This week seems to have an unprecedented number of big time matchups with several ranked teams colliding in each of the three small school divisions. These matchups don’t just joggle the rankings outlook going forward, but also have considerable impact for each team’s postseason prospects going forward as they compete for conference and national tournament seeding and hosting opportunities.
With the latest rankings update, a marquee matchup from each of the three divisions is featured. In two of the three a top-ranked team is involved, meaning there is an opportunity for a major rankings reshuffle if the favorite doesn’t win the series.
Angelo State has been the undisputed top team in the Perfect Game D-II rankings, not just for this season, but the entirety of the COVID shortened 2020 campaign as well. The position is well deserved as the Rams have gone 39-6 over that time span. Fueled by an aggressive offense which hits for power and runs with speed, the Rams have accumulated a double-digit run total in 25 of those contests. The pitching staff, while not quite as imposing as the everyday lineup, has been impressive as well, especially this spring. While their strikeouts total was staggering last year (228 in 176 innings), ASU’s team ERA was a bloated 4.70. That total has decreased significantly as they’ve earned an exceptional 3.23 mark so far this season.
The Ram’s schedule this spring, while low on cupcakes, hasn’t been a murder’s row of competition either. The only currently-ranked club they’ve faced this year is No. 15 UT Tyler, who the Rams defeated in a series to start the year. While the Pats did manage to win a game against Angelo State, the Rams did outscore UTT by an overall margin of 26-4. ASU’s only other competition against a team which has been in the rankings this season was Wayland Baptist. WBU started the year No. 21 in the NAIA; however, the Pioneers were expunged from the Top 25 following their three-game series with ASU, in part due to the overwhelming victory by the Rams. Angelo State won each game via mercy rule and outscored WBU 48-7.
The Rams are led by Josh Elvir, who is hitting .451 over 100 games with 39 home runs in his career. While he is certainly the most prolific bat in the order, there are plenty of additional avenues for offense. Sophomore Jordan Williams is also batting over .404 and Nick Seginowich and Aaron Walters are both soundly slugging over .600. As a team, ASU is hitting .351 and have compiled 158 walks to maintain an inconceivable .491 team on-base percentage. On the mound, Benjamin Elder and Trent Baker have a combined 12-0 record and 1.62 and 2.21 ERA respectively. In 85 2/3 innings the duo has only walked 14 batters while striking out 85.
Meanwhile, West Texas A&M has put together a solid season of their own. After starting the year just outside the top-10, the Buffs earned their way into the top-10 three weeks ago and currently are positioned seventh in D-II. Like Angelo State, West Texas hasn’t had a taxing schedule, but have had solid competition every week. When the Buffs matched up with ranked UT Tyler last month, the end result was the same as ASU, with WT winning two of three and having their sole setback being by a single run.
Like ASU, WT’s lineup thrives on hitting the ball hard and taking an extra base. In 27 games this season, Buff batters have 69 doubles and 27 triples along with 64 stolen bases. Outfielder Keone Givens, who played as a true freshman at Oklahoma, is the team’s No. 1 weapon. He is batting .378 with 17 extra-base hits, 26 walks and 16 stolen bases. Ryan Johnson, a transfer from Paradise Valley Community College, has been putting up impressive numbers as well. Despite this being his first season with the Buffs, he is leading the team with a .382 batting average. Leadoff hitter Cade Engle is batting .345 on the season and has stolen 41 bases over three seasons and has only been caught twice.
Mathieu Gauthier, who spent three seasons on the roster at North Carolina State, is the team’s top hurler. In 52 2/3 innings he has compiled 68 strikeouts while only issuing 12 walks. Todd Danzeisen has been having the best season on the mound for WT statistically. His 2.10 ERA leads all starters and he has limited opposition to a .175 batting average over 34 1/3 innings. If Arizona State transfer Zach Dixon can regain his previous form, which earned him a wealth of honors his first three seasons at WT, the Buffs can be one of the few teams which can keep Angelo State bats at bay.
This weekend’s three-game series will be played at West Texas, which is a mark in WT’s favor. ASU is undefeated at home this season and suffered setbacks in three of nine games away. Meanwhile, WT is 12-1 while playing at home with their only loss being the result of an atypical inning in which the Buff’s committed three errors to allow seven unearned runs in a 14-12 loss.
|1||1||Angelo State Rams||TX||20-3||3-0|
|2||2||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||18-2||2-0|
|4||4||Mount Olive Trojans||NC||24-6||5-0|
|5||5||Central Missouri Mules||MO||21-4||3-0|
|6||6||North Greenville Crusaders||SC||21-6||1-0|
|7||7||West Texas A&M Buffs||TX||24-3||3-0|
|10||10||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||15-2||4-1|
|12||12||Azusa Pacific Cougars||CA||17-4||3-1|
|13||13||UNC Pembroke Braves||NC||22-5||3-0|
|14||15||Southern Arkansas Muleriders||AR||17-6||2-1|
|15||17||Texas Tyler Patriots||TX||18-8||2-1|
|16||20||West Florida Argos||FL||22-6||2-1|
|17||19||Metro State Roadrunners||CO||21-3||3-1|
|18||24||Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars||IL||18-2||4-0|
|19||22||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||14-8||2-1|
|20||14||North Georgia Nighthawks||GA||20-9||2-2|
|24||16||Missouri Southern St. Lions||MO||18-6||0-3|
|23||NR||Charleston Golden Eagles||WV||17-3||6-0|
|25||25||Seton Hill Griffins||PA||12-0||0-0|
Dropped Out: No. 25 Freed-Hardeman
Central Methodist started the season ranked No. 16 and have steadily moved into the eighth position. The Eagles have a dominating 26-4 record, which includes remarkable wins over Oklahoma Science and Arts and Indiana Southeast, teams which are ranked No. 5 and No. 11, respectively. They’ve also earned solid victories over top-caliber clubs Our Lady of the Lake, Bellevue and Lyon. Their three losses this season have been by a scant total of four runs. Meanwhile they’ve nearly tripled the scoring output of opposition by a combined measure of 241-85 on the year.
Offensively, few teams have been as dominating as CMU. The Eagles are batting .361 and slugging .624 – both numbers are fourth in the NAIA. They currently have a trio of hitters batting over .400. Mason Schwellenbach may be the most valuable of any player to his team in the division. Not only is he hitting a team-leading .429, but he has also earned a 2.45 ERA over 44 innings on the mound. Over his eight starts as a pitcher, he is holding opposition to a .205 batting average and has 56 strikeouts in 44 innings with only eight walks. Logan Haring is hitting .427 with a team-leading 12 home runs. Last weekend he set the program record for career hits, usurping the 15-year-old mark held by current CMU Head Coach Nate Breland. Haring also has the Eagles record for doubles, home runs, RBI and hits. Sergio Macias has increased his average from .304 in 2019 to .385 last season to .400 this spring. Like Schwellenbach, Macias also sees action on the mound and has been credited with three saves this spring.
As impressive as Schwellenbach has been on the mound, Nick Merkel has been just as good, if not better. In five starts last season he only allowed 12 hits in 26 1/3 innings while striking out 24 and finished with a 1.71 ERA. So far this season he has a 1.91 ERA and is holding opposing batters to a .196 batting average with 57 Ks over 42 1/3 innings. Kenny Otero and Dylan Brister are the team’s other two regular starters. They have a combined 10-1 record and both average a strikeout per inning.
Aside from two weeks at the No. 25 position in mid-April of 2019, William Penn has not been in the Perfect Game NAIA rankings since its inception in 2015. With a strong showing this weekend against CMU, the Statesmen will unquestionably make a return. So far this season, WPU has a 23-8 record and are second in the Heart of America’s North division behind only Clarke, a team they split a four-game conference set with to close March. The Statesmen don’t have any marquee victories so far in 2021, as their schedule hasn’t paired them with any ranked opposition, but that will change this week.
Offensively, Jarett Hunt tops a lineup which is batting .332 as a team and slugging .493. Hunt is hitting .420 and leads the club with 10 doubles. Soren Graversen wields the mightiest bat of the WPU bunch. In addition to hitting .359, he is leading the team with nine home runs, 71 total bases and a lofty .772 slugging percentage.
If the Statesmen are able to steal a game from CMU, their best chance will be when Chase Stratton is on the mound. This season he has gone the distance in five of seven starts with two shutouts. His 3.22 ERA leads the team as do his 55 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings. Brian Thomas and Teddy Natter also have the ability to get batters out. The duo has 102 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings and are holding opposition to .187 and .196 batting averages, respectively. That trio is a major reason why the Statesmen are No. 22 in the nation in opposing batting average as the staff as a whole has a .239 BAA.
As good as WPU has been this season, the Eagles will be overwhelming favorites to win the series. However, the four games will be played in Oskaloosa and will also be just the second time this year the Statesmen have played at home.
|1||1||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||30-3||4-1|
|4||5||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||26-7||5-0|
|8||8||Central Methodist Eagles||MO||26-4||4-0|
|9||12||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||OK||26-3||4-0|
|10||13||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||ID||26-2||4-0|
|11||17||Indiana Southeast Grenadiers||IN||24-11||4-0|
|13||11||Middle Georgia State Knights||GA||23-10||2-1|
|15||15||Benedicine Mesa Redhawks||AZ||15-7||1-0|
|18||19||Hope International Royals||CA||22-10||4-0|
|19||20||Oklahoma City Stars||OK||18-11||2-0|
|22||22||William Carey Crusaders||MS||19-7||3-0|
|23||18||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||24-14||3-2|
|25||25*||LSU Shreveport Pilots||LA||16-11||4-1|
Dropped Out: No. 23 Davenport
No series in small school college baseball will rival the marquee matchup in D-III this week when top-ranked Washington and second-ranked Webster play a four-game set split between the two school’s home fields. For the uninitiated, both universities are located in St. Louis and the distance between them can be traversed in 15 minutes, provided traffic doesn’t slow you down. The Bears won a mid-week matchup last month which took 12 innings to decide and featured 23 runners being left on base. The Washington win supplanted the Gorloks from the D-III pole position in the rankings.
Washington’s winning ways this season have been primarily the result of a stingy pitching staff. Over 14 games, the Bears have only allowed 18 earned runs for a 1.30 ERA. In 125 innings of action, WashU hurlers have 161 strikeouts and only allowed 76 hits and 33 walks. No pitcher on the club who has thrown more than six innings has an ERA over 2.20. While the entire staff has been magnificent, special attention must be given to senior Ryan Loutos, who has been an outstanding pitcher from his first day on campus. In 29 games over four seasons, Loutos has a 1.90 ERA and 225 strikeouts in 170 2/3 innings. In his last outing against Aurora, he ended the Spartans’ undefeated season and struck out 12 over eight innings.
Like the Bears, the Gorloks rely heavily on their pitching staff. Webster has a team 2.33 ERA and is holding opposition to a .203 batting average. In two of their three games against Eureka last weekend, Webster hurlers threw a shutout, and held the Red Devils to a single unearned run in a third contest. The staff also has three other shutouts so far this year. The ace arm for Webster belongs to Matt Mulhern, who is 6-0 in six starts in 2021. In 42 innings he has only allowed 25 hits and struck out 66 with only four walks. JT Miller and Jordan Smevoll, the team’s other two primary starters, aren’t daisies either. They have 1.46 and 1.69 ERAs, respectively, with Miller also only allowing 11 hits over 24 2/3 innings.
|3||4||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||VA||12-3||3-0|
|6||3||Southern Maine Huskies||ME||10-3||3-2|
|8||8||Cal Lutheran Kingsmen||CA||0-0||0-0|
|9||6||North Central Cardinals||IL||11-5||2-2|
|10||11||North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishops||NC||20-3||3-0|
|15||15||Cortland State Red Dragons||NY||7-3||2-0|
|21*||21||Johns Hopkins Blue Jays||MD||3-3||2-0|
|21*||NR||Washington & Jefferson Presidents||PA||14-0||2-0|
Dropped Out: No. 19 Concordia, No. 25 Texas Lutheran