Defending HBCU Baseball Large School Champ Alabama State Returning Entire Roster in 2021

Alabama State head baseball coach Jose Vasquez has plenty of options for his team’s lineup going into the 2021 season. The early portion of the season will be a time for experimentation coming out of fall ball.

There are many options the Hornets coaching staff is going to try out, not just personnel, but where his players hit in the order. Vasquez will try different things to see what the best lineup ends up being . Some of these decisions are not easy and sometimes they end up not being the best, but Vasquez will move guys around and give some them opportunities.

As Coach Vasquez enters his fifth season in charge of the Alabama State baseball program, he is ready to get the season started. The Hornets are coming off a season crowned HBCU baseball large school (shortened season) national champions in 2020 and it was the usual characteristic season under Vasquez’s watch.

Most notable was the team’s 3.11 ERA, which ranked first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference ahead of Jackson State’s 5.39. The mark was Alabama State’s lowest under Vasquez, surpassing his inaugural staff’s 4.58 ERA in 2017 by nearly two runs… which means pitching Improvement at the forefront.

Meanwhile, the Hornets offense ranked third in the league with a .259 average and its 14 home runs trailed only Texas Southern (16) in the SWAC conference during the shortened season.

Alabama State should be picked to finish atop the conference. The talent is in place for a run at a second straight HBCU baseball national championship crown with the entire roster returning for another season… especially the entire weekend rotation. All the coaching staff has to do is put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Let’s take a closer look at Alabama State’s prospects in 2021:

STARTING PITCHING

Junior right-handers Jacknell Guzman (Black College Nines’ HBCU Baseball Pitcher of The Year) and Austin King anchor the top of the rotation along with sophomore left-hander Jeremy Rivera. All three have huge upsides and gained valuable experience in 2020. If they can take the next step in their development, Guzman and King could be draft picks in next summer’s draft. Both pitchers had moments that showed their promise, but they must show consistency throughout the season. Junior right-hander Jordan Gould could open the season as the No. 3 starter and earn a mid-week start on the mound. Freshman RHP Agnel Miranda is sure to get early work in the rotation. Miranda is an intriguing talent and one of the top players coming out of the Cayey Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.

BULLPEN

Vasquez has ample arms to build this group into a formidable strength by the start of conference play. However, they could use different pitchers in different roles and see how the pieces fit. Britt Buckelew and Breon Pooler can start or relieve, and Payton Harris should see his number called during weekend series. A newcomer to watch is freshman 1B/RHP Dale Francis, a Florida product who arrived with plenty of accolades.

INFIELD

Third baseman Trenton Jamison enjoyed a productive first college season with two home runs and a .302 batting average. Utility player Jabronski Williams led the team with 15 RBI in the shortened season last year. Highly touted freshman Dale Francis will play a role on opening weekend in February along with Chris Lewis. This is a young and talented group.

OUTFIELD

The Hornets return Cameron Hearn with a .395 batting average in 2020 and Ian Matos’ live bat. Matos is a rising talent already considered one of the best defensive outfielders in the SWAC conference. Keep an eye on Miami, Florida freshman Abner Benitez.

CATCHER

Vasquez has plenty of depth at catcher with junior Santiago Garcia, sophomore Hunter May, and freshman Luis Rodriquez the primary options. Garcia is a natural hitter with the potential to bat in the middle of the lineup once given the chance as a starter. With a heavy emphasis on the pitching staff starting the season strong, Vasquez has May to boost the offense or go with Garcia for his ability behind the plate. Regardless, it will be interesting to see what works for the Hornets at the position in 2021. 

OUTLOOK

The Hornets have pumped out top-tier pitching talent under Vasquez. Barring injuries, they appear primed to return to form on the mound in 2021 with the talent stockpiled. The lineup is versatile and has a good mix of veterans and newcomers. They’ve got some depth as far as position players go. Alabama State will open the season ranked in Black College Nines HBCU Baseball top 10 poll and in most of the national polls so expectations from the outside are high. Don’t be surprised to see the Hornets make a run for Omaha this season. However, there likely will be growing pains as his staff searches for the best combinations on the field. Still, 2021 should be satisfying for Hornet fans.

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