Benedict Baseball Ready For Big Season



COLUMBIA, S.C. (BC SID) — The Benedict College baseball teams open the 2016 season on Tuesday on the road at Erskine College, and coach Selwyn Young has high expectations for this season.

After winning the SAIC regular season East Division title last year, Young has his sights set on a much higher goal for 2016.

“My main goal is to get the World Series. Can we do it? It takes pitching, a lot of it, and clutch hitting, really good defense and really good team chemistry,” Young said.

“This group has a chance. Out of the 24 kids out there, there’s probably 10 pros out there. They’re a talented group. Winning the SIAC is part of the process. I want to go to Cary (North Carolina) and win the World Series. Why should we settle for the conference?”

The 2016 Tigers have a mixture of veteran leadership and fresh-faced talent.

Leading the way for Benedict will be sophomore first baseman David White Jr. The powerful 6-foot-6 White hit .383 during his freshman campaign with three home runs and 25 RBI. Young said White has improved his game after spending the summer playing in a summer college league in Myrtle Beach and has gained about 20 pounds of muscle after devoting himself to the weight room.

“He is a hidden talent,” Young said. “He hits the ball a ton. At some point in a couple of years, he’s going to be a pro. He’s going to do some damage.”

Another key returnee for the Tigers is third baseman Shomarii Thomas. Thomas hit .363 with two home runs and 27 RBI and was named second team All-Conference as a freshman. He also made six appearances on the pitching mound last year and will be utilized as a reserve pitcher again.

Outfielder Andrew McCoy is back after hitting .359 as a freshman and is Benedict’s top returning base stealer with 15 stolen bases last season.

“He is a really gifted center fielder,” Young said. “I’ve seen him jump over the fence and take home runs away. He’s going to become a pro at some point.”

Seniors Marcelino Irizarry and Daniel Young, the 2014 SIAC Utility Player of the Year, also are back in the lineup after hitting more than .300 last year. Junior Reinaldo Santiago is another big body at 6-foot-5 who will see more time in the lineup this year and brings a powerful swing. He also had one outing on the mound last year and threw a perfect game. Young expects to utilize him again on the mound.

Other key returnees include sophomore infielders John Holleran, Armando Valentin and Skyler Sabado.

Newcomers for the Tigers include a pair of redshirt freshmen in Yancy Freeny and Myles Snype. Other newcomers are Jerome Holmes, Joe Lucas and Joel Manzano.

Young added six new faces to the pitching staff to join several returning veterans.

“Realistically, we have 20 kids on the roster that have pitched during the fall,” Young said. “I’m going to be changing lineups. These kids got tired last year. It’s like we burned them out, but we had no choice. We’ve added more arms, and there’s several players like Ray Santiago, David White, Shomarii Thomas, they’re going to play both ways, as well as Joel Manzano and Murrell Martin.”

Martin, a tall freshman from Chicago, clocked out at 92 miles per hour during the team’s pro scout day in the fall.

The Tigers return junior James Roman, who went 5-0 last season with a 2.84 ERA and was named a second-team preseason All-American by the Black College Nines website.

Also back is senior Yaniel Delgado, who was the workhorse of the staff last season, pitching 63 innings and going 5-4. Junior Robert Troiano III is back after going 5-6 in 53 innings of work. Junior transfter Ryan Ramirez is the son of one of Young’s former teammates at Pepperdine and will likely be one of Benedict’s starters.

“Yani’s probably the best overall pitcher at Benedict since I’ve been here, other than Eric Cordoba. He’s the anchor of the staff,” Young said. Last season, Delgado came in relief in 12 of his 20 appearances and earned two saves and was named the SIAC Relief Pitcher of the Year. Young expects to bring him along slowly again, starting with short relief outings until the weather warms up and then possibly moving him into the starting lineup.

“Everybody’s scared of him,” Young said. “Yani has a chance to pitch for the next 20 years. He’s got a really good curve ball, a lower 90s fastball and he understands pitchability. He says he’s gained about 10 or 15 pounds of muscle. And he’s one of the classiest acts and I’m really going to hate to see him go. He’s such a professional already. If you’re going to build a pitching staff, you need somebody like Yani.”

The Tigers led the NCAA in stolen bases for six consecutive years before dropping to second last year. In seven years under Young, the Tigers have stolen 1,734 bases and have been successful on nearly 84 percent of their attempts. Benedict owns eight of the NCAA Division II national stolen base records including stolen base attempts, team stolen bases in a season (334) in 2013, stolen bases per game, and most stolen bases in a single game-versus Virginia Lynchburg (32) in 2013. The Black College Nines website recently featured the Tigers’ base-stealing success and described them as “one of the greatest base stealing teams in college baseball history.”

Young said the stolen base numbers were down last year because he had a young team. Those freshmen have a year of experience under their belts now.

“I had to teach them. This year, I’m excited to watch them grow. They’re just better. They’re stronger,” Young said.

Another factor is opposing teams are preparing to defend against Benedict’s base stealing and pitching accordingly.

“Will I think this team will do some damage base-stealing wise? They’re fast. But they’ve still got to hit. Everybody comes here expecting to throw us out. It’s not like when I was first here and we were catching them by surprise. Everybody’s ready to throw right now. You’ve got to get a better jump and a better lead, otherwise you’re running into outs.”

And Young is building his team with more power. With White, Santiago, Thomas, Daniel Young and Irizarry, the Tigers have some big, strong hitters in the lineup now.

“Those five can hit it out any time they want to, they’ve got that type of power,” Young said.

The baseball season kicks off Tuesday at Erskine. Young hopes it doesn’t end until May in Cary, North Carolina, the home of the Division II World Series.

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