2018 Baseball Preview: Texas Southern
2017 Record: 22-30, 15-9 SWAC (Won SWAC Tournament)
Key Returners: Jerrick Jimenez, Michael Vilianueva, Olajide Oloruntimilehin, Seth Oliver, Christian Sanchez
Key Losses: No key losses
2017 Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Texas Southern will look to a number of returning key contributors from a season ago to have similar campaigns this season to lift TSU to back-to-back SWAC baseball championships.
Texas Southern is looking to become the first back-to-back conference champions since Jackson State accomplished the feat in 2013 and 2014. Texas Southern is also looking to capture its third conference title in four seasons.
There are a number of key contributors from last season returning for head coach Michael Robertson in 2018. Among them is 2018 Preseason Pitcher of the Year Micheal Vilinueva. Last season, Villanueva had a 5.66 ERA, totaled 63 strikeouts, and had eight wins for Texas Southern in 2017.
Also returning for Robertson is 2018 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Gaudencio Lucca. Lucca had a .986 fielding percentage on 352 chances. Lucca also led TSU with 290 putouts, fielded 39 double plays, and totaled 57 assists in 2017.
Olajide Oloruntimilehin will also be back for Texas Southern this season. Oloruntimilehin made the 2018 Preseason All-SWAC first team at outfield. He totaled a .236 batting average, .418 slugging percentage, ranked third on TSU with 33 runs scored, led Texas Southern with 31 RBIs and hit 9 home runs, which also led the team in 2017.
Texas Southern returns a lot of key contributors from last year’s team. The Tigers, who were predicted to win the west division in the 2018 preseason predicted order of finish will look for a similar season to last. In order to capture back-to-back baseball tournament titles this season, the Tigers will need to have the same kind of offensive output and solid pitching as it did a season ago.