NORFOLK, Va. – Norfolk State hosts Maryland Eastern Shore for a three-game series this weekend at Marty L. Miller Field in a battle for first place in the MEAC’s Northern Division baseball standings.
The teams play a 1 p.m. Saturday doubleheader, followed by a single game at noon on Sunday.
The Spartans (12-10, 9-3 MEAC North) have surged into a first-place divisional tie with the Hawks (11-19, 9-3) by winning a season-high six straight games. Since opening conference play by dropping two of three at Delaware State, the Spartans have won three straight MEAC weekend series, beating UMES two-of-three and sweeping both Coppin State and Delaware State three in a row. NSU is the only team to win a series from UMES so far this conference season.
The Spartans outscored DSU, the defending MEAC Northern champions, 32-5 last weekend. The Spartans’ recent hot hitting has elevated them to the No. 1 spot in the MEAC in team batting average (.279).
Sophomore outfielder Denathan Dukes leads the MEAC with a .383 average and is one of three Spartans in the MEAC’s top 15. Sophomore infielder Roger Hall is eighth with a .349 mark and junior outfielder Angel Rosario is 13th at .333.
Hall, the reigning MEAC Player of the Week, now ranks third in the conference in RBI, with 25.
The NSU pitching staff has also been on a tear as of late. Spartan hurlers have allowed just nine earned runs in their current six-game MEAC winning streak.
Junior lefty Matt Outman (4-1) is tied for the MEAC lead in victories and is second in strikeouts (48 in 35 innings pitched). Sophomore left Devin Hemmerich hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two outings and ranks 10th in the MEAC with a 3.93 ERA.
Outman is the reigning MEAC Pitcher of the Week after an 11-strikeout shutout of DSU, while Hemmerich (2-2) fanned a career-high 10 batters in his win over the Hornets last weekend.
Normal Sunday starter, senior righty Stephen Butt (1-1), leads the staff and ranks sixth in the MEAC with a 3.16 ERA.
The Hawks are coming off a 3-2 loss on Wednesday to the Naval Academy, but have won five of their last six conference games. Infielder Mike Escanilla leads the Hawks and is seventh in the conference with a .353 average. He also has a team-best 10 stolen bases.
Catcher Justin Dattilo and outfielder Greg Turlik anchor the middle of the Hawks’ order with three home runs apiece.
The big story for UMES this year has been its pitching. Sophomore righty Jesse Stinnett (3-4) tops the MEAC with 50 strikeouts and has a 3.31 ERA.
Jordan Bone (3.48 ERA) and Tanner Whiteman (6.03) have also been effective starters for UMES, with Whiteman tossing a one-hit shutout over NSU in the teams’ earlier series. Devin Repine is second among MEAC pitchers with five saves.