Often the question with the national Top 25 rankings isn’t who is No. 1, but who is No. 26. It’s usually pretty simple to determine who the best team is, but determining which of a handful of worthy teams doesn’t make the cut can be an arduous task.
In addition to this week’s rankings update is the inclusion of a special bonus position – the last team out. These teams arguably have more on the line than the teams at the top of the rankings. It is almost a guarantee that every club in each division’s top-20 will be included in the invites when the national tournament is revealed, but the clubs at the tail end have to sweat out the announcement. Coincidentally, two of the three teams in the No. 26 position won the national title in 2011.
For each of these clubs is an explanation as to why they aren’t in the rankings as of yet, and what they need to do in order to make the list in future updates.
West Florida Argonauts
This season the West Florida Argos look ready to return to national title contender conversation as they are an impressive 17-5 to start their season. Their wins this spring include a sweep of an always-stubborn West Alabama team to start the season, a series win over perennial GSC power Delta State which knocked the Statesmen from the Top 25, and four victories by a double-digit margin. Unfortunately, UWF doesn’t have a signature win yet which would give them that extra shine to move them into the rankings over other teams that were considered. Their wins over DSU looked impressive at the time, but the Statesmen are currently 10-10 and in the bottom half of their conference standings. The same lack of quality wins can be claimed for Missouri Southern and Metro State, two teams that entered the Top 25 this week, but the Lions and Roadrunners résumés were just slightly more appealing.
West Florida is sound both offensively and on the mound as they are batting .303 as a team with a 3.06 ERA. While defensive fielding percentage can be a deceptive indicator of ability, they have posted a solid .974% through the first 22 games of the season.
Individual outstanding offensive performers on the club include center fielder Dylan Menhennett and first baseman Cullan O’Shea, who both transferred after excelling at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Menhennett has been having an excellent second senior season after leading the team in slugging and on-base percentage last season (.488 and .482 respectively). He is hitting .381 with four doubles and four home runs. O’Shea led the team in home runs and total bases last season and is batting .321 while pacing the team in extra-base hits.
If UWF is going to go deep into the postseason, it will likely be thanks to the pitching staff. The rotation is led by Evan Floyd, who has thrown two complete games in seven starts. He is limiting opposition to a measly .170 batting average and has a 1.47 ERA. He’s well-traveled as he has pitched at Air Force, Pensacola State and St. Louis before making the move to Pensacola. Reliever Brendon Case got high marks coming out of high school and was noted to have an excellent curveball and sinking changeup to keep batters off balance. He appeared in 13 games with two starts at Georgia State as a freshman in 2019.
The Argos’ top competition for the remainder of the regular season includes their series this week with Valdosta State and three games against rapidly-rising Lee who moved up to the No. 11 position this week. Those two clubs, along with UWF, comprise the top three in the Gulf South standings. Should the Argonauts win their series over the Blazers, provided another team falters to make room, expect UWF to rejoin the Perfect Game rankings for the first time since the end of the 2019 season, when they ended the year 10th.
|1||1||Angelo State Rams||TX||14-2||3-0|
|2||2||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||12-2||3-1|
|4||6||Mount Olive Trojans||NC||15-5||3-1|
|5||5||Central Missouri Mules||MO||15-4||3-0|
|6||3||North Greenville Crusaders||SC||17-6||2-3|
|7||11||West Texas A&M Buffs||TX||18-3||3-0|
|10||10||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||6-1||3-0|
|12||14||Azusa Pacific Cougars||CA||11-2||5-0|
|13||12||North Georgia Nighthawks||GA||15-6||2-1|
|14||15||UNC Pembroke Braves||NC||15-5||4-0|
|15||17||Georgia College Bobcats||GA||11-5||3-0|
|16||19||Southern Arkansas Muleriders||AR||12-5||4-0|
|17||16||Texas Tyler Patriots||TX||13-6||3-1|
|18||NR||Missouri Southern St. Lions||MO||15-3||2-1|
|20||21||Carson Newman Eagles||TN||15-4||4-0|
|21||7||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||9-6||0-3|
|22||NR||Metro State Roadrunners||CO||15-1||4-0|
|24||24||East Stroudsburg Warriors||PA||7-3||3-0|
Dropped Out: No. 20 Newberry Wolves, No. 25 Nova Southeastern Sharks
The Eagles have never been in the Perfect Game Top 25, but that could change next week. AU has an impressive 20-3 record, which includes quality series wins over Georgetown (currently ranked No. 23), Point Park and IU Kokomo. It’s an astonishing start for a team whose 24 wins just two seasons ago were the most since 2011 and earned them their first-ever spot in the River States Conference Tournament. Only once since the program’s inception have the Eagles earned more than 25 wins in a season; at their current pace they should achieve that mark in early April.
The AU offense doesn’t have much pop, but they hit well for average (currently batting .320) and are extremely aggressive in taking extra bases. Their patience at the plate, combined with an ability to “take one for the team”, pushes their on-base percentage to .430. The Eagles pitching staff is currently tops in the NAIA with a 2.00 ERA and holding opposition to a paltry .199 batting average.
Walker Paris, Trevor Campbell and Colton Back give Head Coach Manny Cervantes three apt batsmen in the lineup. Each of them are batting well over .400 on the season. Paris was a solid-but-unheralded prospect out of high school who spent two seasons at Vincennes University. In 13 games last season he struggled at the plate and only batted .233, but is hitting an astonishing .463 in 24 games this year. He is also leading the team with five home runs and 62 total bases while also being an important part of the team’s pitching rotation. Campbell, the team’s shortstop, batted .368 as a freshman and .446 in 18 games last year. He is besting Paris’ average by .0001 point (.42626 to .4625) and has six doubles and six triples. Back, a fifth-year senior, is finishing his college career on a high with a .405 average. That mark far exceeds his previous best as a freshman when he hit .326.
It is difficult to specifically praise any one pitcher on the team as the entire staff has been excellent this season. Nevertheless, it would be hard to argue that Tyler Morrison isn’t the best of the bunch. In his five starts this season he has thrown three complete games; two of which were shutouts. In 30 innings he has only allowed 25 hits and six walks with 31 strikeouts. His ERA is fourth in the nation at 0.60. Jacob Cervantes was ranked as the sixth-best RHP coming out of high school in Kentucky. The 6-foot-6 hurler unquestionably could have elected to pitch at a number of schools, but stayed home to pitch under his father’s continued tutelage. In nine innings spread out over 10 appearances this spring he has only allowed a single hit (although he has walked eight).
This upcoming weekend will unquestionably determine if the Eagles will be ranked next week as they travel to play a series against No. 25 Indiana Southeast. If they win at least two of three they’ll usurp the Grenadiers spot in the Perfect Game Top 25.
|1||1||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||23-2||2-2|
|6||6||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||19-6||3-0|
|8||8||Central Methodist Eagles||MO||18-2||2-0|
|11||12||LSU Shreveport Pilots||LA||11-6||4-1|
|12||10||Middle Georgia State Knights||GA||18-8||1-2|
|13||15||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||19-9||4-0|
|14||14||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||OK||16-3||0-0|
|15||13||Benedicine Mesa Redhawks||AZ||14-7||0-1|
|16||17||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||ID||18-2||4-0|
|18||18||William Carey Crusaders||MS||16-4||1-2|
|20||16||Oklahoma City Stars||OK||14-10||2-1|
|25||25||Indiana Southeast Grenadiers||IN||17-11||4-0|
Dropped Out: No. 22 Campbellsville Tigers
Had the 2020 season not been canceled it is very likely Marietta would have rejoined the Perfect Game Top 25 for the first time since May of 2018. The Pioneers had started the season with impressive wins over Johns Hopkins and Cortland and had a more than respectable 6-3 record after playing nine games in eight days during a spring break tournament which concluded just as COVID struck. It was a brilliant turnaround for a team which had a disappointing 18-21 finish in 2019. It appeared the ‘Etta Express were back to their winning ways which earned them back-to-back national championships in 2011 and 2012. The ‘12 title was the school’s sixth overall.
The re-energized Marietta club has jumped out to a 7-1 start this year with each of their victories being by a grotesquely lopsided margin. In their seven wins the Pioneers outscored their opposition by a combined score of 99-11. Their only loss was by a one-run margin in their final game last week.
Despite those impressive box scores, Marietta remains on the rankings outskirts as they’ll have to demonstrate they can continue to win games against additional competitors as their eight games have only been played against two teams. The bulk of their 99 runs were scored in four wins against Capital University which is not known for its baseball prowess. The other three wins were against Ohio Northern, which is a very solid program, and impressive enough to put them on the cusp of inclusion in the Perfect Game Top 25.
The Pioneers should have no problems adding to their win total this week with a series against Wilmington. The Quakers have not had a winning season since 2005 and only earned single wins in 10 of the last 11 seasons. After that, Marietta will face John Caroll for four games before another quartet of matchups against Capital. While the Express’ schedule won’t allow them to impress with quality wins, they can earn favor in quantity and continued dominance.
While Marietta may not be the team they were ten years ago, they definitely appear ready to challenge for a national title once again.
|2||2||Southern Maine Huskies||ME||4-0||4-0|
|3||3||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||VA||6-3||2-1|
|5||5||Cal Lutheran Kingsmen||CA||0-0||0-0|
|6||6||North Central Cardinals||IL||7-2||3-1|
|11||20||North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishops||NC||15-2||4-0|
|15||13||Johns Hopkins Blue Jays||MD||0-2||0-2|
|16||8||Cortland State Red Dragons||NY||2-2||2-2|
|25||18||Texas Lutheran Bulldogs||TX||7-5||1-1|
Dropped Out: No. 22 Heidelberg Student Princes, No. 25 Christopher Newport Captains