia, hit .377 and Jose Figueroa, a right-handed pitcher from Tou Alta, Puerto Rico shows great command with 83-87 fastball.

Biggest Strength:
Good JUCO transfers
Biggest Weakness:
Closing games


Alabama State University
2017 Record: 31-25 .554
Conference: SWAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No.3

Alabama State (31-25 last season) played for the conference title in 2017 after winning the SWAC championship in 2016, and looks to build off that momentum heading into the 2018 season. The Hornets have a wealth of talent returning this season, including All-Conference selections Gustavo Rios and Cage Cox. Rios finished the year hitting .332 with 10 home runs and 50 runs batted in, while Cox finished the season (his first collegiate season) hitting .350 with seven homers and driving in 45 runs. They will be joined by fellow returning starters OF Joseph Estrada (.276, 11 HR, 33 RBI), 3B Ray Hernandez (.275, 7 HR, 48 RBI), SS Oscar Prioleau (.185, 0 HR, 6 RBI), 2B Eriq White (.282, 1 HR, 15 RBI), catcher Hunter Allen (.246, 3 HR, 15 RBI) and UTL Josh Dunson (.261, 2 HR, 15 RBI). The Hornets will look to rebuild their pitching staff where they lost the likes of Tyler Howe and Austin Bizzle (both playing in the minors) a season ago. They have reliever Chase Laney (2-2, 3.40 ERA with a pair of saves).

Biggest Strength:
Hitting, pitching and fielding
Biggest Weakness:
Quality starter on the mound


Alcorn State University
2017 Record: 12-33 .267
Conference: SWAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

This upcoming season should be a complete turn of events for the Alcorn Baseball program. With 13 seniors in the program, they return some very good experienced hitters throughout the club. The amount of depth around all of the positions will allow Alcorn to compete in every game. This season, the back bone is going to be infield play.

With two seniors and a junior rounding out the outfield, Der’vincent Hamilton, Justin Barna, and Brandon Barna all provide a solid defense and add monumental pop to the lineup. All three could hit for high average and could rack up a ton of RBI’s this season. On the mound, the Braves will be led by Veteran Carlos Lopez. He’ll give Alcorn a competitive outing every time. As a sleeper, look for Ray Winter and Jahborus Smith to pitch at a high level and log some truly effective innings for the squad.

Biggest Strength:
Good arms on the mound all over
Biggest Weakness:
Finding effective mid-week starters


Arkansas Pine-Bluff University
2017 Record: 15-31 .326
Conference: SWAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

The Golden Lions strength for the 2018 season is going to be its ability to play defense and to hit. Pitching is not necessarily a weakness, but they know that every team expects to have good pitching throughout the year.

UAPB has pitchers who haven’t pitched many innings previously, so it will be interesting to see how they perform this season. If they can hold up, the program can do some great things. The lineup is a lot deeper than it’s ever been at UAPB, with plenty of depth on offense and defense. A weakness is overall team speed, but the Golden Lions do have smart base runners.

Biggest Strength:
Quality strength of schedule against top DI RPI opponents
Biggest Weakness:
Under .500 vs. Non-conference in 2017


Bethune-Cookman University
2017 Record: 36-25 .590
Conference: MEAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No.1

Just months after advancing to the program’s first NCAA Regional Final, their tenth NCAA Regional in the past 12 seasons, the Bethune-Cookman baseball program was dealt a major blow when sixth-year head coach Jason Beverlin announced his departure to become a regional scout for the Toronto Blue Jays in the Carolinas. The Athletics department soon announced assist coach Barrett Shaft will serve as Acting Head Coach for Bethune for the 2018 campaign.

Shaft takes over a BC-U program that returns several players from the 2017 campaign, including third baseman Jameel Edney, outfielder Adonis Lao, first baseman Danny Rodriguez, OF/LHP Bobby Stewart and infielder Nate Sterijevski. The pitching duties for the Wildcats will be back in full supply as ace pitcher Tyler Norris returns, followed byTyler Krull, Anthony Maldonado, Ivan Coutinho, and Joseph Calamita who returns out of the bullpen, as well as the newcomers for the Wildcats in 2018. Coach Shaft can very well guide the Cats back for another NCAA Regional this coming season.

Biggest Strength:
Pitching, hitting, good tough non-conference schedule
Biggest Weakness:
Replacing middle infielder Demetrius Sims, MLB Draft (Marlins)


Coppin State University
2017 Record: 11-31 .262
Conference: MEAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

This year’s team is heavily stacked with juniors and seniors, making for one of Head Coach Sherman Reed’s more experienced and talented teams in the past seven years. The Eagles 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. Nazier has a great chance of having his name called in the June 2018 MLB Draft. The pitching staff will consist of talented junior arms in Jahmon Taylor, Aaron Rae, Devin Rivera Ozuna and junior college transfer Brandon Redfern. Sophomore Quinn Gleed, who led all pitchers in total innings pitched last year will also be an impact arm out of the bullpen.

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. “Derek made all the defensive plays this fall, while flashing his 91 mph arm across the infield,” Reed stated. I believe this team can make it to the MEAC Conference Championship.

Biggest Strength:
Talented arms in the rotation
Biggest Weakness:
Infield fielding


Delaware State University
2017 Record: 22-24 .478
Conference: MEAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No.8

Delaware State baseball is looking to break through the hump this year and get back to being a dangerous team in 2018 after falling just short of the .500 mark in 2017. The pitching staff returns five 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. The young defense is looking to improve on a .947 fielding percentage from last year, adding another freshman group of sure-handed fielders, including Miguel Rivera and John Weglarz.

The weaker areas will be behind the plate as they lose almost 50 games from last year’s senior starting catcher. Junior Adrian Hill and freshman Alex Vasquez will be asked to adjust and progress quickly to handle the experienced pitching staff. Offense is an unknown as there is a good group of talent in this large freshman class that have a high ceiling, but have yet to play in a college game. The only returning every day starters from a year ago are shortstop Tommy Jordan (0.232), third-baseman Jared Gillis (0.292, 6 2B, 3 HR) and Darnell Maisonet (0.275, 11 2B, 2 HR).

Biggest Strength:
The big five on the mound
Biggest Weakness:
Can the backstop handle veteran pitching staff?


Florida A&M University
2017 Record: 27-26 .509
Conference: MEAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No.7

FAMU is very excited about the product the Rattlers will put on the field this year. They will feature a very veteran line-up with a little bit of youth sprinkled in, mostly on the mound. The Rattlers will return eight starting position players including four hit over .300 last year and number one starting pitcher Ryan Anderson. The offense will be paced by senior’s Brian Davis, Dallas Oliver and Jacky Miles Jr whom returns from an injury that ended his season last year.

The mound will be the biggest question mark for the Rattlers. Anderson is the only pitcher returning with weekend starting experience. Freshman, Pedro De Los Rios will compete for a weekend spot, and will play a big role in the Rattler’s success. Dallas Oliver will see time on the mound this year as well after recovering from Tommy John surgery last year. Sophomores Dylan Carlson and Josh Wilson will need to step up pitch big innings this year. While the starting pitching maybe a question mark, the bullpen is the strength. Led by seniors Hunter Fillingim and Thomas Nicoll, the Rattlers have plenty to feel good about late in games.

Biggest Strength:
Returning eight starting position players from 2017
Biggest Weakness:
Lack mound presence from starters and bullpen


Grambling State University
2017 Record: 22-30 .423
Conference: SWAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No.10

After a solid year in 2017 winning the SWAC Western Division title, the Tigers look to continue upon that success. Grambling is a senior lead team with nine seniors, seven of whom are on the pitching staff. So they feel that experience on the pitching staff will make that a strong part of its ball club this year. All of those seven pitched last year and know the conference and have experience in a lot of big situations and head coach James Cooper feels good about that.

GSU added Alcorn State graduate transfer Bo Fletcher and also added some JUCO arms in Ryan Huntington LHP, Ryan Evans RHP and Andy Escano RHP… all who will play a big role this year. Also returning is the raining Black College Nines HBCU Baseball and SWAC Player of the Year Marshawn Taylor whose .402 batting average is one of the best in the country. Returnees include a few starters in Alexander Felder, and Kristina Franklin and also Nick Wheeler who all saw playing time last season. Pitching will look to compete with located fastballs and mix in there secondary stuff. Good crop of incoming freshmen. Look to see an aggressive ball club offensively and really solid defensive squad this season.

Biggest Strength:
Recruiting filled pitching voids
Biggest Weakness:
Under .500 vs. Non-conference in 2017


Jackson State University
2017 Record: 38-17 .691
Conference: SWAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No.6

Jackson State returns four starters in the lineup from last season, Lamar Briggs, Jesus Santana, Stephan Vidal, and Wesley Reyes. On the mound, the Tigers will look to pitchers like Mark Watson and Jose Tirado to lead a group that lost three starters from last season who won 25 games last year. With the newcomers, JSU shall be good again on the mound and lean heavy on the upperclassmen both defensively and offensively.

New faces on the team this year, who will have to step up and play key innings this year, will be JUCO transfers Raul Hernandez (JUCO All-American last year), Joshua Crispin, Dezmond Chumley, Blaze Speas, Rauvardo Torres, Tyler Culpepper, Rahman Williams, and Ural Forbes along with Jarvis Warner, who played a big role as a part time player last year. On the high school side, players like Jaylon Dyer (Mississippi 1st team all-state), Sidney Ross, Jacorey Bourdreaux, Nik Galatas, and Robert Miles will need to step up as the season progresses. Overall they have a productive group that should play hard and compete at a high level.

Biggest Strength:
Solid core of returnees in Cornelius Copeland, Bryce Brown, and Jesus Santana
Biggest Weakness:
Under .500 vs. Non-conference in 2017


Mississippi Valley State University
2017 Record: 7-33 .179
Conference: SWAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

No Information provided


North Carolina A&T University
2017 Record: 28-25 .523
Conference: MEAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No.4

These should be exciting time for the Aggies program as they return a large group of experienced players. Both on the field and on the mound, head coach Ben Hall stated “love the veteran feel to our team returning 16 ballplayers with significant experience over the last thee years. I am very excited about the improvement overall behind the plate, that position may be our deepest and most competitive position heading into the spring.”

Biggest loss heading into 2018 was Cutter Dyals, the team’s closer who was drafted in 2017 by the Atlanta Braves. Look for NCA&T to fill that role by committee with a deeper staff of options in a bullpen with experience. Players to watch include Adan Ordonez, a senior catcher who is one of the top returning hitters in the MEAC, Myles Sowell, a senior outfielder who had a breakout offensive year last year hitting .345, AJ Hunt, a redshirt junior infielder who flashed good power potential in 2017 with six homeruns and 10 doubles and Milton River, a senior infielder who had a special sophomore season in 2016 hitting .349 with 19 doubles and seven homeruns. River is looking to get back to that form in his senior year.

Biggest Strength:
Hitting, fielding, power at the plate
Biggest Weakness:
Closer


North Carolina Central University
2017 Record: 22-28 .440
Conference: MEAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 9

NCCU Baseball has a lot of the top performers returning from last year’s team. One of the strengths of the 2018 team will be experience. In the field, the Eagles return three freshman All-Americans and 90% of the lineup from last year. On the mound, North Carolina Central returns about 360 innings pitched from last year, along with two weekend starters. Some accolades from last year include three Freshman All-Americans, Corey Joyce, Carter Williams and Jacob Raby. MEAC Rookie of the Year Corey Joyce, All-MEAC performers Carter Williams, Devin Sweet, Evan Holland and Jacob Raby also return.

Last year, Corey Joyce hit .344 with five homeruns and 43 RBIs. Carter Williams hit .351. Jacob Raby had 31 runs batted in, Mitch McCrary hit .352, Evan Holland had four HRs and 29 RBI. Zach Michalski had 11 doubles with 32 RBI and Dominic Cuevas also had 11 doubles with 22 RBI. Pitchers Devin Sweet had a 4-3 record with a 3.33 earned run average in 61 innings pitched. Justice Sampson had a 4-1 record with 33 strikeouts, Jonathan Figueroa had 60 strikeouts in 61 innings and Jeffrey Hagen recorded a 4.21 earned run average in 36.1 innings and 27 strikeouts.

Biggest Strength:
Pitching has the potential to turn the MEAC into an arms race
Biggest Weakness:
Overall team inconsistency


Norfolk State University
2017 Record: 26-21 .553
Conference: MEAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Tied No.5

The Norfolk State baseball team, winner of the last three MEAC Northern Division regular-season titles and MEAC Tournament runner-up the last two seasons, faces somewhat of a transition year in 2018. Head coach Claudell Clark resigned from his position in October to pursue other career opportunities, which elevated assistant coach Keith Shumate, who had been hired two months prior, to the head job.

Formerly at North Carolina A&T, Coach Shumate’s main focus at Norfolk State will be to replace two MLB draftees from last season’s pitching staff which led the MEAC in earned run average. MEAC Pitcher of the Year Devin Hemmerich now pitches in the L.A. Dodgers’ organization and MEAC Player of the Year and Alex Mauricio now plays in the New York Yankees organization. Junior RHP Chase Anderson will be expected to lead a young and largely untested pitching staff. Senior 3B Justin Burrell (All-MEAC third-team in 2017), sophomore DH/1B Stephen Baughan (MEAC All-Tournament team in 2017) and senior catcher Ismael Herrera will lead an offense which will be incorporating several freshmen and transfers into the everyday lineup.

Biggest Strength:
Returning senior 2017 All-MEAC 3B Justin Burrell
Biggest Weakness:
Starting pitching and inexperience mound presence


Prairie View A&M University
2017 Record: 20-37 .351
Conference: MEAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

The 2018 PVAMU baseball team will bring a different look to the conference than the last two years because the Panthers will be a more athletic team. Prairie View return six position players who are projected to start this season with top starting pitcher Darrien Williams returning for his senior season. This year, the Panthers expect to be more versatile as it competes for a conference championship.

Prairie View expect leadership from sophomore catcher Tyler Gordon, several returnees, freshman and JUCO arms. Sophomore SS Andrew Garcia and seniors Brashad Jones and Jalyn Baker are expected to be starters. The pitching staff will be anchored by senior Darrien Williams. Expect sophomore Tyler Laux, and newcomers Caleb Rozypal and freshman Derrick Curry to round out the starting rotation. In middle relief, the Panthers will have a host of pitchers who will make strong contributions to this year’s team.

Biggest Strength:
Return six position players, top recruiting in the SWAC
Biggest Weakness:
Pitching main concern against tough non-conference


Savannah State University
2017 Record: 12-39 .235
Conference: MEAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

The SSU baseball coaching staff is excited about the upcoming 2018 season. They will begin the day to day process of competing for a MEAC championship beginning in early January. According to Head Coach Carlton Hardy, “our staff this year is going into its second season together and I think we have a better understanding of the team’s strengths and areas of improvement.”

The offense will be loaded with juniors and seniors playing every day, unlike the past few years when the newcomers played mostly. Savannah State will be more dynamic in the field and at the plate with the ability to put pressure on defenses with station to station running. Pitching has depth and has more experience returning on the mound. A good bullpen looks better that in recent years.

Biggest Strength:
Improved pitching, speed on the base paths
Biggest Weakness:
Outfield speed


Southern University
2017 Record: 16-37 .342
Conference: SWAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

Kerrick Jackson was named head baseball coach of Southern University in late July replacing legendary coach Roger Cador, who spent the past 33 seasons as the Jaguars’ head coach. Jackson comes into the program with limited practice time and a reduction in both recruiting and scholarships due to sanctions for low Academic Progress Rates (APR) placed on the program by the NCAA.

Southern returns some offensive weapons, as top hitters John Pope (.339/.424/.558, 12 2B, 8 HR), Bobby Johnson (.290/.382/.359, 10 2B), and Javeayan Williams (.269/.395/.365, 20 SB) return, but those are the only three returning hitters who hit better than .250 last season. On the mound, Jacob Snyder returns this year. In 13 appearances, eight of which were starts, he had a 2.89 earned run average in 56 innings. The Jaguars also return Daniel Franklin, who tossed 70.2 innings with a 6.21 earned run average and Wilhelm Allen, who had a 4.13 earned run average in 24.1 innings last year.

Coach Jackson is the right hire and has the fortitude to lead Southern back to prominences. “I want us to get back to winning conference championships on a regular basis. When we go out, our players will understand that we’re going to win conference championships and we are going to take that to the next level.”

Biggest Strength:
A coach who has the energy and skill to lead a program back to glory.
Biggest Weakness:
Depth across the board.


Texas Southern University
2017 Record: 20-26 .469
Conference: SWAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 5 Tied

The Tigers are very excited about the 2018 season with several key players coming back from the 2017 SWAC championship team and with a NCAA Regional appearance under its belt, Texas Southern anticipates another run at a conference championship. Key players returning from last year’s roster are Cameron Dukes, Jose Camacho, Gaudencio Lucca, Olijade Oluntimilehin, Christian Sanchez, Seth Oliver and Michael Villenueva. In addition The Tigers added some depth to the pitching staff and overall roster. This year, Texas Southern will again ask its pitching staff and team to compete against a very tough non-conference schedule.

This year, TSU will play 35 of 49 contests on the road, competing against the likes of Kansas, Mississippi State, University of Houston, University of Texas, Baylor, Tulane and Missouri. Texas Southern expects to be more aggressive on the bases and hit and run more often. They are very athletic and experienced

Biggest Strength:
Very athletic
Biggest Weakness:
Under .500 vs. Non-conference in 2017


University of Maryland Eastern Shore
2017 Record: 12-40 .231
Conference: MEAC
BCN 2017 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

Maryland Eastern Shore baseball believes that Brian Hollamon is the leader they’ve been looking for. The Hawks’ fourth coach in five seasons brings an exceptional track record to the program and will look to lead The Shore to success in 2018 and beyond.

He inherits a team with plenty of experience, including a senior class of nine. The seniors encompass redshirt outfielder Tyler Friis (Appleton, Wisconsin) and infielder Jamison Trower (Chesterfield, Virginia), both critical to the Hawk offense. Four of the nine seniors are pitchers, including Chris Melrath (Rising Sun, Maryland) and Toby Hoskins (North East, Maryland), who have each made significant contributions to the squad in three previous seasons. Upperclassmen such as juniors Ryan Rotondo (Warwick, Rhode Island) and Joey Nicastro (New Market, Maryland), along with sophomore Marty Tolson, Jr. (Stafford, Virginia) are also projected to make an impact.

Biggest Strength:
Pitching staff
Biggest Weakness:
Lack power hitter

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