Black College Nines examines teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and predicts the order of finish for the 2019 HBCU baseball season. Last season both North Carolina A&T and Texas Southern were in the driver’s seat for their respective conference championship hunt. The large school 2019 season opens this weekend February 15-17 with nineteen teams in HBCU DI baseball vying for Black College Nines Top 10 rankings. Let’s take a look at why the HBCU large school baseball conferences will be some of the more exciting conferences to watch this season.
Black College Nines presents its predictions for the HBCU large school conferences and some ball players who can help their teams reach the top:
2019 Predicted Order of Finish
Overall won-loss records from 2018 indicated
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC)
Coppin State 21-24
Norfolk State 19-30
University Maryland Eastern Shore 12-41
Delaware State 9-35
North Carolina A&T 32-25
Florida A&M 25-30
North Carolina Central 28-24
Savannah State 7-34
The most talented team Sherman Reed has had heading into his tenth season. The entire pitching staff returns from last year’s conference best 18-4 record and Northern Division Championship Team. Three weekend conference starters in Jahmon Taylor, Aaron Rae and Branden Redfern are ready. The conference’s top closer and Coppin State career save leader, Corey Treyes is receiving national recognition. This group contributed to having the top ERA in conference games in 2018. The addition, some freshmen will see some innings on the mound, LHP Jonathan Rice, Matt Urban, and big RHP from Canada Carter Harbut will add additional punch to an already deep pitching core.
Norfolk State, winners of three of the last four MEAC Northern Division regular-season titles returns three of its top four hitters and four of its top five pitchers from last year’s team. Among the returners are All-MEAC OF Justin Hayes, led the MEAC with 28 steals and was 3rd with a .347 batting average, Alsander Womack will help anchor the lineup after batting .319 with 5 home runs and 30 runs batted in last season. The Spartans had the best recruiting class in large school baseball. They have 15 newcomers that will see playing time, including 7 who transferred from JUCOs or Division I programs.
University Maryland Eastern Shore
The Hawks will have some experience on the mound. Very young team with some hard throwing young arms. Three solid starting pitchers with a couple relief pitchers that will help with stability on the hill. Dwayne Marshall, Marty Tolson, and Caleb Walston will head up the pitching rotation. The Hawks return experience in both the outfield and middle infield positions.Dillon Oxyer will provide talent and experience in the shortstop position, with Avery Tunnell, Blake Coleman, and Brian Cordell providing experience in the outfield. UMES should surprise some teams within the division.
Last season’s team went 9-35 with a young team. The Hornets return 14 players from last year’s team, including three pitchers and a position player that’s one of the team’s top hurlers. DSU has nine new freshmen on the 2019 team. They return lefty starter Garrett Lawson and Darnell Maisonet who will be the No. 3 starting pitcher when he’s not in the outfield. Maisonet appeared in eight games on the mound, posting a 2-3 overall record and 2.98 earned run average last season. Mid-week starters include returning right handers Chandler Fitzgerald and utility player Miguel Rivera along with freshmen newcomers Jeremy Carrow and Sean Bradley. 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 Fitzgerald.
Jonathan Hernandez inherits an experience team. Bethune Cookman has major mound presence. Two-time conference Pitcher of the Year, Junior Anthony Maldonado as the ace, returning from injury 2017 starter Redshirt Sophomore Brady Norris, and Senior Tyler Krull will lead the weekend pitching rotation. In the pen the Cats will lean on the experience of Seniors Jordan Pinto, and Brandon Wilkes as primary candidates to close out games. B-CU will be heavily stacked with Seniors Nate Sterijevski, Danny Rodriguez, Zach Spivey will be leading the charge offensively with the help of JUCO transfer from Arizona Yavapai College, Outfielder Over Torres, hitting .361 with 7 HR and 44 RBI’s. Good freshman recruiting class will also be called upon to pitch for Bethune Cookman this year.
North Carolina A&T
North Carolina A&T has a veteran lineup from last season’s (MEAC) Champs and NCAA Regional team. The Aggies return a ton of experience on both sides of the ball returning 7 starters in the field including All (MEAC) performers outfielder Dawnoven Smith, infielders AJ Hunt and MEAC Tournament Zach Mclean return a solid middle of the order. Two of their weekend pitchers include all-conference Michael Johnson and Tim Luth who led the MEAC in earned run average and saves in 2018. Keep an eye on Evan Gates (Mott CC) who had an outstanding fall, 90-92 mph fast ball with a very good slider. Incoming freshman Gianni Smith (Winston Salem, NC) sits at 88-91 mph with a good slider. Gianni has a good arm and has a chance to impact the 2019 season.
FAMU usually starts off on fire at the start of the season then they tend to fizzle down at the end. Different from previous years, the pitching staff could end up being the strength of this years team from starters and from the bullpen. Returning all-conference closer The pitching staff includes Dylan Carlson, reliever Jamie Grant, set up man Chandellor Benton, Josh Wilson along with two 6’7 JUCO hard throwing transfers Kyle Coleman and Josh Hancock. Sophomores Jeremiah McCollum, Josh Barr and Pedro de los Rios will also see significant innings. Returning from last years team, outfielder Willis McDaniel, catcher Brett Maxwell and second baseman Octavien Moyer are the other starters that are returning, will have to pick up from the eleven players the Rattlers last to graduation last year.
North Carolina Central
The Eagles will have home cooking, 16 of the first 18 games will be played at home. The issue is… when its time to hit the road. That leaves question marks. Tough schedule includes Presbyterian, Lafayette, North Carolina State Wolfpack, High Point, Campbell, Davidson, Longwood, and Duke round out the non-conference opponents for the Eagles. But they are coming off a winning season with a school-record 28 wins this past 2018 season. NCCU won 18 games at home during the 2018 campaign. They open a three-game home series against Canisius that will begin opening the 2019 season February 15.
Savannah State Baseball team opens the 2019 season at home with a three-game series against MEAC opponent Coppin State University. The game is not considered a conference game in the standing as Savannah State plays in the Southern division, while Coppin is in the Northern Division. The Tigers return 18 players from last year’s team including five starters and 10 pitchers. SSU looks to improve on last season’s 7-34 record. The offense will add speed to go station to station and power at the plate to put pressure on defenses. Pitching has depth, look for Caleb Hill on the mound to get long innings.
Black College Nines Pre-Season Elites From The MEAC:
2B Corey Joyce (North Carolina Central University)
3B Perry Hunt (North Carolina A&T University)
SS Derek Lohr (Coppin State University)
UTL Alsander Womack (Norfolk State University)
OF Justin Hayes (Norfolk State University)
OF Dawnoven Smith (North Carolina A&T University)
OF Marcus Castillo (Coppin State University)
P Anthony Maldonado (Bethune Cookman University)
RP Corey Treyes (Coppin State University)
3B Miguel Rivera (Delaware State University)
SS Nate Sterijevski (Bethune Cookman University)
OF Carter Williams (North Carolina Central University)
C Brett Maxwell (Florida A&M University)
DH Nazier Mcllwain (Coppin State University)
P Jahmon Taylor (Coppin State University)
P Michael Johnson (North Carolina A&T University)
P Tim Luth (North Carolina A&T University)
2019 Predicted Order of Finish
Overall won-loss records from 2018 indicated
Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC)
Alabama State 30-22
Jackson State 31-17
Alcorn State 12-38
Mississippi Valley State 9-34
Alabama A&M 12-35
Grambling State 23-26
Texas Southern 25-28
Prairie View A&M 10-37
Arkansas Pine Bluff 17-25
Alabama State, returns a veteran lineup and impact talent from the high school and JUCO ranks. The baseball program should have depth like its had in past years. Heading into the 2019 baseball season ASU has added arms to a veteran lineup with a nice blend of freshman and JUCO transfers. Top new recruits, AJ Stinson, catcher Hunter May, outfielder Luis Nunez, catcher Jorge Rivera, pitchers Ricardo Rivera, Jorge Perez – RHP Miami, Florida, Manny Bezares and Jeremy Rivera, have potential to help Alabama State sit atop the standing. Top returning hitter, Noel Cheneau moves from 2B back to the outfield.
The Jackson State Tigers return two weekend starters in Kevin Perez and Nikelle Galatas along with position players Raul Hernandez, Wesley Reyes, Tyler Culpepper and Dezmond Chumley. The Tigers have a lot of freshmen with a lot talent, but lack inexperience at the collegiate level. Head coach Omar Johnson should get another 30 win season, his 12th 30 win season since 2007. Hopefully if the group of returners can get the younger players to step up, they will be a contender for a division championship and SWAC conference championship.
For the second year in a row, this is my dark horse team to sit at the top of the SWAC in 2019 if pitching starts off well. I think they have a chance to compete for the SWAC division crown. Alcorn returns some very good experienced hitters and has depth at every position. Word is freshmen are making same noise.
Mississippi Valley State
Top incoming freshmen Gerald Pintarich and Ashton Spurgeon will be depended upon as starters in the pitching rotation. Freshmen will get some playing time this year and help the team according to head baseball coach Aaron Stevens. Top returning starting catcher/closer Aaron Barkley, along with infielders Antonio Walker and Christian Reed will have an impact offensively and defensively. The Valley added two transfers who are projected to play, transfers outfielders Chase Colding and Billy Leflore bring speed in the gaps. MVSU has more depth on the mound this year with seven pitchers. Top returners Jeremiah Barr and Sherrod Reed will work towards being a top contender in the SWAC.
New head coach Manny Lora will have some experience on the mound. A young team with some hard throwing arms. Starting pitchers with a couple relief pitchers that will help the pitching rotation. The Bulldogs should surprise some teams within the division.
Grambling was just one game shy of winning the SWAC Tournament Championship last season and the Tigers will look to get back to the title game this season. The Tigers enter this season having to reshape a team that for two years was on the verge of winning a SWAC Championship. Head coach James Cooper is 18 victories shy of 200 for his collegiate coaching career. Back is Rafael Ramirez, who led the Tigers in homers (17) last season. Grambling added some good high school position players to the roster this year who have a chance to contribute early as freshmen. Warren Laster and Chrystian Mervilus are both impact players.
Texas Southern’s strengths will be team speed and experience from the SWAC tournament. The Tigers will need returning players to step up for the loss of 11 seniors to graduation in 2018. Relief pitching will be a concern. Aron Solis SWAC pitcher of the year 2018 will lead the pitching staff. Olijade Oloruntimilehin SWAC Tournament MVP and Christian Sanchez all conference 1st team, 17 home runs and 60 runs batted in will provide senior leadership along with Mason Furlong, Alexander Carillo, Keanu Van Kuren, Chris Suarez, and Ryan Diaz with several JUCO players, freshmen and head coach Michael Robertson.
Southern, under second year head coach Kerrick Jackson added quality depth on the mound and in the field. Top returners are Tyler LaPorte, with a big league arm, and outfielder Javeyan Williams. The Jaguars have a few freshmen in Blake Martin, big time utility Brendon Davis, pitchers Christian Dixon (RHP), Bryce Ross (RHP), and Rhett Hebert who have the potential to factor in to this year’s season significantly. Southern also added a number transfers; Eli Finney, Cole Jenkins, Jackson Cullen, Coby Taylor and Jerome Bohanon, all had outstanding fall ball seasons.
Prairie View A&M
The Panthers will have a host of pitchers who will make strong contributions to this year’s team. PVAMU’s baseball team will be a more athletic team returnin position players who are projected to start this season. They were the top recruiting program in the SWAC in 2018 and again in 2019.
Arkansas Pine Bluff
UAPB has more depth than previous years on both sides offense and defense. The Golden Lions strength for the season is going to be hitting. Pitching is not necessarily a weakness, but UAPB will have a stronger pitching staff than last year.
Black College Nines Pre-Season Elites From The SWAC:
1B Rafael Ramirez (Grambling State University)
C Richard Ortiz (Grambling State University)
DH Raul Hernandez (Jackson State University)
P Darrius Wright (Alabama State University)
P Aron Solis (Texas Southern University)
1B Christian Sanchez (Texas Southern University)
2B Tyler PaPorte (Southern University)
UTL Wesley Reyes (Jackson State University)
OF Dezmond Chumley (Jackson State University)
OF Noel Cheneau (Alabama State University)
RP Santiago Hungria III (Grambling State University)