Hard-hitting Big Blue bound for HBCU World Series

May 2—BLUEFIELD — One thing is for sure about Bluefield State baseball — it's a hit.

The Big Blues, headed for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) World Series as the Number One seed, are hammering the horsehide at a phenomenal .358 clip.

Drew Bailey's bashers have led the way for BSU (30-14) to another record-setting win season, topping the 2023 standard of 25 regular-season triumphs.

The HBCU World Series will be played in double-elimination fashion at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery, Alabama on May 8 — 11. The BSU baseball squad is seeking a second Series title, after having won the inaugural event in 2021.

Bluefield State will be departing en route Tuesday, May 7. The Blues will be hitting the road, just as they have been hitting the ball.

Do not be fooled, though, because the pitching has also been spot on for much of the season. Bailey, a former draft pick of the Oakland Athletics, is excited about his hurlers as the staff features a pair of 8-game winners.

"I am really proud of how these players have responded," grins Bailey, who finds good things to talk about all over the diamond. He says the defense has come up big and improved over last season

"We have run the bases well, although we have not stolen as many bases in 2024 — and there is a great reason for that. I said before the season started that we were going to use our speed and if we got a man to first, we expected him to get himself to second and that usually means stealing a base. Well, we have been very fortunate that we have been hitting well enough all season so that we have not had to depend on that aspect as much," he said.

"But I am really pleased with the baserunning and all-around play of Peyton Lewis. Peyton is hitting .349 with 16 doubles and has stolen 18 times in 21 attempts. Any coach would be pleased to have that situation," Bailey said.

Indeed. The top eight BSU hitters are busting the ball in amazing fashion, good for second in the entire nation in NCAA Division II play.

Tahraun Hammond is hitting an eye-popping .420 and incredibly is only two percentage points ahead for Chris Larkin's sizzling .418. Right behind that dynamic duo is Noah Moritz, blazing away with a .402 mark. Korbin Bostic is a hit away from the .400 club, sporting a .398 mark, and he is working hard to stay ahead of Garrett Hladilek (.393) and Tahir Meulens (.391).

"Those guys are really doing a great job. Garrett has hit 8 home runs and really made a difference for us. Everyone is contributing."

Bailey has a couple more numbers that he sees as not only impressive but a real indication of why the offense has made such an impact.

"We are not just going up there and swinging away," notes the BSU mentor.

"It may sound hard to believe but we have had more than 100 fewer strikeouts than we did last year. Our on-base percentage has been high in part because we have 196 team strikeouts but also have 195 walks. When you walk-strikeout ratio is that close the batters are doing something right."

He points to a pair of Big Blues with key stats in that regard.

"Hammond has batted 162 times with only seven strikeouts and Larkin has fanned only 12 times in 146 plates appearances," says the BSU skipper.

Back to the pitching, which is the anchor that holds the key to making that hitting a winner.

"Our pitching staff is doing a fine job," says Bailey, who as a former pitcher admits he loves it when the men on the mound are winning.

Alex Kanape (8 wins) and Princeton High grad Zach Powell (8 wins) are leading the victory parade, just ahead of Major Braeden (6).

Powell has won 15 times in two seasons with the Series left to play and remained a go-to guy for BSU. However, Bailey points with pride to Hammond, who is not only the starting shortstop but the team's closer. Hammond is 3-0 in 9 appearances with a staff-leading 2.55 Earned Run Average.

Any time you win 30 games in one season, the whole team is working together to get the job done," says Bailey.

"Now our goal is to go on to the World Series and finish the job."