North Carolina A&T University

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NCAADI/MEAC/Baseball

 

North Carolina A&T Sports information

 

EAST GREENSBORO – The North Carolina A&T baseball team opens the season as the defending two-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Southern Division champions.

There will not be a three-peat. The MEAC decided to revert to the past and eliminate the divisional format.

In years past, N.C. A&T games against MEAC Southern Division teams such as Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M, N.C. Central and Savannah State counted toward the conference standings. Meanwhile, the Aggies either didn’t play or have their games count as conference games against MEAC North teams.

This season each MEAC baseball school will get a crack at one another. Going back to a single division was initiated by Savannah State dropping down to Division II.

It left the door open to abolishing the divisional format with eight MEAC institutions playing baseball. Therefore, teams such as Maryland Eastern Shore and Delaware State will return to the schedule. The Aggies’ conference opener will be a three-game series against Coppin State beginning on March 27 at 7 p.m. The top six teams in the MEAC advance to the conference tournament in May hosted by Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Fla.

“Excited for the start of the year,” said head coach Ben Hall. “We are working with a laser focus to prepare for a challenging 2020 season. Can’t wait to get started.”

N.C. A&T enters the 2020 season with the preseason pitcher of the year in senior right-hander Michael Johnson as well as first-team All-MEAC selections Johnson, senior shortstop Dustin Baber and senior reliever Leon Davidson. Redshirt senior catcher Ryne Stanley was a second-team selection.

 RETURNERS
The Aggies return 21 players from last season’s Southern Division championship team. Baber returns after batting .328 with two home runs, 30 RBI and 34 runs scored. He was also solid defensively. Johnson returns to the mound for the Aggies after going 4-5 with a 3.22 ERA and 46 strikeouts including a win over SEC power South Carolina.

Stanley is one of the best defensive catchers in the conference. He caught 19 baserunners trying to steal last season and he was credited with only six passed balls.

Davidson developed into one of the best relievers in the league last season. He was 5-0 with a 0.67 ERA to go along with 26 strikeouts, only nine walks and four saves. Davidson has been named to the National College Baseball Writer’s Association (NCBWA) Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List. He is the only member on the list with a sub-1.00 ERA in 2019.

Other returning seniors include Shane Faulk, RHP Evan Gates and RHP Justin Fox. Faulk is a solid defender in the outfield. He has not made an error in 72 fielding attempts. Gates and Fox should be solid for the Aggies out of the bullpen and as potential midweek starters.

Returning juniors feature infielders Zach McLean and Justin Williams, LHP Ethan Chavis and catcher Johndre’ Bowser. McLean was the 2018 MEAC tournament MVP who is coming off a season where he hit six home runs. Williams should be a solid starter at third base and Chavis looks to open the season as a weekend starter who has two sterling starts against the University of North Carolina on his resume.

The returning sophomores are highlighted by infielder Tony Mack, RHPs Jeremiah Foster and Gianni Smith, catchers Scott Meitzler and Devin Bartley, outfielder Donte Wade and LHP Peyton Winebarger. Mack proved to be a solid offensive player last season while playing second base for the Aggies. He hit .270 last season and scored 17 times with seven stolen bases.

Foster and Smith provided relief out of the pen and could play the same role this season along with being potential midweek starters. In eight games played, Meitzler hit .462 (6-for-13) with three doubles, a homer and four RBI. Bartley provides depth at catcher. Wade is a speedster out in the outfield and on the basepaths and Winebarger is a solid left-hand reliever.

Redshirt freshmen making their return include Connor Knapp.

NEWCOMERS
The Aggies will welcome 13 new players to the team including four transfer players in Justin RodriguezTimothy DavilaAlex Bibb and Cole Parks.

Other newcomers include Noah LeaCameron SimmonsAlex ReynaAlex HallJustin O’NealKeith TaylorPres OsertKyras Dawson and Ian Cawthorne. One recruit, Marc Church, decided to sign professionally with the Texas Rangers instead of becoming an incoming freshman.

PITCHING
Pitching is arguably the most veteran group on the team with five seniors and two juniors. The group is highlighted by Johnson and Davidson.

“It’s always a good feeling when you have a veteran group of pitchers both in your rotation and bullpen,” said Hall. “The key for a group like our players is to make sure experience serves them and they toe the rubber to set a tone every day.”

THE SEASON
The Aggies are slated to begin their season this weekend in Lexington, S.C. The team will play a doubleheader on Friday, Feb. 14 at Lexington County Stadium. The first game is against Butler at noon and the second game against George Mason is at 3:30 p.m. The Aggies will conclude their opening weekend in South Carolina with a game against Butler on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Johnson is projected to start on the bump for the Aggies first game on Friday. The rest of the lineup is projected to look as follows:

1.    Wade – CF
2.    Baber – SS
3.    C. Williamson – RF
4.    Bibb – DH
5.    McLean – 1B
6.    Stanley – C
7.    Rodriguez – LF
8.    J. Williams – 3B
9.    Mack – 2B

N.C. A&T will play their home opener on Feb. 18 against non-conference foe Appalachian State. The Aggies non-conference schedule features regional rivals in N.C. State, North Carolina and South Carolina as well as a game against UNC Greensboro at First National Bank Field, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers.

“Excited about the teams we have in our out of conference schedule,” said Hall. “Also, it will be neat to experience conference play where we see everyone during the regular season. I have to thank our coaches, athletic directors and conference administrators for making that change happen.”

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