By Tony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN, Ct (BASN) — Fresh off their respective conference tournament championships, the baseball squads of Alabama State (SWAC) and Bethune-Cookman (MEAC) will now try to compete for an NCAA championship.
For the 38-15 Hornets and manager Meryl Melendez, they enter their first NCAA tournament as the only Division I school that finished unbeaten (24-0) in their conference.
ASU will head to Tallahassee, Fla., to take on Regional host Florida State (37-20) in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship. First pitch is set for Friday, June 3 at 5 PM at Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium.
Offensively, ASU paces the country with 8.7 runs scored per game this season. All-Tournament and Tournament MVP selection Dillon Cooper is hitting .359 (66-for-184) on the year, collecting 20 doubles, 10 home runs and 57 RBI.
SWAC Hitter and Player of the Year Carlos Ocasio has put together a .340 average (68-for-200), pacing the squad with 60 RBI, 13 home runs and 12 doubles, slugging .615 and with an on-base percentage of .430 while stealing 19 bases in 20 attempts.
Ray Hernandez paces ASU with 15 home runs and 61 RBI while picking up 13 doubles. On the mound, the Hornets are led by three-time SWAC Starting Pitcher of the Year Joseph Camacho and All-SWAC and All-Tournament Team pitcher Tyler Howe, both have collected 10-wins this season.
Howe (10-2) has collected 82 strikeouts in 79 innings pitched while making 12 starts in 14 appearances for a 1.48 ERA. Camacho (10-0) owns a 2.04 ERA, while striking out 82 over 83. 2 innings pitched.
He also collected the save in the 2016 SWAC title win over Texas Southern.
As for the Seminoles, they fell to Clemson 18-13 on May 29 in the ACC’s rain delayed title game. The Seminoles are led by All-Tournament selection Dylan Busby, who is hitting .317 (70-for-221) with 13 doubles, four triples, 12 home runs and 47 RBI with 11 stolen bases in 13 attempts.
All-ACC First Team honoree John Sansone has put together a .365 average (85-for-233), pacing the squad with 22 doubles and 62 RBI with nine home runs for the Seminoles.
On the hill, Drew Carlton tallied a 6-3 record in 15 appearances, with a 4.15 ERA, fanning 66 batters in 78.0 innings pitched. Reliever Chase Haney has a 5-0 record on the season with a 1.80 ERA over 30 innings in 27 appearances out of the bullpen for Florida State.
Every Hornets game will be broadcast live on bamastatesports.com, with Friday’s game also video streamed live on ESPN3.com or Watch ESPN.
This will be the second straight year the Hornets and Seminoles will play on the baseball diamond. FSU defeated Alabama State 8-7 on March 25 in Tallahassee.
Also in the Regional, South Alabama meets Southern Miss at 11 a.m. on Friday.
BULLDOGS TO STAY IN FLORIDA
Bethune-Cookman (29-25) earned the automatic qualification to the NCAA Baseball Championships after winning its 18th MEAC title. For the Wildcats, this will mark the program’s 15th appearance in an NCAA Regional, not including three NCAA play-in appearances.
It also marks the fifth time in school history that Bethune-Cookman will travel to the Gainesville [Fla.] Regional, with the last being a visit in 2012 – the first NCAA postseason appearance under current head coach Jason Beverlin.
Ironically, 11 of those previously berths came under the aforementioned Melendez. The Wildcats will open the Regional against the No. 1 national seed and host Florida Gators.
The Wildcats enter the weekend having won their last six games, as well as seven of their last 10 overall. Included in the three losses on the spin were decisions at top-ranked Florida (May 3) and third-ranked Miami (May 10).
Bethune-Cookman enters having also won seven of their last eight series overall, with the lone exception being a three-game setback at Ohio State (April 1-3). First pitch for the Wildcats and Gators is scheduled for Friday, June 3, at 6 p.m.
Under the direction of head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, the top-seeded Gators enter the weekend with a record of 47-13, and finished as runner-up at SEC Championships over the weekend in Hoover, Alabama.
Joining the Wildcats in the Regional will be host Florida, Connecticut and Georgia Tech with action taking place at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The BCC-Florida game can be seen live on the SEC Network.
The top eight national seeds are Florida, Louisville, Miami, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Mississippi State, Clemson and LSU. The 70th Men’s College World Series begins play Saturday, June 18, at the TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org