These are the final small school rankings of the month of April. While each of the team’s listed have demonstrated they belong among the elite this spring, undoubtedly a few of these schools will be left out of their division’s national postseason tournaments due to the limited number of teams which can advance. When unlikely teams capture automatic bids by winning conference crowns, it steals a spot from a team on the bubble and abruptly and unceremoniously ends their season.
Along with each of the updated rankings this week is a look at some schools on the proverbial bubble; teams which could and should be able to keep playing for an opportunity to take home the title, but may need some help if they are to advance to the next round.
The Wolves were ranked No. 21 in the preseason Perfect Game rankings after earning a school-record 41 wins and a South Atlantic Conference title in the last complete full season. A strong start of the spring with wins over North Greenville and Wingate inched them up to the No. 17 spot before an unfortunate turn derailed their success. COVID-19 management requirements required Newberry to postpone their schedule for a two-and-a-half week stretch. When the Wolves returned to the diamond they struggled and lost five-of-seven games which included a surprising series loss to an unassuming Limestone team that hasn’t put together a .500 season in 10 years. Nevertheless, Newberry regained their winning ways and finished the season being the victors in 11-of-13 regular season games. Those wins, along with another pair of the top-two seeds in the SAC baseball championship earned the team reentry into the Perfect Game Top 25 this week. Despite that designation, the Wolves will be forced to wait until the NCAA releases regional invitations to see if they will be able to continue their season.
Newberry advanced to the SAC tournament title game last Monday, and could have eliminated any doubt on their playing future, but suffered a second setback to No. 17 Wingate to have their hopes of capturing an automatic invite extinguished. Instead, the Wolves will have to wait and hope three SAC clubs will receive berths to the extended postseason. Conference-mates Catawba and Wingate will both be in. If a third SAC team is allowed entry it will be either the Wolves or Tusculum. The Pioneers have received recognition in other rankings, but didn’t crack the PG listings this season due to their strength of schedule. According to the website boydsworld.com, Newberry’s strength of schedule is 23rd overall in D-II this season, while Tusculum’s is only 107th. Additionally, the Wolves won the season series with the Pioneers as they split four games in the regular season, but Newberry eliminated them in the tournament with an 18-11 win on Sunday. As such, Newberry should get the nod, but that’s only if there is room for them in the field.
Colorado Springs Mountain Lions
The Mountain Lions have put together five solid seasons since the program’s inception in 2017. This year is their first with a legitimate opportunity to advance to the NCAA postseason. UCCS has an exceptional 21-7 record, are winners of their last eight games, and are one of only two teams to pin a loss on top-ranked Colorado Mesa. In fact, each of their four games with the D-II pole-sitter were competitive matches, with three-of-four being decided by a single run (had it not been for a pair of runs in the ninth in the other, each of the contests would have been decided by one).
At this point, Mesa and Metro State, the top two teams in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference standings, would appear to be penciled in for the NCAA postseason if the season ended today. The Mavs will unquestionably be playing (and likely hosting the region), and Metro State would get a berth over the Mountain Lions with their slightly better record and series win over UCCS. If the RMAC gets three teams into the tournament, UCCS’ selection would be a no-brainer, but there are plenty of quality Lone Star Conference-based clubs which will be looking to fill the opening round bracket. If an unexpected underdog takes the RMAC or LSC conference title it could steal a spot saved for the Mountain Lions.
The Mountain Lions have upcoming series with Colorado State Pueblo, Regis, and Colorado School of Mines to close the regular season. They should win each of those series and continue to compile wins. After that a respectable placement in the conference tournament should earn them an NCAA invite, but there still a lot that could go wrong and deny them the opportunity to keep playing for at least another season.
|1||1||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||28-2||4-0|
|2||2||Central Missouri Mules||MO||29-5||2-1|
|3||3||West Texas A&M Buffs||TX||29-4||0-0|
|5||5||Angelo State Rams||TX||27-6||3-1|
|7||9||Mount Olive Trojans||NC||32-8||4-0|
|8||10||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||25-4||3-0|
|9||11||North Greenville Crusaders||SC||29-10||3-1|
|11||14||Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars||IL||28-4||3-1|
|13||13||Azusa Pacific Cougars||CA||24-8||3-1|
|14||8||UNC Pembroke Braves||NC||27-10||0-4|
|15||15||West Florida Argos||FL||28-5||1-1|
|16||16||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||22-11||1-1|
|18||21||Seton Hill Griffins||PA||20-2||5-1|
|19||17||Southern Arkansas Muleriders||AR||24-10||3-1|
|20||20||Metro State Roadrunners||CO||25-7||0-0|
|21||23||Charleston Golden Eagles||WV||28-4||4-0|
|24||24||North Georgia Nighthawks||GA||24-12||0-0|
Dropped: No. 19 Missouri Southern St. Louis, No. 22 Texas Tyler, No. 25 Delta State
The Perfect Game preseason forecast was strong for Georgetown. The Tigers tallied the most regular season wins in program history in 2019 and a solid chunk of that starting lineup was back on campus this season. For those reasons, along with a potentially potent pitching staff, GC was positioned 20th in the preseason rankings. The Tigers played as predicted for the first month, but went an unassuming 11-9 in March and fell from the Top 25. They’ve been much more accomplished in April, winning 13-of-17, but still have quite a bit to prove to earn an invitation into the NAIA Opening Round. Their third place finish in the Mid-South Conference regular season standings most likely won’t earn them an at-large berth into the national postseason.
Winning the conference title and securing the automatic bid as the conference champion with second-ranked Cumberlands standing in their way, won’t be easy. Fortunately for the Tigers, finishing as the Mid-South Conference tournament runner-up would also earn them an invite. Nevertheless, they’ll also face stiff conference competition from Freed-Hardeman, who is unquestionably far better than their current 22-21 record (they were ranked fifth in the preseason), Campbellsville (another team which had been ranked in the preseason and who won the last four MSC tournaments), as well as an emotionally-jacked Cumberland club who’ll be looking to send long-time beloved head coach Woody Hunt out as a winner.
The ace up the sleeve for Georgetown will be pitcher Keon Taylor, who has been remarkable out of the bullpen. In 48 1/3 innings on the mound he has only allowed 33 hits and 11 walks while striking out 72 batters. He has been dominant against every opponent aside from Cumberlands this spring (they talled six earned runs against him in two outings). If you remove his outings against the Patriots, he had a 1.40 ERA on the season.
Not long ago the Taylor Trojans seemed destined for a spot in the NAIA Opening Round. They had a sublime 24-6 overall record, were 13-0 in the Crossroads League standings and had advanced up to the No. 16 position in the Perfect Game rankings. However, they lost three of their next five series which concluded last week with a bitter four-game sweep at home by Saint Francis. The losses allowed upstart Indiana Wesleyan to capture the conference’s regular season title – which also earned the Wildcats an automatic berth to the NAIA tournament.
The Crossroads League traditionally isn’t going to send a trio of teams to the national tournament. With the NAIA official Top 25 only being released every two weeks, Taylor still currently is positioned No. 21 in their coaches’ poll, but that standing is likely to evaporate when the new results are posted today. It seems likely that their last opportunity to advance will be to either win the conference tournament, or have Indiana Wesleyan claim the tournament title and finish as the runner-up. In the Crossroads League the tournament runner-up will receive an automatic bid to the national championship opening round if the regular season champ also won the tourney.
Taylor will be challenged for that second spot by St. Francis, the team which recently swept them and is tied with them for second in the conference standings, as well as Huntington, a club which the Trojans took three-of-four from, but has consistently been in the “receiving votes” category just outside the rankings this season. The Trojans’ upcoming series with Marion this weekend is important for their postseason prospects as another series loss could drop them down to the fourth seed for the bracket. That would set up a much earlier meeting against Indiana Wesleyan who is hosting the tournament.
|1||1||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||43-4||4-1|
|5||7||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||32-9||3-0|
|6||5||Central Methodist Eagles||MO||38-5||5-1|
|8||6||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||OK||39-5||2-2|
|9||9||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||ID||35-3||4-0|
|10||11||Indiana Southeast Grenadiers||IN||36-13||4-0|
|11||19||LSU Shreveport Pilots||LA||28-12||5-0|
|14||25||William Carey Crusaders||MS||30-10||5-0|
|15||17||Oklahoma City Stars||OK||28-13||2-1|
|16||NR||Antelope Valley Pioneers||CA||17-3||3-0|
|17||12||Benedictine Mesa Redhawks||AZ||25-10||1-3|
|20||20||Hope International Royals||CA||24-12||0-0|
|21||23||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||32-17||2-1|
|22||18||Middle Georgia State Knights||GA||30-15||2-2|
|24||24||Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats||IN||39-12||3-1|
Dropped: No. 14 Reinhardt
The Tornadoes were a win away from advancing to the D-III CWS in 2019, but fell to the eventual national champion Chapman in the Super Regionals. A stellar pitching staff with twin aces was predicted to make CTX a contender once again, but the season has not played out as expected.
Matt Williams and Calvin Bush were both All-Americans in 2019. Williams is the school’s winningest pitcher in history and Bush shares the program’s single-season strikeout record. They were slated to hurl the team into title contention, but have only managed to throw a combined 9 2/3 innings this spring. Both missed on-field action until April, but have seen action as of late. Williams started and threw three innings Sunday against Howard Payne and Bush pitched an inning of relief Tuesday against Southwestern. While the team is still respectable without them – they have an 18-10 record and have qualified for the American Southwest Conference Championship Tournament – their inclusion on the action is paramount to keep the Tornadoes’ postseason prospects alive.
The Tornadoes are not a prototypical bubble team as if the season ended today they most certainly would not be in consideration for an at-large bid. Louisiana College, UT Dallas and East Texas Baptist are in a near-tie atop conference standings and each would receive an invite before CTX. Instead, Concordia’s potential bubble is to their national title aspirations. They have a talented team that still has championship-winning ability, but they will have to earn their invite and opportunity by winning the ASC tournament.
Spalding’s 19-12 record isn’t especially impressive at face value, but the Eagles have played a daunting schedule and demonstrated that they can compete with any club at the D-III level. Over one-third of their 27 games played have been against teams currently ranked in the Perfect Game top-15. That includes eight contests against the combined No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the nation (WashU and Webster), as well as a game against fifth-ranked North Central and one contest against No. 14 Adrian. They also played a pair against a quality NAIA opponent.
Admittedly the Eagles’ record in their 10 outings against ranked teams has been stellar, they are merely 3-7, but the overwhelming majority of the contests have been reasonably close. They even scored two runs in two innings when facing Mo Hanley, the Adrian pitcher who was named to the Golden Spikes Award Watch List at the beginning of the season.
Last weekend, Eagles pitchers threw shutouts in three of four games against Blackburn, one of which was a nine-inning no-hitter thrown by Peyton Hood. It was Hood’s third complete game of the season. In 38 2/3 innings he has only allowed 11 singles (.091 B/AVG) with 46 strikeouts. SU’s other top hurler, Jack Parisi, has struck out 71 batters in 51 innings and earned a 1.76 ERA.
The Eagles are currently 17-3 in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with their only losses being to Webster. Should the Gorlocks win the SLIAC tournament and block SU from receiving an automatic bid, it unfortunately seems likely that the Eagles won’t receive an at-large bid due to their unimpressive record. However, should the committee make their decision on quality of wins and strength of schedule rather than winning percentage, the Eagles have earned a spot.
|5||6||North Central Cardinals||IL||23-5||4-0|
|8||7||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||VA||20-8||3-1|
|9||9||Cortland State Red Dragons||NY||18-4||3-1|
|13||12||North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishops||NC||26-6||3-1|
|17||16||Southern Maine Huskies||ME||16-8||2-2|
|18||20||Washington & Jefferson Presidents||PA||27-1||4-0|
|19||21||Johns Hopkins Blue Jays||MD||3-Sep||2-0|
|20||NR||Texas Lutheran Bulldogs||TX||22-10||3-1|
|23||14||Cal Lutheran Kingsmen||CA||5-Mar||1-2|
|25||25||Christopher Newport Captains||VA||16-7||1-0|
Dropped: No. 18 UMass-Boston