North Carolina A&T’s shutout win over South Carolina indicates that HBCU’s are closing the gap on Top 25 baseball programs.
South Carolina is one of the premiere college baseball programs in the country. The Gamecocks are a Power Five SEC school and ranked 24th in national baseball polls. They have perennially been one of the best teams in college baseball since 1970, posting 32 NCAA Tournament appearances, 11 College World Series berths, 6 College World Series Finals appearances and 2 National Championships in 2010 and 2011.
Carolina is one of just six schools in NCAA history to win back-to-back titles.
Days after sweeping Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) rival Bethune-Cookman for the first time, the Aggies earned one of the biggest upset wins in program history by defeating South Carolina, 2-0, on Tuesday night at Founders Park.
This is no small feat. It marks the first time Carolina (16-9) has been shut out at home since UNC Greensboro did so on Feb. 19, 2017.
More importantly, the Aggies (15-9) have won five straight, which also included a rare win over crosstown rival UNC Greensboro. All five wins have come away from the Aggies home, War Memorial Stadium and have thrusted NC A&T’s program into the national spotlight.
Junior pitcher Michael Johnson pitched five innings of shutout baseball and the bullpen did the rest.
"I would have liked to seen us actually be able to score a run tonight." –@CoachKingUSC on the @GamecockBasebll 2-0 loss at home to North Carolina A&T. USC's dropped 6 of its last 8. Tonight, the #Gamecocks struck out 11 times. Kingston on the K's: "Not good enough." @wis10
— Joe Gorchow (@joegorchowWIS) March 27, 2019
While the win is huge for the reputation of Historically Black College and University baseball and implies that they are closing the gap on larger, whiter institutions, it doesn’t necessarily reflect a win for black baseball.
Thirty years ago, it was virtually impossible to find a white player on an HBCU team. Today, squads such as Winston-Salem State, Florida A&M, Prairie View A&M and North Carolina Central all field teams in which the majority of players are not black.
The Aggies have their share of white players, but the team is also a mix of cultures and races. The squad is more representative of America’s diverse population than most D-I baseball institutions. At the same time, the Black faces on the Aggies team definitely makes people take notice of the job second-year coach Ben Hall is doing.
Hall led the Aggies to the 2018 MEAC Baseball Championship, the school’s fourth MEAC title overall and first NCAA Tournamenrt berth since 2005. They are running away with it again.
Regardless of the race of the players, HBCU schools aren’t considered a hotbed for MLB prospects. However, NC A&T has managed to produce 18 MLB draft selections, two pros and one MLB All-Star since 1950.
Lloyd Lightfoot is the highest MLB draft pick in Aggies history, drafted at #214 to the Baltimore Orioles in 1968. Tom Alston and Al Holland made it all the way to MLB. Aggie Artis Stanfield was the first African-American to win the NCAA batting championship.
HBCU schools have produced some of the greatest African-American players the game has ever seen including, Lou Brock (Southern), Andre Dawson (Florida A&M), Rickie Weeks (Southern) and Hal McRae (Florida A&M).
N.C. A&T will try to keep their streak going today against N.C. State, another Power Five squad.
The Aggies have an opportunity to help raise the profile of HBCU baseball if they continue to beat top D-I opponents, secure a second straight conference championship and then makes some noise in the College World Series.