GCAC Weekend Preview: Edward Waters Hosts Talladega in Critical Weekend Series

An early season clash could settle the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) as Edward Waters College hosts Talladega College in Jacksonville, Florida this weekend. Both teams are contenders for the conference title and get into a position to be invited to the NAIA National Tournament.

The outcome of this series could give the winner a foothold and control of its own destiny in obtaining a conference title. Two of the GCAC’s most reliable baseball programs, Edward Waters and Talladega have beaten up on each other the last six seasons with Talladega holding a slight edge. The exception was last season, when Edward Waters won four of six games and finished with a 12-2 record in conference play.

The two teams were ranked in Black College Nines’ (BCN) 2016 preseason top 10 poll and while neither has started the season as well as they would have liked, the weekend will give both teams a chance to answer some questions.

Offensively, the Tigers of EWC are off to a slow start, struggling to score runs with runners in scoring position. Driving in runs has not been there for a team that returned its entire roster from last year’s 34-22 season. The Tigers (9-9) are getting men in scoring position but are leaving too many runners stranded. The Tigers are led by Noah Leake (.538), HBCU BCN preseason All-Americans Miguel Beltre (.429) with one home run and 16 runs batted in and Juan Bracamonte (.375). Also, Willit Boggs (.400) and Carlos Cabrera (.333) are getting timely at-bats.

On the mound, the Tigers are led by hard-throwing left-hander, junior HBCU preseason All-American Frederick Belz (2-1), righties Bo Hodges (2-0) and Brent Huber who could start the weekend series. Brothers Dalton and Denver Ripley should see relief action if needed.

Talladega (14-9) boasts plenty of talent, particularly on the offensive side. The Tornados at the plate feature Jesus Zapata (.407) with two home runs and 24 runs batted in, Emmanuel Lopez (.364) with 20 RBIs, Anthony Ruiz (.338) with 2 home runs and 20 RBIs, Jose Gomez (.333), BCN preseason All-American Juan Marmol (.320) with 1 home run and 22 RBIs, Victor Negron (.314) with 12 runs batted in and Gustavo Castellano (.300).

On the pitching side, Talladega bosts of stout arms in Felix Castillo (4-2), Marmol (3-0), Victor Negron (1-0), Brayan Marquez (1-0) and Avondie Little (1-0). With one of strongest rotations in HBCU baseball, Talladega hurlers are off to an impressive start to the season winning eight of their first ten games.

Saturday afternoon could feature a matchup of impressive starters when Edward Waters’ Belz (2-1), a fiery competitor with intimidating stuff, is expected to take on Talladega’s hard-throwing Felix Castillo who possesses raw talent. If both are on top of their games, hitting could be a critical challenge for both ball clubs.

Edward Waters enters into the contest splitting its last four games series against Marian University. The first three games were pitching duels, less than four runs allowed apiece during the first three games. Talladega is heading into the series having won two of three from Tougaloo College.

This is a matchup that will be closely followed. The BNC top ten poll will be released this Tuesday which could have national implication for both teams in the rankings.

The entire series can be followed here.  Use code 675cr8r8tx.


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