Joyce named MEAC top rookie

North Carolina Central freshman Corey Joyce gets a hit during a contest versus Navy earlier this season.
North Carolina Central freshman Corey Joyce gets a hit during a contest versus Navy earlier this season.

Getting to start early in the season gave Corey Joyce the confidence to play at this level. Staying consistent while in that spot earned Joyce the MEAC’s top honor for a freshman.

Joyce, an infielder for the North Carolina Central baseball team, was named the league’s Rookie of the Year earlier this week. The Lexington native was also voted first team all-MEAC. Joyce started from opening weekend for the Eagles, and never disappointed, finishing the season top 10 in the MEAC with a .344 average. He led N.C. Central in slugging percentage (.513) and triples (3) and was tied for first with five home runs. Joyce was fourth in the MEAC in hits (65) and third with 43 RBI.

On opening day against Navy, Joyce started at second base and said starting from day one helped the game slow down and sped up his learning curve.

“I had some upperclassmen help me as far as the speed of the game and how things went,” Joyce said. “That was a big help.”

Joyce admitted “I shocked myself a little bit” by how fast he adjusted. He never hit a rookie wall, twice being named the MEAC Rookie of the Week during the season. What it all came down to, Joyce explained, was not missing the opportunity once it was given to him by head coach Jim Koerner. Along with classmate Carter Williams, who was named second team all-MEAC, Joyce enrolled at N.C. Central in the summer of 2016, getting a jump start on his course load, and getting a chance to workout with his teammates. That got him comfortable, on and off the field, and carried over to fall workouts. Once the season started, all Joyce had to do was produce. Always confident in his abilities in the field, Joyce said that’s where he adjusted the fastest. However, he wasn’t too shabby at the plate. His 65 hits tied for third-most all-time in the modern era at N.C. Central.

“My at-bats got better as the season went on,” Joyce said. “But I’ve always been consistent in the field as far as the speed of the game and being aware of what’s around me.”

The Eagles’ non-conference schedule, against the likes of Navy, North Carolina State and two games against Duke, helped ease Joyce into his position at second base. Once he had some success against those programs, he felt like he settled in. Of course, he expects to trend in the right direction moving forward.

“I still feel like there is a lot ahead of me,” Joyce said. “This is just the beginning, obviously, after a freshman year.”

Next week Joyce will head to Massachusetts, to play for the New Bedford Bay Sox, a member of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-7001, @JEPopeIV