Baseball Preview: Alabama State
2017 Record: 21-25, 18-6 SWAC (Runner up in SWAC Baseball Tournament)
Key Returners: Cage Cox, Gustavos Rios, Hunter Allen
Key Losses: Carlos Ocasio, Tyler Howe, Austin Bizzle
The Alabama State Hornets will look to once again contend for the SWAC baseball tournament title in 2018, and win its second SWAC title in three seasons. Alabama State fell to Texas Southern, 4-2 in 13 innings in the 2017 SWAC Championship game last season.
Head coach Jose Vazquez will need to replace key leadership this season. Carlos Ocasio, who was the 2016 SWAC Player of the Year will be a big bat to replace in the Hornets lineup in 2018.
Vasquez will look to 2017 Freshman of the Year and preseason first team All-SWAC DH Cage Cox for similar offensive production this season. Cox ranked fifth in the league in batting average (.350), second in runs scored (53), fourth in hits (75), and seventh in RBIs (44).
Gustavo Rios, who earned preseaon first team All-SWAC honors at 1B, will also be back for the Hornets this season to help its offense. In 2017, Rios was second on the Hornets in batting average (.332), first in slugging percentage (.547), second in hits (67), and first in RBIs (50).
Vazquez will need to replace two key arms who graduated last season, including 2017 Pitcher of the Year, Tyler Howe. Howe had a 3.51 ERA last season. Howe also pitched the second most innings in the conference (95), was second in strikeouts (103), and tied for second in wins (8).
2017 Relief Pitcher of the Year, Austin Bizzle also will not be back for the Hornets this season. Last season, Bizzle was third for the in the SWAC In ERA (1.95) and sixth in wins (7).
Vazquez will need to look to replace the production on the mound for the Hornets this season if Alabama State wants to once again make a run in the SWAC Baseball Championship.