College baseball: Alabama State to tackle defending champs

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Alabama State’s baseball team won 20 games for the first time in 10 years last season under first-year coach Mervyl Melendez and tied for second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference East Division race.

So what does Melendez do for an encore? How about scheduling a three-game series with defending national champion Arizona?

The Hornets opened baseball practice on Friday with an eye toward playing in Major League Baseball’s Urban Invitational for the second consecutive year and a trip to Tucson, Ariz., to play the Wildcats in a three-game series in late April.

“If you want to get to the promised land, you have to get through some obstacles and some difficult situations,” Melendez said. “Going to play Arizona is not going to be easy, but in order for us to become the team that I believe we can be, and the program I believe we can be, we’ve got to play good teams. And it doesn’t get bigger than playing the defending national champions.”

The trip to Hi Corbett Field to play the Wildcats is the last of three nonconference weekend series for the Hornets and is the result of a friendship between Melendez and Arizona coach Andy Lopez when the former was at Bethune-Cookman and played Lopez’s Florida team in an NCAA regional in Gainesville, Fla. While the trip will take a huge chunk out of the Hornets’ baseball budget, Melendez said he didn’t make his schedule based on geography.

“Our schedule is not developed by geographic location, it’s developed by who can we play, who is available at the time we’re available that is going to make us a better team, that is going to exploit our weaknesses we can work on, that is going to make us a better team,” he said.

The schedule also includes a midweek game at Auburn on March 19 and home games with Troy on Feb. 26 and South Alabama on March 12.

“Bobby Pierce is a class act and having Troy here is a big event, needless to say,” Melendez said. “We had a great crowd here last year. People are excited about that matchup. We’re happy that Troy is coming here. We want to get the best teams that want to play us here, and South Alabama with Mark Calvi was part of a national championship at South Carolina (as the Gamecocks’ pitching coach). Getting those two here, along with UAB, creates exciting times in Montgomery.”

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About tgayle

Tim Gayle is a sports reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper and
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