With the NCAA Division I baseball season right around the corner, Black College Nines (BCN) predicts the large school order of finish for the 2023 Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) baseball season. We examine the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) reviewing what teams need to reach the top of their respective divisions.
Several SWAC baseball programs open the large school 2023 season with the Cactus Jack HBCU Classic February 17-19, and in New Orleans the weekend of February 24-26 with the Andre Dawson MLB Classic.
Black College Nines presents its predictions for the HBCU large school conferences and ball players who can help their teams reach the top:
2023 Predicted Order of Finish
(Overall won-loss records from the 2022 are indicated)
Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC)
SWAC Preview: With the addition of Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M to the conference in 2022, bring the conference membership up to 12 teams and conference realignment, the SWAC could send a second or third team to the NCAA Regionals by raising their RPIs and knocking off ranked teams winning ball games.
Alabama State 34-24
Florida A&M 29-30
Jackson State 29-27
Alabama A&M 15-34
Mississippi Valley State 10-31-1
Prairie View A&M 30-27
Texas Southern 28-25
Grambling State 26-31
Alcorn State 2-39
East Division Preview:
The bullpen will be a strong one for the Wildcats. Bethune will count on several pitchers to compete for quality innings throughout the 2023 season. The Wildcats returned six position players who started for B-CU last season and were able to bring in a few JUCO transfers and two transfers who were a part of Power 5 programs last season. Hylan Hall, previously at Washington State, has had a really good fall and will be able to hit in the middle of the order for B-CU and will also be able to pitch in relief. His fastball has been up to 94/95 this fall season. This team is loaded with arms.
Alabama State lost key starters from last season on the mound and a key position player behind the plate in Hunter May. Corey King will continue to be an offensive leader for the Hornets. On the mound, the Hornets expect to be guided by LHP Osvaldo Mendez, RHP Kyler McIntosh and LHP Ricardo Rivera. RHP Luis Rodriguez and LHP Omar Melendez, each showing composure and versatility, will get some quality innings during the season.
FAMU improved in several areas, especially hitting. They return 3 of their top 4 hitters and have added several key bats through the transfer portal. The Rattlers also have added a little more team speed and hope to steal a few more bases. Pitching will be the big question mark this season. FAMU returns its number one pitcher, Hunter Viets. Viets threw 90 innings last season and struck out 93, with an ERA of 2.98, and was named second team all-conference.
Offensively, Jackson State has a good core of veteran players. So expect them to contribute right away. If they can play clean baseball, avoid mental and physical errors, the Tigers should have a competitive team this season. Overall, they have a talented team with depth. The biggest question mark coming into 2023 is how well they can pitch in a tight ballgame. If pitchers develop, JSU has a chance to do some good things this spring.
The Bulldogs return every starter from last year’s team in the infield. Tommy Easley (INF) expects to have another solid season after leading the team in hitting with a .330 average in 2022. Jared Tribett (INF/C) led the team with 10 home runs last season. Chevy Dorris (2B/OF), a Jackson State transfer, is competing for the leadoff spot and is looking pace the offense in that role. Freshman Christian Soto, a highly recruited 3b/C from Florida, had a productive fall. The key returners include Tommy Easley, Jared Tribett, Noah Whitted, Tyler Campbell, Evan Crenshaw, Jason Marono. Transfers include Anthony Mateo, Chevy Dorris, Christian Soto, Jalen Parker, and Roman Sorrell. On the mound two of the weekend rotation starters return from last year in Noah Whitted (RHP) and Tyler Campbell (LHP). Evan Crenshaw (RHP), Jason Marono (RHP), Roman Sorrell (LHP) and Anthony Mateo (RHP) and a stable of arms should provide more depth than recent years.
Mississippi Valley State
Mississippi Valley State team returns several starters at key positions and several hitters in a lineup that hit .275 as a team last year including junior third baseman Dreylin Holmes, who finished 6th in the conference in home runs last year with 12. This year’s team will feature 10 junior college transfers. The infield has three returning starters from last year’s roster including Dreylin Holmes, who was a Black College Nines Elite and 2nd Team All-SWAC performer. On the mound, several Juco transfers will bolster the pitching staff. Hunter Stallings will lead the pitching staff along with junior Calvin McClendon. Key additions are Juco transfers Jared Adams and Azalius Lewis along with freshman Zach Sigmon, who are being counted on to help bring new life to pitching staff and first-year head coach Milton Barney.
West Division Preview:
Prairie View A&M
Prairie will have a host of pitchers who will make strong contributions to this year’s team. On the mound, the Panthers have JUCO transfers who were slated to enroll in DI Power 5 programs, but instead made their way onto the Prairie View roster. They have been dominant in some of the fall scrimmages which will make the pitching staff stronger than this past season. The 2023 season returns several starters at key positions, third base Ben Ybarra, shortstop Zachary Trevino, second base Blake Redman, first base Alex Martinez, utility Sebastian Coria, and catcher Paul Castro. At the conclusion of fall ball, the coaching staff saw some dynamic play from some junior college transfers (Isaac Davila, Cameron Upchurch, and Marshall Jonas) and true freshman (Ahmar Donatto and Cameron Franklin) that will bolster the depth on this year’s team. In the outfield, Jayden Williams is the returning outfielder. In all, pitching will help the Panthers compete for the divisional and SWAC championship. The Panthers will start their season by participating in the Cactus Jack Foundation HBCU Classic February 17, 2023, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.
The Jaguars returns five of its everyday starters and four pitchers. Southern will have new plays that will have to step in fill some big shoes left by three seniors in the lineup and one starting pitcher who was the team ace. On the mound a few new guys will see time and should help become a solid team. Southern will be a team that will have the ability to win games a multitude of ways and are looking forward to having another successful season.
Several players can play multiple positions including infielders playing outfield if called upon. The pitching staff has length featuring four true starters at the forefront paired with a high-end bullpen. This group resembles the staff of several seasons ago that earned a top-50 ERA nationally. Offensively, in order to compensate a lineup with less speed than recent, a core of pure hitter and power players will lead the charge. An area in which Texas Southern can improve on is responding to adversity. Head coach Michael Robertson is a second half coach during the season.
Top end of the pitching rotation will be the strength with two pitchers in the conference on Friday and Saturday. Also, returning quality arms in the pen will be a strength. On the mound experience and depth. At the plate, with the additions of some transfers, the Tigers should be able to produce runs and be more dynamic than last year.
The 2023 Alcorn State University Braves baseball team will be a young, but with a talented group of players with some veteran upper classmen. Pitching should be a bit more plentiful aided with a competent defense. Speed, some power, and aggressive baserunning should pace the offense. A much-improved team is expected heading into the 2023 season lead by a seasoned coaching staff.
Arkansas Pine Bluff
Offensively, 2023 appears to be a continuing rebuilding year. But UAPB has a core of returning players who will contribute to the offense. The question remains – will they have mound presence.
Black College Nines’ Pre-Season Elites selected from the SWAC:
Large School Division (NCAA DI)
INF Cory King (Alabama State University)
INF Ty Hill (Jackson State University)
INF Justin Wiley (Southern University)
OF Trey Burrell (Grambling State University)
OF Trevor Hatton (Grambling State University)
P Nolan Santos (Bethune Cookmen University)
P Victor Mendoza (Prairie View A&M University)
P Hunter Viets (Florida A&M University)
RP Ty Tubbs (Prairie View A&M University)
INF O’Neil Burgos (Southern University)
INF Tommy Easley (Alabama A&M University)
UTL Jared Tribett (Alabama A&M University)
OF Dreylin Holmes (Mississippi Valley State University)
C Ty Hanchey (Florida A&M University)
DH Cameron Bufford (Grambling State University)
P Enrique Ozoa (Southern University)
RP OJ Mendez (Alabama State University)