2014 College Preview: MEAC

BA breaks down the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, including our projections for regional teams, player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.

1. Hassan Evans, rhp/of, Delaware State
2. Luke Tendler, of, North Carolina A&T
3. Michael Roberts, rhp, Coppin State
4. John Sever, lhp, Bethune-Cookman
5. Scott Garner, rhp, Bethune-Cookman
6. David Richards, of, Savannah State
7. Keith Zuniga, rhp, Bethune-Cookman
8. Josh Johnson, of, Bethune-Cookman
9. David Hamlett, ss, Coppin State
10. Cameron Day, of, Norfolk State

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Baseball Members (First Year): Bethune-Cookman (1979), Coppin State (1985), Delaware State (1970), Florida A&M (1979), Maryland-Eastern Shore (1970), Norfolk State (1998), North Carolina A&T (1970), North Carolina Central (2012), Savannah State (2012).

Checking out: None.

Conference Tournament: Eight teams, double-elimination. May 15-18 at Norfolk State.

Team to Beat: Delaware State.

The Hornets dominated the MEAC last year, going 21-3 to win the Northern Division by nine games before going 0-2 in the conference tournament. With six players who can run the 60-yard dash in 6.8 seconds or faster, the Hornets led the nation in stolen bases and ranked fifth in batting last year, and five position players who earned first-team all-conference honors are back. Delaware State will lean upon five seniors, led by 3B Cam Cecil (.356/.476/.463, 17 SB), OF Aaron Nardone (.351/.463/.554, 23 SB) and DH Mike Alexander (.367/.445/.414, 36 SB). Sr. OF/RHP Hassan Evans hit .366 last year but rates as the MEAC's best prospect because of his 92-97 mph fastball, promising slider and improved command, making him the likely closer this spring. Another senior, RHP Matt McClain (6-2, 3.06), anchors the rotation and is on track to set the program's career wins record.

Player of the Year: Luke Tendler, of/rhp, North Carolina A&T.

A versatile athlete who can play all over the field, Tendler (.369/.433/.615, 5 HR, 17 SB) was an offensive force last year, and he'll add closing to his duties as a senior.

Pitcher of the Year: Montana Durapau, rhp, Bethune-Cookman.

Durapau (9-3, 2.89) is a crafty senior who carves up hitters by spotting an 84-88 fastball and mixing in a slider, curve, changeup and cutter.

Freshman of the Year: Christopher Gonzalez, rhp/if, Delaware State.

A native of Puerto Rico, Gonzalez could contribute on the mound (where he commands an 88-90 fastball) and in the lineup, where his athleticism plays.

Notable Storylines: Bethune-Cookman, the perennial power of the MEAC, saw its streak of seven straight conference titles snapped last year, but the Wildcats have more depth all over their roster in 2014—especially on the mound. The all-senior rotation should be a strength, especially if RHP Scott Garner (whose lively sinker ranges from 86-92) can put together a big year as the Saturday starter behind ace Montana Durapau. Juco transfer John Sever, a loose 6-foot-5 lefty with an 86-91 heater and good feel for a slider, should anchor the bullpen. Fleet-footed Sr. OF Josh Johnson is the catalyst for an offense that should be improved as last year's juco transfers enter their second years in D-I . . . Coppin State, which won five or fewer games five times and went winless twice in six years from 2007-12, made huge progress in coach Sherman Reed's third year, jumping to 18 wins. The Eagles return several quality arms, led by So. LHP Anderson Burgess (the projected ace) and Jr. RHP Michael Roberts (a submariner with serious movement on his 86-88 sinker who helped Cotuit win the Cape League title last summer). Reed thinks his offense will also be significantly improved thanks to the work of new hitting coach Jerome Dunning, who has emphasized shortening swings and reducing strides to cut down strikeouts . . . Savannah State made its first regional last year, in its second year in the MEAC. The Tigers will have their hands full replacing ace Kyle McGowin, the MEAC pitcher of the year, but the addition of seven newcomers with high-80s to low-90s fastballs will help. The new ace is juco transfer Brandon Whitmore, who has run his heater up to 93 and can get outs with his splitter and slider. Savannah State's best pro prospect is Jr. OF David Richards, a 6.5 runner who can drive the ball to all fields and has good range and an average arm in the outfield.