The last time Coppin State baseball made the NCAA Tournament was 1995 … at least until this year.
Coppin made history on May 21 after defeating Delaware State, 18-12, to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament and clinch the program’s first-ever NCAA Regional appearance. The Eagles competed in an NCAA Tournament play-in series in 1995.
After a tough nonconference schedule, Coppin finished 17-13 in the MEAC and earned the No. 2 seed in the MEAC tournament. The Eagles took down Maryland Eastern Shore once and the Hornets twice to secure the tournament crown and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they competed in the Greenville regional before bowing out.
“We’ve talked about it since the beginning that this team was ready to win a conference championship, and that’s exactly what we did,” said catcher Mike Dorcean, who recently completed his junior year at Coppin. “It was such a surreal moment.”
To outsiders, Coppin hasn’t necessarily stood out. The program doesn’t have nearly the funding most other teams have, and it has had to build from the ground up. In 2015, the Eagles went 3-38-2.
However, the Eagles have posted 20-plus win seasons three of the last four years, excluding the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Since 2018, the Eagles are 57-46 in the MEAC, winning 15 or more games in conference play three times.
The 2022 team was the culmination of the recent success the Eagles have enjoyed.
“This team, in particular, never gives up,” Coppin head coach Sherman Reed said. “They never think a run deficit is insurmountable. That’s the making of a team that we felt strongly about since the first day of practice back on Sept. 19, our first fall practice.”
It’s easy to see why there was so much confidence given the lineup the Eagles had. Coppin ended up leading the MEAC in batting average (.283), runs scored (368), doubles (90), triples (25), RBIs (315) and slugging percentage (.418).
Four regulars hit over .300 and three hit at least five home runs on the year, with production coming across the board. Everyone was involved and contributed.
“Once we got into conference play, it just felt like everything clicked,” Dorcean said. “The tournament specifically was a big team effort, plenty of great defense all around the diamond. It was a great team championship.”
Dorcean entered the season as one of Coppin’s leaders after putting up great numbers in 2021, but someone who rose into a similar role was Dorcean’s battery mate, left-hander Jordan Hamberg.
Hamberg was the first Coppin State player ever to be named the MEAC Pitcher of the Year. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound left-hander went 6-3 with a 5.15 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 64.2 innings pitched, though he entered the NCAA Tournament with a 4.04 ERA.
“I thought it was pretty cool, especially since I didn’t know that it was the first time it was ever won at Coppin State,” Hamberg said of the Pitcher of the Year award. “As a two-way player, it made me proud that I was able to be successful on both sides of the ball.”
For as good as he was on the mound, Hamberg may have been even better at the plate. The outfielder hit .347/.463/.611 with eight home runs, 34 RBIs and 34 runs scored. He led the Eagles in average, OPS and homers.
Successful two-way players, for as much as Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani continues to mesmerize sports fans, are rare, even in the college game. Hamberg wasn’t just successful as both a pitcher and a hitter — he was arguably the best at both in the conference. As such, he was named a finalist for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year award in late May.
“Being a two-way player is hard — that’s why not a lot of people do it — but if you keep working and keep striving on both sides, then you can be successful,” said Hamberg, who recently completed his sophomore year.
Coming into the season, Hamberg had just finished recovering from a partially torn labrum in his hip, which sidelined him for the entire summer of 2021. However, he worked hard in the gym, putting on roughly 20 pounds of muscle. That got him in the right mindset to dominate on the mound and at the plate.
Hamberg’s father, Michael, knew just how much time and effort his son put in during the past two years.
“Bottom line is I told him to work hard and he’s done just that in the summertime,” Michael said. “He hits the weight room constantly. He’s really devoted to the baseball aspect of it in terms of fundamentals. Overall, he more than proved himself worthy of playing D-I baseball, and a lot of D-I programs are regretting that they didn’t recruit him.”
Every player on the Coppin State roster, from Hamberg to Dorcean and the entire coaching staff, knew the importance of getting to the NCAA Tournament. Not only that, but this appearance has the potential to forever change and shape the future of Coppin State baseball as interest grows.
“The biggest thing is that it’s going to help recruiting,” Reed said. “When we were on our way back to campus after winning the tournament, the email boxes of me and the coaching staff blew up with prospects and kids interested in the program. This hasn’t stopped one bit since.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Coppin State Athletics
Originally published June 15, 2022