Baseball Preview: Weekend Battle for First In MEAC Northern Division

Coppin State travels to Norfolk, Virginia, to face Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) rival Norfolk State in a battle of the top two teams in the MEAC Northern this weekend. The scheduled three-game series on April 19-20 starts with a single game Friday, then a twinbill Saturday with first place in the division on the line.

Coppin State entered the year as the top-ranked team in the MEAC, picked as preseason favorites to win the division and look to be perhaps be the most complete team in the conference. The Eagles returned last season’s entire regular lineup, as well as its full rotation and some key relievers. Having seniors back from last year’s squad on its roster is a luxury for the program and having added a top recruiting class, Coppin is looking for its first MEAC title and this team has everything it needs to win the conference tournament.

As a team, Coppin is 18-14 overall and 11-4 in the MEAC. The Eagles have a strong nucleus of players including Justin Banks with a .408 batting average, five home runs and 33 runs batted in, shortstop Derek Lohr, last season’s rookie of the year, center fielder Marcos Castillo with a .315 batting average and 9 for 11 in stolen bases and freshman outfielder Matt Day, who some have projected to give Coppin back to back MEAC rookie of the year awards. Day has played in 27 games started in 22, hitting .293 with three home runs, eight run batted in and 11 for 13 in the stolen base department.

On the pitching side, Devin Rivera Ozuna has become the ace of the staff. In his five starts, Ozuna, in 31.2 innings pitched, is 4-0 with a 1.42 earned run average and 23 strikouts. Jahmon Taylor is 2-3 for the season in 30.2 innings pitched with a 3.52 earned run average and 33 strikeouts.  Aaron Rea is 4-0 with a 2.90 earned run average and closer Corey Treyes, in five appearances has two saves and a 1.04 earned runs average.

Norfolk State has battled inconsistency at the plate and on the mound. The Spartans started the season 0-10. After taking those lumps, an impressive midseason turnaround now has the team at 14-8 since March 9th, sweeping conference foe Savannah State in that three-game series which led to a seven game winning streak. This past weekend NSU swept division member Maryland Eastern Shore, outscoring the Hawks 56-17 in the three games.

The Spartans overall are 14-18 and 10-5 in the conference and are in better shape offensively. Its offense has really picked things up with live bats including outfielder Alsander Womack, leading the nation with a .463 batting average.  He is a potential major league baseball draft pick. Womack has driven home 25 runs.

Caleb Ward has provided a huge boost to the top of the lineup with a .316 batting average and team leading 32 runs driven in.  Stephen Baughan is batting .310 with 15 doubles and a .611 slugging percentage. Other notable Spartans include freshman Justin Hayes who has been rocking opposing pitcher at the plate as of late, batting .351 and stealing 14 bases, Brandon Crosby with a .328 average and Mickey Delgado, as a pitch hitter, batting .450 in nine games collecting nines hits to go along with six runs batted in.

At the start of the season things were a little uncertain on the mound, but have turned around with Norfolk State’s Jonathan Mahoney at 4-1 with a 2.72 earned run average and 29 strikeouts, Chase Anderson at 3-0 with a 3.66 earned run average and Ridge Walker with 32 strikeouts.

Norfolk State was projected to finish last in the MEAC North Division, but has been the biggest surprise in the conference this year, one game back of Coppin State for the top spot.

CSU is primed to repeat as division champs for a second straight year, win the MEAC championship and be part of the NCAA Tournament mix.

The Spartans are 9-5 at Marty L. Miller Field and Coppin State is 9-8 in away games. Both teams met earlier in the season on March 29-31 with Coppin taking the series 2-1.

Both teams look to be well positioned to remain in contention for the MEAC division title. This series could be a conference tournament preview.

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