After a month of play there has yet to be a change in the No. 1 team in either of the three small school divisions. The trio of clubs in the pole position are a combined 32-3 with Angelo State and Tennessee Wesleyan firmly controlling their respective divisions. The Webster Gorloks’ claim to the No. 1 position in D-III is less secure, but no team in the division is threatening their status at this point.
Aside from a complete and utter embarrassing performance on the diamond, most teams are given a great degree of latitude at this point. Clubs have been weighed more on potential than performance. Hence why teams such as Freed-Hardeman and Indiana Southeast remain in the Top 25 of the NAIA despite their less than sultry 17-18 combined record. Both are unquestionably better than their record demonstrates and their outcomes are attributed to slow starts rather than their level of ability.
Typically the scales of weighing capability vs. execution tip in conjunction with the beginning of daylight savings time, which is this weekend. From here on out if a team has an underwhelming performance on the diamond, it will be given more credence that rather than them just having a bad series, they simply aren’t as good as advertised. With that, teams won’t only be penalized for bad results, but even much more credit when they perform well.
It looked like top-ranked Tennessee Wesleyan would suffer their first setback of the season as they were down by a run in the bottom of the ninth to third-ranked Cumberlands. However, NAIA home run pace-setter Gary Mattis launched a gargantuan two-run blast to deep center for a walk-off win. The homer not only kept the Bulldogs undefeated, it handed the Patriots their first loss of the year.
Despite the loss, UC didn’t lose any ground in the rankings, nor did any other team in the top seven positions. The lone adjustment in the top-10 was a flip-flop of Bryan and Georgia Gwinnett. Both the Lions and Grizzlies played in a series with a fellow Top 25 opponent. Bryan won two of three on the road against 19th-ranked Reinhardt, who faced a top-10 opponent for the second weekend in a row, and Georgia Gwinnett split a series with previously 14th-ranked Middle Georgia State.
One of Middle Georgia State’s wins against GGC was credited to Garrett Martin. In his third game in a row against a ranked opponent, Martin fanned 10 to raise his total to 43 in only 29 innings of action. His ability is a major reason the Knights have steadily climbed in the rankings each of the past three weeks.
The biggest rating casualty on the week was suffered by Campbellsville. The Tiger’s pitching staff performed admirably as they only allowed a total of six runs over three games, but their offense struggled severely as they were shut out twice by Bethel and ultimately swept by the Wildcats. The losses dropped CU from No. 11 to No. 22. The Tigers will be looking to claw back in the win column this week with games against Rio Grande and Martin Methodist.
The biggest single game casualty occurred to Benedicine Mesa. The Redhawks were leading Park-Gilbert 17-4 after six innings, but their pitchers inexplicably gave up five runs in each of the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to squander the substantial lead. The disheartening loss was their only action of the week and dropped BenU a spot to the No. 14 position.
While Bellevue has struggled early over the past several seasons, the Bruins have looked good out of the gate this season. Their successful start will be challenged this week with contests against Southeastern and St. Thomas.
Previously 23rd-ranked Central Baptist was swept by William Carey, which included a shutout and mercy rule loss. As a result, the Crusaders joined the Top 25 this week to take the place of the struggling Mustangs.
Freed-Hardeman, who started the season in the top-five, won two of three over Shawnee State and precariously remain in the rankings. Their upcoming series with Pikeville should put them over .500 for the first time since early February.
|1||1||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||17-0||4-0|
|7||7||LSU Shreveport Pilots||LA||5-3||0-0|
|9||8||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||12-6||2-2|
|10||10||Central Methodist Eagles||MO||13-2||3-0|
|12||14||Middle Georgia State Knights||GA||13-6||2-2|
|13||15||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||12-7||3-1|
|14||13||Benedicine Mesa Redhawks||AZ||8-5||0-1|
|15||16||Oklahoma City Stars||OK||10-6||4-1|
|16||17||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||OK||12-2||1-0|
|17||18||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||ID||14-2||4-0|
|20||NR||William Carey Crusaders||MS||9-2||3-0|
|25||25||Indiana Southeast Grenadiers||IN||9-10||4-0|
Dropped Out: Central Baptist Mustangs
Top-ranked Angelo State won two of three on the road against Lubbock Christian and moved to 11-2 overall on the season. Only once this season has Rams’ outfielder Josh Elvir not reached base at least twice in a game. He had six hits and four walks over the weekend to raise his on-base percentage to a lofty .641 for the season. ASU is far from a one-man gang, which justifies their continued claim to the No. 1 position. As a team the Rams are hitting .355 and have earned 99 walks and an inconceivable 42 HBPs to amass a .506 OB% as a team. The incendiary offense is also averaging well over three stolen bases per contest. ASU hosts a sub .500 Texas A&M International Dustdevil club this weekend and should have no problem laying claim to being the top team in the division for another week.
Despite six teams in the D-II Top 25 not playing a game last week, there were still a number of notable outcomes on the diamond.
Second-ranked Colorado Mesa only managed to play a pair of games, but they made on the most of the action. The Mavericks traveled over to the east side of the Rockies to play Adams State. CMU scored in 15 of 18 innings and totaled 56 runs in two lopsided wins. Mesa rapped out 59 hits with 29 of them going for extra bases. Their four game home series with Colorado School of Mines should prove to be a better matchup this weekend.
Eighth-ranked Augustana scored 50 runs in their four game road sweep of Cameron. It was the first games of the season for the 2018 National Champions. In the series finale, Viking pitchers earned a school record 18 strikeouts. The record performance was bolstered with an anomaly in the final inning. Thomas Bruss struck out two of the first three Aggie batters, but both runners advanced safely on passed balls. The Cameron club was able to load the bases, but Bruss struck out the next three batters swinging to end the game. The NCAA does not keep a record for strikeouts in an inning at the D-II level, but it has happened twice at the D-I level. It last occurred in 2003 when UNC Wilmington’s Will Hunt accomplished the feat against Coastal Carolina.
In a matchup of two teams ranked in the top-20, 12th-ranked West Texas won two of three against 16th-positioned UT Tyler. The Patriots were outhit in the opener, but scored a pair of runs late to take the contest. The Buffs’ lineup, which doesn’t generate a lot of pop, but is extremely aggressive on the base paths and solid on defense, propelled the team to wins in the next two games to take the series. UT Tyler, who won the D-III title in 2018, is playing their first full season against D-II competition and proving to be up to the challenge. Their only losses this season have been to WT and top-ranked Angelo State.
|1||1||Angelo State Rams||TX||11-2||2-1|
|2||2||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||5-1||2-0|
|3||3||North Greenville Crusaders||SC||12-3||5-1|
|5||5||Mount Olive Trojans||NC||10-1||3-1|
|6||6||Central Missouri Mules||MO||9-4||3-0|
|7||7||Georgia College Bobcats||GA||8-2||3-1|
|9||9||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||6-2||3-0|
|10||10||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||2-1||0-0|
|12||12||West Texas A&M Buffs||TX||12-3||2-1|
|13||13||North Georgia Nighthawks||GA||1–5||1-2|
|14||14||Southern Arkansas Muleriders||AR||5-4||1-2|
|15||15||Azusa Pacific Cougars||CA||2-1||0-0|
|16||16||Texas Tyler Patriots||TX||8-4||1-2|
|19||19||Nova Southeastern Sharks||FL||0-0||0-0|
|20||20||East Stroudsburg Warriors||PA||0-0||0-0|
|21||22||UNC Pembroke Braves||NC||8-4||2-2|
At the D-III level the story is still unfortunately more about action off the field than on it.
Thirteen of the schools in the Top 25 didn’t take to the diamond last week. For a few of the baker’s dozen it was the result of open dates on the schedule, but for the bulk of the bunch it was due to conferences still struggling to determine the best course of action for the welfare of their athletes. While the situation remains fluid, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Chapman and Cal Lutheran, winners of two of the last three national titles, as well as Cortland, the 2015 champion, have had their 2021 playing schedules curtailed and delayed. Chapman and Cal Lutheran both play in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference where it seems likely that some of the members will forgo this season as they don’t even have students on campus. However, it does appear that both the Panthers and Kingsmen will take to the diamond either late this month or in early April. It is anticipated that both will be able to play and meet the NCAA minimum requirements to be eligible for the postseason. That is superb news as both teams have legitimate national title aspirations. Chapman, the reigning national title holder, is ranked 12th and the Kingsmen are positioned fifth overall.
Cortland was originally slated to have one of the most competitive and exciting schedules in the nation before COVID ruined the plans. The perennial powerhouse would have played Salisbury, John Hopkins and Randolph Macon – all teams in the Top 25, as well as a trip west to play California schools; however, now it appears their dance card will only contain fellow schools from New York. Details are still being hammered out for the schools in the State University of New York Athletic Conference, but it is anticipated that Cortland and the other clubs will get to play at least 28 games with a dozen conference matchups.
The outlook isn’t as bright for the aforementioned Johns Hopkins and their Centennial Conference brethren. They’ll get to play in 2021, but their schedule will be substantially abbreviated. The continuing pandemic response will limit eight Centennial teams to playing seven doubleheaders for a total of 14 games this spring. As of now there will not be any non-conference play for any of the schools, but that could change.
There still was notable action on the diamond last week. Top-ranked Webster had a perfect week (albeit barely) as they had three narrow wins over the tandem of Wartburg and Benedictine. North Central, the sixth-ranked team, outscored Ripon 24-1 to start their season. The Cardinals will play two other ranked teams, Adrian and Spalding, this weekend. Ninth-ranked Concordia held a pitching clinic against LeTourneau as the Tornados’ staff only allowed the Yellow jackets to score a single earned run in a double-header to complete the sweep.
|2||2||Southern Maine Huskies||ME||0-1||0-0|
|3||3||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||VA||1-2||1-2|
|5||5||Cal Lutheran Kingsmen||CA||0-0||0-0|
|6||6||North Central Cardinals||IL||2-0||2-0|
|8||8||Cortland State Red Dragons||NY||0-0||0-0|
|11||11||Texas Lutheran Bulldogs||TX||5-2||3-1|
|13||13||Johns Hopkins Blue Jays||MD||0-0||0-0|
|22||22||Heidelberg Student Princes||OH||0-0||0-0|
|23||23||Concordia University Chicago Cougars||IL||0-0||0-0|
|25||25||Christopher Newport Captains||VA||3-1||3-1|