NORFOLK, Va. – The Norfolk State University baseball team was picked to win its third consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Northern Division title and seven Spartans were selected to the preseason All-MEAC team as the league released its preseason predictions on Friday.
In voting by league head coaches and sports information directors, pitcher siblings Jonathan and Alex Mauricio and outfielders Denathan Dukes and Brian Beard were voted to the preseason All-MEAC first team. Pitcher Devin Hemmerich, first baseman Roger Hall and second baseman Chase Anderson were chosen to the second team as NSU tallied the most preseason all-conference picks of any MEAC program.
Both Mauricios are coming off All-MEAC first-team seasons. Jonathan Mauricio, a senior right-handed starter, was 6-2 with a MEAC-leading 2.29 ERA last season. He struck out 59 batters in 59 innings and tossed three complete games, including a pair of shutouts. Alex Mauricio, a junior, was voted to the All-MEAC first team at relief pitcher after earning the same postseason honor last season. Also a starting infielder for the Spartans, Alex Mauricio tied for the MEAC lead with five saves last season, compiling a 3-1 record with a 3.23 ERA and a .210 opponents’ batting average.
Seniors Dukes and Beard make up half of the MEAC’s first-team outfielders. Dukes earned All-MEAC second-team honors at the end of last season. Dukes batted .290 with 41 runs scored, 16 RBI and 25 stolen bases in 26 attempts. His 25 steals were second-most in the MEAC, and he led the conference in both runs scored and stolen bases per game. Beard, a utility man who ended last season as the starting left fielder, batted .299 with one home run, nine doubles and 27 RBI. He ranked third in the MEAC with 19 stolen bases in 20 attempts and was a MEAC All-Tournament Team selection.
Hemmerich, a senior left-hander, also earned MEAC All-Tournament Team honors last year. He finished the season 5-4 with a 3.86 ERA and ranked second in the MEAC in both innings pitched (81.2) and strikeouts (84) in 2016. Hall, a senior, led the Spartans with a .316 batting average last season and was third in the MEAC with 17 doubles. Hall, another MEAC All-Tournament Team pick, drove in 31 runs last season. Anderson, a sophomore who also pitches for NSU, batted .244 with 11 RBI while playing strong infield defense as a freshman last season.
The Spartans received 15 of a possible 18 first-place votes among the MEAC North teams. Second-place Delaware State earned one and third-place Coppin State earned two. Maryland Eastern Shore was selected fourth.
In the Southern Division, defending MEAC tournament champion Bethune-Cookman was picked to finish first and received 10 first-place votes. Last year’s MEAC South regular-season champion, Florida A&M, was second with six first-place votes. North Carolina Central was predicted third and had one first-place vote, while Savannah State (one first-place vote) was picked fourth and North Carolina A&T fifth.
The Spartans return 14 letterwinners, including six starters from the everyday lineup and six pitchers, from last year’s MEAC tournament runner-up squad. The Spartans won their second straight MEAC Northern Division title a year ago and set the school’s Division I-era wins record with a 29-21 mark. They open the season Feb. 17-19 at Marty L. Miller Field with a three-game series against Villanova.