Quality or quantity? Its the number one consideration to look at when positioning teams. Since teams don’t play a round robin where everybody gets to match-up equally against opposition, positioning one team over another is an arduous task. This season that dilemma fosters prominently in two of the three small school rankings. It’s still a bit early for D-III, but give it a week or two and the plight will likely be across the board.
The best example of this is in D-II where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to position the top four teams. In all fairness, they probably all should just be given the No. 1 position with an asterisk to note the tie.
St. Cloud State has been the top-ranked team since the preseason, and when you look at their results it’s hard to question how anyone else could be better. As of Tuesday night the Huskies were 15-0, batting .393 as a team and had outscored their opposition 179 to 58. In 11 of their 15 games SCSU has reached double-digit runs, including nine of their last 10. Problem is, some of the teams they’ve played are… and I’m trying to say this nicely… really, really, not so good. I’ve been covering small school baseball for nearly a decade and when I can’t name a school, that’s really saying something. I had to look up some of the schools to make sure they weren’t typos.
Tampa on the other hand, has played some pretty decent clubs. Georgia College is a regular NCAA postseason contender. West Florida won the national title a couple of years ago and Grand Valley State is perennially one of the top teams in their conference and region. Sunshine State Conference foes Barry and St. Leo aren’t slouches by any means either. In 11 of 13 of the games against those five teams the final outcome was determined by one or two runs. When UT has played games against the ilk of SCSU’s schedule, they’ve ran them out of the ballpark as well. The Spartans outscored Albany State in a recent series 43-8.
Then there’s MIllersville and Franklin Pierce. They’re a combined 27-2 and have players like MU’s Brandon Miller, who has a 0.63 ERA and has only allowed 10 hits in 28 2/3 innings, and Mitch Stoltzfus, who is as tough of an out as his name is to spell as he’s batting .558 in 16 games with six home runs in 52 at-bats. Franklin Pierce’s pitching hadn’t allowed a team to score more than four runs in a game as of Sunday and six times they’ve held their opponent to zero or one run. Nevertheless, neither of those two have played a ranked opponent, and aside from one conference series later this season, they may not until the postseason.
A similar debate can be had in the NAIA. Until last week Georgia Gwinnet and Lewis-Clark State had only a single loss between them with 35 wins, yet none of their victories have been against ranked teams. Compare them to preseason No. 1 St. Thomas. The Bobcats have had multiple games against three ranked teams, as well as games with two D-I opponents, one of which was the University of Miami and STU had the lead going into the ninth inning. Comparing the teams isn’t apples to oranges, it’s like comparing books to hats or pianos to socks, items that have practically nothing in common.
Nevertheless, the rankings are important. When its time to select teams for the postseason there’s always a cut-off. College baseball doesn’t have an NIT or CBI tournament for teams that don’t get an extended postseason invite. If they don’t make the hardball version of the big dance, they’re done. With that being said here’s the latest insight into the small school baseball rankings.
Rankings are based on games through Sunday, March 13.
NCAA Division II
Bum-rushing the rankings this week are the Florida Southern Moccasins. The Mocs have been a team considered for the rankings ever since an early series win over West Florida, but hadn’t done quite enough to move the needle in their favor since. That all changed over the past week plus with a series of impressive victories. First FSC rallied past a top 10-ranked Minnesota State team, doubling-up the Mavs 12-6, then the Mocs swept a trio of crucial Sunshine State Conference games from Florida Tech, which dropped the Panthers from the cusp of the top 10.
The Mocs’ starting pitching is patchy, but a trio of reliable relievers has repeatedly come in late to extinguish leads while the macho Moc’s offense and kept them in contention and secured some late wins. FSC has four everyday players batting over .350 and each should be able to pad their stats and perfect their swing a bit before the team hits an intimidating ides of April schedule with series against surging USC Aiken and rival Tampa.
A team that has been rolling all season and steadily working their way into the top 10 are the Columbus State Cougars. After getting snubbed from the postseason last season it appears CSU will be an absolute lock this year. The Cougars are 20-4 and have a sick offense with an explosive case of runproductionitis. CSU can claim a team slugging percentage near .550, and the Peach Belt leaders are averaging well over 10 runs per game. Last weekend the Cougars outmashed Georgia College in a pair of games, outscoring the Bobcats in football-esque 14-13 and 18-17 scores before shutting out GCSU 9-0 in the finale.
The biggest threat to CSU’s winning ways will be this upcoming weekend when the Cougars square off with a Lander team which is unofficially the last team out of the rankings this week. The Bearcats have a 20-5 record themselves and will unquestionably find themselves in the top 25 with a series win over CSU; even a close series loss with a strong performance will likely do the trick.
While FSC and CSU have been getting it down with two of the most prolific offenses in the nation, West Florida continues to stay in the top 10 thanks to a phenomenal pitching staff. Their team ERA is 2.81, which is crazy insane considering the schedule they’ve faced to date this year. Their first two weekends they faced Florida Southern and Tampa, two currently ranked perennial powerhouses who have a combined 24 national titles between them. The Argos have also won a series against No. 25 Alabama Huntsville on the road and also took games from North Alabama and Valdosta State. UWF’s 14-8 overall record isn’t going to have too many teams shaking in their boots, but the Argos are a formidable opponent to keep an eye on as they head towards a big match-up with West Alabama next month.
Cal Baptist not surprisingly smoked Holy Names last week as they outscored the Hawks 61-11 and have unquestionably moved into the spot of the current team to beat in the West. CBU’s non-highly touted pro prospect pitchers are a combined 12-0 with a 1.51 ERA. Then they also have Tyson Miller who isn’t doing too shabby himself as he had limited opposition to a .229 batting average with a 2.45 ERA. The Lancers have a dangerous part of their schedule coming up as they are headed to Hawaii where teams can often forget to pack their A-game for the trip. If they come back from the 50th state unscathed, CBU will likely be in the top 10.
|1||1||St. Cloud St. Huskies||MN||12-0||7-0|
|2||2||Franklin Pierce Ravens||NH||12-1||3-1|
|5||7||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||16-3||4-0|
|6||6||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||20-4||4-0|
|8||8||Missouri Southern St. Lions||MO||12-4||1-1|
|9||12||Cal Baptist Lancers||CA||17-5||4-0|
|10||10||West Florida Argos||FL||14-8||3-1|
|11||16||West Alabama Tigers||AL||18-4||3-0|
|12||18||Cal Poly Pomona Broncos||CA||15-6||4-0|
|13||9||St. Edward’s Hilltoppers||TX||16-7||0-2|
|14||19||Southern New Hampshire Penmen||NH||12-0||3-0|
|15||17||East Stroudsburg Warriors||PA||14-2||4-2|
|16||25||USC Aiken Pacers||SC||18-5||4-1|
|17||NR||Florida Southern Moccasins||FL||14-6||4-0|
|18||11||Florida Tech Panthers||FL||15-9||1-3|
|19||13||UC San Diego Tritons||CA||17-6||1-3|
|20||20||Dixie State Red Storm||UT||13-5||0-0|
|21||21||Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles||IN||11-4||4-1|
|22||14||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||8-5||3-2|
|24||NR||Belmont Abbey Crusaders||NC||20-3-1||4-0|
Dropped out: Southern Arkansas (22), Ashland (23)
Despite a full slate of games there was very little movement in the NAIA rankings over the past week. No team moved more than two spots in the rankings and the bulk of clubs performed as anticipated to stay in the same slot.
A slight usurping took place with Faulkner taking back the top spot from Bellevue. The Eagles earned a pair of handsome wins over Tennessee Wesleyan and an unapologetic mauling of Blue Mountain College when they outscored the Toppers 43-5 to regain the No. 1 position. The Bruins had a decent week, going 6-2 during a Florida spring break trip, but since Bellevue and Faulkner were essentially 1A and 1B going into the week, the slight stumbling was enough to give the Eagles the edge.
Despite the small demotion, the Bruins could boast a noteworthy win over St. Ambrose which was the most lopsided of wins in all of Lopsidedville. Bellevue scored 16 runs the first three innings en route to a 23-0 win over the Fighting Bees. Junior catcher Jake Browne hit a pair of homers and drove in 10 runs, but he wasn’t even the star of the game. Instead the headlines went to hurler Braulio Torres-Perez who threw a no-hitter while striking out 10 batters in seven innings.
Third-ranked Keiser seems to have cemented themselves as a top 10 team after going 6-1 last week. KU’s lone loss was their first to a team not currently positioned in the top 20. Leading Seahawk slugger Keivan Berges has proven to be worthy of being the sole NAIA representative on the Golden Spikes Watch List as he is topping the team with a .420 batting average with a massive .770 slugging percentage. Last week he continued his torrid pace, batting .538 in seven games with four home runs and 18 RBI. The Seahawks also have a bonafide ace on the mound in Steven Bruce. Bruce has a team-leading 1.66 ERA and has earned the win in five of his six starts in which he’s compiled 38 innings.
A big matchup took place in Oklahoma where 10th-ranked Tabor visited sixth-ranked and new KCAC rival Oklahoma Wesleyan. The two teams battled back and forth, trading wins and splitting the series 2-2. The pair of wins earned by each club were a welcome to both rosters. Tabor had been stymied in their first two series against top 10-caliber teams, as they were swept by the aforementioned Bellevue Bruins and managed only one of four wins against Oklahoma City earlier this spring. OKWU has floated between the Nos. 2 and 6 positions in the rankings, but aside from a split series with Sterling, didn’t have many impact wins to write home about.
Keep an eye out on the Jamestown Jimmies. After adding an octet of wins the nearly Canadian club from upper North Dakota ran their season opening win streak to 23 games. The Jimmies haven’t faced the stiffest competition yet this season (although they did have a nice win over Sterling) and don’t have new conference rival Bellevue on their regular season schedule, so they could easily finish the regular season with one of, if not the, highest winning percentage in the NAIA. The Jimmies will advance to the postseason, but will their less-than-formidible schedule have them ready to play with proven talent?
|4||4||Oklahoma City Stars||OK||17-8||3-1|
|5||5||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||25-1||4-1|
|6||6||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||OK||16-7||3-2|
|7||7||Auburn Montgomery Warhawks||AL||20-5||5-0|
|8||8||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||ID||16-2||2-1|
|9||9||Lindsey Wilson Blue Raiders||KY||19-7||4-1|
|12||12||LSU Shreveport Pilots||LA||13-6||0-0|
|13||13||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||18-11||5-1|
|16||16||USC Beaufort Sand Sharks||SC||24-3||5-1|
|17||17||Missouri Baptist Spartans||MO||17-6||5-0|
|20||18||The Master’s Mustangs||CA||15-9||1-2|
|21||21||MidAmerica Nazarene Pioneers||KS||15-1||1-0|
|22||22||Northwestern Ohio Racers||OH||11-5||3-1|
|25||NR||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||14-7||3-3|
Dropped out: None.
NCAA Division III
After slowly making their way up the rankings ladder the past couple of weeks, Mary Washington was poised to make a big move, possibly even into the top 10, with three games against sub .500 clubs and a marquee showdown against top-ranked Cortland State. Things did not go the Eagles way. UMW had their game against the unbeaten Dragons postponed and dropped all four of their other scheduled games. With the losses the Eagles took a tiny tumble down the rankings, but not too far since every club is entitled to a bad week. UWM will look to get back on the winning track this week with contests against top 10-positioned Shenandoah and recently ranked Christopher Newport.
Despite missing their game against UMW, Cortland State did get on the diamond against a ranked opponent. The Dragons faced UW-La Crosse in a rematch of last year’s D-III CWS and the game was an absolute doozy. The Eagles were leading Cortland 3-1 early, but the Dragons rallied to even the score. In the late innings, Cortland’s Turner Parry had a pitching party as he kept the dangerous Eagles’ lineup grounded, putting down all 11 batters he faced, eight of them by strikeout. The defending champs won the game in the bottom of the 10th and stretched their season-opening winning streak to 11.
Preseason No. 3 Webster is looking nothing like the team they were projected to be. The Gorloks had advanced to the D-III World Series three of the last four years, but increasing that number to four is starting to look iffy unless Webster can right their sinking ship. The school, which can claim comedian Rob Riggle as an alum, has stumbled out of the gate and lost four of five last week. Based on potential Webster is still in the top 25, but needs to start getting some wins quick before their label is permanently changed from underperforming to just mediocre.
Five teams in the top 25 still have yet to play this season, including two clubs in the top 11, UW-Whitewater and St. Thomas. Both clubs will finally play games this week as a part of a spring trip to Orlando and will face each other on the diamond later this month as they wrap up their Florida junkets.
|1||1||Cortland State Red Dragons||NY||11-0||3-0|
|5||5||UW LaCrosse Eagles||WI||2-2||2-2|
|7||7||Southern Maine Huskies||MA||2-0||2-0|
|10||22||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||VA||13-2||2-1|
|11||11||St. Thomas Tommies||MN||0-0||0-0|
|13||9||Tyler Texas Patriots||TX||12-6||1-2|
|14||16||Wooster Fighting Scots||OH||0-0||0-0|
|17||NR||Christopher Newport Captains||VA||12-3||2-2|
|18||10||Baldwin Wallace Yellow Jackets||OH||5-6||1-3|
|19||15||Mary Washington Eagles||VA||13-1||0-4|
|20||14||Cal Lutheran Kingsmen||CA||9-6||2-2|
|21||21||UW-Stevens Point Pointers||WI||0-0||0-0|
|22||20||Concordia University Chicago||IL||8-3||4-3|
|23||NR||La Roche Redhawks||PA||9-5||3-0|
Dropped out: Adrian (19), Misericordia (23).
Originally appeared on Perfect Game website: https://www.perfectgame.org/Articles/View.aspx?article=12222