When the Bethune Cookman University Athletic Department hired Jonathan Hernandez as its head baseball coach, eyebrows were raised by his lack of experience at the college level some would say. But when Hernandez joined Bethune-Cookman, he had already spent the previous four years at ASA College in Miami. Whether one looks at him as experienced or not, Hernandez’ familiarity college baseball won’t change his intense approach to the game.
Coach Hernandez takes over a program with some really nice problems. This is a first year coaching dream. He has a team packed with returning players and experienced assistant coaches who just missed upsetting the National Champion Florida Gators in the Gainsville Regionals in 2017. Hernandez replaces former acting head coach Barrett Shaft, who replaced Jason Beverlin, the coach who guided the Wildcats to one miscue away from defeating the Gators.
Bethune Cookman appears to be stocked. They have six seniors along with six juniors. The juniors were freshmen when they knocked off three ranked teams in the Gainsville regional during that 2017 run. With more returning players, their strengths heading into the season are pitching, hitting and defense… agood foundation to start with.
The pitching staff is lead by returning starters 2 time Black College Nines (BCN) HBCU Baseball All-Elite and 2 time MEAC Pitcher of the Year, Junior RHP Anthony Maldonado as the ace, senior RHP Tyler Krull while Redshirt Sophomore RHP Brady Norris coming off of an injury last season will round out the weekend pitching rotation. In the bullpen the Wildcats will lean on the experience of Seniors Jordan Pinto, and Brandon Wilkes as primary candidates to close out games for the Wildcats. Other experienced hurlers include Jordan Delucia, Isaak Gutierrez and Ben Berggren.
There are also plenty of newcomers, who will likely find roles in the rotation. Freshmen Seth Lovell, Alec Mendez, Carlos Lequerica and Nick Vigilante will get some innings.
The Wildcats will have the luxury to mix and match their position players. Seniors Nate Sterijevski, Danny Rodriguez, Zach Spivey will be leading the charge offensively for the Wildcats along with JUCO transfer from Yavapai College, Outfielder Over Torres. Torres looks to add a big bat in the line up for Bethune Cookman. He excelled at Yavapai College and ended his 2018 sophomore season hitting .361 with 7 HR and 44 RBI’s. Shortstop Sterijevski is a preseason second team HBCU Baseball All-Elite.
Hernandez had time in fall ball to figure out where Bethune was struggling and what they need to work on. They have been working hard and have time to sort things out.
The Wildcats open this season on Feb. 15-17 at Florida Gulf Coast in a three-game series, then a midweek matchup with Florida International in Miami on Feb. 19th, before its home weekend opener Feb. 22-24 wecoming Boston College.