The fate of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) East Division could be settled as early as this weekend as Black College Nines’ preseason top-ranked Alabama State University hosts BCN preseason No. 4 Jackson State University in a critical conference showdown.
In the last four years, these two teams have beaten up on each other having split the last 26 games making this one of the biggest rivalries in all of HBCU baseball. This weekend will be an entirely new experience. The scheduled three-game series, so important to the SWAC, to both schools, and to the fan bases, this promises to be a very competitive series on the field.
After splitting a four-game series to open the season with the University of Tennessee-Martin, Jackson State (5-3) comes into the game winners of four of their last five games, and are on a three-game winning streak. The Tigers have defeated Florida A&M University and Southern University.
Offensively, The Tigers are off to a searing start, led by Carlos Diaz (.368) with one home run and nine runs batted in, Jesus Santana (.348) with four home runs, eight runs batted in and a .870 slugging percentage, Bryce Williams with a .300 batting average, and Tony Holton who is tied for second in team runs batted in with eight. On the mound, hard-throwing right-handers juniors Jamal Wilson and Miguel Yrigoyen, along with senior LHP Vincent Anthonia could line up to start on the weekend. This could possibly be a long series for Alabama State if BCN preseason All-Americans, Sam Campbell (.200) and Lamar Briggs (.053) can find their bats.
Alabama State, meanwhile, has a nice mix of veteran experience. Highly touted ace of the staff Joseph Camacho (.064 ERA), who is living up to his reputation in the early going, is among the national earned run average leaders thus far in college baseball. Hunter McIntosh (2.84) and Angel Alicea (0.00) will definitely see action on the mound. Who starts on Sunday will be dependent on how the bullpen is used during the first two games of the series. The Hornets can also turn to Tyler Howe who has recorded ten strikeouts, second on the team.
At the plate, Yamil Pagan (.364), with one home run and six runs batted in, Diandre Amion(.350), with six RBI and Carlos Ocasio (.300) add an extra twist to the rivalry. Alabama State started the season with a four-game losing streak, but has won three of its last four games including two straight.
The Hornets took two of three, defeating Winthrop and Jacksonville Universities. A February 26th 8 to 5 victory over Jacksonville provided head baseball coach Mervyl Melendez his 500th coaching career win.