It should be another exciting year in the MEAC with one really good team that could make some noise nationally again in Bethune-Cookman, and several other teams that are positioned to knock them off.
Bethune-Cookman (2017 Record: 36-25, 15-8)
It was a very good 2017 season for Bethune-Cookman as they won 36 games and the MEAC Baseball Tournament. They had one of the biggest upsets in the NCAA Tournament, beating Florida and forcing a winner-takes-all game. The Gators ultimately won that game and went on to win the College World Series.
Outfielder Adonis Lao is back after leading the team in hitting last year with a .366 average to go along with 36 runs scored, 10 doubles and 31 RBI. First baseman Danny Rodriguez hit .330 last year with 39 runs scored, 18 doubles, 11 home runs and 46 RBI. Third baseman Jameel Edney hit .309 a year ago with 48 runs scored, 21 doubles, 5 home runs and 41 RBI. Outfielders Kyle Corbin and Josten Heron should have bigger roles in the offense, as well as second baseman Nate Sterijevski. Gio Lorenzo has a chance to get a lot of playing time at catcher as a freshman. Transfer Zach Spivey could also see a lot of playing time in the outfield.
Anthony Maldonado and Tyler Norris should return as their top two starters on the weekend. Maldonado posted a team-high 3.02 ERA last year in 86.1 innings pitched with 61 strikeouts, while Norris had a 3.42 ERA in 84.1 innings pitched with 64 strikeouts. Freshman Jeremy Adams and Dave Mata could log some significant innings this year.
“Hopefully our team improves in every area top to bottom. We return a lot of starters and I would like to see each of them go into next year’s campaign a little better. Taking the lessons of years past to help them be more consistent on the field, and also be diligent in their preparation to avoid possible pitfalls.” – Coach Barrett Shaft
Coppin State (2017 Record: 11-31, 8-15)
Coppin State did not have a great out-of-conference season last year losing 11 of their first 12 games. And with just eight conference wins they failed to make the MEAC Baseball Tournament.
First baseman Nazier McILwain is back after leading the team with a .377 average last year, 33 runs scored, 11 doubles, 3 home runs and 33 RBI. Catcher Brett Helmbrecht was second on the team with a .333 average in just 105 at-bats. Head Coach Sherman Reed said he has a great glove and a plus throwing arm. Outfielder Caleb Duhay converted to a full-time outfielder at the end of last year, and coach Reed expects him to be a big part of the lineup in 2018 after having a good fall. Freshman Marcos Castillo has a chance to get some playing time in the outfield, while freshman Derek Lohr is expected to start at shortstop. Junior college transfer Drew Thomas had a strong spring and could see some time in the outfield.
Jahmon Taylor posted a 6.53 ERA last year in 41.1 innings pitched with 31 strikeouts. Coach Reed said he had a good fall and has a chance to be the team’s Friday night starter. Devin Rivera Ozuna also has a chance to be a weekend starter after posting a 5.25 ERA in 36 innings pitched last year with 18 strikeouts. They’ll need a lot of players to step up in the pitching staff after posting a team ERA of 7.18 last year.
“The 2017 team struggled defensively with 60 infield errors. With an entire new infield alignment slated for 2018, I anticipate that we’ll make a huge improvement in that area.” – Head Coach Sherman Reed
Delaware State (2017 Record: 22-25, 14-10)
It was a solid year for Delaware State as they finished with a winning record in MEAC play. In the MEAC Tournament they went 2-2.
Third baseman Jared Gillis hit .292 last year with 24 runs scored, 3 home runs and 25 RBI. Outfielder Darnell Maisonet hit .275 last year with 31 runs scored, 11 doubles, 2 home runs and 28 RBI. Ciaran Devenney hit .261 a year ago with 28 runs scored, 9 doubles, 4 home runs and 33 RBI.
Lane DeLeon should lead the pitching staff after posting a 2.84 ERA in 69.2 innings pitched with 57 strikeouts. Sean McGrath had a 3.41 ERA in 63.1 innings pitched with 59 strikeouts. Garrett Lawson had a solid freshman season posting a 4.72 ERA in 74.1 innings pitched with 58 strikeouts. Darrien Ragins saved 11 games for Delaware State last year, while posting a 2.25 ERA in 16 innings pitched with 22 strikeouts.
While the lineup could certainly use some help, this may be one of the best and deepest pitching staffs in the MEAC this season.
Florida A&M (2017 Record: 27-26, 14-10)
After a solid regular season for Florida A&M, they started out with a win over Delaware State in the MEAC Tournament. But they lost their next two games to be eliminated.
Kaycee Reese hit .318 last year with 32 runs scored. Dallas Oliver should return to the lineup after hitting .365 a year ago with 34 runs scored. Outfielder Willis McDaniel hit .302 last year with 42 runs scored, 8 doubles, 3 home runs, 31 RBI and 14 stolen bases. First baseman and catcher Brian Davis hit .294 a year ago with 33 runs scored, 10 doubles, 4 home runs and 35 RBI.
Ryan Anderson had a 3.45 ERA in 91.1 innings pitched with 56 strikeouts. Hunter Fillingim had a 2.36 ERA in 26.2 innings pitched with 36 strikeouts with 4 saves. Thomas Nicoll had a 3.24 ERA in 41.2 innings pitched with 36 strikeouts and 3 saves.
There is enough coming back in the lineup and in the pitching staff for this team to have another solid season in the MEAC.
Maryland-Eastern Shore (2017 Record: 12-40, 9-15)
Despite a terrible conference record in 2017, Maryland Eastern Shore snuck into the MEAC Tournament; however, they went two-and-out and saw their season come to an early end.
Tyler Friis should return atop the lineup and in left field after hitting .274 last year with 27 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. Third baseman Ryan Rotondo should return to the middle of the lineup after finishing second on the team last year with a .297 average to go along with 20 runs scored, 26 RBI and 11 stolen bases. First baseman Jamison Trower led the team with 27 RBI last year to go along with a .269 average, 24 runs scored and 2 home runs. Freshman infielders Dillon Oxyer and Jordan Torres, as well as freshman outfielders Avery Tunnell and Brian Cordell, should have an immediate impact on the lineup.
Marty Tolson should get a shot in the weekend rotation after finishing third on the team with a 5.58 ERA last year in 50 innings pitched with 29 strikeouts. Evan Bertone made 20 appearances last year and should be another big part of their bullpen. Same can be said for Toby Hoskins who made 21 appearances last year. Dwayne Marshall struck out 29 batters in 28.2 innings last year.
Head Coach Brian Hollamon said their plan for this year is to “utilize the senior leadership we have, throw strikes and play good solid defense.”
Norfolk State (2017 Record: 26-22, 16-7)
It was a very strong season for Norfolk State in 2017 as they won 16 conference games. But they came up a bit short in the MEAC Tournament as they lost to eventual champion Bethune-Cookman twice.
Third baseman Justin Burrell should be back in the middle of the lineup after hitting .327 last year with 36 runs scored, 9 doubles, 1 home run, 30 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Outfielder Tony Leite hit .273 a year ago with 27 runs scored. This lineup loses a couple of key hitters from last year, but should be alright.
The pitching staff loses its two best starting pitchers from last year – both of whom went in the 2017 MLB Draft. Chase Anderson should be back after posting a 2.82 ERA last year in 76.2 innings pitched with 77 strikeouts. Michael Parmentier had a solid season out of the bullpen in 2017.
There are a lot of key contributors gone from last year’s team. It’s hard to imagine Norfolk State not taking a step back, but there is still enough there to compete in the MEAC.
North Carolina A&T (2017 Record: 28-25, 15-9)
It was a solid season for North Carolina A&T in 2017 as they won 15 conference games and 28 games overall, but they went 2-2 in the MEAC Baseball Tournament and were eliminated in the semi-finals.
Infielder Brandon Melendez returns after hitting .363 a year ago with 36 runs scored, 8 doubles, 1 home run, 24 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Catcher Adan Ordonez hit .291 last year with 20 runs scored, 6 home runs and 49 RBI. Outfielder Myles Sowell was third on the team with a .345 average last year and first with 41 runs scored to go along with 3 home runs, 28 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Another outfielder, Greg White, was second on the team last year with a .350 average and 40 runs scored, 12 doubles, 20 RBI and 15 stolen bases. Infielder AJ Hunt should also have a big impact on the lineup. Transfer Ryne Stanley should play some at catcher this year. McKinley Strickland is a freshman that could see the first at first base and in the outfield.
Marcello Betances had a 5.35 ERA in 65.2 innings pitched last year with 53 strikeouts, while Michael Johnson posted a 6.16 ERA in 64.1 innings pitched with 36 strikeouts. Both should get another shot in the weekend rotation this year. Josh Bottenfield started eight games last year and had a 5.10 ERA in 65.1 innings pitched with 37 strikeouts. Tim Luth and Roberto Negron are both transfers that could have an immediate impact on the pitching staff. Freshman Ethan Chavis is also expected to get some significant innings right away.
“We are looking to improve in every facet of the program. We are still working to build this program into a consistent winner. We took a good step in the right direction in 2017. Consistency is a big concept for us to improve upon in 2018 – being the same group day in, day out. We were a streaky team last year. I want to see us take momentum weekend to midweek, midweek to weekend. Really, the biggest physical aspect to the game we have to improve on is defensively. Being a more consistent team will help with that. But we want to make a big stride in our defensive play in 2018.” – Head Coach Ben Hall
North Carolina Central (2017 Record: 22-28, 12-11)
It was a decent year for NCCU finishing with a winning record in conference play, but they were not eligible for the MEAC Tournament.
They return MEAC Rookie of the Year and a Freshman All-American in second baseman Corey Joyce. Last year he hit .344 with 34 runs scored, 11 doubles, 5 home runs and 43 RBI. Carter Williams also had a fantastic freshman season hitting .351 with 42 runs scored, 14 doubles, 2 home runs, 26 RBI and 12 stolen bases, while playing first base and outfield. Outfielder Jake Raby hit .295 last year with 25 runs scored, 2 home runs and 31 RBI as a freshman. Evan Holland is another option in the outfield after hitting .270 with 4 home runs and 37 runs scored last year.
Devin Sweet should return to the weekend rotation after leading the team with a 3.33 ERA last year in 67.2 innings pitched with 61 strikeouts. Rounding out the rest of the pitching staff will be the biggest challenge for North Carolina Central in 2018. They had a team ERA of 5.72 last year, but if they can get that number under five they can compete for a MEAC championship. Junior college transfer Chris Kernen and freshman Austin Vernon are expected to help out immediately.
This team should be very good on offense with Joyce, Williams and Raby leading the way. If they can find some consistency in the pitching staff and limit the free bases they give up via walks, then this team could turn some heads in 2018.
Savannah State (2017 Record: 12-39, 3-21)
There wasn’t much to get excited about for Savannah State baseball last year with just 12 wins overall and only three conference wins. We’ll see if they can make some improvements in 2018.
Turner Davis has played first base in the past, but after a good showing in the fall behind the plate he’ll become the team’s primary catcher. He hit .241 last year with 24 runs scored, 8 doubles, 3 home runs and 28 RBI. Second baseman Bryce Luken hit .268 last year with 25 runs scored. Thomas Harper hit .269 last year in limited playing time and should be the team’s DH. Third baseman Freddie Landers is back after missing 2017 with an injury. Head Coach Carlton Hardy said he is one of their best hitters and will return to the middle of the order. Khalyd Cox, Jalen Atterbury and Kyle Gerdts should form the outfield. Cox hit .278 last year; Atterbury hit .303 and Gerdts led the team with a .306 average and 29 RBI. Newcomers Noah Orlando and Juan Lugo will battle for playing time at shortstop.
Trevor McKenna should be back to lead the weekend rotation after posting a 4.57 ERA in 65 innings pitched with 51 strikeouts. That 4.57 ERA led the entire pitching staff last year, so even though they do have a lot of arms coming back, not many had great 2017 seasons. Hopefully they’ll show some improvement in 2018.
Head Coach Carlton Hardy said the team should be more consistent up-and-down the lineup in 2018 with a much older group of position players. He said they will be more athletic defensively with every outfielder running a 6.7 or below. In the pitching staff coach said they have a lot of arms with the ability to throw strikes and strike people out late. He also mentioned that they will have a lot more depth in the pitching staff this year.
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2018 All-MEAC Preseason Team:
C: Adan Ordonez (North Carolina A&T)
1B: Danny Rodriguez (Bethune-Cookman)
2B: Corey Joyce (North Carolina Central)
SS: Brandon Melendez (North Carolina A&T)
3B: Jameel Edney (Bethune-Cookman)
OF: Adonis Lao (Bethune-Cookman)
OF: Myles Sowell (North Carolina A&T)
OF: Carter Williams (North Carolina Central)
DH: Nazier McILwain (Coppin State)
SP: Chase Anderson (Norfolk State)
SP: Anthony Maldonado (Bethune-Cookman)
SP: Tyler Norris (Bethune-Cookman)
SP: Lane DeLeon (Delaware State)
SP: Ryan Anderson (Florida A&M)
RP: Darrien Ragins (Delaware State)
RP: Hunter Fillingim (Florida A&M)
C: Brett Helmbrecht (Coppin State)
C: Brian Davis (Florida A&M)
3B: Justin Burrell (Norfolk State)
OF: Willis McDaniel (Florida A&M)
OF: Dallas Oliver (Florida A&M)
OF: Greg White (North Carolina A&T)
SP: Sean McGrath (Delaware State)
SP: Chase Anderson (Norfolk State)
SP: Devin Sweet (North Carolina Central)
Predicted Order to Finish:
- North Carolina A&T
- Florida A&M
- Delaware State
- North Carolina Central
- Norfolk State
- Savannah State
- Maryland-Eastern Shore
- Coppin State