If the small school postseason is any barometer of what’s to come as the D-I season comes to a crescendo, there are going to be slew of memories made in Omaha in a couple of weeks.
The 2016 small school baseball season saw two clubs win their first-ever school baseball title while the third was awarded to a longtime favorite. When all was said and done there was an eclectic mix of teams that prevailed as each of the three winners hailed from different time zones and spanned the entire nation.
Here’s a final look at the top teams and players from the D-II, NAIA and D-III levels of baseball for 2016.
Prev. = Previous Ranking; Pres. = Preseason Ranking (linked above in season previews)
NCAA Division II
National Champion: Nova Southeastern Sharks
Albeit the season was still young, Nova Southeastern did not look anything like a title contender eight games into the year. The Sharks were 3-5 and had just lost a home game to Colorado Christian, a team that is averaging a dismal 10 wins a season the past four years. Even 21 games into the season the Sharks looked nothing more than mediocre as they were at a fumbling 11-10 mark. However their vision of being a championship caliber team quickly came into focus and NSU became #redhot.
NSU earned a victory over formidable SNHU and followed it up with a series win over conference rival, perennial power and reigning national champion Tampa. The Sharks would ultimately go 33-6 the last two-thirds of the season, including 9-1 combined in the South Regional and D-II Baseball Championships to win the program’s first ever national championship. In the finals the Sharks swept Millersville in a pair of nail biting victories which included earning a W over the Marauder’s ace Brandon Miller, the D-II player most likely to be selected first in the upcoming MLB amateur draft.
After the championship win Head Coach Greg Brown spoke of his team’s success and the resolute ability to overcome their slow start.
“Our expectation was winning a national championship, and our vision of winning a national championship was real and vivid to everybody here, even when we were 11-10. It was a critical point in our program history, if you will, because it changed the course of what this season looked like. But at 11-10, our belief was constant. We’re 33-6 since, and all it was was literally a team meeting led by the leaders within our clubhouse talking about issues.”
Perfect Game/Rawlings Player of the Year: Alex Wojciechowski, Minnesota Duluth
A senior slugging catcher from Coon Rapids, Minnesota, Wojciechowski led the Bulldogs to a program best 39-16 record and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. “Wojo” topped all D-II in home runs (33), RBIs (101), slugging percentage (.973) runs scored (86) and total bases (218). For his efforts Alex found his name on every publications’ All-American list and was named the recipient of the Tino Martinez Award as D-II’s best batsman.
Perfect Game/Rawlings Pitcher of the Year: Placido Torres, Tusculum College
Torres, a senior southpaw from North Brunswick, New Jersey, had the best season ever by a Tusculum hurler as he finished the season with a 0.70 earned run average which was tops in any division of the NCAA II. In 116 innings he amassed 162 strikeouts which was the second most in conference history and the 10th highest total in D-II history. He only allowed 24 walks and 61 hits, which translated to a.154 batting average against and a dainty 4.73 hits allowed per nine innings. Torres won a slew of awards including the Brett Tomko Award, which goes to D-II’s top pitcher.
|1||6||16||Nova Southeastern Sharks||FL||44-16|
|5||8||2||Franklin Pierce Ravens||NH||48-9|
|6||12||NR||Central Missouri Mules||MO||43-15|
|7||3||4||St. Edward’s Hilltoppers||TX||46-12|
|8||4||5||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||43-13|
|9||7||18||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||42-14|
|10||17||12||Cal Poly Pomona Broncos||CA||42-19|
|11||5||14||Cal Baptist Lancers||CA||42-13|
|12||11||23||Southern New Hampshire Penmen||NH||50-7|
|13||10||10||West Florida Argos||FL||36-17|
|14||9||1||St. Cloud State Huskies||MN||43-10|
|16||13||NR||USC Aiken Pacers||SC||40-18|
|17||NR||NR||Delta State Statesman||MS||42-17|
|18||18||NR||Florida Southern Moccasins||FL||32-17|
|19||NR||22||Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles||IN||38-21|
|20||NR||NR||Angelo State Rams||TX||39-22|
|21||21||NR||Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils||AK||40-16|
|23||19||17||West Alabama Tigers||AL||36-15|
|24||20||NR||Chico State Wildcats||CA||35-22|
|25*||22||NR||Lubbock Christian Chaparrals||TX||37-19|
|25*||25||NR||Dixie State Trailblazers||UT||40-14|
Dropped out: Florida Southern (18), Brand Valley (23), Emporia State (24).
National Champion: Lewis-Clark State Warriors
The Warriors won their 18th national championship after besting Faulkner in an explosive title game which featured 11 home runs and a 12-11 final score. It was the second straight title for LCSC which finished the year with a 52-8 record.
It was a steady seasonal ride for the Warriors who spent the entire season in the top 10. LCSC didn’t lose a series all season long and played their most dominating ball when it counted most, especially on the mound. In their final 12 games of the season, six of them were shutouts. At one point during that stretch the Warriors only allowed three runs in nine games, three of which were in the NAIA World Series.
After the remarkable finish, sophomore Micah Brown, who had a pair of home runs and applied the tag on the final out, commented on the explosive outcome and winning performance.
“It was just a slugfest I mean it just seemed like every time someone hit it, it was just jumping out of the yard it was insane,” said Brown, “This is the fun part, this is the reward we look forward to all year, we put in that hard work, that blood sweat and tears and this is our reward and it’s indescribable.”
Perfect Game/Rawlings Player of the Year: Manny DeLeon, Tabor Bluejays
Tabor College’s senior outfielder Manny DeLeon led the NAIA in home runs (25), RBI (108), slugging percentage (.897) and total bases (208). And he led the Bluejays to their fifth straight Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) regular-season title and an eighth place final ranking as Tabor narrowly missed a trip to the NAIA World Series. He also added 25 doubles, which was good for fifth in the nation and even swiped 24 stolen bases. The San Cristobal, Dominican Republic native was also named the KCAC Player of the Year and earned the nod as the NAIA-Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year.
Perfect Game/Rawlings Pitcher of the Year: Ryan Hartman, Tennessee Wesleyan
Hartman, a senior hurler from Anaheim, Calif., had a momentous season in which he led the NAIA with a 0.64 ERA for Tennessee Wesleyan. In 98 innings, he only allowed 62 hits for a .176 opponents’ batting average and was equally as stingy with free passes by only issuing 12 walks on the year. Hartman had a 10-1 record on the season with his only loss coming during a gutsy performance when he came to the mound in relief in an effort to keep the Bulldogs alive in the NAIA World Series. Hartman earned his numbers by pitching against some of the top teams in the nation as he faced Auburn-Montgomery, Georgia Gwinnett, Bryan, St. Thomas, Northwestern Ohio, Sterling and Faulkner – all team which finished the year in the Top 25.
|1||6||8||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||ID||52-8|
|4||4||24||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||50-15|
|5||2||13||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||57-6|
|6||5||22||Auburn Montgomery WarHawks||AL||46-17|
|11||7||NR||USC Beaufort Sand Sharks||SC||44-14|
|12||21||6||The Master’s Mustangs||CA||42-19|
|13||15||18||Missouri Baptist Spartans||MO||44-14|
|16||12||1||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||38-22|
|20||14||14||LSU Shreveport Pilots||LA||38-20|
|23||22||NR||Wayland Baptist Pioneers||TX||45-17|
|24||23||16||Northwestern Ohio Racers||OH||40-14|
Dropped out: None.
NCAA Division III
National Champion: Trinity (Texas) Tigers
With a fourth place preseason ranking the Trinity Tigers had high hopes and expectations going into the season and they didn’t disappoint. Never once during the year did the Tigers fall below the fourth place position and they spent the final third of the year rated as the top club in the land. The Tigers established a new school record in wins as they finished with a 44-7 record and earned the program’s first national title.
The Tigers only lost one series all season, dropping two of three to Texas Lutheran in mid-April. Those two setbacks were the last Trinity would suffer the rest of the season as they finished the year winning their final 16 games of the season as they swept through the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship, West Regional and D-III CWS without a single defeat. On their way to the title they earned their fourth SCAC crown, eliminated the reigning national champion, earned Head Coach Tim Scannell his 600th career win and turned away upstart Keystone in the championship series.
Coach Scannell raved about his team after the championship win.
”This is about the history of the program. This accomplishment is 20 years in the making, and this means so much to all of us, because we know how much it means to all of the people who have been a part of the program. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”
Perfect Game/Rawlings Player of the Year: Taylor Kohlwey, UW La Crosse Eagles
The senior outfielder from Holmen, Wis., continued his assault on D-III baseball record books as he had a 51-game hit streak which fed his nation leading .485 batting average. Among his 96 hits were 22 doubles, nine triples and nine home runs (he hit for the cycle in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship) as Kohlwey led the Eagles to a third-place final ranking. When his ridiculous batting average is combined with 30 walks and two HBPs, Kohlwey compiled a .549 on-base percentage. Kohlwey also earned player of the year honors from D3Baseball.com.
Perfect Game/Rawlings Pitcher of the Year: Lane Hobbs, Concordia (TX)
In 11 of the games junior Lane Hobbs started, he pitched a complete game in nine of them. In his two relief appearances he earned a save in one and he threw a scoreless inning of relief against eventual national champion Trinity in the other. In total the Thrall, Texas product threw 82 innings and only allowed 53 hits for a .180 opposing team batting average. 92 batters were victim of a Hobbs’ strikeout and only 15 were awarded first base via a walk. For the season he had 10-1 record with a 1.43 ERA. Hobbs was named the American Southwest Conference Pitcher of the Year and was named the West Region Pitcher of the Year by both ABCA/Rawlings and D3Baseball.com as well.
|2||3||1||Cortland State Red Dragons||NY||43-8|
|3||5||6||UW La Crosse Eagles||WI||39-10|
|5||6||NR||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||VA||35-8-1|
|6||12||NR||La Roche Redhawks||PA||43-12|
|9||10||NR||Oswego State Lakers||NY||35-11|
|15||9||8||Southern Maine Huskies||MA||29-13|
|16||NR||23||St. John Fisher Cardinals||NY||39-13|
|17||13||16||Wooster Fighting Scots||OH||37-13|
|18||19||22||Concordia University Chicago Cougars||IL||34-13|
|19||NR||NR||Susquehanna River Hawks||PA||35-12|
|20||17||NR||St. Scholastica Saints||MN||32-11|
|22||18||14||Cal Lutheran Kingsmen||CA||31-13|
|23||16||NR||Frostburg State Bobcats||MD||30-14|
|24||24||NR||North Central Cardinals||IL||31-12|
Dropped out: Webster (20), Wartburg (21), Misericordia (22), Buena Vista (23).
Originally appeared on Perfect Game website: https://www.perfectgame.org/Articles/View.aspx?article=12573