SEE ALSO: College Preview Index
Members: Northern Division: Coppin State, Delaware State, Maryland Eastern Shore, Norfolk State. Southern Division: Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, Savannah State.
Team to Beat: Florida A&M. Jamey Shouppe has quickly turned FAMU around and made the Rattlers into an annual title contender as he enters his fourth season as head coach. Powered by an offense that ranked in the top 10 in the country in several statistics, the Rattlers went 31-21 and won the MEAC’s Southern Division last season. They will have to replace several key pieces from that team, including 2016 MEAC player of the year Dylan Dillard, but with senior third baseman Ben Elizey (.388/.467/.517), the MEAC batting champion, and junior first baseman Brian Davis (.370/.471/.566, 7 HR) returning, the Rattlers’ offense will again be formidable. FAMU has steadily built up its depth on the mound and enters the spring with an experienced pitching staff. Senior lefthander JoJo Durden (2-3, 5.06) and junior righthander Ryan Anderson (4-1, 6.04) return to the rotation. The Rattlers will get a boost from junior college transfers righthander/outfielder Aubrey McCarty and righthander Hunter Fillingim. McCarty began his college career at Vanderbilt and has been a switchpitcher in the past, but will focus on pitching righthanded and playing the outfield. FAMU’s improved pitching staff should give the team more balance and ease the burden on its new-look lineup.
|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Darrien Ragins, lhp, Delaware State|
|2. Demetrius Sims, ss, Bethune-Cookman|
|3. Brian Davis, 1b, Florida A&M|
|4. Aubrey McCarty, rhp/of, Florida A&M|
|5. Alex Mauricio, rhp/3b, Norfolk State|
|6. Tyler Norris, rhp, Bethune-Cookman|
|7. Bryant Miranda, 3b, Coppin State|
|8. Jacky Miles, c, Florida A&M|
|9. Carlos Ortiz, of, North Carolina Central|
|10. DeNathan Daniel, of, Norfolk State|
Player of the Year: Brian Davis, 1b, Florida A&M. Davis returns to lead the Rattlers’ offense after ranking third in the league in batting and fourth in RBIs (44) last season. The junior has a good feel for hitting and can drive the ball to all fields.
Pitcher of the Year: Tyler Norris, rhp, Bethune-Cookman. Norris (6-4, 4.52) threw six scoreless innings in the MEAC Tournament championship game to help BCU advance to the NCAA Tournament. The junior ranked fourth in the conference with 71 strikeouts last season, and attacks hitters with an upper-80s fastball and a good changeup.
Freshman of the Year: Joshua Hancock, rhp, Coppin State. Listed at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Hancock has a big, athletic frame. He gets sinking action on his upper-80s fastball, which he pairs with a promising curveball. Hancock should be able to step right into the Eagles’ rotation.
Top 25 Teams: None.
Other Projected Regional Teams: None.
Notable Storylines: After a disappointing 19-40 record in 2015, Bethune-Cookman bounced back last season to go 29-27 and win the MEAC tournament. The Wildcats bring back several key contributors from that team, including Norris at the front of their rotation. Sophomore first baseman Danny Rodriguez (.308/.346/.487, 10 HR), the 2016 MEAC freshman of the year, and redshirt junior shortstop Demetrius Sims (.288/.352/.394, 14 SB) return to lead the lineup. Sims’ return also anchors the Wildcats’ defense, which ranked first in the MEAC with a .968 fielding percentage last season. . . Delaware State junior lefthander Darrien Ragins is coming off an impressive summer in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, where he was voted reliever of the year by the NECBL coaches. He has been a key member of the Hornets’ bullpen for the last two years, though he has struggled with his control (career 6.2 BB/9). But Ragins has a lively fastball that sits in the low 90s and if he can throw strikes more consistently, he can be one of the conference’s top pitchers. . . Norfolk State went 29-21 last year, won the Northern Division and set a program record for wins in its Division I era. The Spartans return 14 letterwinners, including six lineup regulars. Norfolk State’s Mauricio brothers will again play key roles for the team. Senior righthander Jonathan Mauricio (6-2, 2.29), last year’s MEAC ERA champion, returns to lead the rotation, while junior Alex Mauricio (.283/.363/.428; 3-1, 3.23), will again start in the infield and pitch out of the bullpen.
Tournament: Six teams, May 17-20 at Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, Md.