Tuesday, March 1, 2011

5P Primer: Bethune-Cookman



Trying a little different format with the 5P Primers. Personally, I think I'm able to write better in a stream-of-consciousness style and the majority of time the 5P Primers can take a little longer to write than expected because I get frustrated with starting and stopping, looking up information, uploading links, etc etc. So instead, I'll try a little looser style and see how this works.



Tuesday and Wednesday, the Bethune Cookman Wildcats come to town. First, I know what you're thinking. Yes, B-CU (and yes, the always hyphenate that) is an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and historically, HBCU's aren't great at baseball. B-CU is the exception. Well, B-CU and Southern (out of the SWAC) are the exceptions. Quietly, but not overnight, the Wildcats have built themselves into a Regional Contender year in and year out and completely dominate the MEAC. Coach Mervyl Melendez is in his 12th season with the club and has lead the team to 10 NCAA Regional Appearances of the last 11 seasons. I don't care if you are playing against DIII Clubs, baseball is baseball and it's a funny game (and anything can happen) and to have that kind of dominance is incredible.



This season has actually been a big of a struggle for the Wildcats. In a big stunner, Grambling beat B-CC in the Urban Classic (in Compton, CA) to snap a 26 game wining streak over HBCU's for B-CU. But it was really same song, different verse for BC-C. They play a tough schedule, steal 1 or two wins from a team, then completely dominate the MEAC. Don't believe me? Just read The Stitchhead's Preview of the MEAC:

I said it last year. I said it the year before that. I said it the year before that. And it looks like I’ll continue to say that for perpetuity – It’s still Bethune-Cookman’s domain until further notice. In the last five MEAC seasons, BCU has gone 82-4 and no one has finished closer than three games behind them in the standings. That’s dominance. There’s not a lot of change here in the MEAC, as the Wildcats dominated wire-to-wire without a single loss.



Plus, the Wildcats do have some talent. If you are lucky enough to go to the game Today (6pm) or Wednesday (4pm) then keep an eye out for Catcher Peter O'Brien. Some argue he's the nation's best Catcher. A Spike Award Watch List, ESPN Pre-Season All American and he's making history at B-CU:

With ESPN, O'Brien earns a particularly notable honor, as the first player from an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to earn All-American status with the nation’s pre-eminent sports news organization since Southern's Rickie Weeks last did it in 2003. Interestingly enough, Weeks is a Daytona Beach native. O'Brien batted .386 last season topping the MEAC and was 25th nationally with 20 home runs and a .748 slugging percentage.



This year so far, he's at a respectable .278 Clip but his main asset his slugging % where he leads with .722. He also leads the team in Home Runs.



What can you expect from B-CU? You can expect speed on the bases, probably a few defensive lapses, solid hitting, and a team the will try to capitalize on mistakes. Now, it could just be the competition, but looking at the box scores the have some pitching talent to go around and their main weakness there is just one or two guys in the bullpen. B-CU hasn't announced a starting pitcher for tonight, so there's no way to know what Auburn can expect in the department. For Auburn, at least tonight, the TIgers will throw out Will Irwin (and possibly Jon Luke Jacobs) just like they did last week against Jacksonville State. Irwin did a pretty solid job to start off with, but hit a wall late in the game. That seems to be a surprising trend with some of the Auburn pitchers. Go solid for 4 innings and the around the 5th or 6th (and not because of pitch count) a couple of singles get strung into runs and the wheels fall off. It happened Friday against Radford. It happened two Saturday's ago against Virginia.



Still, for tonight and tomorrow, this game will serve as a bit of a proving ground for Auburn. Now, whether that is testing out some arms in different places (like maybe Andrew Morris starting Wednesday) or finding roles for guys (is Jon Luke Jacobs a starter or middle reliever?) or getting some guys loose from inactivity last weekend (Brad Hendrix for one). Whatever the case, Auburn has two games against a pretty solid club (and one that shouldn't be taken likely) to test out some things. Both on the mound and in the field. The BEST thing that could happen would be for Auburn to find a bit of rhythm on offense and get some confidence heading into this weekend at Charleston. The Home Run power isn't there and I know for a couple of guys like Alvord and Fradejas the confidence has to be down because of their struggles at the plate. Fradejas especially. He's become almost too aggressive at the plate and it's resulted in some badly time strikeouts. Hopefully he can get back on track with these two midweek games.



The biggest thing I'm looking for is what version of Jon Luke Jacobs shows up to play. I'd feel confident that he'll make an appearance (whether starting Wednesday, or relief today) and if he's a solid as he was last Tuesday then I'm pretty excited and thrilled for his role in the rotation. Having a midweek guy you can turn to in confidence is a huge premium and if JLJ fills that role, then Auburn should look even better for Hoover.

PRESENTING

The Bethune Cookman College Wildcats. Powerhouses of the MEAC, NCAA Tournament Team, and why you secretly wish Marching Bands could play at baseball games:

PREVIOUSLY

The Wildcats dropped a tough loss to Grambling earlier but seem to have gotten the offense back on track after a 9 run 7th inning against Southern last Sunday.

PLAYMAKERS

There are a few, but Catcher Peter O'Brien stands out. Preseason All-American and a slugging machine.

PREVIEW

B-CU is a talented team and you don't dominate a conference just by luck alone. They will try to use speed on the bases and the key for Auburn is to get to the Wildcat Bullpen as quickly as possible.

PREDICITON

Auburn Takes 2.

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