2020 HBCU Large School Division Baseball Preseason Overview

Alabama A&M University 2019 Record: 15-35 .300 Conference: SWAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

Alabama A&M somewhat underachieved last season, so head coach Manny Lora has hit the recruiting trail hard for the 2020 baseball season. The Bulldogs added arms to their lineup with freshman and JUCO transfers. A&M opens up the 2020 season with a visit to warm Florida and a three-game series starting February 14-16 against Bethune Cookman University, then faces the University of North Alabama in a schedule home opener Feb. 18th.

With a good core of veterans and what appears to be impact talent from the high school and JUCO ranks, the baseball program should have pitching depth… something the program has not had in past years. There should be competition in all areas on the field and heading into 2020, Coach Lora could lead the team into contention for a SWAC division title.

Biggest Strength:
Hitting, pitching and fielding

Biggest Weakness:
Under .500 verses Division I opponents

Alabama State University 2019 Record: 28-26 .519 Conference: SWAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 3

Alabama State’s 2020 schedule will include 26 home games. The Hornets open the season on the road with three games at the Andre Dawson MLB Classic in New Orleans (La.) with Prairie View A&M in the season opener on February 14, and then face the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (February 15) and finish the Classic with Southern University on February 16. The Hornets have a tough non-conference schedule which includes three teams from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) on the road versus Alabama, Auburn, and with Tennessee in a two-game series.

ASU recruited a strong group of JUCO and freshman student-athletes who will be in the starting lineup at the beginning of the 2020 season, and a strong crop of infielders who will be able to immediately compete for playing time as well. Collegiate Baseball’s Fabulous 40 NCAA Division I preseason poll presented by Big League Chew lists Alabama State in its recent poll. Picks to click for head coach Jose Vazquez’ squad include Jabronski Williams, Ian Matos, Dilan Espinal, Breon Pooler and Chris Lewis.  Each can help lead the Hornets back to the SWAC Championship game.

Biggest Strength:
Hitting, pitching and fielding

Biggest Weakness:
Under .500 verses Division I opponents

Alcorn State University 2019 Record: 14-31 .311 Conference: SWAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

Head coach Bretton Richardson is excited about the upcoming season as the Braves compete for a SWAC Championship. Alcorn State’s 45-game schedule which features tough non-conference match-ups, will open the 2020 campaign against SWAC Conference West foes in New Orleans from February 14-16 at the Andre Dawson MLB Classic where they will take on Prairie View A&M, Grambling State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Richardson stepped up his program’s strenth of scheddule with a pair of SEC powerhouses who ended last season ranked in the Top 15. They will face Ole Miss (Feb. 19) and Mississippi State (Feb. 26) and three DI teams who made the NCAA Tournament in 2019 (McNeese, Florida A&M, and HBCU Baseball large school National Champion Southern). Brandon Rembert will lead Alcorn State as one of the top players in the SWAC. Rembert led the Braves a season ago in batting average (.345) and on-base percentage (.462) while finishing eighth and fifth in the conference in those categories. He won the 2019 Alcorn Sportsmanship Award and led the Braves in a majority of categories last year including hits (48), runs scored (38), walks (29), doubles (9) and homers (3).

Biggest Strength:
Brandon Rembert bat

Biggest Weakness:
Hitting, pitching and fielding and Under .500 verses Division I opponents

Bethune-Cookman University 2019 Record: 18-38 .321 Conference: MEAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

The Wildcats play a brutal 2020 schedule against the nation’s top ranked RPI programs. Besides the non-conference play, Bethune also faces a tough Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) schedule. Bethune Cookman’s slate of opponents includes all three of Florida’s top three nationally ranked collegiate programs in Florida, Florida State and Miami. Head coach Jonathan Hernandez, in his second year at B-CU, is up to the task after having a very good recruiting year.  According to Perfect Game website, the Wildcats ranked 59th in the country in recruiting for the coming 2020 season.

Bethune-Cookman will be heavily stacked with a young team heading into the 2020 season. Hernandez and his staff went out and recruited across the nation and have brought in stout student athletes. Top freshmaen include pitcher Knicko Billings Miramar, Fla. Somerset Academy Charter who went 4-0 with 59 strikeouts and a 1.21 earned run average as a senior. Also, outfielder Fabian Escalante Sanford, Fla., a top prospect nationally, infielder Frankie Febles Miami, Fla., Matthew Garcia Orlando, Fla., pitcher Guillermo Gelpi, Puerto Rico Avant Garde Academy and catcher Boras Peña Hialeah, Fla. JUCO recruits include right handed pitcher Rafael Perez Guzman from Valencia,Venezuela who had 16 strikeouts in 14 innings, made 10 appearances with a 3.21 earned run average. His fast ballreaches the low 90’s and he has a hard slider. Matt Henson, Fredericksburg, Va., and Bryan Marrero Corozal, P.R. and Frank Phillips CC will see significant playing time. Offensively, infielder Elian Roman can get things going at the top of the lineup and will be counted on in a variety of roles for the 2020 season.

Biggest Strength:
Tough non- conference schedule

Biggest Weakness:
Will the recruits mesh as a team against a brutal top 25 schedule?

Coppin State University 2019 Record: 24-24 .500 Conference: MEAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 6

Coppin State anticipates another talented team for head coach Sherman Reed. Returning from last year’s squad includes HBCU Baseball Black College Nines Elite Justin Banks, who Reed states should be the favorite for MEAC Player of the Year after hitting .394 with 5 home runs, 17 doubles and was ranked in the top 50 in hitting in the NCAA. Aaron Rea returns for a redshirt senior season at pitcher and will graduate among the top 3 in every major pitching category for Coppin. Also returning is two-way player Corey Treyes, RF Matt Day, catcher Conner Walker, CF Marcos Castillo, and DH Carlos Alviarez.

Among the newcomers, look for Giovanni Canales to be a weekend starter. Look for freshman 3B Toran Smith and Mike Dorcean is a favorite to platoon with Conner Walker at catcher. Freshman LHP Tim Ruffino will see a lot of time and is a great human interest story as he has just one hand. Also look out for SS Caden Walton (hitting .467 this fall), SS Eddie Javier and junior OF transfer Justin Oakley who earned All-Region X honors at Louisburg College in 2019.

Biggest Strength:
The arm of Aaron Rea and the bat of Justin Banks

Biggest Weakness:
Middle relievers out of the bullpen

Delaware State University 2019 Record: 20-25 .444 Conference: MEAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 10

The Delaware State University baseball team will look to make forward strides in their 2020 campaign after finishing 12-12 in MEAC play and 20-25 overall in 2019. John Weglarz, Jared Gillis, Miguel Rivera, and Cole Garey should pace the Hornets’ offense, which features several key returners from last season. Senior Shortstop Tommy Jordan will anchor the infield and looks to be a key contributor again this year at the plate. Mark Herron Jr. looks poised to have a breakout season after posting a .319 batting average against MEAC opponents last season.

After losing reigning MEAC Pitcher of the Year Garrett Lawson to the draft (Angels, 19th round) and graduating fellow weekend starters Darnell Maisonet and Sean McGrath, the Hornets will look to returners Chandler Fitzgerald, Corey Loper, Austin Warrington, Robert Shorts and Zach Dale to throw significant innings this season. They will be joined by several talented newcomers to round out the staff. In total, the DSU roster will feature 20 new faces this spring.

Florida A&M University 2019 Record: 27-34 .443 Conference: MEAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 9

The defending MEAC champions return a lot of key pieces to their championship team. Four starting pitchers are back from last year’s squad. KC Coleman, who threw two complete games in the MEAC Tournament, Josh Hanckcock, Josh Barr and Josh Wilson all return for the Rattlers. First team All-MEAC Closer Jeremiah McCollum is back, along with go-to man Morgan Mendez out of pen. Chandellor Benton returns to action after missing last season with an elbow injury and will add depth to the bull pen.

Offensively returning to the lineup are veterans Octavien Moyer, Tucker Rayburn and Seyjuan Lawrence. Sophomores Jared Weber and Robert Robinson look to be stars for the Rattlers. Freshman and JUCO impact players to watch in 2020 are – Evan Johnson – Jr. L/L 1B, Ethan Jenkins – Fr. R/R OF from Mandarin HS in Jacksonville, FL. LJ Bryant – Jr. R/R OF from Andrew College, Kelyn Fox – Jr. LHP from Seminole State College and Landon Nevill – Jr. RHP from South Georgia State College, whose fast ball sits at 90 mph.

Biggest Strength:
Pitching really deep from starts to the bullpen

Biggest Weakness:
Under .500 verses Division I opponents

Grambling State University 2019 Record: 27-25 .519 Conference: SWAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 5

Grambling State was one game away from returning to the SWAC Tournament Championship last season and the Tigers will look to get back to the title game in 2020. The Tigers enter this season having brought in some top notch recruits to reshape a team. Grambling added some good high school position players and pitching to the roster this year who have a chance to contribute early as freshmen. The incoming freshmen from a top-five recruiting class includes pitchers Michael Mims, Michael Granson, Jr. Jamison Patanapanich, and Brandon Tyler. Other freshmen include catcher Ben Avil, infielder Trey Williams and speedster in the outfield, Terry Tolliver. The bat of HBCU Baseball All-Elite first-teamer Rafael Ramirez returns for his senior season and he should find himself on the Major League Baseball draft board come June.

Grambling State opens the season Feb. 14th in New Orleans at the Andre Dawson Classic and will face the University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff, University of New Orleans, and Southern University.

Biggest Strength:
The recruiting class of 2020 and the bat of Rafael Ramirez

Biggest Weakness:
Under.500 vs ranked opponents

Jackson State University 2019 Record: 31-24 .564 Conference: SWAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 6

The Jackson State Tigers return ace of the pitching staff Nikelle Galatas along with everyday position player Wesley Reyes. They will be surrounded by new faces with a lot talent and a group of returnees who can lead the Tigers to a a big years. Core returnees to watch include pitchers Harry Colon, Chandler Dillard, Tyler Jones, CJ Newsome, outfielder Brandon Valentin and utility player Mario Lopez will add pop at the plate. Also the Tigers will count on Jaylyn Williams and Chris Prentiss.

Head coach Omar Johnson’s team is capable of winning the SWAC in 2020 and successfully navigate a tough non-conference schedule. If the pitching staff holds up, they will be a contender for division championship and SWAC conference champions. Coach Johnson will be looking for his 14th, 30-win season since 2007.

Biggest Strength:
Returning big time position and pitching players

Biggest Weakness:
Schedule against big time RPI programs

Mississippi Valley State University 2019 Record: 8-27 .229 Conference: SWAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

Mississippi Valley State freshmen will get some playing time this year and help the team. The Delta Devils pitching staff should get a good amount of innings with opportunities in weekend and mid-week starts. Top returnees,Gerald Pintarich, has good command of his pitches and projected starting catcher/closer Aaron Barkley did well in collegiate wood bat competition this past summer.

Top JUCO transfers and incoming freshmen bring speed in the gaps and on the base paths. MVSU has a little more depth this year than in the past with pitchers. The team will continue to work towards being a top contender in the SWAC conference this upcoming 2020 season.

Biggest Strength:
Cutting down on strike outs

Biggest Weakness:
Keeping teams off the base path

North Carolina A&T University 2019 Record: 29-24 .547 Conference: MEAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 3

The Aggies return experience on both sides of the ball. Catcher Ryne Stanley will be a staple for the Aggies in 2020 season and Dustin Baber, who will be a huge piece offensively and defensively, also returns for the Aggies. Big time JUCO transfer Alex Bibb from Walters State Junior College, who played in the JUCO World Series, will help out offensively and will play two-ways and DH. Justin Rodriguez from Daytona State where he hit .347 and Alex Reyna with a plus arm and is a good defender are ones to keep an eye on.

Returning pitcher Michael Johnson will throw on the weekend and already has a wealth of experience going into his senior year. Junior Ethan Chavis had a very good sophomore campaign and will project to pitching on the weekends. Evan Gates, a returning weekend starter who has very good stuff, may stay as a weekend starter or move into a closer role along with Leon Davidson, who had a 0.67 ERA last season in 40.1 innings with 5 wins and 4 saves. Timothy Davila, a junior college transfer from Catawba Valley Community College, will compete for several innings. A big key addition is Cole Parks, who transferred from Winston-Salem State, will aid the the pitching staff along with his bat. He broke the strikeout record at Winston-Salem State and went 12-2 last season. Cole was selected a Black College Nines All-Elite first team in the small school division last year. Look for sophomore Gianni Smith to have a break-out 2020 season. He has a fastball that has been consistently clocked at 94 mph.

Biggest Strength:
Hitting and power at the plate

Biggest Weakness:
Corner infielding

North Carolina Central University 2019 Record: 21-28 .429 Conference: MEAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 10

North Carolina Central will have a number of returnees on this year’s team. Outfielders Carter Williams, Jacob Raby who received MEAC Freshman honors, Nick Fajardo played a huge role last year along with Brad Mize, Jordan Varela-Payne, Bryceson Hernandez, and Justin Bowers also return in the outfield. Infielders Myles Coston, Trey Maslin, and Vinny Bailey all return from last year’s team. All three are expected to contribute this year. Drake Murray, Alex Ortiz, and Dalton Ward also return in the infield.

On the hill, pitchers Austin Vernon returns with an assortment of pitches in mid to low 90s, touching 97. Head coach Jim Koerner returns for his ninth season at the helm NCCU baseball expecting big things out of Austin this year both on and off the field. Also Ryan Miller returns and is expected to take a leadership role along with Ryan Decker, Brendan Bell, Tom Guglielmello, and Caleb McRoy. New players are freshman outfielder Andre White (Vance HS/ Oakland, CA) who set the North Carolina High School record for batting average last year, infielders Cameron Norgen (Cary, NC/ Guilford Tech), Kobe Phillips (Charlotte, NC: Spartanburg Methodist), Luis DeLeon (Providence, RI/ Central Alabama CC) and Michael Alicea (Toa-Alto, PR/ Miami Dade College).  All are expected to come in and contribute right away in the infield.

Biggest Strength:
Veteran lineup, arms on the hill

Biggest Weakness:
Under .500 verses ranked and RPI teams

Norfolk State University 2019 Record: 24-26 .480 Conference: MEAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 7

The Spartans have 28 players returning from last year’s team that went 24-26 overall and 17-7 in MEAC North which led to its fourth division title in five years and a runner-up finish at the MEAC tournament. The Spartans have a tall task for the 2020 season. The coaching staff will need to find weekend and midweek starting pitchers. They have a number of key returnees back. Alsander Womack is the big returnee for NSU and had an outstanding fall. The coaches will be incorporating a number of newcomers to add depth across the staff and lineup, but will try to identify those roles before the start of the 2020 season.

Norfolk State welcomes the addition of 10 new players who have joined the program for the 2019-20 season. The newcomers include four high school prospects and six who are transferring from other institutions. The incoming class will provide the support the team needs to contend for a conference championship. Having quality depth is essential and should pay dividends. The new recruit are, LHP Dalton Barham (Norfolk, Va./Maury HS), RHP Josue Cumba (Dumfries, Va./Potomac Senior HS), IF Julian Cumba (Dumfries, Va./Potomac Senior HS), OF/RHP Dylan Flint (Manassas, Va./Patrick Henry CC), RHP/Util. Danny Hosley (Vienna, Va./Patrick Henry CC), RHP Michael Portela (Chesapeake, Va./Paul D. Camp CC, RHP Jackson Sanchez (Virginia Beach, Va./Bryant & Stratton College), IF Rhay Street (Matteson, Ill./Rich Central HS), OF Juwuan Weaver (Virginia Beach, Va./Potomac State College), RHP Alex Wright (Circleville, Ohio/Savannah State)

Biggest Strength:
Good recruiting class

Biggest Weakness:
Finding starting pitching early in the season

Prairie View A&M University 2019 Record: 18-35 .340 Conference: MEAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

The 2020 Panthers will be made up of key returnees, JUCO transfers and impactful freshman. On the offensive side of the plate, Prairie View will be lead by seniors Tyler Gordon(C) and Xavier Jefferson (OF) who finished last season on a high note.  Expect super sophomore Alex Martinez, a 2019 BCN’s HBCU Baseball  All-Elite and its Freshman of the Year for the large school division, to be a big key to the team success in the middle of the batting order. Transfers Luke Watson (SS) and Christian Mendez (2B/OF) will play an important role in the Panthers line up. Returnees Demarie’ Smith(OF), Andrew Garcia (INF) and Calvin Rucker (1B) will also play a key role. Expect freshman Brayden Johnson (OF) and Zach Trevino (INF) to play key roles this season.

The pitching rotation will return all starters from last year and they are expected to bring experience and potentially be one of the conference’s best. Seniors Kyle Smith and Tyler Laux will anchor the pitching staff. Juniors Tracy Warren, Brian Williams and Derrick Curry bring a wealth of experience that should give this year’s team a chance to be competitive throughout the season. The bullpen will be the deepest that Head Coach Auntwan Riggins has assembled since he started with Jerson Hardit, Lorenzo Hardit, Cameron Cooper, Isaiah Trevino, and Justin Maxcey bring experience. Expect Juco transfers Matthew Sandavol and Robert Miles to make serious contributions to the pitching staff. Freshman Tyrone Tubbs and Caleb Hines will bring depth as well.

Biggest Strength:
Pitching staff and the versatility of its position players

Biggest Weakness:
Confidence early in the season with a challenging schedule throughout the year

Southern University 2019 Record: 32-24 .571 Conference: SWAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 1 HBCU Baseball National Champion

Southern had a successful run in 2019 being crowned HBCU Baseball National Champion, SWAC Champion and making the NCAA Regionals giving top ranked Mississippi a scare in the tournament.  The Jaguars look to continue a productive and competitive 2020 season. A number of freshmen put themselves in a position to compete for a starting job this spring. Also a number of Juco transfers put themselves in the mix as well. With only one everyday starter returning from last years championship line up, January and February will be very crucial to determining starting roles. Head coach Kerrick Jackson stated “we have some quality depth on the pitching staff lead by Eli Finney (Sr RHP), Will Allen (Sr RHP) and Joe Battaglia (Jr RHP). In addition, we will be looking for some quality production from some of our JC transfers as well.”

All in all, The Jags will have a very competitive team on the field. The young players are very talented but will have to learn how to manage the speed of the game, in order to be consistent contributors in their first year.

Biggest Strength:
Depth in pitching starters and in the pin

Biggest Weakness:
Constant bat in the lineup

Texas Southern University 2019 Record: 20-34 .370 Conference: SWAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: No. 9

Texas Southern will rely on team speed once again. Strengths will be team speed, versatility in the bullpen, experience in sneaking up on teams in the second half of the season. The 2020 season will be no different. Several JUCO players will play key roles in the Tigers offense this year. Several freshman are expected to play this year. Cannot count out head coach Michael Robertson. Well known as a second-half coach who has hopes of returning to the SWAC championship game.

Biggest Strength:
Head Coach Michael Robertson will find away

Biggest Weakness:
Pitching will be a concern

University of Maryland Eastern Shore 2019 Record: 10-44 .185 Conference: MEAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

The 2020 Maryland Eastern Shore baseball program has some new faces that will help the Hawks attempt to be one of the top teams in the MEAC. The Hawks graduated three seniors, and have 23 returning players from the 2019 squad. The Hawks will have nine freshman joining the roster, which means the team will be more experienced than in previous years. The goal for the season is to lean on experience on the mound to win games. The team will have some experienced JUCO players, along with quality veterans who will help in the development of youngsters. The Hawks will have three solid starting pitchers with a couple relief pitchers who will help with stability on the hill. Also, the Hawks have returning experience in both the outfield and middle infield positions. UMES will have a solid core of returning players with the hopes that the younger, more inexperienced players will provide depth and quality play when their numbers are called.

Hawks returning pitchers will provide experience for the younger players toeing the rubber. Dwayne Marshall, Marty Tolson, and Caleb Walston will head up the pitching rotation. Dillon Oxyer will provide talent and experience in the shortstop position, with Avery Tunnell, Blake Coleman, Devynn Hancock and Brian Cordell providing experience in the outfield. Top newcomers include Evan Nibblett (Del Tech CC)-P, Blake Rebstock (Anne Arundel CC)-P, Andrew Revels (Anne Arundel CC)-INF, Cory Joyce (Neshaminy HS)-INF and Chris Martin (Saint Maria Gorretti)-INF

Biggest Strength:
Returning pitching and eperience on the hill

Biggest Weakness:
Youth will be the biggest hurdle to overcome.

The following schools did not file a report at the time of publishing…

University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff 2019 Record: 8-42 .160 Conference: SWAC BCN 2019 HBCU Baseball Final Poll: Unranked

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