Bethune Cookman Have High Expectations for 2017

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Baseball title last season.

Defending their crown in 2017 won’t be easy.

“It’s going to be tough,” admitted BCU Head Coach Jason Beverlin. “Every year, every team gets better. We have to stay on our grind and get better. We must play every series like it’s the regional championship. Every game is a big game.”

The Wildcats are led by redshirt junior shortstop Demetrius Sims and junior ace pitcher Tyler Norris.

“It’s been a learning experience from my first year to now,” responded Sims. “I am now in the leadership role. I try to lead by example and be in tune with the team.”

Norris answered, “I feel good about myself and the pitching staff. I think we have a great staff and a good team. We just have to go out there, be confident and do our thing.”

However, Beverlin has confidence in both players.

“Demetrius is our quarterback in the infield,” stated Beverlin, now in his sixth year at the helm in Daytona Beach. “I also believe that he will take off offensively this year. Tyler is definitely proven capable on the mound atop the rotation.”

B-CU also returns sophomore first baseman Danny Rodriguez – the 2016 MEAC Rookie of the Year and Preseason Player of the Year for 2017. The Cats also have back junior infielder Jameel Edney, who saw most of his time a season ago at third base.

“Danny did outstanding as a freshman,” expressed Beverlin. “We believe the best is yet to come. Jameel has been really solid and has come into his own as well.”

The Wildcats also have pitchers in senior Donté Lindsay and sophomore Tyler Krull. Both pitchers emerged as starters for the Wildcats last season, and should be vying for starting spots again this year.

B-CU has a group of freshman pitchers that can make an immediate impact including Anthony Maldonado, TJ Densmore and Brady Norris – Tyler’s little brother.

“It’s awesome that my brother is playing with me,” said Tyler Norris. “We look up to each other. We do have that sibling rivalry, but he could be really good. He is better than I was when I was a freshman.”

Beverlin added, “All these guys will get opportunities to start and move into the rotation.”

The pitching rotation could be Tyler Norris, Lindsay and Kroll starting weekend games with Maldonado, Densmore and Brady Norris vying for weekday starts.

One of the biggest question marks is who will fill the void behind the plate.

“We lost two catchers in Clay Middleton and Michael Cruz to the MLB Draft last year,” stated Beverlin. “It will be interesting to see who steps up to lead the defense. There are always three or four players that end up stepping up that you never foresee each season.”

Chase DeBonis, Tripp Freeman and Joseph Maestu will be vying for playing time.

In addition, the Wildcats return sophomore centerfielder Josten Heron to the lineup, adding to junior pitchers Joseph Calamita and Alexis Herrera to the bullpen. Calamita is set to be the top closer for the Cats, while Herrera should see valuable time as a middle reliever and setup man coming into the year.

Junior college transfer utility man Jordan Stacy is also expected to help in a variety of areas.

Beverlin is now in his sixth season leading the program; he has won three titles (2012, 2014, and 2016).

Before his tenure, Bethune-Cookman dominated the MEAC winning 15 titles and making 15 NCAA appearances in 18 seasons (1999-2011).

The conference has gotten stronger with the rise of Florida A&M and North Carolina Central, also Savannah State looks to rise back up as all three teams are in the MEAC”s Southern Division along with Bethune-Cookman.

Norfolk State is once again the team to beat in the MEAC Northern Division.

“Every year since I’ve been here, the league has gotten better,” expressed Beverlin. “Credit the coaches for recruiting and improving their programs. It’s been teams that you feel like you should beat. It’s no more of that. You have to show up and you have to play.”

Sims agrees, “The MEAC is definitely better. Teams that weren’t good a few years ago are now. The games are a lot more competitive and they will be again this year. I am confident in our pitching and defense, and I think our lineup will be just as good.”

BCU won’t rely on the long ball, but instead pitching and defense.

“Our infield will be one of our strongest areas,” admits Beverlin. “I feel good about our pitching department, and our lineup should be strong again. If we play defense, then we’ll be in every game. We just have to be consistent. We want those timely hits, but we have guys who can drive the ball and hit gaps. We will also have to take advantage of our speed by stealing some basis.”

Winning the MEAC is one goal, but winning an NCAA Regional is another altogether.

“The great thing about baseball is that anything can happen,” said Beverlin. “In Major League Baseball every year it seems to be a team in the World Series that has no business being there. It really comes down to belief in yourselves; especially at this age, it’s the team that can overcome adversity. It will come down to that with us. We must have confidence; grow over the season. We must feel good about what we have and what we’re doing.”

Bethune-Cookman opens the 2017 season on Friday, Feb. 17, welcoming 2016 NCAA Super Regional participant Boston College to Jackie Robinson Ballpark for the first game of a three-game series between the Wildcats and Eagles. First pitch is set for 6 p.m., with new BCU Football Coaches Greg Ruffin and Allen Suber set to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Follow Bethune-Cookman Baseball on Twitter (@BCUDiamondCats) for all of the latest news and updates. For all Bethune-Cookman Athletics news, follow us on Twitter (@BCUathletics), Instagram (@BCUathletics), Snapchat (@BCUathletics) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/BCUathletics).

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