2021 Division II College Preview

Photo: Mathieu Gauthier (West Texas A&M Athletics)

In 2005 the Angelo State baseball program was revived from its roots as San Angelo College following overwhelming support from students and the community. The 15 years since have been an overwhelming success and testament to the passion of the fans who help build the team.

The Rams have been one of the winningest programs in NCAA D-II baseball since its reintroduction. With Kevin Brooks as the sole head coach in program history, ASU has never suffered a losing season, won nearly 600 games, has reached the D-II Baseball Championships three times, which include a trip in 2007 in just the third year of the program’s existence and back-to-back appearances in 2015 and 2016.

The Rams finished 2019 with a 46-12 record for a .793 winning percentage – the best in school history. ASU was on pace to eclipse that record last season with a 19-3 record when COVID cancelled the season and the Rams’ seemingly destined reservation to Cary.

This season, the Rams return the bulk of players who contributed to the 65-15 record the past two seasons. That includes Josh Elvir, who slashed an incredible .452/.591/.1.000 over the past two seasons.  

There are a number of teams which could understandably be named the preseason favorite, but there is no doubt the Angelo State Rams are Perfect Game’s pick to bring home the title.

Rk.SchoolStateRecordFinal 2020
1Angelo State RamsTX19-31
2Central Missouri MulesMO20-32
3Colorado Mesa MavericksCO14-47
4Tampa SpartansFL15-710
5North Greenville CrusadersSC19-5-15
6Mount Olive TrojansNC19-46
7Catawba IndiansNC19-33
8Augustana VikingsSD9-411
9Columbus St. CougarsGA18-38
10Minnesota State MavericksMN8-520
11Georgia College BobcatsGA13-24
12West Texas A&M BuffsTX17-6NR
13North Georgia NighthawksGA13-612
14Southern Arkansas MuleridersAR19-416
15Delta State StatesmenMS13-10NR
16Azusa Pacific CougarsCA10-1022
17Texas Tyler PatriotsTX20-324
18Ashland EaglesOH10-421
19Nova Southeastern SharksFL11-11NR
20East Stroudsburg WarriorsPA14-1-219
21Newberry WolvesSC18-617
22UNC Pembroke BravesNC18-523
23Wingate BulldogsNC15-625
24Millersville MaraudersPA14-4NR
25Davenport PantersMI13-218

1. Angelo State Rams (19-3)

The Rams spent the entirety of the abbreviated 2020 season as the No. 1 team in the Perfect Game rankings and for good reason. They had returned the bulk of a veteran-heavy lineup which batted .350, slugged .539 and stole 153 bases. Also back are each of their top three pitchers and they added another who throws at the same upper echelon. 

Josh Elvir has been the best player in D-II baseball the last two seasons. He batted .458 with 17 doubles, nine triples and 20 home runs in 2019 and was hitting .438 with 11 home runs in 22 games last season. On almost any other club, Nick Seginowich would be the leading hitter. In 2019 he batted .391 with 18 doubles and 15 home runs and was hitting .310 last season despite not playing at 100%. In addition to his proficiency at the plate, he is a tremendous asset behind it as the team’s catcher. With the extra year of eligibility, Nicholas Novak will be a five-year starter at shortstop. He has excellent range and speed and has batted .327 with 65 stolen bases over his first four years. Alongside Novack at second base is Parker Bramlett. He is another experienced Ram who has played 122 games for ASU. During his time on the diamond he has compiled a robust .347 batting average. Jackson Hardy has earned honors for his defense in centerfield and batted .377 with 21 stolen bases in 2019. He was batting .396 last spring. 

Aaron Walters, who started 20 games at Texas A&M in 2019, was hitting .348 in his first year with the Rams. In addition to that already-formidable lineup, the club added the bat of Hunter Townsend. Townsend was initially scheduled to start his college career at Texas A&M out of high school, but rerouted to San Jacinto College. In addition to being an excellent hitter he has tremendous speed and range in the outfield.

The Rams’ starting staff will once again be led by Trent Baker. Baker was a First Team All-Lone Star Conference and All-Region hurler in 2019 with a 2.66 ERA. In six starts last season he had a 3.13 ERA and had stuckout 48 batters in 37 1/3 innings while only allowing 25 hits and eight walks. Ben Elder showed promise in his first year on the staff. The 6-foot-6 California native had received offers from a number of D-I programs and intended on pitching for Western Carolina, but wound up in San Angelo. He got batted around a bit in a couple of outings last spring, but showed the ability to dominate as he struck out 44 batters in only 31 innings. Coaches believe two new arms can help keep ASU on top. Mat Szabo previously pitched at Bowling Green and Young-Harris. At YHC last season he had a 2.67 ERA and struck out 48 batters in 30 1/3 innings. Justin Low should find himself in the rotation as a freshman. He was named a Texas Region All-High School Honorable Mention and has a very high ceiling. Carson Childers pairs a fastball with a changeup well and was excellent out of the bullpen last spring. In nine appearances he had a 1.10 ERA and stuck out 27 batters in 16 1/3 innings.

2. Central Missouri Mules (20-3)

The Mules were placed second each week in the 2020 Perfect Game rankings. While they didn’t overtake the Rams in the positioning, they continually narrowed the gap to the point where, for all intents and purposes, they were the co-No. 1 when the season was called. UCM has a potent offense which got better in the offseason, an upgraded pitching staff and will certainly challenge for the national title.  

While Erik Webb didn’t blow the doors off competition last spring, he had put up prolific stats in 2019 when he batted .410 with 26 doubles, five triples and 21 home runs. In four seasons as a starter he has a .360 batting average, 127 extra base hits and 45 stolen bases. He will once again be in the outfield for the Mules. Dusty Stroup transferred from conference rival Missouri Western and was having one of the top seasons of any D-II player. The third baseman was leading the division in total bases as he was hitting .453 with 12 doubles and 10 home runs. In a game against Fort Hays State last spring he hit four home runs. Cole Taylor had an exponential increase in his offensive productivity last season. After batting .259 in 2019, he was hitting .417 with a .893 slugging percentage thanks to five triples and eight home runs. Josh Schumacher, Harrison Schnurbusch and Alex Madera are also back to build on big seasons. Schumacher has batted .399 over 53 games the past two seasons for UCM, primarily as the leadoff hitter. Schnurbusch is in his fourth season as an everyday regular. Although he has been the team’s starting shortstop and third baseman in previous seasons, he was primarily a designated hitter in 2020 when he hit .378 with seven home runs. Madera, a native of Curaçao, has hit .347 as the team’s shortstop the last two seasons. 

The Mules pitching staff will be without some of their top arms from last season. Most notably, Jonathan Sprinkle who fanned 43 in 23 1/3 innings as he signed with the Astros. Nevertheless, the returning pitchers are more than enough to compete with the best. Mason Green is the ace of the staff. In 2019 he had a 2.88 ERA and stuck out 95 batters in 75 innings. Over his career at UCM he has earned a 3.17 ERA, a perfect 11-0 record and 139 strikeouts in 113 2/3 innings on the mound. Connor Dryer and Collin Jones will round out the rotation. Dryer has exclusively been a reliever his first three seasons in Warrensburg. Jones has made 22 starts and amassed 125 total innings as a Mule. Over the past two seasons he looked especially sharp as he has held opposition to a .211 batting average. Ryan Lumpkin hit .316 at Eastern Oklahoma State College, but is penciled in for a pitching role for the Mules. Tyler Kuhlmann and Evan Rathburn combined to go 6-0 with three saves out of the bullpen last spring with 30 strikeouts in 23 innings and a 1.17 ERA.

3. Colorado Mesa (14-4)

The CMU crew batted .326 with 82 home runs in 2019 appeared to be on their way to surpass those numbers in 2020 as they were batting .340 with 33 home runs in 18 games. Each of the everyday players are back this year and added a big bat to further fuel this offense. The Mavs’ pitching is strong as always.

Spencer Bramwell and Caleb Farmer both have received an influx of interest from MLB scouts. Bramwell was listed as a 5-foot-7, 150-pound infielder coming out of high school, but is now a 5-foot-11, 210-pound tank behind the plate. Even including his light-hitting freshman season, Bramwell has a .352 college career average and has added power to his repertoire. Unlike Bramwell, Farmer has been a coveted prospect since arriving in Grand Junction. He has batted .350 over three seasons and primarily plays third base. On the other side of the infield is Jordan Stubbings. Stubbings has maintained a .355 batting average over three seasons, rarely makes mistakes on defense and has excellent power. Haydn McGeary has the ability to put up gargantuan numbers. The 6-foot-5 slugger was leading the team with a .471 batting average when the season was called and also had 11 doubles and nine home runs for an astonishing 1.014 slugging percentage. He has been compared to Aaron Judge when he played at Fresno State. Matt Turner, another 6-foot-5′ behemoth, has batted .321 in limited action over three seasons, and center fielder and leadoff hitter Tanner Garner has hit .344 each of the past two seasons. The Mavs added Ethan Ezor, who had a smooth swing and even smoother glove, to give them added depth in the lineup and on defense. 

Last season the pitching staff was relatively inexperienced, but the shortened season has given them time to develop and prepare for the upcoming year. Andrew Morris and Trevin Reynolds each made nine starts and totaled 131 innings between them in 2019. They added another 55 2/3 innings of experience last spring in which they struck out 71 batters while only allowing 51 hits. Reynolds was offered free agent deals by multiple teams after reaching 98 mph with his fastball. Ryan Day, a previous transfer from Blinn JC, only was able to make one appearance last season, but should be an important part of the regular rotation. At Blinn JC in 2019 he pitched 66 innings and only allowed 45 hits while striking out 81 baters. Coaches are very high on junior college transfer Trey Morrill who spent two seasons at Yavapai College. Morrill is a Grand Junction area native and had 25 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings for the Roughriders before the 2020 season was halted.

4. Tampa Spartans (15-7)

Another season, another year with Tampa at the top of a short list of title contending teams. The Spartans continued their annual harvesting of talent and have an overload of professional prospects on the roster. Something which could make them particularly potent this season is that they have a boon of skilled area athletes.  

Jose Cadenas moved to Tampa with his family from Cuba and spent one season at nearby Hillsborough CC before transferring to UT. He was the club’s leadoff hitter and center fielder and he led the team in the bulk of offensive categories last season. Other bats back of note include Nick Derr and Drew Ehrhard. Derr, who was drafted by the Reds out of high school, spent two seasons at Florida State and made 60 starts for the Seminoles. In two years at Tampa, Derr has hit .314, including a team-leading .353 last spring as the team’s clean-up hitter. Ehrhard, another Tampa native, has been a three-year starter for the Spartans in the infield. In 508 college at-bats he has earned a .321 batting average with 26 doubles. John Malcom, EJ Cumbo and Jamarcus Lyons are this year’s edition of top prospects looking to increase their exposure while winning a title at Tampa. Malcolm, a strong, speedy slugger with huge power potential, was the top-ranked player coming out of Michigan in 2018. He played sparingly as a freshman at Vanderbilt which spurred a move to State College of Florida where he performed well before the season was cancelled. Cumbo is a New York native who played at New York Tech and earned All-American honors as a freshman with a .437 batting average. He batted .375 in 14 games last season in the Bear’s outfield. Lyons played in 20 games as a freshman at Central Florida and also played for the Manatees of State College of Florida last spring. He hit .333 and had six doubles and four home runs in 78 at-bats. Kian Knutson and Macallister Jorgensen are excellent freshman prospects who played high school ball in the Tampa area. 

Braydon Nelson pitched two seasons and made 22 starts at St. Bonaventure before transferring to Tampa. Last season he looked sharp over 29 1/3 innings in which he struck out 26 batters and held opposition to a .209 batting average. Jordan Leasure has thrown in three seasons at Tampa and redshirted one. Overall he had struck out 105 batters in 86 innings. Those numbers include 35 Ks in 21 2/3 innings last spring. Newcomer Eric Linder will join them in the rotation after excelling at the College of Central Florida. Last season for UT he had a 1.80 ERA and fanned 33 in 20 innings while only allowing eight hits. Michael Paul appeared in eight games last spring and only allowed a single earned run in 20 1/3 innings for a 0.44 ERA. Nik Constantakos had a 6.53 ERA last spring, but also fanned 30 in 20 2/3 innings with only four walks. He made 13 starts as a freshman at Charleston Southern and five more in 2018 as a sophomore.

5. North Greenville Crusaders (19-5-1)

Landon Powell has turned North Greenville from a modest program into one of the elite. His teams have earned the Conference Carolinas title three of his six years at the helm and have spent several weeks ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation. This year’s crew unquestionably has the potential to advance to the finals and bring home the crown. 

Catcher John Michael Faile was one of the top players at the D-II level as a freshman in 2019 when he batted .391 and slugged 18 home runs. Last season he continued to hit at a high level with a .413 batting average. Brady West, who also is a capable catcher, was new to the team in 2020 after spending three successful seasons at Indiana Wesleyan. He led the team with a .429 batting average and hit seven home runs. Gehrig Octavio also excelled in his debut season at NGU with a .370 batting average. Jordan Holladay, a much ballyhooed third baseman who played previously at Powell’s alma mater of South Carolina, batted .325 last spring. Ethan Stringer, who was a top-three prep outfielder out of Kentucky, made four starts last year and hit .350 in limited action. Center fielder Josh Senter is a vacuum on defense and a three-year vet for NGU. He hit .348 last season while making difficult outfield plays look easy.  Marek Chlup and Jax Cash are newcomers to the team who could make an immediate impact. Chlup is a member of the Czech Republic national team and played two seasons at NC State. Cash was rated a 10 by Perfect Game scouts coming out of high school. He is an excellent hitter, catcher and pitcher. Cash attended South Carolina last season but didn’t see any game action. 

Christian Ryder and Logan Chapman made their Crusader debuts last spring after pitching at SEC schools. Ryder is a tall, powerful pitcher who spent three seasons at Georgia. He made six starts last season in which he threw a complete game and held opposition to a .233 batting average. Chapman had been drafted by Cincinnati Reds and pitched well as a freshman at South Carolina in 14 starts, but fell out of favor after injury. He struck out 31 batters in 21 1/3 innings last season and had a 2.11 ERA. Ethan Garner is the wisened senior vet on the team and will be making his fifth season on the mound. He had thrown over 200 in 42 starts at NGU. He has a career 3.80 ERA and 178 strikeouts. Over the past two seasons Ryan Kirk has earned a 1.63 ERA in 16 outings. Last season he earned three wins and three saves and didn’t give up a single earned run in 14 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. Additions to the pitching staff include a trio of former NCAA D-I hurlers; Zach Taglieri was drafted by the Dodgers out of high school, but instead spent four seasons on the pitching staff of The Citadel. Last season he appeared in five games and had a 3.86 for the Bulldogs. Hank Nichols spent two seasons at South Carolina where he didn’t get any game action and then transferred to Furman. He made 23 appearances over two seasons for the Paladins and had a 4.24 ERA. Kevin Mitz Jr. made seven appearances at UNC Wilmington in 2018. 

6. Mount Olive Trojans (19-4)

Mount Olive is a school which rarely has a down season. Head coach Rob Watt has continued to carry the torch passed by Carl Lancaster as the Trojans’ leader and all indications are UMO will field a strong all-around club which carries on their 19-4 success last season.

The offense is led off by shortstop Blake McLean, a small-in-stature but big-on-impact performer who is in his fourth season on the team. In 23 games last season he batted .341 and stole 11 bases. Joe Mason earned All-American honors in 2019 when he hit .388 with 15 doubles, 12 home runs and 10 stolen bases. Last year he was leading the team with a .440 average in 18 games. Gunner Tolston wields an experienced bat in the middle of the order. He doesn’t hit for a high average, but can clobber the ball. Dusty Baker spent three seasons playing at East Carolina and batted .251 in 157 games for the Pirates. He transferred to UMO last season and made an immediate impact with his glove in the outfield and legs on the basepaths. Garrison Burress and Stephen Baughan are a pair of transfers who should find their way into the starting lineup. Burress had been selected by the Diamondbacks in the 2018 MLB draft. At Catawba Valley CC he had a .346 batting average and 25 extra base hits. He plays excellent defense at second base. Baughan was a four-year starter at Norfolk State. He batted .295 and slugged .499 for the Spartans.

The Trojans added an absolute ace to their staff in Garrett McDaniels. McDaniels was the top prospect in the class of 2019 from the state of South Carolina and was drafted by the Marlins. The lefty appeared in 10 games and made eight starts as a freshman at Coastal Carolina. Reed Parris was the team’s number one pitcher in 2019 and sat out last season due to a back procedure. In 2019 Parris threw 94 innings and struck out 83 batters. He finished the season with a 3.64 ERA. Hunter Stevens and Caleb Irwin will complete in the rotation. Both threw well in 2020. Stevens had a 2.55 ERA and held opposition to a .174 batting average, and Irwin had a 2.77 ERA and kept batters to a .204 average. WIll Abbott impressed as a starter for The Citadel, at Florence-Darlington Tech and last year for the Trojans, however he’ll head to the bullpen this season. He struck out 31 batters in 28 1/3 innings last season while only issuing 20 hits and could shine as the closer.

7. Catawba Indians (19-3) 

Catawba was a solid top-five team last year and was ranked third when the season was called due to COVID. While the bulk of the roster returns, slugger Jackson Raper had four solid seasons as an Indian and was batting .436 with nine home runs, transferred to Illinois for his final year of eligibility. 

Hunter Shepherd was adding to his impressive 2019 season when he batted .358 with 12 home runs by stroking the ball at a .447 clip with nine home runs in only 22 games last season. This will be his fifth year as an everyday starter for the Indians. He is also an important member of the pitching staff and has amassed 230 innings and 211 strikeouts on the mound for the team. Jeremy Simpson will also be playing in his fifth year as a regular in the lineup. He is a fine-fielding shortstop who also contributes at the plate. He has a .305 batting average at Catawba. Zach Miller was a top-five catcher coming out of Pennsylvania thanks to his quick transfer, solid arm and line drive swing. He played two years at Delaware and made 90 starts for the Blue Hens. In his first season at Catawba he struggled at the plate, but is anticipated to be a big contributor this season. Cam Morrison, another catcher, was having his best season at the plate in 2020 with a .436 batting average and five home runs – a total which eclipsed his previous best in 100 less at-bats. Lee Poteat and Robbie Cowie are another pair of dependable bats returning to play in 2021. Poteat was batting .344 last spring in his third year in the program and Cowie is a big 6-foot-5 sophomore outfielder who also contributes on the mound. 

Bryan Ketchie’s numbers last season are not indicative of his potential for the upcoming year. Instead look to his 2019 statistics when he threw four complete games, compiled 103 2/3 innings and had a 3.47 ERA. Greg Brown was having his best year of his career in 2020 as he was holding opposition to a .219 batting average and 1.72 ERA in seven appearances. Maddux Holshouser was born to pitch as he was named after MLB Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. He pitched at UNC-Greensboro his first two seasons and threw well for the Mooresville Spinners of the Southern Collegiate Baseball League last summer. 

8. Augustana Vikings
The Vikings have an extremely experienced team which still has a number of position starters from the roster of the team that won the national title in 2018. With their experience and ability they are an easy choice as a preseason top-10 pick.

Center fielder Riley Johnson will be a five-year starter on the club and is a talent at the plate, on defense, and on the bases. In 2019 he batted .395 with 25 extra base hits and 26 stolen bases. He was batting .340 last spring. Jordan Barth led the team in hitting in 2019 with a .422 average and was hitting .417 as he was on his way of fulfilling the prophecy of being the NSIC Preseason Player of the Year. Will Olson has a .330 batting average over three seasons. He started his career at Nebraska Kearney but the Lopers program was cut after this freshman year. The athletic Sam Baier will be making his fifth season as the team’s starting shortstop. He has batted .303 over his first four seasons and was a big part of the title-winning team in 2018. Second baseman JT Mix singled through the right side of the infield to provide the national title-winning hit in 2018. In 2019 he batted .384. Jaxon Rosencranz batted .377 as a sophomore at Northeastern JC and .370 in 12 games for the Vikings last spring. Carter Howell redshirted in 2019, but started all 13 games last year. He was slashing .440/.481/.700 when the season was called.

Max Steffens was the NSIC Preseason Pitcher of the Year in 2020 after an incredible 2019 when he made 15 starts, threw seven complete games and had a 2.77 ERA. He did not pitch last season. Tanner Brown was the team’s best pitcher at the end of the 2019 and finished the season with a 3.30 ERA and struck out 84 in 71 innings. Evan Furst and Seth Miller are two younger arms on the team who are on the path to excel as upperclassmen. Furst has been solid in two seasons for Augustana. He has a 3.69 ERA over 61 innings. Miller threw 76 innings as a freshman in 2019 with a 3.20 ERA in 12 starts. He has three solid outing in 2020 in which he only allowed eight hits in 15 2/3 innings. The imposing 6-foot-8, 285-pound monster Thomas Bruss throws 95 mph gas out of the bullpen. He K’d 42 in 36 2/3 innings in 2019 and held opposition to a .188 batting average last spring. Ryan Jares and Clayton Thompson are sophomore transfers who add depth to the experienced staff. Kai Taylor is a rightly-regarded freshman.

9. Columbus State Cougars (18-3)

With an abundance of turnover the Cougars were not ranked in the 2020 preseason rankings, but proved to be a title contender with an 18-3 record out of the gate. The question of their experience is completely demolished this season as almost the entire roster is back from last year. The offense lost the bat of Bryson Horne who signed with the Braves, but retained the rest of their regular lineup and added some players which should continue to keep them in the D-II elite. 

Dane Bullock spent two seasons at Gordon State before joining CSU. He batted .271 with 11 home runs and was batting .338 with three home runs last year. Catcher Robert Brooks will be in his fourth season as an everyday player. He has a .322 average over 125 games in a Cougar uniform and has double-digit power. David Meadows hit in the lead off position as the team’s third baseman and batted .305. Speedy center fielder Connor Kirley wasn’t great at the plate as a freshman, but he performed much better last spring and batted .324. A boost of offensive support should come from transfer Steven Minter, who may become the team’s top hitter. Minter committed to Georgia out of high school but only appeared in eight games over two seasons. He transferred Columbia State CC where he batted .306. He is slated to take over first base for CSU. Local Columbus High product Colby Brabston could see action as a freshman. 

The pitching staff has a mix of seasoned starters and hungry youngsters. Jalen Latta, Devin Dudal, Jamie Boatright and Tyler Cadenhead are penciled in to be the starting rotation. Latta is a senior who has pitched four seasons for the Cougars. Over the past two years he has a 3.12 ERA and stuck out 129 batters in 129 2/3 innings. Last season he held opposition to a .207 batting average over 40 innings. Dudal has excellent command and throws in the mid-90s. He transferred into the program as a junior in 2019 and made 30 relief appearances. His 2.92 ERA was the lowest on the team. Last season he switched to a starting role and stuck out 35 batters in six starts. Boatright redshirted in 2018 and didn’t appear in any games in 2019. He made six starts last spring and held opposition to a .239 batting average and earned a 5-0 record. Cadenhead is a fifth-year senior who was having his best season last year. His 1.96 ERA was tops among team starting pitchers. Brady Kais made 10 appearances last season as the team’s closer and didn’t allow a single run to score. 

10. Minnesota State Mavericks (8-5)

The Mavericks were very highly-rated to start 2020 as they were positioned fourth overall to start the season. However, they had a lackluster 8-5 record when the season was canceled. The struggles were an extension of a disappointing 2019 finish in which they lost five of six games with expedited exits in both the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and Central Region tournaments. Head Coach Matt Mangers guided his club to Cary four times in five years at the beginning of the past decade, and it is a finish of that nature which is more in line for what is expected for 2021.

The Mavs’ starting lineup is extremely deep and experienced. Cam Kline was the second-rated Minnesota prep outfielder in 2017 and blossomed in 2019 when he hit an MSU-leading .386 and slugged .719. Kline also excelled on the mound and was one of the top pitchers in the nation. He had a 2.47 ERA and struck out 112 batters in 80 innings and threw six complete games. 

Nick Altermatt was the NSIC Freshman of the Year in 2019 and batted a team-leading .372 and started all 54 games as shortstop. Teddy Peterson will be in his fifth year as the Mav’s second baseman. He has hit .316 in 155 collegiate games. Joey Werner batted a respectable .292 last season, but is certainly capable of more as he had hit .301 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 25 games in 2019. Hunter Ranweiler batted .326 in 43 at-bats last season as a freshman. Ben Livorsi was the second-rated Minnesota prep catcher and played two seasons at St. Louis. In 2019 he made 34 starts for the Billikens and tied for the team lead with seven home runs and had a .383 on base percentage. He was batting .296 when the season was called and had hit two of the team’s three home runs.

Every pitcher who started a game in 2019 returned to throw in 2020 and each pitcher who started a game in 2020 is back again this season. In sum, the pitching staff is very deep and experienced. In addition to Klien, Jimmy Larson and John Ludwig have a history of performing at a high level. Larson originally attended Kansas State, but redshirted. He returned to his home state and earned a 2.43 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 77 2/3 innings pitched in 2019. He only allowed two hits in 12 innings pitched last spring with 18 strikeouts. Ludwig had a 1.94 ERA in 2019 and his mid-90s fastball and plus slider likely would have earned him a draft nod if COVID hadn’t shortened it. A combination of Colin Denk and/or Nathan Culley will likely round out the rotation. Denk was one of the top Minnesota-based recruits overall from his high school class and has made seven starts in 15 appearances over the past two seasons. Culley is a highly-regarded freshman lefty whose velocity should reach the 90s as he fills out his 6-foot-1 frame.

11. Georgia College Bobcats (13-2)

The Bobcats were without a head coach for last fall after Jason Eller stepped down last May. Nolan Belcher, a former pitching and recruiting coordinator for the team, was brought back from the College of Charleston where he was a volunteer assistant to take over the team in early December. The six-month rudderless period could have been devastating for a team with title aspirations, but GC has a mature, senior-laden club which shouldn’t suffer much ill effect.  

Cal Gentry, Cassius Young and Cam Hill are the core of the offense. Gentry, a coulrophobic second baseman, has twice finished a season with a batting over .400 as he hit .441 as a freshman and .413 in 2019. Young was having a breakout season in 2020 as he raised his average from .264 to .453. He is the team’s shortstop and played impressively over the summer for the Macon Bacon in the Coastal Plain League where he led the team in home runs. Hill, a center fielder, was the Peach Belt Freshman of the Year in 2019 after batting .349 and was hitting .385 last season. Third baseman Noah Mendilnger and outfielder Paul Grazzini were also putting up big numbers when the season was called. Mendilnger batted .358 in the abbreviated season and Grazzini, a transfer from Gordon State College, was hitting .417 in his year with the team. Matthew Cassandra is a freshman outfielder with a very high ceiling.  

Kyle King and Brennan Crooms are the most experienced and dependable starting pitchers. King has appeared in 33 games over three seasons at GC. He was the starter in each of his five outings last spring and had a 1.82 ERA and struck out 31 in 29 2/3 while only allowing 19 hits. Crooms threw brilliantly last spring as he had a 1.74 ERA and only allowed 10 hits in 20 2/3 innings. Crooms is very strong and athletic and was rated highly as a third baseman coming out of high school. Connor Darling and Bryce Bowen have the best potential to play professionally. Darling has a strong fastball and appeared in 13 games over two seasons at Tennessee. Bowen was the third highest-rated first baseman in Georgia in 2017 and chose to attend Clemson over Auburn. After receiving minimal playing time he transferred to Georgia College. He appeared in five games last season as a reliever. Big things are expected from Garrett Houston. He missed last season after coming off surgery, but had struck out 50 batters in 32 2/3 innings with a 1.93 ERA at Gordon State in 2019. 

12. West Texas A&M Buffaloes (17-6)

The Buffs are one of three Lone Star Conference clubs solidly positioned in the top-20. They have a dynamic offense which frustrates defenses and a core of excellent pitchers. Few teams added as many high caliber athletes over the offseason. When WT is firing on all cylinders, outscoring them will be a daunting task.

Outfielder Keone Givens, who played as a true freshman at Oklahoma, gives the Buff a boost at the top of the lineup. He was named the LSC Championship Most Valuable Player in 2019 after batting .380 and 31 stolen bases. Givens was well on his way of compiling MVP numbers last season with a .371 average and 18 stolen bases. Shortstop Izaiah Madrid was topping the team with a .403 average in his first season after transferring from Wester Texas College. Cade Engle, Eric Ortiz and Kyle Moos are other important parts of the offense headed into 2021. Engle, a senior outfielder, has batted .299 over 68 games for WT. Like Givens, he is a constant threat on the basepaths and successfully stole 15 bases last spring. Ortiz is a switch-hitting corner infielder who was named to Perfect Game’s Caribbean Top Prospect coming out of high school and was rated a 9 of 10 grade from scouts. Moos played in 20 games as a catcher at Sam Houston State as a junior before transferring to WT in 2020. Last season he batted .273 in limited action. Justin Robinson will join the club this spring after two seasons at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Robinson hit .303 and started 37 games for the Golden Lions in 2019. Abel Pena is another addition likely to make an immediate impact. He played two seasons at Western Texas College where he hit .415 as a sophomore and spent 2020 on the roster at UT Rio Grande Valley.

Zach Dixon was the 2020 Lone Star Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year after earning a 2.63 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings. In his limited action last spring he held opposition to a .185 batting average and struck out 38 batters over 37 1/3 innings in seven appearances. Mathieu Gauthier was on North Carolina State’s roster for three seasons. He made 34 appearances and seven starts for the Wolfpack. He made seven starts for the Buffs in 2020 and held opposition to a .218 batting average and struck out 38 batters in 43 innings. Todd Danzeisen will be in his fourth season in Canyon. After limited action his first two campaigns, he was solid as a starter last year. Chandler Dean made the transition from the bullpen to a starter last year. His numbers were solid as he had a 3.28 ERA over 24 2/3 innings with 23 strikeouts.  New to the staff will be Jake Suddreth. Suddreth adds experience as he was a closer as an underclassman at Mesa Community College and then went on to pitch at Brigham Young and Florida State. Carter Brown, who spent three seasons at Arkansas Little Rock, struck out 18 batters in 11 2/3 innings out of the bullpen last spring. 

13. North Georgia Nighthawks (13-6)

The Nighthawks are a veteran team with great leadership who play in the talented, high-caliber Peach Belt Conference, which has four teams ranked. Every game counts in the PBC as the Southeast Region can only contain a limited number of teams. UNG was unjustly left out of the national postseason in 2019 and Head Coach Tom Cantrell’s team will be making every effort to make sure they don’t get snubbed once again.

Catcher Andres Perez put together a prolific season in 2018 when he batted .330 and hit 23 home runs, but had to redshirt in 2019. In his return to competitive play he batted .353 in nine games with six home runs. Perez’s father was the personal catcher for Greg Maddux and was named the MVP for the 1999 National League Championship Series. Perez will rejoin Crews Taylor and Bill LeRoy to form the nucleus of the UNG offense. Taylor led the team with eight home runs last season and was batting .318 when the season was called. In 2019 Crews hit .319 with 17 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs. LeRoy will be playing his fifth season as a regular in the Nighthawk lineup. He has a career .343 batting average and will transition to second base to give Perez more innings behind the plate. Outfielder Brady Eeles was leading the team in batting last season with a .344 average. He hit .381 in two seasons at the NAIA school Cornerstone to start his college career. Will Hardigree has plenty of bat speed and batted .284 after previously attending USC-Upstate. Freshman Jack Davis and Garrett Hollenbeck are professional prospects who should develop into an important part of the lineup at catcher or a corner infield position. 

Steven Bower and Parker Morrison give the team a pair of established aces. Bower was the top pitcher in the rotation in 2019 as he threw 89 innings and ended the season with a 3.34 ERA and 85 strikeouts. Last year he had 54 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings and held opposition to a .222 batting average. Morrison struck out 81 batters in 53 innings out of the bullpen in 2019. He transitioned to a starting role and had mixed success. While his ERA was a bloated 6.07, he also struck out 29 batters in 26 2/3 innings and held opposition to a .220 batting average. Cade Heil is in his fourth season as a member of the Nighthawk staff. He has compiled 212 2/3 innings on the mound and was having his best season in 2020. In six starts he amassed 36 2/3 innings in which he held opposing batters to a .216 average and had a 3.19 ERA. Joining the staff will be Maddex Richardson. Richardson spent two seasons on the staff at Western Kentucky where he struck out 29 batters in 29 1/3 bullpen innings. 

14. Southern Arkansas (19-4)

The Muleriders were unranked to start the 2020 season but played their way into and up the rankings with a skilled offense and stingy starting staff. SAU returns their entire lineup, plus made some key additions, which should keep them entrenched in the Top 25 all season long. 

Brett McGee was the team’s top performer last season. He was leading the team with a .424 batting average while also pacing the club with nine home runs. It was his second season as SAU’s catcher as he had hit .300 in 130 at-bats as a freshman with a pair of home runs. Mason Peterson, Ty Manning and Kobe Morris were other big-time performers in Magnolia. Peterson struggled at the plate in 2019, but broke out big time with a .378 batting average and 11 extra-base hits in 90 at-bats. Ty Manning transferred to SAU from Howard College, the same school where Peterson got his start. He was batting .360 with four home runs and was a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts. Morris is a Canadan import who played two exceptional seasons at Crowder Community College where he batted .408 with 11 home runs as a sophomore. His numbers and ability earned him a starting position at Alabama at third base, but he struggled at the plate. Morris hit .318 with six home runs and nine stolen bases for the Muleriders in 2020. Second baseman Austin Baker doesn’t have much pop at the plate, but is an excellent hitter who can reach and steal a base. He has a .330 batting average over three seasons and has successfully stolen 65 bases. Conner Allen, an outfielder from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, and Jackson Duke, a strong freshman catcher, should contribute to the team’s success sooner than later.

Zach Smith and Parker Abrego will be joined by James Janco as the team’s top starting pitchers. Smith started his college career at Blinn Junior College and transferred to Central Arkansas as a junior. He made six appearances at UCA before moving down the road to SAU. Last season he dazzled with a 1.40 ERA and only allowed 25 hits in 38 2/3 innings while striking out 35. Abrego has made 13 starts over two seasons. He threw a pair of complete games and held opposition to a .228 batting average. Janco is a solid lefty who has pitched at Trinidad State, New Mexico Highlands and TCS Post Grad. Remy Bilodeau has made 19 appearances over the last two seasons in a mixed role and has 74 innings of experience on the mound at SAU with a 4.01 ERA.

15. Delta State Statesmen (13-10)

Jacob Barlow has tremendous hitting ability and power for a second baseman. In 2019 he hit .322 with 13 doubles, five triples and 11 home runs to amass 124 total bases and a .588 slugging percentage. He struggled a bit comparatively last season, but his 2020 numbers should be seen as an aberration rather than an expectation for 2021. Chad Ragland led the team in hitting last season. He was swinging away at a .449 clip in 23 games in his first season at DSU after transferring from Florida State College. Ragland had hit .291 in two seasons with the Blue Wave. Hayden White returns for a third year with the Statesmen. In his previous two seasons he batted .303 while playing first base. Wyatt Pratt and Blake Wolferding both made their DSU debuts last season. They were teammates at Rend Lake College prior. Pratt started 17 games at third for the Statesmen and batted .339. Wolferding was hitting .288 as an outfielder. Shortstop Derek Sargent will be spending his fifth spring on the diamond in Cleveland, Miss. He doesn’t put up big numbers on offense, but is invaluable on defense. Myles Christian has tremendous potential to put up gargantuan numbers. He was drafted by the Mariners in the 18th round, but elected to attend Middle Tennessee State. He led the Blue Raiders in both home runs (13) and stolen bases in 2019, but only batted .239. Christian batted .241 with a pair of home runs for DSU. 

The Statesmen were to have the highly-regarded Tanner Propst on their team this spring, but he signed with the Rockies in June. Regardless, they have a cache of arms which should keep them competitive. Hunter Riggins has earned a number of honors for his ability on the mound at DSU, including being named an All-American in 2019 when he threw 110 innings and four complete games with a tidy 1.88 ERA. He was sharp again last spring with a 2.79 ERA in 38 2/3 innings of work. Christian Day and Cooper Brune should complete the rotation. Day had 90 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings at Copiah-Lincoln CC prior to arriving at DSU. In 2019 he made 13 appearances for the Statesmen in which he struckout 22 in 26 1/3 innings. He only had the opportunity to throw 6 1/3 innings last spring. Burne transferred from Jones County Junior College and made six starts in 2020. During his limited time on the mound he struck out 29 batters in 25 2/3 innings. 

Wesley Grantham, who pitched at East Mississippi CC and had a 3.48 ERA and 57 Ks in 51 2/3 innings in 2019, and Jackson Rutledge, a transfer from Northeast Texas CC, give the staff additional depth. Each appeared in six games last season and made nine starts between them. Harris Bell could make an impact on the mound as a freshman.

16. Azusa Pacific Cougars (10-10) 

The Cougars’ offense struggled in their 20 games last season as their batting average dropped from .318 to .267 despite the everyday lineup being much of the same. They also lost their power as they went from averaging 1.95 home runs per game to 0.7 per contest. The pitching was a bit out of whack as well as APU’s team ERA jumped from 3.79 to 4.19. Most of the lineup, which helped the team to a 40-15 record in 2019, remains on the roster and should perform much closer to their results two years ago than last year’s lackluster season.

Third baseman Osvaldo Tovalin was a beast in 2019 and topped the team with a .396 batting average with 17 doubles and 19 home runs. He failed to find his swing last year and only managed to hit .266. Griffen Herrera and Tido Robles also had big years in 2019, as they combined to hit 22 home runs while batting .364 and .318, respectively. Herrera hit well once again last spring with a .338 average, but Robles finished at .257. Nick Estrella was one of the few regulars whose numbers significantly improved last season. Estrella is primarily a pitcher, but also plays second base. He hit .198 as a sophomore and only had six at-bats in 2019, but in 2020 he emerged to be a force at the plate and led the team with a .357 batting average and hit five home runs. Joe Kim, who hit .341 in 2019 and .298 last season, will also be back in the lineup. Casey Dykstra hasn’t performed as anticipated at the plate in this three seasons at APU, but his .283 batting average (up from .227 as a sophomore) is a reason to be optimistic. 

Nick Estrella has had three excellent seasons on the mound for APU. In 2019 he had a 3.57 ERA in 88 ⅓ innings and earned a 1.46 ERA last season in five starts. Estrella is extremely athletic and excellels in all facets of the game. AJ Woodall pitched one season in UC Santa Barbara before transferring to Azusa Pacific following an injury. In 2019 he led the team in innings pitched and had a 3.30 ERA. He struck out 29 batters in 24 innings last spring. Declan Kearney signed with Oregon out of high school, but redshirted as a freshman.  He has appeared in 31 games with 13 starts at APU and was particularly efficient in 2019 when he had a 3.22 ERA, threw two complete games and struck out 55 batters in 67 innings. 

Tripp Aversa and Korey Shepard are the team’s most effective bullpen arms. Aversa struck out 33 batters in 39 ⅔ innings in 2019 with a 2.95 ERA. Shepard was projected highly out of high school and has a strong fastball and sweeping slider. He appeared in seven games as a freshman last spring.

17. Texas Tyler Patriots (20-3)

Texas Tyler won the 2018 NCAA D-III national championship and has smoothly made the transition into vying for the D-II title. Their everyday roster is rock solid and their pitching staff rivals competition at any level. A good barometer on their title prospects will occur opening weekend when they host top-ranked Angelo State.

Shortstop Tanner Roach has been an invaluable member of the Patriots’ offense since he helped Tyler win the D-III title in 2018 as a freshman. Last season, in his first playing a full D-II schedule, he was putting up his best numbers with a .373 batting average and 11 stolen bases. Outfielder Riley Jepson was a star performer who put up strong numbers at the University of the Fraser Valley, a Canadian college outside of Vancouver, and helped the team win the Canadian Baseball Colleges Conference championship. He played well in Tyler as he hit .373 last season with 11 extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases. Jordan Gochenour hit .412 with eight home runs and 12 stolen bases at Coastal Bend CC. He transferred to the University of Houston but only appeared in one game before suffering a season ending injury. Last year for the Patriots he batted .354 with nine doubles and three home runs in 82 at bats. Like Gochenour, Kyle McShaffry also previously played at Coastal Bend where he hit .344 in 2019. In his first season with UT Tyler, McShaffry batted .333 and played the corner infield positions. Catcher Cade Watson spent two seasons at Tyler JC where he helped the team advance to the NJCAA D-III World Series, before transferring to UT Tyler. Last season he batted .270.

Austin Schneider, Garrett Arredondo and Jacob Blatney will be looking to show that last year’s impressive start was only a hint of what’s to come. Schneider was a starter on the Tyler team which won the national title in 2018 and made 10 appearances that season. He has been particularly dominating the last two seasons. In 98 2/3 innings he has stuck out 145 batters while only allowing 66 hits and maintained a 2.55 ERA. Arredondo wowed as a freshman as he earned a 1.16 ERA in five starts. Over 23 1/3 innings he struck out 31 batters and held opposition to a .190 batting average. Blatney fanned 36 batters in 26 2/3 innings. He was a teammate of Watson at Tyler JC and stuck out 72 batters in 62 1/3 innings in 2019 at TJC. Reagan MacDonald is a 6-foot-9 left-handed hurler who previously played at Weatherford College and Dallas Baptist. Last season he made six starts and struck out 38 batters in 28 2/3 innings while holding opposing batters to a .202 average.

18. Ashland Eagles (10-4)

Carson Mittermaier and Michael Rogers are each playing in their fifth season in Ashland and have combined to play 290 games in an Eagle uniform. Mittermaier is a big, physical first baseman whose size and strength allow him to wallop the ball. He, like Rogers, was an All-GLIAC first team selection in 2019 when AU advanced to the D-II World Series, and has a .324 career batting average. Rogers is the team’s center fielder who provides solid defense and wields a solid bat. Shortstop Austin Eifrid is the best overall player on offense. He led the team in batting each of the past two seasons with .359 and .345 averages, and also led the club in stolen bases both years. Micah Allen is a three-year starter who splits time between the outfielder and first base, and has generated a .324 average. Garrett Robberts is a hulk of a third baseman. After two exceptional seasons at Cuyahoga Community College he transferred to Ashland and was an important part of the team which reached the D-II National Championships. He was second on the team in hitting last season with a .324 batting average and can provide innings on the mound if needed.

Chance Hitchcock had a coveted arm coming out of high school and exceeded expectations. During the Eagles’ title run, he had a 2.89 in 99 2/3 innings of action in which he stuck out 102 batters. Last season he had a 1.01 ERA in four starts in which he held opposition to a .211 batting average. Josh Stover is experienced on the mound as he has appeared in 35 games with 26 starts over three seasons. He has shown flashes of brilliance, such as his 17 strikeouts in a seven inning shutout of St. Cloud State last spring. Perry Bewley is anticipated to be a full-time starter in 2021 after pitching in a dual role his first three seasons. Josh Smith, who appeared admirably in 27 games in 2019 primarily as a reliever, is a big 6-foot-5 lefty reliever who is an adventure out of the bullpen. In an outing against Minnesota Duluth last year he recorded five of six outs via strikeout, but also gave up four hits and three walks. 

19. Nova Southeastern Sharks (11-11)

The Sharks’ record when the 2020 season was called was a pedestrian 11-11, but the team was unquestionably not playing to their level of ability. There is little question in regards to their offensive ability, and their pitching staff is young, but deep. This team is bubbling with potential and has several new players which could make a big impact.

Duncan Pastore was the Sunshine State Freshman of the Year and an All-SSC Second Team selection in 2019. He batted .344 with 12 stolen bases as the team’s third baseman and also led the team with a 2.51 ERA in 43 innings on the mound. Last year he continued to hit well as the team’s leadoff batter as he rapped out 11 doubles as part of a .330 batting average. Andrew Labosky is in his fifth season as a starter. His best year was in 2019 when he batted a team-leading .360 with 15 extra-base hits. He hit .280 and added 10 stolen bases last spring. Outfielder Bryan Diaz had a breakout season in 2019 when he finished the year with a .348 average, but struggled mightily last spring. Brandon Chinea played two seasons at Tennessee before transferring in 2019. His production in his first season as a Shark was underwhelming, but bounced back to lead the team in hitting last season with a .369 average. Tyler Epstien and Adan Fernandez are other regulars looking to continue on their 2020 success. Epstein, a Fort Lauderdale native, played his high school ball down a few miles away from NSU. He hit .367 as a freshman and added nine stolen bases. Fernandez was a two-year starter in the Florida International outfield before transferring to Nova Southeastern. He hit .365 with three home runs in 2020. Ray Sanchez, a transfer from just up the turnpike at Palm Beach State, hit .264 but projects higher with power. Two highly-rated freshmen could see significant playing time in 2020. Catcher Kolbe Aven is a highly-regarded freshman catcher and transfer Alex Steinbach slashed .343/.431/.686 and earned all-conference and all-region honors at Parkland College.

J.P. Williams moved from the bullpen to a starting role last spring and showed promise. He had a 1.99 ERA in five starts and struck out 23 batters in 22 2/3 innings while only allowing 17 hits and three walks. Brady Acker made 14 starts in 2018, but missed 2019 due to an injury. He returned to the mound last spring and performed very well. He had a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings of work. Cooper Omans made five appearances and two starts as a freshman. In those outings he had a team leading 1.45 ERA and held opposition to a .197 batting average. Carlos Rey and Dane Black were both named in Perfect Game’s list of Top Incoming D-II, D-III Freshmen. Both are exceptional athletes who can also hit and play the field as well. Jarret Krzyanowski will be playing his fourth season for the Sharks. He struck out 21 batters in 18 1/3 innings last season. 

20. East Stroudsburg (14-1-2)

The Warriors are an older team with experience up and down the roster. While the team is capable of swinging a bat, their strongest attributes are a deep and developing pitching staff and quality defense. They didn’t play the toughest competition last spring when they went 14-1-2, but their wins were often lopsided and they earned nearly triple the number of hits as their competition and outscored them 153-33.

The Warriors offense is completely intact from last year’s club, which batted .347 as a team. Center fielder Brainy Rojas made 87 starts his first two seasons and batted a respectable .270. Last year he was batting a lofty .453 with 18 walks for a .592 on-base percentage as the team’s leadoff hitter and also added 10 stolen bases. Anthony Torreullas played two seasons at Nyack before becoming an important part of the ESU offense. After batting .321 with 19 doubles in 2019, Torreullas was hitting .400 and slugging .800 when the season was called. Brock Kauffman has batted .331 over three seasons as the team’s third baseman. He earned All-PSAC honors his first two years and likely would have earned the honor again last season as he was batting .419 with a .710 slugging percentage and nine stolen bases. Other contributors to ESU’s winning ways on offense include Carson Freeman and Tommy Dunleavey. Freeman has three seasons under his belt in which he batted over .300 and Dunleavey hit .288 with four home runs in 59 at-bats in his first season after starting his college baseball playing days at nearby Northampton Community College. 

Few teams had pitching staffs more stifling than ESU last spring. The Warriors had a 2.01 ERA and held opposition to a .140 batting average. A large part of those dominating numbers was the magnificent pitching of Cameron Voss. In his two seasons as a Warrior, Voss has struck out 122 batters in only 73 1/3 innings while holding opposition to a .132 batting average. Last season he only allowed a pair of hits in 21 innings (.032 B/AVG) with 42 strikeouts. Chase Nowak was ranked one of the state of Pennsylvania’s top high school pitchers and has professional-level ability on the mound. Last season he had a 1.23 ERA and struck out 33 batters in 22 innings while only issuing four walks and 11 hits. Brent Francisco and Leon Finney round out the rotation. Francisco is a 6-foot-6 hurler who struck out 22 batters in 13 innings as a freshman last season without allowing an earned run. Finney has a 90-plus mph fastball and is joining the staff after pitching at Lackawanna College where he had a 12.46 K/9 ratio.

21. Newberry Wolves (18-6)

In 2019 the Wolves earned a school-record 41 wins, won the South Atlantic Conference title and played in the NCAA Baseball Championship for the first time in school history. They were a team ready to take it one step further in 2020 and were well on their way before the season was called. What the team lacks in power they make up for in speed and exceptional defense.

Almost every player who stepped into the batter’s box for Newberry in 2020 is back this season. Zane Tarrance, Nick Butler, and Colin Allman are a solid core for the team. Tarrance hit .296 in 2019 as a true freshman. He excels at small ball and had 16 sacrifice bunts and 21 stolen bases. Last season he had raised his average to .309. Nick Butler was second on the team in batting and slugging in 2019 at .336 and .500, respectively. His average was .319 during the shortened 2020 campaign and somehow managed to steal 16 bases in only 23 games. Allman broke into the starting lineup at shortstop in 2017 as a freshman and earned a number of accolades for his play in 2018 when he led the team in batting at .391 and home runs with eight. Last season he was second on the team with a .345 average. Dalton Lansdowne plays spectacular defense at second base and can handle the bat as well. He has a .328 average over three seasons for the Wolves. Luke Orr was leading the team with a .354 average with eight doubles. Additional offense this season should come from outfielder Kobie Leonard. He batted .300 in 21 games at Lake Sumter State College last season.

Tomas Sorcia Jr. and Josh Bookbinder provide the team with a pair of proven starters. Sorcia has appeared in 45 games with 26 starts over four years. He was having his best season last spring with a 3.31 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings. Bookbinder was the 2019 SAC Freshman of the Year after leading the team with 93 innings, six complete games and a 3.68 ERA. In 25 innings in 2020 he had a 2.16 ERA. The starting staff has some vacancies which could be filled by Bryce Peterson and Jonathan Howlett. Peterson struck out 35 batters in 25 innings at USC-Salkehatchie JC last season. Howlett was one of the top pitching prospects out of South Carolina in his class. He made two starts in 13 appearances as a freshman in 2019 at USC Upstate. Jonathan Elicier gives the team a strong veteran presence out of the bullpen. The fifth-year senior appeared in 11 games last year and had a 2.35 ERA and held opposition to a .222 average over 23 innings.

22. UNC Pembroke Braves (18-5)

Ethan Bauccom will finish his collegiate career as one of the most acclaimed hitters in the program’s history. The center fielder has been an everyday starter for four seasons and compiled a .326 batting average with a UNCP-record 49 home runs. He will be back for another season as will fellow sluggers Trevor Clemons and Bobby Dixon. Clemons is also an outfielder and has maintained a .348 batting average and stolen 39 bases in three seasons as a Brave. He was hitting .373 when the season was called. Dixon batted .319 with six home runs in 2019. He had a .388 average in 22 games last season and had already matched his half-dozen home run total. River Ryan and Jarratt Mobley are the club’s middle infielders. Ryan was leading the team with a .422 average last year and had six doubles and four triples. Mobely also has four seasons as an everyday starter under his belt, primarily as the team’s shortstop. He was having his best year at the plate in 2020 with a .337 batting average. Christain Jayne is a speedy outfielder who will help propel the offense. Jayne was drafted by the Diamondbacks out of high school and played two seasons at East Carolina. He hit .233 with five stolen bases last year for the Pirates.  Incoming freshman Joel Tarrh was the second-rated second baseman out of Virginia. 

Pitching has been problematic the past couple of seasons as UNCP had a team ERA of 5.36 in 2018 and 6.17 in 2019. Nevertheless, it was one of the team’s best attributes last year. Bucky Bonynge was a reliever at the State College of Florida where he struck out 30 in 19 innings and limited opposition to a .214 batting average. In his first season with the Braves last spring he made five starts and earned a 2.73 ERA. Jacob Morrison pitched at Savannah State and USC Lancaster before transferring to UNCP. He has made eight starts over the past two seasons, which include six from last year when he had a 3.72 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 30 innings. The aforementioned River Ryan has been fantastic out of the Braves’ bullpen. In 41 1/3 innings over two seasons he has stuck out 46 batters while only allowing 28 hits. His ERA is a scant 0.65.

23. Wingate Bulldogs (15-6-1)

McCann Mellett has played four solid seasons as the Bulldogs’ skilled second baseman. During that time he has earned a .340 batting average with his aggressive, compact, line drive swing. His .395 batting average and four home runs were both tops on the team last spring. Outfielder Jed Bryant is in his fourth season at WU. In 2019 he batted .305 and crushed 19 home runs. He added base stealing to his arsenal last spring and had swiped 10 bases when the season was called. Andrew Motsinger was moved into the starting lineup and played center field and batted leadoff for the team in 2020. He was batting .317 with seven doubles and nine stolen bases when COVID canceled the season. Hunter Dula’s biggest contributions to the team’s success have been on the mound, but he also plays first base. He batted .261 in 2019. Isaiah Williams-Rhem was rated the top third baseman of his North Carolina prep class. He has all the tools to be a monster performer for the Bulldogs and can play any position.

As mentioned earlier, Hunter Dula has been a significant impact player for the team on the mound. In 2019 he had a 2.66 ERA when he made 21 appearances out of the bullpen. He transitioned to a starting role last year and the move paid off. He had a 2.41 ERA and struck out 23 batters in 18 2/3 innings while holding opposition to a .179 batting average. David Nash had mixed success in a starting role in 2019, but had little problem enticing outs last year. He had a 1.73 ERA in 26 innings. Mac Callari threw exclusively out of the bullpen his first two seasons. He made five appearances and three starts last spring in which he had a 1.91 ERA. Tommy McCollum has earned 51 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings over two seasons at Wingate. He is a 6-foot-5, 260-pound hurler who performed well in the Cape Cod League in 2019. Brody McCullough made six starts last year and had a 3.64 ERA over 29 2/3 innings.  

24. Millersville Marauders (14-4)

The versatile Jimmy Losh was solid as a freshman, but erupted last spring to pace the club with a .492 batting average with three triples and eight stolen bases. Luke Trainer also exceeds expectations and was hitting .415 at the break and had nearly matched his power number from the previous season in a fraction of the games. He was batting .415. Shortstop Eric Callahan has been a fixture for years in the lineup with his defense, but is now one of the better, if not the best, on the team. The last two years he has maintained a .313 batting average. Speaking of defense, Cole Friese is excellent in the outfield with strong instincts and an even stronger arm. He has a .322 batting average in four seasons with the Marauders and has 62 stolen bases. Pete Vacarro played two seasons at Evansville and is anticipated to be the team’s DH. 

Great pitching has always been a signature part of the MU program and that tradition will continue in 2021. Alex Mykut was phenomenal last spring as he struck out 32 batters in 19 innings while holding opposition to a .149 batting average. His ERA was a diminutive 0.95. Jeff Taylor also was a statistical beast as he fanned 33 in 24 innings. It was his first season with the staff after playing at Penn State for years. Ben Wilchacky looked sharp as a freshman in limited appearances last spring and will likely be in the rotation this year. Kris Pirozzi could be masterful with his blistering mid-90s fastball. In two seasons he had stuck out 37 batters in 22 1/3 innings.

25. Davenport Panthers (13-2)
Nolan Anspaugh was the GLIAC Freshman of the Year for conference rival Grand Valley State in 2018. He transferred to Ivy CC and batted .437 as a Titan. Last year he transferred back to D-II and put up big numbers for the Panthers. He batted .484, slugged .710 and stole 12 bases as the team’s center fielder and leadoff hitter. Travis Harvey and Nolan Bryant were each named First Team All Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference in 2019. Harvey batted .391 and lead the team with eight triples and 10 home runs and Bryant batted .311 with 18 doubles and eight home runs while holding down second base. Harvey hit .365 last season and Bryant batted .415. Noah Marcoux batted .313 and led the team with 11 home runs in 2019 and was hitting .423 when the season was called. Catcher Kamrin Markwardt has a .347 batting average in his two seasons at DU. Christian Petre played his first two seasons at Lansing CC. He was batting .371 in his first season in Grand Rapids. 

James Rogers and Dalton O’Boyle threw well in starting roles last season. Rogers has a 3.09 ERA in his three seasons at DU and held opposition to a .203 batting average last season. O’Boyle pitched at Purdue Ft. Wayne as a freshman. After spending a season at St. Petersburg College he returned north and joined the Davenport staff. He stuck out 26 batters in 21 2/3 innings last season with a 3.32 ERA. Cal Djuraskovic held opposition to a .197 batting average in 2019, but was a bit generous with walks. He continued to struggle with command last season but can cause trouble for opposing hitters when he’s in the zone. He has struck out 60 batters in 53 1/3 innings as a Panther. 

2021 D-II Top-30 Prospects

1Logan WorkmanRHPR-RLee UniversitySoddy DaisyTN
2Garrett McDanielsLHPL-LMount OliveNicholsSC
3Jacob Teter1BL-LFlorida SouthernMelbourneFL
4Jack GoonanRHPR-RMercyhurstAyersvilleOH
5John Malcom1BL-LTampaDetroitMI
6Drew Ehrhard2BR-RTampaTampaFL
7Luke AndersonRHPR-RCentral OklahomaPrairie VillageKS
8Marshall ThompsonRHPR-RLanderJulietteGA
9Jonathon RiceRHPR-RUT-Permian BasinPuyallupWA
10Braedyn McLaughlinRHPR-RCentral MissouriKansas CityMO
11Jordan LeasureRHPR-RTampaTampaFL
12Matthew McMillanRHPR-RUT-TylerPflugervilleTX
13Logan ChapmanRHPL-RNorth GreenvilleEasleySC
14Micheal PelaezRHPR-RTampaTampaFL
15Will AbbottRHPR-RMount OliveCamdenSC
16Justin AlintoffRHPR-RRollinsPalm Beach GardensFL
17John Michael FaileCR-RNorth GreenvilleBoiling SpringsSC
18Jarrod CandeOF/RHPR-RTampaTampaFL
19Bryce JacksonRHPR-RLanderAbbevilleSC
20Trent BakerRHPR-RAngelo StateGeorgetownTX
21Derek OrndorffOFR-RSeton HillMill RunPA
21Jake LipetzkyRHPR-ROklahoma BaptistBrownstownMI
22Parker MorrisonRHPR-RNorth GeorgiaCummingGA
23Drew MartinRHPR-REckerdTampaFL
24River RyanRHP/2BR-RUNC-PembrokeHuntersvilleNC
25Brennan CoxLHPL-RWayne StateTaylorMI
26Andres PerezCR-RNorth GeorgiaDuluthGA
27Nathan HendersonRHPR-RFlaglerPalatkaFL
28Drew DaczkowskiRHPR-RRollinsSterlingVA
29Cassius YoungSSR-RGeorgia College & StateAtlantaGA
30JP WilliamsRHPR-RNova SoutheasternMelbourneFL