Norfolk State Spartans Look To Take Next Step In 2017


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Norfolk State Baseball Season-Opener
NSU vs. Villanova

Friday, Feb. 17 – 5 p.m.  |  Live Stats  |  Live Video
Saturday, Feb. 18 – 3 p.m.  |  Live Stats  |  Live Video
Sunday, Feb. 19 – 12 noon  |  Live Stats  |  Live Video

NORFOLK, Va. – The Norfolk State baseball program has enjoyed a steady rise over the last two seasons.

The Spartans have broken the program’s Division I-era wins record and won consecutive MEAC Northern Division regular-season titles in each of the last two seasons, winning a combined 56 games and logging a 38-10 MEAC record in the process.

With 14 returning letterwinners, 13 newcomers and a pair of familiar names back in the mix, NSU looks to take the next step in pursuit of its first-ever MEAC championship in 2017. The season gets underway Friday, when the Spartans open a three-game set against Villanova out of the Big East at Marty L. Miller Field.

“Our coaching staff is very optimistic about the season,” said 13th-year head coach Claudell Clark. “Having such an experienced group of returners really helps. The core of this team has played together for a while and knows each other’s tendencies and capabilities. More importantly, they are comfortable and confident in that experience and each other’s abilities.”

Following is a position-by-position look at the Spartans heading into opening day.

There aren’t many programs that can lose a two-time conference Pitcher of the Year, but still feel that its returning staff has the ability to avoid any drop-off from its recent lofty standard. But that is exactly the case for the Spartans in 2017.

Gone is two-time MEAC Pitcher of the Year Matt Outman, who graduated as the school’s co-leader in career pitching wins (23). He led a staff which set a new program record for strikeouts in a season while tying the school’s record for shutouts and posting the best ERA in both the MEAC and within the state a year ago.

While losing the ability and intangibles of its ace of the last three seasons won’t be easy, the Spartans do return five experienced arms who proved themselves a year ago, including three All-MEAC selections. Seniors Jonathan Mauricio and Devin Hemmerich return to their roles as weekend starters from last season. The right-handed Mauricio (6-2) was a first-team All-MEAC pick last season who led the conference with a 2.29 ERA. The lefty Hemmerich (5-4), meanwhile, is the most experienced of the Spartans’ pitchers, ranked second in the MEAC in strikeouts last season and was a MEAC All-Tournament selection.

That pair will be joined in the rotation by junior righty Alex Mauricio, Jonathan’s younger brother. Alex Mauricio was a first-team All-MEAC pick as a reliever last season. He went 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA and five saves, tied for second-most in the MEAC. He will reprise his role as one of the top two-way players around this year, as he also figures to hold down a starting middle infield position.

The bullpen will be anchored by a pair of right-handed strikeout artists, junior Michael Parmentier and sophomore Chase Anderson. Parmentier split closer duties with Alex Mauricio last season and earned second-team All-MEAC honors after compiling four saves. Parmentier fanned 75 batters in just 59 innings, ranking 14th nationally in strikeouts per nine innings. He will again serve as NSU’s stopper in late-game situations.

Anderson had a strong rookie season as a two-way player. Also a middle infielder when he’s not pitching, Anderson was a four-time MEAC Rookie of the Week selection last season. He compiled a 5-3 record and also struck out more than a batter per inning last season, when he made four starts and 12 relief appearances.

Another name to look out for on the mound this season is senior righty Brian Beard. Beard is a starting outfielder and key cog in the middle of the batting order for NSU, but also made a couple of scoreless appearances on the mound last season and should see more time on the mound this year.

The rest of the Spartans’ staff will be comprised of promising freshmen. Rookie right handers Tyler Humphrey, Jack Howell, Stephen Baughan and Quenten Thomas and lefty Tyler Morgan give Spartan coaches a variety of different looks and styles coming out of the bullpen or in mid-week starting situations. All were accomplished in-state high school performers.

The Spartans return starting experience at every infield position. Leading the way is redshirt senior Roger Hall. Hall has played all over the infield in his NSU career and ended last season as the starting first baseman, where he figures to play almost exclusively this year. He is also the team’s top returning hitter from a year ago after batting .316 with 17 doubles, third-most in the MEAC. He was named to the preseason All-MEAC second team.

In addition to Hall, redshirt senior Robbie Depp, sophomore Myles Marshall and freshman Baughan give the Spartans good depth and power potential at first base.

The Spartans will rely heavily on Anderson, Alex Mauricio and freshman Adam Collins to handle the middle infield positions. Mauricio has played both third base and shortstop in his career, but could see time at second base when he’s not pitching. Mauricio tied for the team-lead with five home runs and knocked in a team-best 35 runs last season. Anderson batted .244 in his time in the lineup and showed a reliable glove, and was named to the preseason All-MEAC second team.

Collins, meanwhile, is a strong-armed shortstop who earned Most Outstanding Performer accolades in the team’s Fall World Series. Redshirt freshman Mikey Delgado has also been a pleasant surprise in fall and preseason workouts, making solid contact and showcasing excellent speed.

The return of third baseman Justin Burrell also looms large for the Spartans. Burrell started at the hot corner as a freshman in 2014 before transferring from the University. Now back enrolled at NSU, he resumes his role as the starting third baseman. In addition to the ability to make the eye-opening play at third, Burrell also batted .271 with 28 RBI as a rookie in 2014.

Freshmen Dwight Riddick and Johnny Mayer will also compete for time in a deep infield for the Spartans. Both were key performers in successful Hampton Roads-area high school baseball programs in their prep careers.

As deep as the Spartans are in the infield, they may be just as strong in the outfield. Seniors Beard and Denathan Dukes both earned first-team All-MEAC preseason recognition and figure to play prominent roles in the batting lineup. Dukes was the 2015 MEAC batting champion and followed that up with a strong junior campaign in 2016 in which he batted .290 and ranked second in the MEAC in both runs scored (41) and stolen bases (25). He will man center field once again for NSU.

Beard played all over the diamond last season. After beginning the year as the starting third baseman, he moved to first base before eventually settling into left field. He was also a terror on the bases, successful stealing 19 times in 20 attempts while batting .299 with 27 RBI. He showed the ability to hit for average and for power, earning MEAC All-Tournament Team honors. Beard is likely to play right field this year.

The third outfield position could come down to any number of players. Redshirt senior Andre’ Moore is back after sitting out the 2016 season. He is a career .289 hitter who stole 18 bases in 2014. Like Dukes, Moore covers a lot of ground and is a threat offensively with his superior speed. Junior Syeed Mahdi tied for the team-lead with five homers last season while racking up 19 extra-base hits and 32 RBI.

Juniors Troy White, Terrence Pinkston and Tony Leite will also be in the mix. Leite started 23 games and also displayed some pop at the plate, batting .256 last season. Pinkston, a Jackson State transfer, and White, an Arkansas Baptist (JC) transfer, give the Spartans two strong, athletic players who can impact the game defensively and at the plate.

Freshman Dion Jordan adds to the depth and speed in the outfield. He was the lead-off man on the state championship Nansemond River High School team that also included Mayer last spring.

The Spartans return their top two catchers from last season in junior Ismael Herrera and sophomore Chris Ford. The two combined to start all but two games behind the plate for NSU last season. The pair combined to knock in 17 runs, supplying NSU with clutch hits late in the season. The pair also fielded at a clip of .979 and should again bring stability to the catching position this year. Herrera had the series-clinching hit in the team’s Fall World Series and will likely earn the opening day starting nod.

Freshman Kam Holland, a walk-on from Washington, D.C., will provide a third option behind the plate while learning from his more experienced teammates at the position.

With a strong nucleus of veterans, an infusion of young talent and a fruitful offseason to build on, Clark made it clear that his team’s goal was to win the school’s first-ever MEAC championship.

“We’ve accomplished a lot as a program the last two seasons, and we want to continue to build on that,” Clark said. “I feel like our player development has evolved to the point where we can push an experienced group another step.”

A step that the Spartans hope will mean more history for NSU later this spring.

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