GREENSBORO (August 15, 2017) – The North Carolina A&T baseball team had one of their strongest seasons in recent history. They were a one-run loss away from reaching the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament championship game, and the team has a strong senior class returning for 2018. With those factors in play going into the 2018 season, reigning conference coach of the year Ben Hall added reinforcements. Hall announced a nine-player recruiting class on Tuesday including four players who hail from North Carolina, six pitchers and five junior college transfers.
McKinley Strickland (6-foot-2, 195, outfielder, first baseman, LHP Purnell Swett High School, Pembroke, N.C.), Ethan Chavis (6-0, 195, LHP/OF, Purnell Swett HS, Red Springs, N.C.), Tony Mack (5-6, 175, infielder, West Johnston HS, Smithfield, N.C.), McKinley Stanbery (5-11, 160, RHP, Brunswick CC, Kernersville, N.C.), Tim Luth (6-3, 205, RHP, Eastern Florida State CC, Dunedin, Fla.), Roberto Negron (6-4, 230, RHP, Indian Hills CC, Toa Alta, Puerto Rico), Anthony Rodriguez (6-0, 190, LHP, Bronx School of Law, Government and Justice, Bronx, N.Y.), Shane Faulk (5-9, 175, OF, USC Lancaster, Myrtle Beach, S.C.) and Walfrank Pineiro (5-10, 225, RHP, Florida Southeastern State College, Apopka, Fla.) will join the baseball program’s efforts to go even deeper into the postseason.
“We really evaluated this class with a razor-sharp focus on specific needs within our roster,” said Hall. “I am confident that this 2017 class will play a large role in the success of Aggie baseball the next few years.”
Strickland, who bats left, ranked among the best players in North Carolina. Perfect Game USA ranked him the 132nd player in the state and among the top-1,000 players in the country. He was also named an honorable mention Rawlings Perfect All-American in the Atlantic Region. As a senior at Purnell Swett, he batted .404 with an .851 slugging percentage. It led to him earning All-Southeastern 4A Conference honors. Also during his senior season, he made the All-Robeson County Slugfest tournament team and he batted .456 with three home runs and 28 RBI for his American Legion team. As a junior, he was named all-conference, Robeson County Slugfest all-tournament, Robeson County Slugfest MVP, Perfect Game All-American/All-Region Underclass Honorable Mention and was selected to play in the Powerade State Games of North Carolina. Strickland was also a prep standout in football.
Chavis, Strickland’s teammate at Purnell Swett, was also an All-Southeastern 4A Conference selection. He was also a two-time All-Robeson County honoree. Prior to his senior season, he was selected as a preseason Rawlings All-American honorable mention. He is a left-handed batter.
Mack is a switch hitter who brings superb athleticism to the Aggies lineup. He earned two varsity letters apiece from playing baseball and football at West Johnston High. Perfect Game ranked him the 56th best baseball player in the state. Prep Baseball Report ranked him 83rd in the state and third among second baseman. In 2016, he was selected to play for the nationally-renowned Dirtbags organization, and he also played on the No. 1 ranked showcase baseball team in the nation. He was player of the year in the Greater Neuse conference after being successful on all 24 of his stolen base attempts. He was named Greater Neuse Conference Player of the Year in football in 2016 after rushing for more than 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. He was a three-time All-Greater Neuse Conference selection in football. He missed his senior season of baseball with an injury.
Stanbery played four varsity seasons at East Forsyth High School. He was also an honor roll student and a member of the National Honor Society. Under head coach Robbie Allen at Brunswick in 2017, Stanbery posted a 4.81 ERA in 39 1/3 innings pitched with 33 strikeouts and 13 walks. He finished the season 2-1 in 20 appearances.
Luth adds another solid arm for the Aggies. Last season he pitched for Eastern Florida State, the same junior college that produced Cutter Dyals, who pitched for the Aggies last season and was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2017. In two seasons, Luth went 6-4 with 59 strikeouts and 23 walks in 52 1/3 innings pitched. He posted nine saves last season, which ranked him in the top-10 nationally in the National Junior College Athletic Association. Before pitching at Eastern Florida State, Luth was a prep star at Dunedin High School. During his senior season, he went 10-1 and was named Pinellas County Pitcher of the Year.
Negron made the Dean’s List and the President’s List at Indian Hills in 2016 before transferring to Chipola College for the 2017 season. He struck out 21 batters in 11 appearances in his one season at Chipola where he helped the Indians win the NJCAA Division national championship. He pitched at University Gardens as a high school player.
Rodriguez gives Hall and his staff another left-hand option. In 41 innings pitched as a senior, he recorded 81 strikeouts and 15 walks with 0.51 ERA. He led the Public School Athletic League in strikeouts while being named the school’s athlete of the year in 2017. He played in summer and fall leagues with the renowned baseball training organization Bronx Bombers for three years.
Faulk transferred from USC Lancaster. At North Myrtle Beach High School, Faulk was ranked as a top-1,000 player by Perfect Game and was ranked 35th in the state of South Carolina. In 2014, he was ranked as the fifth-best outfielder in the state by Diamond Prospects. He was selected to the All-USA South Carolina team as well. Faulk was also a standout football player in high school.
Pineiro will bring more athletic and academic excellence to the N.C. A&T baseball program. In two years at Florida Southwestern State under head coach Jamie Corr, Pineiro made 30 appearances and posted 38 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings pitched with an ERA below 4. Pineiro was a standout pitcher at Wekiva High where he was the team’s pitcher of the year as a freshman, junior and senior. He was an-all conference performer and a Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention selection in 2014. In 2015, he was a Perfect Game All-Florida Region honorable mention member.
“We are very excited to welcome these young men into our program,” said Hall. “(Assistant coaches) Tyrone Dawson and Jamie Serber have worked tirelessly over the last 16 months securing an outstanding class of impact players. The amount of time and effort put in on the road is truly amazing.”