WINSTON-SALEM, NC - Baseball season is back and the 2019 Rams squad is looking to maintain his momentum for its previous six trips to the NCAA tournament over the past eight seasons. While only two members remain from the 2017 team that came one win away from a trip to the NCAA Division II College World Series, this year's young and talented group has bought into the culture and is hungry to leave their mark.
Coming off of their 8th straight 30 win season, the Rams are tasked with replacing the dynamic duo of Emilio Abreu and Randy Norris. Abreu, a senior on last year's 30-20 team, finished the season with a .402 batting average, 41 RBI, and a team-leading 10 home runs. Norris led the team in batting average (.437), runs (53), and stolen bases (34). For their efforts, both players were named to the D2CCA All-Atlantic Region Team, the ABCA/Rawlings All-Region Team, and the North Carolina Collegiate Sports Information College Division All-State Team. Norris was then selected in the 19th round of the MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants.
Stepping up to fill the big offensive shoes of Abreu and Norris will be returners Cole Parks, Nick Williams, Wellington Guzman and Luke Spiva. Parks earned a spot on the 2018 All-ICAA Team after belting five home runs, driving in 32 RBI, and hitting .325. Williams scored 27 runs, stole six bases, and batted .289 last season. Freshman standouts Guzman and Spiva combined for 71 hits, 45 runs, and 51 RBI. Guzman also launched 10 home runs, while Spiva recorded a .314 batting average.
On the mound, the Rams return the bulk of their staff, including last year's key contributors Jalen Scott, Tyrese Hearst, Cole Parks, Tomas Goco, and Kyle Taylor. Scott and Hearst combined to start 21 games in 2018 and capture eight of the Rams' 30 wins. Joining them in the weekend rotation will be Parks, who sported a 3.38 ERA last season. Goco and Taylor will once again be counted on the anchor the bullpen. Both lefties struck out over 11 batters per game last year and combined for 38 appearances.
A big recruiting class has Coach Ritsche and his staff excited about the young talent that could play major roles this year. Redshirt-sophomore E.P. Reese, redshirt-senior Hunter Phillips, and freshman Nick Tiller will roam the outfield and bolster a speedy offensive attack. Redshirt-freshman Kendall Tucker, freshman Nick Ward, North Greenville University transfer Shannon Glover, and freshman Chris Shepherd will prowl the infield and bring power to the plate. Toeing the rubber for the first time in a Rams uniform this season will be redshirt-freshman Eli Boles and freshmen Leyton Helms, Connor Garcia, and Avery Cain.
For the second year in a row, the Rams baseball team will compete as an NCAA Division II independent and strive for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The first half of the season includes a couple of long home stands which will feature fellow NCAA Division II Atlantic Region foes Seton Hill (Feb. 23rd and 24th), Bloomsburg (March 2nd and 3rd), Indiana (Pa.) (March 9th and 10th), and Lock Haven (March 16th and 17th). On April 3rd, the Rams will play a doubleheader against Tusculum at the newly constructed Big League Camp in Marion, N.C. The squad will hit the road twice at the end of April to play a three-game set against Emmanuel College in Georgia and a doubleheader in South Carolina against Claflin University. New to the schedule this year will be an Independent Tournament held at Big League Camp May 2nd-5th. Hosted by WSSU, the tournament will feature five NCAA Division II teams that will compete for a championship.
Specific dates and times can be found on the WSSU baseball website, with most home games being played at BB&T Ballpark in downtown Winston-Salem. For more information on Rams baseball, contact the WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations at (336) 750-2143 or log on to www.WSSURams.com.