Each week when the small school rankings are compiled an enormous amount of effort is made in eliminating outside opinion. Personally, I go out of my way to not pay attention to other publications’ rankings because I don’t want to be influenced by their Top 25.
Some time ago I got bit by looking at another ranking and I’ll never do it again. There was a team which I hadn’t put much stock into but they were way, way up in two other polls. This made me second guess, keeping them out of the rankings and instead of going with my research and my gut I followed the others blindly and elevated the ability of a team. That team immediately went on streak of lopsided defeats and finished the season under .500 to prove that my instinct was right and they shouldn’t have taken the spot of another deserving team. I vowed to never let that happen again.
Despite making every effort not to view other’s rankings, catching glimpses of them can be unavoidable. Releases and schedules almost always show the rankings of their opposition. When I was compiling results this past week I noticed a couple rankings which befuddled me and I had to shake my head in disbelief. “What dopes!” I’d think to myself, but then I thought, “Wait … what rankings of mine do they think are equally as comical?”
With that comes the extra content provided with this week’s rankings. I’ve broke my own golden rule and compared and contrasted the Perfect Game rankings with other publications. Doing so there were a couple of teams which I could see making someone from the outside think that perhaps the Perfect Game rankings were being drawn from a hat. So with each of the three divisions is a review of some of the more irregular entires in the rankings, schools that I personally ballyhoo, but are being seen differently from the outside.
Rankings are based on games through Sunday, March 31.
NCAA Division II
The Nighthawks, who had a banner season in 2017 when they amassed 46 wins and reached the Division II Championship, suffered a significant setback last season. They still finished with an admirable 31-22 record, but that was a far cry from the results the year before. Consequently national pollsters didn’t put much stock on UNG being as formidable as they have been this season. The Nighthawks didn’t receive a single vote in the NCBWA preseason survey and were a lowly 59th in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason picks.
Nevertheless, UNG was positioned just outside the Top 10 in the Perfect Game preseason rankings, entering at the No. 14 position. So far that prediction has proven to be apropos.
The rationale behind their Perfect Game ranking was because UNG’s deep postseason run in 2017 was on the backs of experienced upperclassman leadership. After they graduated a new wave of players took their place and performed rather admirably in their fledgling roles. The young team compiled 31 wins with barely had a senior presence on the roster. Head coach Tom Cantrell would be bringing back all but two superfluous position players this spring, along with a trio of pitchers who started 40 of UNG’s 53 games as well as their ace from their finals-reaching team.
With it only being early April, North Georgia still has much to prove they are a top five team, but they will most certainly get their opportunity in the next couple of weeks. Their upcoming schedule is an imposing gauntlet as they have a sneaky good Young Harris team on tap this weekend, visit offensive juggernaut UNC Pembroke the week after and host perennial power and second-ranked Tampa in the middle of the month.
A similar situation has unfolded for Lubbock Christian.
The Chaps entered 2019 in the 15th position in the preseason and entered the Top 10 this week following their second consecutive Heartland Conference sweep. Yet akin to the Nighthawks, pollster love has been slow to come by. LCU was 41st in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason rankings and was shutout in NCBWA early predictions.
The Chaps’ optimistic outlook headed into this spring had a different rationale than UNG’s bullish prediction. LCU won six of their final eight games last season, finished a game away from earning their first Heartland Conference Tournament title and had an agreeable 34-20 record. Those good-but-not-great numbers weren’t enough to earn an invite to the South Central Region Tournament. Endings to seasons like that can do wonders to motivate a team headed into the next season, especially when the same core is returning to campus.
With the Chaps returning five everyday players who started at least 49 games, including team MVP Andrew Pratt, their lineup was in excellent shape headed into 2019. Their offensive outlook became even more bright when they added Hill Alexander from Dallas Baptist. Nevertheless, despite a strong offense, it is the pitching which is the Chaps’ best attribute. They have four strong senior starting pitchers, which is always a blueprint for a winning season. Ace Ryan Johnson may be D-II’s most impressive pitcher. So far this season he has thrown a complete game in five of his nine starts, earned a 1.60 ERA and struck out 72 batters in 62 innings while only allowing 38 hits.
The other rankings are finally coming around to giving props to LCU, but they are still stunningly towards the back of the pack. The Chaps are 20th in the Collegiate Baseball rankings and were the last team listed in the “receiving votes” section of the latest NCBWA weekly poll.
The Chaps will have ample opportunity to show the other rankings they are worthy in the next couple of weeks. This weekend they face an upstart Oklahoma Christian club who is second behind them in the conference standings. After that they have series with St. Edward’s and Texas A&M International, two sub-.500 clubs who LCU can bully to beef up their winning percentage, the No. 1 pheromone which allures pollsters.
|1||1||North Greenville Crusaders||SC||27-7||3-0|
|3||3||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||25-5||3-1|
|5||5||North Georgia Nighthawks||GA||23-9||3-1|
|6||6||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||20-11||1-3|
|9||9||UC San Diego Tritons||CA||20-5||3-1|
|10||11||Lubbock Christian Chaparrals||TX||23-8||4-0|
|11||12||Central Missouri Mules||MO||20-9||2-0|
|12||13||West Florida Argos||FL||24-10||3-1|
|13||10||Texas A&M Kingsville Javelinas||TX||20-11||1-2|
|14||15||St. Cloud State Huskies||MN||21-3||2-0|
|15||14||West Texas A&M Buffs||TX||24-8||2-2|
|16||17||Mount Olive Trojans||NC||22-9||3-1|
|17||NR||Angelo State Rams||TX||25-7||2-2|
|19||22||Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars||IL||18-7-1||3-0|
|20||24||Southern New Hampshire Penmen||NH||19-6||4-0|
|21||16||Nova Southeastern Sharks||FL||20-12||1-3|
|23||NR||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||18-7||5-1|
|25||NR||Metro State Roadrunners||CO||20-7||4-0|
Dropped out: USC Aiken (20), Wingate (21), Georgia College (23), Arkansas Tech (25).
For the most part the Perfect Game rankings and the NAIA Baseball Coaches Poll have been fairly copacetic, which to be completely honest, is a bit scary as they’ve gotten pretty weird in the past. There are some nuances between the two but for the most part there aren’t any glaring abnormalities as in the D-II where opinions on some clubs vary tremendously. That is primarily because the top teams in the preseason have all held their positions relatively well all season long. Aside from Point Park, there haven’t been any top clubs that haven’t lived up to preseason prognostications.
To get nit-picky however, there are some quality over quantity issues where the two rankings haven’t seen eye-to-eye.
Webber International started the season ranked 20th in the Perfect Game rankings and 18th in the NAIA Coaches’ Top 25. The Warriors went out and started the season against an extraordinary lineup of competition that hasn’t been seen since Jake Roberts, Randy Savage and Roddy Piper were consecutive entrants in the 1990 Royal Rumble. Webber played series against Perfect Game’s top three-ranked teams in St. Thomas, Southeastern and Georgia Gwinnett in February. The box scores weren’t in WIU’s favor as they went 1-7 against the über-elite competition, but they weren’t embarrassing.
As a result, the Warriors were dropped from the NAIA Coaches Poll Top 25; nonetheless, the Warriors remained steadfast in the PG rankings. They did drop five positions to the last spot in the rankings (it would have been nice to see them win one or two more of those contests), but they have remained in the rankings the duration of the season and proved worthy as they now have an enviable (and battle-tested) 26-13 record, certainly worthy of being listed among the nation’s elite. It will be very interesting to see what happens should they face Southeastern and/or St. Thomas in their conference tournament. The Fire and Bobcats may have won the first battle, but the Warriors could win the war.
The other ranking, which seems to be a bit fluffed up in the NAIA Baseball Coaches Poll, is putting Truett-McConnell over Bryan. Admittedly the Bears won a series over the Lions, but if you take out one two-error inning in the bottom of the fourth of the middle game, that particular series is a draw. Additionally the games were played at Truett-McConnell. It’s always important to remember that the winner of a series isn’t always the best team, it’s just who was the best team that weekend.
Bryan has a 22-11 record and Truett-McConnell’s mark is a more impressive, 21-9. However, Bryan can boast wins over quality competitors Rio Grande, Indiana Southeast, Madonna, Cumberland as well as Tennessee Wesleyan. The Bears really don’t have any significant wins over anyone other than Bryan. Plus they’ve added four wins over non-NAIA teams Toccoa Falls College and Hiwassee College to increase their win total. If those two teams were to tangle again, I’d bet the farm on Bryan coming out on top.
|3||4||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||28-8||4-0|
|4||9||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||30-6||5-1|
|6||5||Oklahoma City Stars||OK||30-6||2-2|
|7||6||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||OK||25-7||2-2|
|8||3||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||29-10||1-2|
|10||10||Middle Georgia State Knights||GA||26-8||3-1|
|14||16||Texas Wesleyan Rams||TX||30-7||2-1|
|15||15||Central Methodist Eagles||MO||21-5||1-0|
|18||14||LSU Shreveport Pilots||LA||31-8||2-3|
|22||19||Indiana Tech Warriors||IN||16-10||0-1|
|23||22||Webber International Warriors||FL||26-13||2-2|
|24||24||William Jessup Warriors||CA||21-11||4-0|
Dropped out: Mobile (23).
NCAA Division III
There are two Pennsylvania-based teams with rather significant rankings discrepancies in the D-III realm: La Roche and Misericordia.
La Roche looked like the real-deal headed into this season. They won both the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference regular season and tournament titles last year and have an upperclassman-heavy roster which head coach Chase Rowe stated was the “most talented and deep team” he’s had while on campus (although to be honest, optimistic coaches pretty much say that every spring about their teams). La Roche was ranked sixth in the Perfect Game preseason rankings and 19th in the d3baseball.com rankings – that’s an optimistic outlook from both organizations. Yet for some reason La Roche just isn’t winning games like they were predicted to be.
Coach Rowe’s club is outscoring opposition overall by a decent mark (125-89), they are hitting well as a team (.315 average) and their pitching has been decent, but they simply aren’t winning games. The Redhawks are currently sitting at an extremely unremarkable 9-7 record and have dropped down to the final position in the weekly Perfect Game rankings. Meanwhile they were expunged from thed3baseball.com rankings a long time ago.
A similar situation is going on up the highway at Misericordia. The Cougars were positioned a solid 13 in the preseason Perfect Game rankings. In the d3baseball.com rankings Misericordia started at a similar spot, positioned 11th.
Nevertheless, the Cougars have not been playing like a team on the outskirts of the Top 10 as anticipated. Misericordia has dropped to the tail end of the Perfect Game rankings after starting the season with an uncharacteristically feeble 6-5 mark. They currently are 22nd after having moved up a pair of spots since last week. The d3baseball.com pollsters have not been as forgiving for their slow start as the Cougars were dropped after week three and are currently mired deep in the purgatorial “RV” section at 41st overall.
The difference between the Perfect Games rankings and the other for these two schools comes down to potential versus performance. Based on their records should either of these two schools be in the Top 25? No, absolutely not. However, there is still that spark of confidence that both of these teams will turn things around and play to the level they were forecasted before the season started – hence their continued inclusion. They are simply seen as national contending teams trapped in an underachieving body, one that needs to rectify itself soon before they lose an opportunity for something special this season.
|1||1||Christopher Newport Captains||VA||20-2||3-0|
|2||3||Southern Maine Huskies||ME||12-2||3-0|
|3||4||Texas Lutheran Bulldogs||TX||18-7||3-1|
|5||8||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||VA||12-4||4-0|
|6||7||Wooster Fighting Scots||OH||7-4||1-0|
|10||16||Concordia University Chicago Cougars||IL||13-1||2-0|
|14||14||Cal Lutheran Kingsmen||CA||18-6||3-2|
|20||NR||Johns Hopkins Blue Jays||MD||16-5||3-0|
|21||18||Heidelberg Student Princes||OH||14-5||2-2|
|25||12||La Roche Redhawks||PA||9-7||0-2|
Dropped out: Fontbonne (25).