2018 Baseball Preview: Arkansas Pine Bluff
2017 Record: 15-31, 10-14 SWAC (5th in West Division)
Key Returners: Sergio Esparza
Key Losses: Jordan Knox, Jake Waters
Arkansas Pine Bluff, who struggled and failed to qualify for the 2017 SWAC baseball tournament a season ago, will look to improve on its 2017 record and place in the regular season standings.
Head coach Carlos James will look to the Golden Lions top bat from a season ago, Sergio Esparza to lead the Golden Lions this season. In 2017, Esparza totaled a .304 batting average, and racked up 28 RBIs, all of which he led UAPB in those categories. James will look to a similar season from Esparza in 2018 to once again pace the Golden Lions offense.
Not returning for James this season is Jordan Knox, who was another solid bat for UAPB last season. Knox had a .301 batting average, led UAPB with a .460 slugging percentage, was second in runs scored (32), third in hits (42), and tied for second in RBIs. Knox was a good compliment to Esparza in the luneup last year, and his production was very valuable to the Golden Lions, and will be hard to replace.
Another key loss for UAPB this season is top pitcher form last year, Jake Waters. Waters led the Golden Lions in ERA (3.62), wins (3), was third in innings pitched (54.1) and in strikeouts (36).
James will need to find a new pitcher to lead the Golden Lions rotation this season. Waters was a quality pitcher for UAPB in 2017, and if a pitcher on the UAPB rotation can put up similar numbers, the Golden Lions can improve in 2018.
James will need to rely on Esparza once again this season to lead the Golden Lions offense. If Esparza can pit up similar numbers than he did a season ago, the Golden Lions are poised to improve from their 5th place west division finish in 2018.