Courtesy of North Carolina A&T State Athletic Communications
GREENSBORO, N.C. – North Carolina A&T State head baseball coach BenHall announced on Tuesday that he will bring back eight seniors who had their season interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The eight seniors returning include 2020 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Preseason Pitcher of the Year Michael Johnson, All-MEAC first-teamers Dustin Baber and Leon Davidson, All-MEAC second-teamer Ryne Stanley, as well as reliever Evan Gates, right fielder Camden Williamson, right-handers Cole Parks and Justin Fox and outfielder Shane Faulk.
“We’re thankful of our administration for the support to make this happen,” Hall, who went on to thank N.C. A&T Director of Athletics Earl M. Hilton III and Chancellor Harold L. Martin, said.
“Our senior group is one of the more talented classes of players I’ve seen,” Hall continued. “They do it right on and off the field. We’re ecstatic to have them back as a group.”
In March, the NCAA announced it will allow student-athletes who had their final year of eligibility affected by the coronavirus pandemic can return for the 2021 season to finish out their respective collegiate careers. Each institution can decide whether to welcome back those players.
In bring back his senior class, the Aggies bring back players who helped them get off to a 7-9 start in 2020 before the season was canceled. The Aggies were picked to win the MEAC and looked poised to do just that after two wins over Boston College of the ACC and near upset of nationally-ranked N.C. State.
Expectations will be high again as Johnson, the Aggies Friday night starter in the pitching rotation returns with his career 4.13 ERA 16-14 record. Johnson has 145 career strikeouts to only 61 walks.
Meanwhile, Baber is a two-year starter at shortstop. He led the team in RBI with 14 through 17 games. Davidson served as the ‘setup man last season. Davidson has a 1.00 ERA over the past two seasons with 42 strikeouts and only 12 walks.
Stanley was the starting catcher and one of the best defensive players in the country behind the plate. Gates was the closer with a team-high 26 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched during the shortened season.
Williamson led the team in hits last year and was riding a 16-game hitting streak when the season ended. Parks was the Sunday starter. Parks had 11 strikeouts against Lehigh days before the season was canceled. Fox will return as a vital relief piece in the rotation as well.
Faulk came up clutch in pinch-running situations last season swiping five stolen bases in five attempts and scoring nine runs, third on the team. The only senior that will not return is catcher Johndre’ Bowser, who will graduate and move on to be a high school baseball coach.
“It says a lot about our university and the student-athlete experience here,” Hall said. “To have all your seniors want to come back, turn down career opportunities to go through another year and compete with ‘Aggies’ across their chest one more time says a lot.”