Norfolk State Spartans Have Unfinished Business in 2020

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NCAADI/MEAC/Baseball

 

Norfolk State Sports Information

 

NORFOLK, Va. – The Norfolk State baseball team feels like it has unfinished business this season.

Last year, the Spartans led Florida A&M 4-3 in the ninth inning of the MEAC Tournament championship and were one out away from winning the school’s first-ever MEAC title before the Rattlers rallied to win.

The heart-breaking season finale left an understandably sour taste in the mouths of the 23 returners from that team which went 24-26 and won the program’s fourth MEAC Northern Division title in five years. That group is determined to go one step further this year. The journey starts on Friday, when NSU opens the 2020 season at home with a three-game weekend series against Wagner.

Below is a look at the Spartans heading into the new campaign.

Position Players

Any talk about the Spartans usually begins with their potent top and middle of the batting order, and with good reason. Second baseman Alsander Womack, first baseman Stephen Baughan and outfielder Caleb Ward all return after posting All-MEAC seasons in 2019. Womack – who was named the Preseason MEAC Player of the Year – was a first-team All-MEAC pick last year after hitting .377 with a slash line of .377/.441/.503 last season.

Baughan ranked in the top five in the nation with 22 doubles last year while supplying his usual pop (five homers) and batting .314, earning second-team All-MEAC honors. Ward joined Baughan on the All-MEAC second team last season, ranking second in the MEAC with 44 runs batted in and also blasting five homers. Ward was a preseason All-MEAC first-team selection, and Baughan was voted to the second team.

Womack and Baughan figure to man the right side of the infield for NSU as they have the last couple seasons. NSU also welcomes back powerful junior Korey Singh, who is capable of playing first or manning the DH spot. Singh belted four home runs and drove in 21 runs despite logging just 94 at-bats.

The left side of the infield features a number of faces and more options than NSU has had in recent years. After moving between third base, second base and left field last season, Brandon Crosby moves to shortstop this season. Crosby was one of the top base-stealers in the MEAC last year, going 19-for-24. He also supplied 11 extra-base hits, and is likely to hit at the top of the order following the graduation of All-MEAC lead-off man Justin Hayes.

Junior college transfer Danny Hosley will get a look at third base, but could also play other positions as well. He hit .354 and also struck out 91 batters in 72.1 innings at Patrick Henry Community College last season.

Junior Adam Collins, senior Mikey Delgado and sophomore Trent Hanchey all started games in the infield last season and give coach Keith Shumate a variety of options. Collins had eight doubles and 21 RBI last year. Delgado batted .275 once taking over the shortstop duties later in the season, while Hanchey hit .300 in limited plate appearances. All three are capable of playing multiple positions. Freshman Julian Cumba is another young infielder who will compete for time.

Ward is the top returner in the outfield after starting all 50 games last season and batting .290. NSU also returns Khie Simms, who has a strong arm and left-handed bat. Simms has started 41 games in two seasons. Sophomores Jaran Davis and Dionte Brown combined to swipe 23 bases last year and also bring speed to the outfield.

Junior Mason Velasquez also should factor prominently into NSU’s outfield plans this year. He redshirted last season after starring at Bryant & Stratton College, where he drove in 69 runs over two seasons.

Dylan Flint and Juwuan Weaver, a pair of junior college transfers, are other names to remember among the outfielders.

Ty Hanchey returns as the primary receiver behind the plate for the Spartans. As a freshman in 2019, he came on late in the year and posted a .356 on-base percentage with six doubles, two triples, one homer and 15 RBI. Toby Buchanan, a senior who redshirted last season, will also compete for time behind the plate. Hosley is another player who could see time at catcher if needed.

Pitching Staff

Aside from Hayes, the Spartans’ biggest losses from last year came from their pitching staff, as weekend starters Chase Anderson and Jonathan Mahoney as well as relief pitcher Trey Hanchey all graduated. Anderson left NSU as the school’s co-leader in career wins (24) and was second all-time in strikeouts (288). Mahoney won 13 games in his two seasons as a starter, and both he and Anderson earned all-tournament honors while helping pitch NSU into the MEAC final last year.

Trey Hanchey, the team’s closer last season, went 3-1 with a 2.82 ERA and four saves.

Still, NSU has an intriguing mix of arms, with 11 returners and five newcomers who offer a variety of styles and a strong lefty-righty mix.

Senior left hander Ridge Walker is back to again man a spot in the weekend rotation. He won four games and posted a 4.37 ERA in 68 innings last season.

NSU also returns a trio of pitchers who all made at least 20 appearances out of the bullpen last year in righties Seth Hockett and Justin Walton, and lefty Tyler Morgan. Hockett saved two games and fanned 40 hitters in 33.2 innings pitched last season, capped by a sterling relief outing in the MEAC championship round where he allowed just one hit in three innings against FAMU. Morgan also struck out more than a batter an inning last season, punching out 28 in 25.2 innings spanning a team-high 22 appearances.

Walton made 20 appearances as a freshman in 2019, posting a 1-0 record and 4.50 ERA. Opponents hit just .192 off him. Walton is likely to see time as a starter this year.

Sophomore James Deloatch and senior Kevin Alicea are also back in the fold after playing key roles last year. Both southpaws saw time in relief and in starting roles in 2019 and could do either again this year. All told, NSU has eight left handers on its roster this year, including junior Tyrin Everette (nine appearances last season), sophomore Mike Pyers (10 appearances), Jalen Rudolph (five) and freshman Dalton Barham from nearby Maury High.

Other right handers who will vie for time include Savannah State graduate transfer Alex Wright, senior Quenten Thomas, junior Scott Mahoney, junior college transfers Jackson Sanchez and Michael Portela, and freshman Josue Cumba. Wright made 10 starts as a junior at SSU in 2018, striking out 66 batters in 52.1 innings. Thomas has battled injuries the last couple seasons, but is an experienced righty out of the bullpen.

Mahoney pitched in just one game in his first season at NSU last year. Sanchez (46 Ks in 32.1 innings) and Portela (4.14 ERA in 63 innings) were both highly successful on the JC circuit, and Cumba went 10-0 over this final three seasons of high school ball in Northern Virginia.

Schedule
NSU’s 2020 schedule includes 26 home games out of 48 games altogether. That includes eight weekend series and two mid-week games at Marty L. Miller Field. NSU is home for the first three weekends of the season, playing host to Wagner, Morehead State and Albany before the first road weekend at Eastern Kentucky, which closes out the first month of the season.

The Spartans also have a home series with Princeton to finish the pre-MEAC slate.

This year, the MEAC has done away with divisional play, meaning all eight teams will play a three-game series against each of the other seven schools. NSU has home MEAC series with Delaware State, Bethune-Cookman, North Carolina A&T and Coppin State, and road series at Maryland Eastern Shore, Florida A&M and North Carolina Central.

Mid-week games include the likes of VCU, ODU, Radford, William & Mary, Longwood and Richmond. The Spartans conclude their regular-season slate with a pair of games at Virginia Tech on May 5 and 6. More on the schedule can be found here.

The 2020 MEAC Championship returns to Daytona Beach, Florida, and Jackie Robinson Ballpark from May 13-16.

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