Earlier in the countdown, we talked about how consistent Oral Roberts has been throughout the years. If there’s any program out there that can match the conference dominance shown by ORU, it’s Bethune-Cookman in the MEAC.
The Wildcats’ dominance in their league under former head coach Mervyl Melendez was staggering. Melendez coached the program for 12 seasons, 11 of which ended in regional appearances. Perhaps more impressively, for a stretch between 2006 and his last year at the helm in 2011, the Wildcats lost no more than two conference games in any single season, and in three of those seasons, they went undefeated in MEAC play.
In 2011, Melendez left to take on a new challenge as the head coach at Alabama State, and Jason Beverlin took over. To this point, the results haven’t changed much, even if they have been a little less emphatic. In his first three years as head coach, Beverlin’s Wildcats finished first or tied for first in the MEAC, and in two of those three seasons, they won their league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
In 2015, they took a step back, finishing with the third-best record in the conference and second in their division. They also fell all the way to 19-40 overall.
It would be unwise to write off Bethune-Cookman’s dominance as a thing of the past in the MEAC, though, because last year’s squad was young at a lot of positions, and their 2016 team looks formidable.
At the plate, five of the team’s top six hitters return, including Nathan Bond (.326 BA, .401 OBP, 11 2B) and Austin Garcia (.316, 11 2B, 29 RBI). On the mound, they return two of last year’s top starting pitchers in Tyler Norris (3-5, 4.31, .222 OBA) and Alex Seibold (5-5, 5.05) and key bullpen pieces in Joseph Calamita (2.38) and Clint Clymer (3.98, 8 SV).
Beverlin and staff have also been putting in work on the recruiting trail, and their incoming recruiting class features three players on Perfect Game’s list of the top 350 incoming freshmen. That trifecta includes Trenton Nash, a shortstop from the state of Georgia, Jacob Silverstein, a lanky in-state outfielder, and D’Quan Matthews, a right-handed pitcher from Orlando.
One constant with the Melendez-led Bethune-Cookman teams was that they simply recruited on a different level than the rest of the league, and with this most recent class for Beverlin and company, it appears that they are doing so again, and that bodes well not only for this coming year, but for years down the road.