HBCU Fall Baseball Review – Round One

Fall baseball is a time to get players back into the weight room, build skills and it also allows coaches at every level to evaluate and develop players based on the their unique talents. Each school is given the opportunity to practice, prepare and scrimmage.

Fall baseball will wrap up for most HBCU baseball programs soon, so it’s time to assess the teams before we head into the 2018 season. Here is our first round of overviews from “fall ball”…

Large School:

Savannah State University is looking to compete for a championship in the MEAC. The Fall is going well thus far. Entering the third week of team practice and things are starting to come together.

Head coach Carlton Hardy stated “I believe we will be more physical at the plate and have added more athleticism in the field which will allow us to play better defense.  Our starting OF average 60 speed is 6.7 sec, which will allow us to track more balls put in play. Our pitching staff is focusing this fall on pounding the strike zone and commanding their secondary pitches. Really excited about this group as we move forward in the Fall of 2017.”

North Carolina Central University three returning Freshman All-American’s Corey Joyce, Carter Williams, and Jacob Raby, who are all having good falls. Joyce MEAC 1st Team All-Conference, Williams- 2nd Team All-Conference and Raby 3rd Team All-Conference

Big addition in 1st Team Junior College All-American transfer Catcher Mitch Walker (Cumberland CC- DIII world series participant) also having a good fall at the plate. Top returnee, Devin Sweet, senior pitcher, was named the 17th best prospect in the Coastal Plains League also has shown well this fall.

Bethune Cookmen University comes off a historic season that saw them advance to the Regional Championship game against the eventual national champion Florida Gators. Last season they had signature wins against Tennessee Tech, Miami, Liberty as well as victories versus in state competitors Jacksonville, Stetson, Florida International, Florida Gulf Coast, North Florida finishing the season at 36-25 and claiming their second straight MEAC title. 

BCU returns all 7 of their 9 starters after losing Demetrius Sims in the 10th round of major league baseball draft ( Florida Marlins) and graduating DH Austin Garcia. They return their number 1 and 2 starters Anthony Maldonado and Tyler Norris.

Top Offensive Returners Include – Adonis Lao, Danny Rodriguez, Jameel Edney, Nate Sterijevski, and Kyle Corbin who scored 40 runs accompanying his 22 stolen bases. Top Pitchers Include Tyler Norris 9-1 record with a 3.42 ERA, Anthony Maldonado 8-4 record with a 3.02 ERA last season as a freshmen. Ivan Coutinho 3.30 ERA with 7 saves, and TJ Densmore 3.74 ERA throwing 38 innings.

The Wildcats started team practice October 4 and will play two fall games finishing up team practice in November. The upcoming schedule will feature similar faces as the Wildcats will again take on many of their in state Florida rivals. BCU open up conference play on the road against MEAC southern rival Florida A&M on March 10th.

Florida A&M University this could be one of their better teams. Pitching staff has a chance to be pretty good and returning a lot of position players. Lost top player Aubrey McCarty to MLB draft 40th (Colorado Rockies) last season. Returnees include Jacky Miles Jr, did not play due to injury in 2017. Brian Davis, John Capra, Kacyee Rees, Kodi Russ, Dallas Oliver, Ty Russ, Garrett Wilkinson, Eric Blanc, and Cam Johnson. Top newcomers – Brett Maxwell and Jordan Curtis.

Rattlers head coach Jamey Shouppe’s crew has three Fall games on tap each Wednesday in October, including one at Tallahassee CC on Oct. 11, and two more at Moore-Kittles Field – vs. TCC on Oct. 18 and Gulf Coast State on Oct. 25.

FAMU October 2017 Baseball Schedule, (11) Tallahassee CC, (18) Tallahassee CC, and (25) Gulf Coast State.

North Carolina A&T University, the Aggies came into Fall Ball excited having closed-out the 2017 season 28-25, a 15-game improvement from the 2016 season. Returning 6 Starting position players, 2 weekend arms from 2017. In addition, they placed one player on Black College Nines (BCN) Elite 1st Team (Adan Ordonez) combined five players on the top two All-MEAC teams, head coach Ben Hall was named (BCN) Coach of The Year this past 2017 season. 23 upperclassmen with returners and JUCO additions make for a veteran team. Fall practice has depth at every position to have moving parts and roles outside of standard starting 9.  Big question, who will be the weekend starters come the 2018 season?  Hall stated “the depth on the pitching staff gives us a bunch of options at each role.” 

Key Losses – Cutter Dyals Closer (Drafted 17th round Atlanta Braves), Kyle Clary 1B , and Tim Ravare. Key Returners – Milton Rivera, Adan Ordonez, Myles Sowell, Greg White, Brandon Melendez, AJ Hunt, Marcello Betances, and Michael Johnson. Key Additions – Tim Luth, Roberto Negron, Ryne Stanley, Jason Jenkins, and Anthony Rodriguez. Fall Ball practice had 25 scouts in attendance at pro scout day for potential 2018 draft  picks Hunter, Negron, Luth, Betances, Sowell, Ordonez, and Hunt. 

Texas Southern University Tigers Fall Ball practice, all indication they are preparing to repeat as SWAC Champions under the direction of head coach Michael Robertson. The Tigers have won the SWAC Tournament in two of the past three seasons. Texas Southern returns 1st baseman Jose Camacho who will be a key part of the Tigers lineup. Michael Villanueva will figure to be a key piece of the Tigers pitching staff after a solid freshman debut season. This yar fall practice more energy and excitement than the last three years.

Small School: 

Harris Stowe State University this fall returning 15 players who contributed to 2017 30-20 season.  Steven Kemp and Stephen Wells were both in the rotation last season have returned.  Leobardo Saldivar, PJ Roberts, Jared Corbett, Tony Montano and Zach Jones will starter who have all returned.  1st Team HBCU All-Elite relief pitcher Tyler Boles has returned as well.  This fall we welcome 8 transfers / 5 redshirts / 15 freshman. “We will have large senior and freshman class this season” according to head coach CJ Bilbrey.

“We just finished our 3rd week of fall ball and we are in a break for midterms right now.  We have not started scrimmages yet and we will begin to do so later in October.  We are taking more of a development approach with our program this fall and trying to get them ready for opening day on February 1.”

Top Returners – Leobardo Saldivar, Zach Jones, Tony Montano, PJ Roberts, Steven Kemp, and Stephen Wells.

Lincoln University Head Coach Anthony Plá begins his 10th season at the helm for the Lions. 15 returning players from last year with 16 newcomers to the program.  With some returners coming back who have had extensive experience in games and the new players coming in with some great skills, the Lions have had a great start to their fall baseball season.  Fall ball started back on September 15 and has been going strong with morning lifts, individuals, and team practices.  They have played 5 Intersquad games, scheduled a couple of junior colleges in the next coming weeks. 

Returning Players are: Rolando Alvarez, Julian Bradshaw, Marcos Castillo, Marquis Coleman, Christian Gil, Aidan Gomes, Luis Nieves, Dominic Rheubottom, Joshua Roberson, and Orlando Roberson.

Big time redshirt players – Kashif Hill, Rudy Rabb, Malcolm Smith, and Jordan Whisler              

Incoming players for this year are the following: Jason Aldred, Jalil Banks, Anthony Bludson, Terrence Chambers, William Givens, Zaire Hariston, Willie Hines, Jeremiah Hoskins, Grant Lindsey, RJ Liverpool, Pedro Martinez, Bradley Regalado, Jordan Rorer, Trevon Sutton, and CarVonte Williams. 

Saint Augustine University Head coach Charles Whitaker “We have a lot of freshman we think will be starting in the spring. We have a couple position changes with some returning players that should help out our defense. We upgraded our outfield with a transfer from South East CC and we had two guys red shirting last year. We think our infield will be better with two freshmen up the middle. 

We hope to get a solid year on the mound from Marquis Johnson, Amilicar Yanez and the freshmen crew. Goal: Was to get better defensively and to hit better with runners in scoring position. I though those were the two aspects of our game we lacked last year.” 

Jarvis Christian College on the mound return Joseph Lyall and Matt Burrows. Lyall lead the RRAC in wins, strikeouts, and innings pitched as a junior. New additions include JUCO transfers Phillip Jones, Wyatt Jones, and transfer Dylan Vilaros (Baker University). On paper have the ability to be the best and deepest pitching staff we have had here at Jarvis. 

Offensively, key loses Deandre McGuire and Carlos Andrade playing professionally. Key additions – Jonas Garcia, Jose Torres, Brian Peguer, and Gavin Gaffaney. Key Returners – Anthony Ortiz, Tyler Ruiz, Austen Pulcher, and Spencer Thomas. This year’s lineup will have a new look and has the ability to be extremely athletic 1 through 9. Can and should steal over 150 bases this year with several guys in the 15-20 range. 

Defensively, infield play should improve drastically with key additions with much more team speed in the outfield. Overall expect this year’s group to improve on the success we had last year. Will be an exciting team to watch. 

Kentucky State University The Thorobreds return a potent offense that looks to improve on 2017, but the biggest question for KSU will be if the defense, which finished in the top half of the conference in fielding and led the conference in double plays will be able to help out an inexperienced pitching staff.  The Thorobreds look to build on last year’s third place finish in the SIAC Tournament and return the bulk of their starting lineup.

Returners include – Elijah Collins, Justin Stinson, Sr – (2nd Team All-SIAC), Brandon Story, Sr – (2nd Team All-SIAC), Greg Alexander, Jay Poullard, Cameron Starks, Artie Santomo, Russell Sims, and Joe Crisp. Top Newcomers – Darian Dull (Injured in 2017), and Jordan Ranson.

Le Moyne Owen College Fall Baseball is any indication of last season 20-30 win team making to the SIAC Conference Championship game. The Magicians ran off four wins in a row starting with Paine (5-4); Tuskegee (7-6); Albany State (10-9); and Kentucky State (22-3). This was enough to put the Magicians in their first ever championship game in school history. They were matched up with the Bears of Miles College. The Magicians jumped out to an (8-6) lead over the Bears. As the game went on it was just evident with only a 17 man roster that the Magicians looked like they had just given it all they could give. Eventually the Bears won the game 13-8. Coach Marcus Smith has Le Moyne Owen looking promising with 80% of the team returning. He is also bringing some more experienced players. Coach Smith said, “its win or bust next season but only time will tell”.

Le Moyne Owen College October Fall Baseball Schedule, (13) Blue Mountain.

Paine College Fall Ball 2017 signing class of 20. 18 freshmen , 2 transfers. 5 returners. 2017 All SIAC players Gabriel Guzman and Evan Krenz are star returners. Top returnees Jaron Johnson, Aaron Ushery and Brad Doebler that will be solid in the middle. Impact freshmen are pitchers Jose Torres and Savon Doolittle, infielders Anthony Lopez, Latek McNeil, Joseph Ragland, Julio Chavez, and Anthony Ellis. Outfileders Alek Sierra and Jaylin McMicheal. Very young team. Starting with a new look. 

Florida Memorial University head coach Tino Burgos has the make up to surprise a lot of teams this coming spring. Below are a few names of incoming guys and key returners. The outlook for the Fall is good. Come Spring theyhave the chance to be very good. 

Burgos stated “I was able to bring in some proven guys from the JUCO level and some highly touted local freshmen from some of the better high school programs in the Miami Dade county area. I strongly believe that we have improved talent wise drastically from what I first walked into last year. We were very limited offensively, defensively and on the mound. Facilities were below average and a losing culture well established.

Those were very tough conditions to start building from. Overall we were able to be successful although the record may not truly reflect how much we improved in every area of baseball. We have steadily been able to upgrade our facilities and have increased the level of player athleticism and baseball IQ out on the field. That acceptable culture of losing is steadily disappearing.”FMU has had some really good play on the field this fall. 

Benedict College Fall Program come into 2018 as the reigning NCAA National Stats Scoring Champion 9.8 runs per game. SIAC Conference Academic Champion with a 3.78 team Grade Point Average and The National Black College Baseball Batting Champion with a .331 team batting average. 

Return 14 players from 2017 including Black College Nines National Player of the Year and SIAC Player of the Year David White Jr. , All Region and All SIAC shortstop and SIAC Batting Champion Armando Valentin, All Region on 3 different teams , All SIAC and National Stat Champion in triples per game Andrew McCoy. 18 of the 25 man roster played summer ball this summer. 

New players – Joey Macaluso, Chris Harper, head coach Selwyn Young nephew Infielder Fate Young leads a very impressive freshman class with Blake Johnson, Bradon Oconner, Javier Santiago and Jeremy Massolou. The Tigers completed their annual MLB Scout day and play in their annual Alumni Game Sunday October 15th Homecoming Weekend. 

Claflin University Fall Baseball 2017. With the loss of Reginald Rogers, Johnny Stevenson, Rashad Bivens, Jeturi Brown, Rashad Webster, And ace pitcher Keamond Eison the Panthers are looking for answers.  With returners Elliott Melton, Lyndale Morley and all conference performers Johnathan Parnell and Darrell Langston the only returners to the line- up, leaves plenty of holes to fill. But don’t count the Panthers of Claflin out according to head coach James O. Randall.

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