GREENSBORO-The 2013 season looks to be a promising one for the North Carolina A&T baseball team, as they have the personnel and the depth to build off a strong finish from the 2012 season.
The Aggies open the season against Buffalo at historic War Memorial Stadium. The Aggies will play a 2 p.m., doubleheader on Friday, Feb. 15 before playing at 1 p.m., Saturday. If weather prevents a Saturday game, the Aggies will play at 1 p.m., Sunday.
A&T head coach Joel Sanchez says his team has been working their butts off with a group of talented returning players.
"We've got 10 seniors, so we've got experience," he said. "We've got a good group of junior college guys that have some experience, and we've got some freshmen who will get some playing time that are going to get their feet wet quick and will get in a lot of reps. Hopefully we'll be ready to go. I think we will be."
It will be their second season under the leadership of Sanchez, who led the Aggies to a 20-36 overall finish and a 12-12 mark for third place in the Southern Division in 2012. The Aggies finished second in the conference in team batting average and fourth in team ERA, and also had four players named to the All-MEAC teams last season.
"Obviously we're trying to place ourselves better in the conference. We came in as a three seed and our goal is to go in there as a one seed," Sanchez said. "I think we have a good enough group to come in as a one seed. We just have to go out and win one series at a time. That's the goal. I think we have a good enough offensive group to manufacture runs."
The Aggies return 20 players. One of those players is senior first baseman Kelvin Freeman, winner of the 2010 MEAC Rookie of the Year honor and a second-team All-MEAC selection in 2012. Junior second baseman Luke Tendler, a 2011 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American and a two-time All-MEAC selection is considered one of the best power hitters in the league. Senior outfielder Andre McKoy earned second-team All-MEAC honors last season, and sophomore outfielder Brandon Wilkerson was named MEAC Rookie of the Week twice last season.
A&T welcomes 12 new players, including eight pitchers, three infielders and an outfielder. Of the new athletes, four are transfers. The Aggies also welcome graduate student Tim Jones, who pitched and played infield for Florida A&M, earning the 2008 MEAC Rookie of the Year award.
In addition to returning a majority of athletes, the Aggies will enjoy the added depth on the pitching staff this season, using the flexibility of having 15 arms to help them earn a MEAC title. The Aggies had just 10 pitchers last season, including a couple of position players who made appearances. The Aggies return two of their three weekend starters from last season in right-handed junior Tyler Boone and senior southpaw Brent Moore, and a number of relievers. A trio of junior college pitchers will also give the Aggies more experience on the mound.
"I think our top three are good enough to compete with anybody, definitely in the MEAC. But the one important thing is we do have depth, so we won't have to rely on one or two guys like we did last year," Sanchez said.