EAST GREENSBORO – Former North Carolina A&T pitcher Leon Hunter’s terrific 2019 has extended deep into the summer months. Hunter’s 2019 started with him transforming into one of the best relief pitchers in Division I baseball.
It is ending with him having an outstanding rookie season in the Texas Rangers organization. While Hunter will never wear an Aggies uniform again, two other Aggies having great summers in Dustin Baber and Leon Davidson will be back in the Blue & Gold in 2020.
“We are really excited to see Leon’s immediate success in professional baseball,” said N.C. A&T head baseball coach Ben Hall. “Just another example of the talent in our program and the MEAC conference. In the end, baseball is a sport where you want to see continual improvement. I’m happy to see all our players thriving in their respective summer leagues and professionally.”
Hunter had a breakout senior season for the Aggies. He ranked 44th in the nation and second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in saves with 10. He posted 31 strikeouts while walking only eight in 31.1 innings pitched. In 25 appearances, he posted a 2.87 ERA, a 3-1 record and opponents only hit .233 against him.
In June, Hunter was selected 1,045th overall in the 35th round of the MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. He has been excellent at the next level. Hunter was assigned to the Arizona Rookie League to play for the Arizona League Rangers.
To date, Hunter has pitched 16 innings for the AZL Rangers and has a minuscule 1.69 ERA. He has 19 strikeouts and only two walks. Hunter has also not lost his touch in closing games. He has six saves going 6-for-6 in save opportunities. On June 29, he pitched two scoreless innings and struck out three. On July 15, he pitched three scoreless innings and struck out four. Hunter earned second-team All-MEAC honors in 2019 before being drafted.
Two of Hunter’s former teammates are hoping to have outstanding senior seasons like Hunter. In fact, Davidson and Hunter made for one of the best bullpen duos in the nation in 2018. Davidson often served as Hunter’s setup man out of the bullpen.
Davidson was excellent at his job in 2018. Davidson logged 40.1 innings last season, yet he registered a 0.67 ERA. Davidson posted a 5-0 record, struck out 26 batters, registered four saves and he only allowed opponents to hit .157 against him.
During the summer, Davidson has been playing for a collegiate summer baseball league. Davidson has pitched in 25 games for the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League. In 39 innings pitched, Davidson has 38 strikeouts, three saves and a 3-1 record. Davidson leads the league in appearances.
Meanwhile, Baber is having an excellent summer for the Asheboro Copperheads of the Coastal Plain League. Baber is hitting .327 with seven doubles, two home runs and 19 RBI. He also has 11 stolen bases, a .445 slugging percentage and from his shortstop position, he has been a part of 15 double plays.
N.C. A&T hopes Baber’s great summer translates into another superb season for the Aggies. In his first season in Aggieland, Baber was a first-team All-MEAC selection after hitting .328 with 15 doubles, two home runs and 30 RBI. Baber also stole 13 bases, had a .402 on-base percentage and a .436 slugging percentage. Baber was a key component to the Aggies defense that had a .966 fielding percentage.
The Aggies are coming off another superb season. They went 29-24 overall and 16-8 in the MEAC to win their second straight MEAC Southern Division. In 2020, the division format will no longer exist in the MEAC. Yet, expectations for Aggies success will remain the same because they have so much returning. Here is how some of the other Aggie baseball players are doing in the summer league.
C Ryne Stanley
Traverse City Pit Spitters
RHP Evan Gates
Southern Collegiate Baseball League
OF Connor Knapp
**Chosen to the league's all-star team