With today being the last day of March, the college baseball season is at an unofficial half-way point. The weekly rankings provide a quick and easy opportunity to determine who the top teams are, but it’s not as easy to gauge who this spring’s top individual performers are. Consequently, along with each division’s updated Top 25, a trio of players are highlighted for their outstanding output on the diamond. If they are able to continue their strong seasons at the high level they are at currently, they may play themselves out of college and into a professional opportunity.
Not to discredit the players listed in the D-III section, but with much of the division having a delayed start (a number of teams still haven’t played yet) it was a bit of a task to find some worthy candidates. Nevertheless, the trio of players at each of the small school levels undoubtedly are worthy of endless acclaim for their performances so far this spring.
Livan Reinoso, Erksine
The Erskine Flying Fleet didn’t play over the weekend, but Livan Reinoso continued to build upon his strong 2021 campaign with an impressive performance in a midweek doubleheader against Barton. The junior third baseman’s four hits in 10 at-bats against the Bulldogs actually lowered his batting average for the season. Incredibly, even if he had hit .500 over the twin bill, his batting average would have been lowered as he is hitting an astonishing .520 on the season. His hit portfolio includes eight doubles, a triple and 11 home runs to amass a gargantuan .950 slugging percentage, which is second only to Montana State’s Daniel Cipriano. Reinoso has a hit in 23 of 24 games this season and has reached base safely in every contest.
Reinoso starred for the Chesapeake Community College Skipjacks before transferring to Erskine last season. His numbers during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign were similar to this year which resulted in him hammering 20 home runs over his past 45 games played with a .489 batting average. Should he continue his torrid hitting, he could become Erksine’s third player in school history to be named the National Player of the Year, following most recently the success of Bryan Fogle, who earned the honor in 2010.
Haydn McGeary, Colorado Mesa
A very, very good argument could be made to proclaim Colorado Mesa as the No. 1 team in D-II over Angelo State, as the second-stationed Mavericks have been absolutely annihilating competition. The team as a whole is batting .403 and slugging .709, but that shouldn’t diminish the outstanding effort by 6-foot-5 slugging catcher Haydn McGeary. In 18 games this season he is batting a lofty .528 with 21 extra-base hits to compile a mammoth 1.083 slugging percentage. Like Reinoso, McGeary has a hit in every game this season except one, and also like Reinoso, McGeary did manage to safely reach base via a walk in the lone failed outing. This past weekend he added seven hits and a pair of home runs to his growing total. Against Adams State last Saturday, McGeary hit for the cycle and had seven RBI to lead a Mav shellacking of the Grizzlies.
McGeary’s statistical supremacy this spring is hardly a surprise. In his first two seasons he batted a combined .387 with 20 home runs over 59 games. It’s easy to imagine his already prolific numbers this season could have even been more monumental had he had the opportunity to play the entire schedule last spring and summer. Instead of honing his game in the New England Collegiate Baseball League as anticipated, he worked out at home in Phoenix and earned hours working at the local Wal-Mart.
Zach Parish, Missouri Southern
Last week, Missouri Southern’s Zach Parish held Fort Hays State to a single hit over five innings and lowered his ERA to a minuscule 1.25. Over 43 1/3 innings on the mound this season, the fifth-year senior has only allowed a scant 28 hits while striking out 63 batters for a phenomenal 13.08 K/9 ratio. He is a major reason MSSU is 18-3 on the season and steadily climbing in the rankings. Their upcoming series with Central Missouri has major implications for not only the top of the conference standings, but a potential hosting opportunity for the postseason.
Like the other players mentioned, Parish’s excellence of execution this season is not a surprise. He was the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Pitcher of the Year in 2019 when he pitched 101 innings for the Lions and finished with a 2.85 ERA and 136 strikeouts. Last season he threw a no-hitter against the University of Mary in one of his six outings, was the MIAA Pitcher of the Week twice and became the conference’s career leader in strikeouts. Prior to 2019, he pitched two years at conference rival Northeastern State where he struck out 159 batters in 153 2/3 innings.
|1||1||Angelo State Rams||TX||17-3||3-1|
|2||2||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||16-2||4-0|
|4||4||Mount Olive Trojans||NC||19-6||4-1|
|5||5||Central Missouri Mules||MO||18-4||3-0|
|6||6||North Greenville Crusaders||SC||20-6||3-0|
|7||7||West Texas A&M Buffs||TX||21-3||3-0|
|10||10||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||11-1||3-0|
|12||12||Azusa Pacific Cougars||CA||14-3||3-1|
|13||14||UNC Pembroke Braves||NC||19-5||4-0|
|14||13||North Georgia Nighthawks||GA||18-7||3-1|
|15||16||Southern Arkansas Muleriders||AR||15-5||3-0|
|16||18||Missouri Southern St. Lions||MO||18-3||3-0|
|17||17||Texas Tyler Patriots||TX||16-7||3-1|
|19||22||Metro State Roadrunners||CO||18-2||3-1|
|20||NR||West Florida Argos||FL||20-5||3-0|
|22||21||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||12-7||3-1|
|24||NR||Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars||IL||14-2||4-0|
|25||NR||Seton Hill Griffins||PA||12-0||4-0|
Dropped Out: No. 15 Georgia College, No. 20 Carson Newman, No. 24 East Stroudsburg
Gary Mattis Jr, Tennessee Wesleyan
Whatever word you select to describe the offensive output of TWU’s Gary Mattis Jr, it would be impossible for it to be an overstatement of his ability. He has been nothing short of phenomenal to lead the top-ranked Bulldogs. In only 94 at-bats this season, he has hit 16 home runs with six doubles and a triple to amass a 1.043 slugging percentage. This past weekend he helped TWU continue to keep its stranglehold on the No. 1 position by earning five hits and six runs in 13 at-bats against Truett McConnell. Mattis hasn’t been padding his stats against patsies either. The Bulldogs have played one of the most strenuous schedules, with half of their games being against ranked competition. In just one of his many memorable outings this spring, he hit a bottom of the ninth walk-off home run to give the TWU the come-from-behind win over third-ranked Cumberlands.
Mattis has had an extremely high ceiling since high school, when he was named one the top players of his graduating class. He spent a season at Florida Atlantic where he batted .344 over 24 games with five home runs. In a monumental game against Bethune-Cookman, he went 4-5 with a grand slam and tallied eight RBI. He also spent a season at Gateway Community College where he earned All-American honors before moving on to TWU. In 17 games before COVID ended the 2020 season, Mattis was hitting .446 with 12 extra-base hits in 65 at-bats.
Luis Vargas, Wayland Baptist
After a sensational 2020 season, Vargas was much ballyhooed coming into 2021. In addition to Preseason All-American accolades, he was one of only five players from a non-NCAA Division I school named to the Golden Spikes Award Watch List. The hulking 6-foot-5 outfielder from the Dominican Republic has performed as forecasted, with another monster season. After going 6-for-8 and launching a ball over the wall in each of WBU’s games against Oklahoma Panhandle State last weekend, Vargas raised his season batting average to .515 and home run total to 16. He also has nine doubles and a triple to generate a 1.111 slugging percentage. He is in the top-10 of the NAIA in home runs, slugging percentage, total bases, batting average, hits and RBI.
Last season, Vargas’ numbers were similar to this season’s stats. In 30 games he hit 20 home runs and earned 51 hits in 103 at-bats. In his two seasons combined, which would be similar to the equivalent of a single season, Vargas has 102 hits in 202 at-bats for a .505 batting average and an incredible 36 home runs. In 2019, his sophomore season at Ranger Community College, Vargas batted .402 with 13 home runs, seven doubles and five triples.
Colton Williams, Oklahoma Science and Arts
It is entirely possible that Colton Williams isn’t simply the best pitcher in the NAIA this season, he may be the best pitcher in NAIA history.
Williams has been named the Sooner Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year twice and set a new NAIA record with his 27th consecutive game with a winning decision last weekend when he helped the Drovers defeat College of the Ozarks. In 2019 he was 16-0 with 136 strikeouts in 108 2/3 innings. Last season he earned a win in each of his five starts and only allowed a pair of earned runs to finish with a 0.61 ERA. In addition to having masterful strikeout pitches, he also has tremendous control and has only issued 34 walks over 175 1/3 innings. Prior to pitching for USAO, the 6-foot-5 lefty pitched at Galveston College. In 2018, he showed the signs of brilliance that are seen weekly at USAO as he had a 3.38 ERA over 50 2/3 innings with 38 strikeouts for the Whitecaps.
This season, Williams has thrown three complete games in six starts. He has thrown 37 innings and only allowed a measly 21 hits (.159 opp batting average) while striking out 57 batters. He has yet to allow more than a single earned run in an outing and has a 0.97 ERA. This upcoming weekend, Williams is slated to throw to Luis Vargas and the Wayland Baptist Pioneers.
|1||1||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||26-2||3-0|
|5||6||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||21-7||2-1|
|8||8||Central Methodist Eagles||MO||23-3||5-0|
|11||12||Middle Georgia State Knights||GA||21-9||3-1|
|12||14||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||OK||22-3||5-0|
|13||16||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||ID||22-2||4-0|
|15||15||Benedictine Mesa Redhawks||AZ||14-7||0-0|
|17||25||Indiana Southeast Grenadiers||IN||20-11||3-0|
|18||13||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||21-12||2-3|
|19||NR||Hope International Royals||CA||18-10||2-2|
|20||20||Oklahoma City Stars||OK||16-11||2-1|
|22||18||William Carey Crusaders||MS||16-7||0-3|
|25*||11||LSU Shreveport Pilots||LA||11-10||0-4|
Dropped Out: No. 24 Friends
Tyler Calvert, Berry
In 28 games played by Berry this season, Tyler Calvert has a hit in all but three of them. He is batting .444 on the season and is crushing the ball at the plate. Seventeen of his 44 hits have gone for extra bases, which breaks down to five doubles, four triples and eight home runs. His 81 total bases on the season easily outpaces anyone else in D-III. He even has 14 stolen bases to help the Vikings to a 24-4 record and entry into this week’s Perfect Game Top 25 for the first time.
Tim Van Kirk, Washington
Tim Van Kirk, the second baseman for the newly-minted top team in D-III, has earned a hit in 26 of 52 at-bats this season. He has three doubles and a pair of triples to push his slugging percentage to .635. He also has successfully swiped nine bases without getting caught. After helping the Bears earn two wins over top-10 teams last week, Van Kirk and Wash U will be looking to replicate their success in a Friday doubleheader against No. 13 Aurora.
Sam Carpenter, Piedmont
Piedmont’s Sam Carpenter is leading D-III in strikeouts with 75 in just 58 1/3 innings of work. In his eight starts this season he has totaled 58 1/3 innings and only allowed six earned runs for a 0.93 ERA. He has also impressively only issued eight walks for a teeny-tiny 0.87 WHIP. Against a highly-rated Adrian club, Carpenter struck out 13 batters in seven innings while only allowing four hits.
On the field, success is nothing new for Carpenter. The senior southpaw was named to the All-USA South First Team in both 2018 and 2019 and likely would have earned the honor again last season as he had a 0.80 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings before the season was called. Carpenter and Piedmont will face Huntingdon in a series for the second time this weekend. In his last outing against the Hawks, he limited them to two hits over seven strong innings.
|3||2||Southern Maine Huskies||ME||7-1||3-1|
|4||3||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||VA||9-3||3-0|
|6||6||North Central Cardinals||IL||9-3||2-1|
|8||5||Cal Lutheran Kingsmen||CA||0-0||0-0|
|11||11||North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishops||NC||17-3||2-1|
|15||16||Cortland State Red Dragons||NY||5-3||3-1|
|21||15||Johns Hopkins Blue Jays||MD||1-3||1-1|
|25||25||Texas Lutheran Bulldogs||TX||10-6||3-1|
Dropped Out: No. 17 Kean, No. 24 Spalding