Ranking teams is much like playing the stock market. Schools are studied and scrutinized in an effort to determine which teams are on the rise and who is prone for a collapse. Teams that are rising in the rankings are one’s to invest in. Clubs that are dropping are schools whose overall evaluations are fading and investors need to be wary of if they don’t want to lose on their investments.
Figuring out who’s hot and who’s not is fairly simple as anyone can look at box scores and read winning percentages, however, projecting how teams’ outcomes correlate to their potential and ability is where the rubber meets the road. The trick is evaluating teams and making educated guesses as to who would beat who if the teams were to meet face to face. Where teams have been is important, but where they’ll be is much more riveting.
Sticking with the stock market analogy, this week with each division a prediction is made of a school who’s stock is on the rise, one who’s fortunes are ripe to fall as well as a pair of conference rivals who are headed in opposite directions. Get your small school stockbroker on speed dial and check out the projections for each to make a killing in the market.
Rankings are based on games through Sunday, April 16.
NCAA Division II
BUY: Georgia College Bobcats
Georgia College has one of the hottest hitting teams despite playing a schedule chock full of competitiveness. As a team the Bobcats are batting a lofty .352, nearly 10 points higher than anyone else nationally and 20 points above anyone else in the Peach Belt Conference. With PBC home run leader Brandon Benson, who has mashed 18 balls over the wall, and Logan Mattix, who has popped another dozen himself, GC also is in the top five nationally in slugging percentage at .543. The Bobcats are one of the few teams that can also tout a road win over top-ranked Tampa.
Despite the ‘Cats’ offensive prowess, it’s hard to justify going all in quite yet on their chances for a deep postseason run. The staff ERA is 4.73, which even in the offensive happy PBC is a bit robust; it’s a full run and some change higher than conference mate North Georgia. In fact, the Bobcats have one pitcher who has started at least five games with a sub 5.00 mark. Nevertheless, they’ve gotten it done so far and don’t need to dominate as long as the high-octane offense continues to rack up runs.
SELL: Azusa Pacific Cougars
Last weekend the Cougars nearly doubled their loss total after losing three of four to Cal Baptist. While their 31-7 record remains the envy of nearly all, their lofty winning percentage has been built without a single victory over a ranked opponent. Their only pseudo-noteworthy win to date was a 13-3 victory over St. Cloud State back at a round robin invitational in early March. The Cougars complete their regular season with series against Point Loma, Concordia and Dixie State, who aside from the Lancers last week, are their three toughest opponents to date.
Statistically the Cougars look very good, and Pablo O’Connor is an absolute beast with his .428 batting average and 16 home runs, but it will be interesting to see if their numbers slip against more stout pitching staffs and formidable offensive foes. Bearing an absolute collapse the Cougars won’t drop out of the Top 25, and it wouldn’t be unfathomable to see them win each of their upcoming series, but it would be a surprise to see them continue to roll in each as they’ve done the first half of the season.
TRADE: Northwood Timberwolves for Wayne State Warriors
The Warriors were a preseason top 20 selection, but a mediocre 8-7 start jettisoned them early from the rankings. After going 14-2 since, heading into last weekend WSU had reclaimed their spot among the elite and were in a position to secure it with a strong series showing against upstart Northwood. Nonetheless, it was the ‘Wolves that won the series, which included 15-0 and 20-11 man-handlings of the Warriors. With that Northwood now has the upper hand and momentum in the GLIAC, which also makes them the favorite in the Midwest Region.
The Wolves are a balanced club which leads the GLIAC in batting average and ERA and isn’t far behind in fielding either. David Vinsky has been stellar as a freshman, leading the team with a .453 average, which places him fifth in the nation. The ‘Wolves pitching staff has an envious trio of proficient starting pitchers in Ian Dimitrie, Tyler Jandron and Matt Pearsall who make them an arduous opponent in the postseason.
|2||2||North Georgia Nighthawks||GA||32-8||3-1|
|3||3||Chico State Wildcats||CA||31-7||3-0|
|4||4||Emporia State Hornets||KS||31-8||4-0|
|6||6||USC Aiken Pacers||SC||30-11||3-1|
|7||7||Angelo State Rams||TX||26-8||3-0|
|8||8||Dixie State Trailblazers||UT||29-9||0-0|
|9||10||Lubbock Christian Chaparrals||TX||29-10||3-0|
|10||12||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||30-8||4-0|
|11||14||Mount Olive Trojans||NC||37-7||4-0|
|12||9||Azusa Pacific Cougars||CA||31-7||1-3|
|13||15||Florida Southern Moccasins||FL||29-8||3-0|
|14||11||UC San Diego Tritons||CA||25-10||1-3|
|15||17||Southern Arkansas Muleriders||AR||32-7||3-0|
|16||19||Delta State Statesman||MS||32-8||3-0|
|17||13||Nova Southeastern Sharks||FL||25-15||1-3|
|18||18||West Texas A&M Buffs||TX||27-9||1-1|
|19||16||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||24-5||4-2|
|20||21||Georgia College Bobcats||GA||28-10||3-1|
|21||25||West Chester Golden Rams||PA||22-6||5-0|
|23||23||Central Missouri Mules||MO||25-12||3-1|
|24||25||Belmont Abbey Crusaders||NC||26-15||1-0|
|25||22||Lynn Fighting Knights||FL||25-16||0-4|
Dropped out: Wayne State (24).
BUY: Hope International Royals
Although unranked, the Royals have been on the cusp of the Top 25 for the last several weeks. They took two from Menlo and Westmont each the last couple of weeks and are currently positioned second in the Golden State Athletic Conference, just a half-game behind Vanguard. With Arizona Christian and San Diego Christian as their upcoming foes HIU is in good position to usurp the conference regular season title from VU.
Although the Royals haven’t had many problems winning games, they’ve rarely done so convincingly and don’t have a terribly striking run differential, which powerhouse clubs typically boast. Their team batting average is an unspectacular .265 while their opposition is just behind at .260. While HIU’s long-term national prospects aren’t terribly optimistic, there is plenty of reason to believe they’ll have a strong conclusion to their regular season and should be in good position to play in the NAIA opening round. For now invest in the Royals outcomes, but cash out in early May.
SELL: Southeastern Fire
SEU has been ranked all season long and slowly climbed their way into the top five, but their winning ways were in large part to a schedule front-loaded on less-than-imposing teams. Just as SEU meticulously climbed their way up the rankings table, they’re slowly working their way back down. The past two weekends they’ve played their toughest competition and the results did not go their way – it didn’t help that they’ve been playing without some of their regular starters and their four hole was lost due to a fractured face on Saturday. The Fire lost each of their series to St. Thomas and Keiser, with only a single win, and have another tall order ahead with three games against rapidly rising Webber International.
When all is said and done the Fire will reasonably wind up where they started the season, ranked in the lower 20’s. They’re still a top half of The Sun Conference team, which means they have the ability to go far in the extended postseason, but their overall ceiling has been lowered the last couple of weeks. They’ll need a little bit more luck to pair with their talent and win a couple of games they shouldn’t if they’re to make it to Lewiston.
TRADE: Mobile Rams for Faulkner Eagles
After starting the season ranked 10th, the Eagles have been a top-three team all season long and spent nearly a month in the NAIA pole position. The last couple weeks however has given a bit of trepidation to their likelihood of making a repeat trip to Lewiston as Faulkner has gone 3-4 over their last seven to double their season loss total. Undeniably the Eagles are one of NAIA’s best, but another team in their conference is in a position to steal some of their spotlight.
Mobile has quietly put together a respectable season, earning 33 wins to date and are fourth in the competitive Southern States Athletic Conference. While they may not be up to the overall caliber of fellow SSAC teams Faulkner and Middle Georgia State, the Rams have shown they have the ability to compete and could steal a win from anyone in the country. They have a series win over William Carey and played Middle Georgia State close in three defeats. The Rams’ ultimate proving ground will come at the end of the season when they host Faulkner. If they’re able manage a win, or somehow take the series, it would boost their postseason impetus where anything can happen.
|1||1||Oklahoma City Stars||OK||40-5||3-0|
|3||3||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||OK||38-8||3-0|
|5||7||Webber International Warriors||FL||35-9||4-0|
|6||8||Northwestern Ohio Racers||OH||32-10||3-0|
|7||6||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||31-14||2-2|
|9||9||Middle Georgia State Knights||GA||35-12||3-1|
|10||10||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||34-14||4-0|
|12||12||Missouri Baptist Spartans||MO||31-11||4-1|
|13||13||Texas Wesleyan Rams||TX||32-11||4-0|
|14||14||Indiana Tech Warriors||IN||31-9||4-0|
|15||15||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||31-16||3-1|
|18||19||Central Methodist Eagles||MO||32-8||6-1|
|20||17||William Carey Crusaders||MS||29-14||2-3|
|24||25||British Columbia Thunderbirds||BC||26-10||4-0|
Dropped out: Menlo (22).
NCAA Division III
BUY: La Roche Redhawks
La Roche started the season 3-5, but it was a much better beginning of the spring than their record showed. The first of those two losses were by a mere three runs on the road against currently top-ranked Shenandoah, and each of their other losses were by narrow margins as well. Since a slim midweek defeat at Baldwin Wallace at the end of March, the Redhawks have won 12 in a row, which includes a pair of shutouts and eight wins by at least five runs.
The Redhawks finished last season in the top 10 as they won the AMCC Conference regular season and tournament titles, along with a school-record 43 games, and this team is playing up to Coach Rowe’s preseason prediction that they’d be even better this spring. Currently they are hitting nearly .100 points higher than their opponents (.348 to .251) and are scoring nearly five more runs per game. David Lemley has been one of the division’s best hitters on the season with his .467 batting average and 20 extra-base hits. The Redhawks are not a team any club will want to see in their postseason bracket.
SELL: Roanoke Maroons
The Maroons had been a satisfying surprise as of early April with their at-the-time record of 21-8, a remarkable record for a program who last year had only their second season with more wins than losses since the program’s inception 15 years ago. Roanoke dropped both ends of a doubleheader last weekend, which is excusable as any team can have a down day, but they’ll have to be at their absolute best the next couple of weeks with upcoming contests against a very good Washington and Lee team and a very, very, very good Randolph-Macon club. Those two teams are combined 44-17 and the Yellow Jackets are a top 10 ballclub. The Maroon will somehow have to avoid a late season swoon if they are going to continue their extraordinary season.
TRADE: North Central College Cardinals for Augustana Vikings
The Vikings started the season winning 16 of 18 to garner national attention and rankings accolades, but have since gone 5-5 and currently are on the verge of falling out of the Top 25. In early April they were swept by the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin preseason favorite North Central in a three-game series. It was a surprising outcome considering the underachieving Cardinals had lumbered out of the 2017 gate with a 7-7 record headed into the matchup.
With that series sweep the NCC Cardinals are still now only a slightly more respectable 12-9 overall, but their 8-2 conference record tops the CCIW standings and is much more in line with their ability. Much of last season’s second-straight conference winning roster is back for North Central so they could just be a late bloomer this spring. Michael Mateja has been playing at an All-American level with a .417 batting average and six doubles, five triples and 11 stolen bases in only 84 at-bats. If NCC’s pitchers can get their ERA down to a more reasonable level (it’s well over two runs higher than last season), the Cardinals should easily win the conference once again.
|3||3||Cortland State Red Dragons||NY||26-5||4-0|
|5||5||Wooster Fighting Scots||OH||19-5||3-1|
|7||7||Oswego State Lakers||NY||19-7||4-1|
|8||8||Tyler Texas Patriots||TX||28-5||0-0|
|10||11||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||VA||23-8||3-1|
|12||12||La Roche Redhawks||PA||21-6||3-0|
|14||16||Johns Hopkins Blue Jays||MD||24-6||4-0|
|16||19||UT Dallas Comets||TX||25-8||3-1|
|17||22||St. John Fisher Cardinals||NY||18-6||3-0|
|21||20||Cal Lutheran Kingsmen||CA||22-9||1-3|
|23||21||Christopher Newport Captains||VA||25-13||2-1|
|24||NR||Salve Regina Seahawks||RI||20-4||3-0|
Dropped out: UW La Crosse (18), Roanoke (21).
Originally appeared on Perfect Game website: https://www.perfectgame.org/Articles/View.aspx?article=13796