AUGUSTA, Ga. — High expectations surround the UNC Pembroke baseball team heading into the 2018 season with a Peach Belt Conference-best three players named to the preseason all-PBC squad, released Wednesday by the league.
Senior captains Anthony Burke and Roberto Rivera, along with first baseman Ethan Baucom, represented the 21st-ranked Braves on the 11-man team, which was selected by the league’s head coaches.
Thirteen current or former UNCP baseball players have now been decorated with preseason all-conference recognition since the inception of the award in 2008. It is the first-such honors for the program since former all-American Jordan Edgerton, who played with the Carolina Mudcats last season, was lauded with the recognition prior to the 2014 campaign.
Baucom punched his way into the starting lineup last season for good in early March and compiled a .358 batting average to go along with 27 extra-base hits, 10 home runs, 49 RBIs and 52 runs scored.
The Rockingham native and former standout at Richmond Senior High School tallied 19 multiple-hit outings in 2017, including a pair of 5-hit showings, and accounted for a team-leading 14 multiple-RBI contests. The redshirt freshman earned PBC Player of the Week recognition on May 1 after turning in a .571 series with three RBI and five runs scored at Armstrong State and registered at least one base hit in the final 18 games of the regular season.
Burke, a Fredericksburg, Va., native who played his sophomore campaign at the College of Charleston, made 15 starts for the Braves last season and registered an 11-1 record and a 3.49 ERA in 98 innings pitched with 72 strikeouts and 23 walks. The junior right-hander accounted for six victories in 2018 against league competition, including a 10-strikeout performance in an upset victory over then-No. 1 North Georgia in late March. He closed out the season by tacking up victories in seven of his last eight starts. He was the program’s first pitcher in 43 years to register 11 or more wins from the hill.
Rivera was the only player to play in all 58 games (58 starts) for the Black & Gold in 2018 and ranked among the nation’s top 10 leaders in four statistical categories. The Millville, N.J., native produced a .374 batting average to go along with 19 extra-base hits — including a PBC record 11 triples — 41 RBIs and 74 runs scored.
His 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts were the most for a UNCP player in five seasons. He accounted for a team-best 29 multiple-hit games, but also produced 10 multiple-RBI outings and scored two or more runs in 21 contests as well. He hit triples against 11 different opponents, and hit his first two career home runs in a home doubleheader with Coker on April 22, 2017.
The Braves will lift the lid on their 2018 campaign, Feb. 2 to Feb. 4, when they host a three-game set against Shepherd at Sammy Cox Field. That series will begin a season-opening 14-game home stand for UNCP.