Welcome to the first (and hopefully only) Perfect Game DII Baseball In Season Preseason Top 25! Usually we have the initial rankings released before first pitch, but it took a little bit of extra time to get the secret rankings sauce just right. They could have been served up a bit earlier, but then they would have been rushed and not up to the same high level of standard the student-athletes deserve.
Although many teams already have a couple of weekends of results in the books, early results have not been taken into consideration. Every effort was taken to avoid seeing what has happened so far on the diamond so as to not influence the preseason prognostication. For these rankings, every team was considered to be 0-0.
Most of the usual suspects can be found on the list. The defending champs are looking just as good (if not better) than last season and are the preseason number one. Tampa, Angelo State, Colorado Mesa, Minnesota State and teams of their perennial prestige are back as always too. The teams most exciting to keep an eye on this season are Montevallo, Wayne State and Newberry. Each of them had record breaking success last season and all are legitimate contenders to play their way to Cary and the chance to take home the national title. OH! Metro State too. Those guys are absolute beasts!
One more quick note before getting to the rankings is a shout out to John Michael Faile of North Greenville and Southern Arkansas’ Jeremy Adorno. Their high caliber play not only has helped make their schools a preseason top five pick, they both were named to USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List to honor the nation’s top amateur baseball player for the 2023 season.
|1||North Greenville Crusaders||SC||54-10|
|3||Angelo State Rams||TX||51-14|
|5||Southern Arkansas Muleriders||AR||47-13|
|6||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||44-13|
|7||West Texas A&M Buffs||TX||39-19|
|9||Mount Olive Trojans||NC||34-20|
|10||Central Missouri Mules||MO||46-9|
|12||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||39-9|
|13||Southern New Hampshire Penmen||NH||46-12|
|16||Point Loma Sea Lions||CA||51-10|
|17||Wayne State Warriors||MI||37-19|
|18||Nova Southeastern Sharks||FL||36-17|
|19||East Stroudsburg Warriors||PA||41-20|
|20||Metro State Roadrunners||CO||35-22|
|21||Henderson State Reddies||AR||40-17|
|22||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||43-17|
|24||Cal State Monterey Bay||CA||38-17|
|25||Azusa Pacific Cougars||CA||38-19|
1. NORTH GREENVILLE CRUSADERS (54-10)
If the Greek poet Homer were to pen his epic poem The Odyssey today, he may forgo his telling of Odysseus’ post Trojan War journey and instead tell the tale of North Greenville’s transition from one of the most dismal teams in DII baseball into national champions. Before Landon Powell was hired as head coach in the summer of 2014, the Crusaders sputtered to an abysmal 8-35 record and fulfilled their prophecy of finishing last in their conference. Since then, the team has won nearly three-quarters of their overall games, advanced to the NCAA postseason each of the past five full seasons and went a ferocious 13-2 run in the postseason last spring to earn NGU its first-ever national title. Expect more continued success this spring.
To the dismay of opposing pitchers, John Michael Faile will be back for one more season to pad his record setting stats as well as add a few more to his collection. The three time All American and Conference Carolina’s Triple Crown winner (.427, 16, 86) will be rejoined by Marek Chlup who was second on NGU with a .390 average and topped the team with 30 stolen bases last year. Chlup will miss a chunk of the season however as he also plays for the Czech Republic national team and will rejoin their roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Versatile MLB draft candidate Pat Monteith is a leader on the field and off, and also returns to hit in the heart of the order. The already potent offense also added Jalen Vasquez from South Carolina and David Lewis from Clemson, who’ll be looking to get more at-bats in Tigersville than they had at their prior schools.
After breaking out in 2021, Reece Fields made twenty starts last season and struck out 101 batters in 102 innings with a pair of complete games. He’ll be the ace again this season with Noah Tackac, who led the county in ERA (1.60), WHIP and H/9 rejoining him as a starter. Look for 6’7” freshman Brody Fowler, to make an immediate impact as a freshman in the rotation. Michael Rodriguez, who earned the nickname, “The Nightmare” after striking out 34 of 47 batters in fall, is one of many talented arms who will be called upon to close games.
2. TAMPA SPARTANS (44-13)
The Spartans inclusion near the top of the DII baseball rankings is as certain as death and taxes. According to their online ranking history, only once in the past 25 years was Tampa not included in the preseason Top 25 (the sole omission was in 2005 when they were ranked 12th). That string of lofty expectations is certainly not going to end this year nor anytime soon.
The Spartans will be without their most prolific offensive performer from last season, but return much of the rest of the everyday lineup for another run to Cary and their ninth national title. JD Urso, Jordan Lala, EJ Cumbo and Drew Ehrhard give them a quartet of upperclassmen with the ability to earn All American honors. They will be joined by E.J. Doskow whose batting average was over .400 for the bulk of the year for Valdosta State.
Michel Paul will be looked upon to lead Tampa’s starting rotation this spring. He compiled a 3.26 ERA and amassed 89 strikeouts in 96 ⅔ innings last year while holding opposition to a .226 batting average. Alex Canney was also exceptional as he had a 1.60 ERA in 39 ½ innings. They will be joined by Eli Thurmond who had two strong seasons at nearby State College of Florida, and Skylar Gonzalez, a transfer from Polk State College. Closer Brayden Nelson, who had a 1.70 ERA in 24 appearances last season is anticipated to hear his name called in the next MLB amateur draft.
3. ANGELO STATE RAMS (51-14)
The Rams advanced to the DII Baseball National Championship for the fourth time in seven opportunities last spring as they finished with a 51-14 record which tied the school record for wins in a season. Alas, those astounding accolades fell short of their ultimate goal of coming home with an elusive national title. Nevertheless, Head Coach Kevin Brooks and ASU have all the components in place for another title run.
The offense, which finished with a fourth in the nation .357 batting average and second with 198 stolen bases, will be without some major contributors from last season, but is still largely intact. Austin Beck had an incredible .517 on base percentage thanks to his high .420 average and 40 walks, and used it to successfully swipe 33 bases. Jordan Williams has earned a .388 batting average of the past three seasons and catcher Tripp Clark has legitimate professional potential behind the plate. While none of the trio (or the team as a whole) will have outfield defenses playing with their backs against the wall, they make up for the lack of power with defense and speed.
It is the Rams’ pitching which is the most impressive. Aaron Munson, who threw 94 ⅓ innings last year and made 17 starts with two complete games and 81 strikeouts will be backed by three transfers which legitimately give the team four aces. Kade Bragg had previously planned to pitch at both Texas A&M and Texas Tech before winding up at San Angelo. Braxton Pearson played two seasons at TCU and struck out 23 batters in 18 innings with only three walks over the summer in the Cape Cod League. Also joining the rotation is Mason Bryant, who started his college career pitching for the Texas Longhorns. Either Scott Ellis or Hunter Mayo, both of who also pitched at top DI schools, will be used to close games.
4. WINGATE BULLDOGS (48-10)
The review and analysis of the Wingate roster was one of the most problematic excursions in creating the rankings. Up and down the roster it seemed like something was most certainly amiss because when cross-checking which players were returning to the diamond in 2023, it appeared that everyone was coming back. Rarely are there occasions when you can take one season’s roster and compare it with another and basically, state, “ditto.” – especially when you’re referring to a team that neatly won 48 games the season after taking home the national title. Yet, here we are. Wingate has one of the most experienced and talented teams in the country and will challenge again to take home the national title.
The Bulldogs’ top three hitters from last season, Seaver King, Mitch Farris and Andrew Motsinger will each be back in the everyday lineup. The trio batted a combined .370 last season with Farris also adding invaluable versatile innings on the mound as well. Over 20 appearances Farris was credited with seven wins, three saves, a 1.55 ERA and 79 strikeouts over 58 innings. King topped the team with a .381 average and 18 doubles and Motsinger added 26 stolen bases. The club also has eight other players back who had their name written into the starting lineup at least 20 times.
On the mound Wingate will be without last year’s ace, but do return the aforementioned Farris, as well as two other experienced starters who put up solid numbers, Josh Dotson and Austin Mitchell. One of the team’s strength’s last season was its bullpen which looks to be solid once again. Sam Brodersen, who struck out 84 batters in only 52 ⅔ innings as the team’s closer, may move into the rotation. If he does, Corey Avant is another fireballer who’d be apt to pick up the shutdown, late-inning role to finish games.
5. SOUTHERN ARKANSAS MULERIDERS (47-13)
After finishing as the Central Region Runner-Up in both 2018 and 2021, Head Coach Justin Pettigrew’s Muleriders advanced to the DII Baseball National Championship for the first time in school history last season thanks to a memorable postseason which included a walk-off home run win to advance to Super Regional play, and a seven-run ninth inning rally that earned them the trip to Cary. The incredible postseason ride last spring could very well be a precursor to another unforgettable run this year.
While their biggest bat from last season won’t be back, five position players who started at least 50 games return, as well as another pair who made at least 30 starts. Each of the seven batted over .300. Catcher Brett McGee hit .312 and was second on the team with 16 home runs, but may make an even bigger contribution with his leadership and mentality. Other SAU sluggers returning include Riley Orr who paced the club with a .372 average, Jakob who batted .317 and played flawless first base, and Canadian import Brandon Nicoll who was second on the team with a .333 average while adding 14 home runs.
What really gives this year’s edition of the team the ability to win the title is their pitching staff. Not since Hayden Simpson was drafted in the first round in 2010 has a Mulerider pitcher been so ballyhooed as Jeremy Adorno. After compiling a 15-0 record last season in 17 starts which included an astonishing eight complete games and setting the school single season record for strikeouts with 136, Adorno was one of only two DII players named to the 2023 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List. Mikel Howell, who previously pitched for Louisiana-Monroe, and Micah Burke, a transfer from Navarro College, will team with established starter Wyatt Marr to round out the rotation.
6. COLUMBUS STATE COUGARS (46-13)
Columbus State nearly advanced to DII Baseball National Championship in 2022 as they advanced to the Super Regionals, but were bested by eventual national champion North Greenville two games to one which included a bitter late inning defeat. This year’s roster has many of the same names as last season’s team who’ll be looking to avenge their elimination and return to the final eight for the first time since 2018.
The Cougars top power hitter and base stealer have moved on, but the rest of the lineup is intact. Those back in action include Derek Wylie who started all 57 games and posted a .342 batting average with 19 home runs. Equally as formidable at the plate is Steven Minter who had 14 home runs along with a .363 average. Both were All-Peach Belt Conference selections. Five other everyday players who made at least 43 starts also return to the diamond.
The pitching staff has the same embarrassment of riches as the offense with eight hurlers who made at least 10 appearances returning to Columbus. Noah Windhorst and Colton Joyner combined for 32 starts and 18 wins last spring. While neither dominated opposition, each proved to be more than worthy of their starting roles. Leo Giannoni, who made 22 appearances out of the bullpen, and Peyton Burton give the team a pair of strong arms to close out games.
7. WEST TEXAS A&M BUFFS (39-19)
The Buffs are one of the best teams over the last decade to not reach Cary. They’ve consistently reached win totals in the upper 30’s and lower 40’s, but have yet to get past Angelo State and Colorado Mesa in the ultra competitive South Central Region. This season they have their deepest roster yet which should help them hurdle any last season injuries and advance to the final eight.
The offense is bonkers with each of their top five hitters back from last season who all batted over .342. Adam Becker joined the team last spring after a season at the University of Houston. His impact was immediate as he was the Lone Star Conference Player of the Year with a .402 average and 22 home runs. During the Lone Star Tournament he hit seven home runs and drove in 15 over just three days which is a pretty rude way to treat opposing pitchers. Ryan Johnson led the team with a .403 average and also added 11 home runs himself. Also back to fuel the offense is Will Fuenning who has batted .349 over the past two seasons while increasing his home run total from six to 14. Expect Seth Ochoa, who had a season-ending injury in the preseason last spring to make a significant impact as well.
Only one pitcher who logged significant innings last season won’t be back this spring. Lots of outs are expected to be generated by Nick Marshall and Reese Miller. Marshall topped the team in innings last year and earned a win in 11 of 16 starts. Miller dominated out of the bullpen and stuck out 46 batters in 36 ⅓ while holding opposition to a .208 average. Isaac Keehn, who is playing his fifth year of college baseball, provides experience and stability to the rotation. Tyler Cornett, who struck out 108 batters in 89 ⅓ innings at Cameron, should thrive as the team’s closer should Miller be moved to the starting rotation.
8. MILLERSVILLE MARAUDERS (42-14)
Millersville suffered two uncharacteristically lopsided setbacks in their hosted regional last spring to have their season come to a premature end. Expect the early exit to serve as motivation for the team to return to Cary this spring. Millersville has one of their best teams ever on paper headed into the season, which is atrocious news for their opponents who already have their work cut out for them when facing the Marauders. If the team stays healthy, they’ll be a good bet to play deep into the postseason. Heck, if even they don’t stay healthy they’ll still be a strong candidate to go deep – they’re that darn good.
Bren Taylor and Thomas Caufield are a doozy of a duo in the heart of the order. Taylor batted .425 last season and slugged .506. In 214 at bats he only struck out 13 times. Caufield was just as impressive and put together one of the top offensive seasons in program history as he batted .373 with a program record 16 home runs and 40 extra base hits. Jimmy Losh hit .365 with 31 walks to accumulate a .455 on base percentage as the team’s leadoff hitter. Dale Houser missed last season due to injury, but will join the lineup this spring. In his last full college season he hit .426 at Potomac State.
Ben Wilchacky had a 10-1 record last season with a 2.22 ERA and held opposition to a .208 batting average. Despite those impressive numbers, he’s not even slated to be Millersville’s number one starter. Alex Mykut opened the 2021 season with a 4-0 record and two complete games with a 1.48 ERA, but suffered a season-ending injury which also put him on the sidelines. He should be healthy and back to his previous form – if not better. Conor Cook started 11 games last season and struck out 59 batters in 57 ⅓ innings. Carson Kulina, who pitched three seasons at Shenandoah where he was a team captain, joins the club as a graduate student and should complete the starting rotation. Sam Morris, who served as the closer despite only being a freshman, will be back at the tailend of the bullpen. Morris also hit .275 in a part time role in the outfield.
9. MOUNT OLIVE TROJANS (34-20)
The Trojans had a solid season last spring but failed to earn an at-large invite to the NCAA postseason. With an almost fully intact lineup from last season, and the return to form of an injured ace, Mount Olive should not only once again be one of the top teams in the competitive Southeast Region, but nationally as well.
Almost the entire everyday lineup will be back on the diamond for UMO. The straw that stirs the savory Mount Olive drink is senior second baseman Jack Casbarro who led the team with a .345 batting average, 15 home runs and 33 stolen bases. Alden Cottle and Vito Patierno both batted .344 average and like Casbarro, started all 54 games. As did Josh Jones, the club’s shortstop who’s scheduled to hit in the cleanup position. Center fielder Dylan Jeffries is one of the country’s top defensive outfielders, but has struggled at the plate. If he is able to start making more contributions offensively, the Trojans could win a lot of games by a lopsided margin.
Hunter Stevens struck out 91 batters in 71 innings with a 2.54 ERA in 2021, but missed much of last season due to injury. When he was on the mound he nearly averaged two strikeouts per inning with 34 Ks in only 18 innings. Caleb Irwin is making his fifth season as a starter and has been solid every year. Last season he held opposition to a .223 average in 81 ⅓ innings with a 3.10 ERA. If Stevens and Irwin are both at their top of their game, Mount Olive opposition will have to hope for series consultation wins on Sunday. Dawson Gause, who pitched previously at Tusculum and was recruited by LSU, will also be back. He struck out 43 batters in 39 innings over nine starts last season, but was susceptible to giving up too many runs too often. Justin Koehler, who earned seven wins and five saves as the team’s closer also returns.
10. CENTRAL MISSOURI MULES (46-9)
Central Missouri has been absolutely dominating over the past three seasons with a combined record of 112-20 (.848) which included a trip to the national finals in 2021. Another successful season appears to be on the agenda for UCM with much experience returning both at the plate and on the mound. Scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem for the offense, but limiting the damage done by opposition could be a problem if able arms don’t develop into effective starters.
Brennen van Breusegen is simply one of the top ten players in DII who excels in all facets of the game. He batted .428 last season with 15 home runs and 18 stolen bases. John Prudhom has the ability to lead the division in home runs as he blasted 19 last year while maintaining a .387 average. That duo, combined with breakout seasons by sophomore Jack Schark and Vance Tobol could make for some very long and frustrating innings for teams facing UCM.
The pitching staff is questionable, not in ability, but durability. Conner Wolf and Grayson Senn are penciled in to be the team’s top two starting pitchers. Both pitched very well last season, but they combined to only throw 54 innings. Nonetheless, short stints were a trademark of the staff last season with only one pitcher amassing over 51 individual innings and it worked out last year. Coaches anticipate a strong spring debut from Brock Toney, but as a freshman it’s difficult to see how well he’ll help fill out the rotation. Jake Wilson, who had a 2.45 ERA at Crowder Community College, will likely be called to the hill often as the staff finds its bearings.
11. QUINCY HAWKS (37-25)
The Quincy Hawks are poised for another successful season under neophyte head coach Matt Schissel who had his first season at the helm last spring. The tenacious team almost advanced to Cary after having the tying and go-ahead runs on base late in the Midwest Super Regionals, but couldn’t get by Illinois-Springfield to have their season come to an end. This year Schissel and the Hawks will be favorites to advance to the final eight for the first time since 2017 when Schissel was an assistant coach.
Quincy’s offense returns five of six regulars, each of which batted no less than .315. The force is strong with Luke Napleton who batted .329 last year with a team leading 20 home runs. Nolan Wesman and Lance Logsdon also put up double digit home run totals and also combined for 33 doubles. Shortstop Gino D’Alessio, who led the team in batting last season with a .358 average, will also be back on the diamond.
The Hawks’ top three starting pitchers from last season are all back. Spencer Walker and Jay Hammel combined to throw 188 ⅓ innings with 172 strikeouts and six complete games. Griffin Kirn had an inflated ERA as a freshman, but also struck out 62 in 60 innings with only 19 walks. His development could really give opposition trouble. The one missing link for the team going into the season was a formidable closer. Inconsistency at the back end of games was a bit troublesome, but if someone can step out to finish games it could make them unstoppable.
12. MINNESOTA STATE MAVERICKS (39-9)
If you exclude the COVID shortened 2020 season, the Mavericks have averaged over forty wins per year since 2004. Under Head Coach Matt Magers, who took over the team in 2009, MSU has a magnificent .762 winning percentage. Those remarking numbers will continue into this season as the perennial power will be looking to return to Cary for the first time since 2014.
Ryan Wickman struggled as a freshman at Valparaiso before finding his swing at Iowa Central CC and blossomed last year at MSU. He developed into a complete ballplayer and was second on the team with a .367 average and tops with a .491 on-base percentage that was juiced by his ability to “take one for the team”. He set a single-game record when he was hit five times by a pitch in a game last spring. Wickman shared the team lead of 11 home runs with Jackson Hauge, who batted .329 and is also returning. Yet perhaps the most important player back on the club is Aidan Byrne, who not only is the centerpiece of the stout Maverick defense at shortstop, he also is a team leader in the dugout and batted .345.
MSU’s pitching prospects are strong, but will rely heavily on transfers to win games. Nathan Culley is a rock solid number one as he led the team with a 1.28 ERA and held opposition to a .214 batting average in 13 appearances. The other returning starter is Jack Zigan who recorded only seven walks against 44 strikeouts over 40 innings with a 3.60 ERA. Dyan Gotto, a transfer from DIII’s Wartburg, and Taisei Yahiro, a lefty from Osaka, Japan who spent last season at Grand Canyon, round out the staff. Chandler Fochs, who made 25 starts and 38 appearances at Western Illinois over the past four seasons, should also pick up a good amount of innings.
13. SOUTHERN NEW HAMPSHIRE PENMEN (46-12)
Few teams have been consistently high caliber as Southern New Hampshire. They have qualified for the NCAA tournament in each of the past ten seasons and emerged from their region to reach Cary in 2012, 2018, 2021 and 2022. If the Penmen don’t advance out of the East this spring it won’t be because a team was better than them overall, but rather because their opposition happened to be better then them that day.
Last season’s team established season records for hits, home runs and hits and their .313 batting average was the highest it’s been since 1998. While a few of the players who contributed to those numbers will be absent from this year’s roster, those numbers are in danger of being toppled once again. Nick Schwartz is the top run producer back in the lineup. He batted .397 with nine home runs and led the team in slugging at .646. Cristian Mercedes and Cam Caraher were also culpable in SNHU’s offensive explosion. Mercedes batted .303 with 20 extra base hits, and Caraher batted .323. Shortstop Daniel Riveria, who led the team with 32 stolen bases while hitting .290 also returns. Michael LaRocca missed most of last season due to injury, but will be ready for opening day. In 2021 he batted .368 with six home runs.
Pitching is always a plus at SNHU and this year will be no different. Jeffery Praml missed all of last season, but has been sensational in years prior. In 2019 he had a 1.06 ERA in 34 innings with 10 saves a reliever. In a starting role in 2020 and 2021, he struck out 106 batters in 93 innings and threw eight complete games. Other scheduled starters include Josh Roberge who struck out a team high 101 batters last spring and Brandon White who had a 3.31 ERA and held opposition to a .205 average. Trevor Anibal has been spectacular over the past two seasons as the Penmen closer. He had been credited with an 8-0 record, five saves and only allowed 24 hits over 50 ⅔ innings.
14. MONTEVALLO FALCONS (36-15)
After an abysmal 2021 in which they went 12-24 and finished twelfth in the Gulf South Conference, Montevallo had an incredible turnaround last spring and earned 36 wins, the most ever during Head Coach Chandler Rose’s tenure and finished third in the conference standings. This year’s senior laden edition of the club should surpass those marks, compete for the GSC crown and earn their first NCAA postseason appearance since 2018.
Reed Latimer, Jake Smallwood and Sam Kuchinski give the team tremendous pop in the heart of the order. Latimer led the GSC with a .397 batting average and hit 14 home runs. Smallwood added a .385 average and made 50 starts as the club’s catcher where he led the conference with 18 runners caught stealing. Kuchinski, the conference Co-Player of the Year, topped the team with 18 home runs and batted .356. New JUCO transfer Barry Eisemen and UT Martin transfer Will LaFollette should make the already potent offense even more formidable.
Gino Cozzi is rehabbing to start the season, but once he returns he should be the team’s Friday starter after striking out 83 batters in 77 ⅔ innings last season with a 3.79 ERA in his first season on campus. In the meantime, the team has a plethora of seasoned starters more than capable of keeping opposition off the basepaths. Logan Samuels held opposition to a .198 average over 33 ⅓ innings last season, Trey Felker fanned 45 batters in 40 ⅓ and JJ Pease had a 3.79 ERA over 16 appearances which included 13 starts. Connor Phelad only allowed 25 hits in 35 innings last season and earned six saves. For that impressive effort he’s slated to be the team’s closer this spring.
15. AUGUSTANA VIKINGS (47-13-1)
The Augustana Vikings have won no less than 37 games in a full season in a decade and that streak is likely to continue into 2023. They were on the precipice of returning to Cary to reclaim the nation title they earned in 2018, but were edged late in two games to Southern Arkansas.
The offense won’t be as solid as last season when they batted .329 as a team and had five players with double-digit home run totals, but it should be more than enough to score some runs. Drey Dirksen not only supports the pitching staff as the starting catcher, he wields one of the most potent bats. As a freshman in 2021 he hit .317, and last season he added power to his arsenal as he wholloped 16 home runs. Jack Hines is the leading hitter overall back this season. Last spring he batted .367 and topped the team with a .454 on base percentage. Jason Axelberg, hit .319 in a limited role last season and is expected to be a larger contributor this spring.
The Vikings have some very solid starting pitchers returning and also have considerable depth on the staff. If the top arms stay healthy they will have a very successful season. Ryan Jares, Caleb Saari, and Seth Miller are an experienced trio who make up the meat of the rotation. Jares earned 109 strikeouts in 81 innings with a .95 WHIP and 2.78 ERA. Saari fanned 81 batters in 69 innings with a 2.87 ERA, and Miller held opposition to a .189 average with a 2.62 ERA. Caleb Kranz and Adam Diedrich are both solid in relief. Gabe Pilla, who pitched for North Dakota and Gardner-Webb, gives the team an additional experienced arm.
16. POINT LOMA SEA LIONS (51-10)
With their record breaking 51 wins last season, the Sea Lions became the first PacWest team to reach the national championship game. Most incredible is that PLU made the run following an 11-21 overall performance in 2021. Alas, a return to the Cary will be difficult as their two top pitchers who accounted for nearly 40% of total innings pitched have moved on. Instead the team will have to rely on a talented offense to set the pace while new arms are passed the baton.
Jakob Christian, Hunter Otjen and Scott Anderson will be counted on to propel the Point Loma offense. Christian is a free swinging masher who hit 13 home runs as a freshman with a .322 average. Otjen, who also played high school in Point Loma, batted .325 with 11 home runs and also had a 2.61 ERA in 31 innings. Anderson, the team’s shortstop, was named the PacWest Defensive Player of the Year and appeared in all 61 games where he hit .312. Joey Nicola, who was a two-year starter at UC Riverside, will join the team in the outfield and contribute at the plate.
While the Sea Lions’ offense appears to be solid heading into the season, the pitching staff has monstrously gaping holes to fill. Only three pitchers who threw more than 12 innings last year will be back on the mound. The only rotation regular back is Dylan MIller. He had a 4.06 ERA in 88 ⅔ innings and threw a no-hitter against Concordia. Aside from Miller and Otjen, the only other pitcher back is closer Cole Hillier. His return is substantial as he led DII with 17 saves and had a 2.25 ERA in 36 innings with 57 strikeouts. Transfers Kaden Lewis, who had a 1.82 ERA at Edmonds CC, Cole Colleran who made 18 appearances at the University of San Diego, and Long Beach State transfer Ray Cebulski will be counted on heavily, and early, on to compile quality innings.
17. WAYNE STATE WARRIORS (37-19)
The Warriors set a school record for wins last season which provided them the opportunity to host a regional for the first time. WSU will be a favorite to earn a first place GLIAC finish and make a deep postseason run thanks to an extremely experienced lineup and pitching staff.
Hunter DeLanoy is one of the most accomplished players to suit up for WSU and is the active career leader in most offensive categories. He led the team with both a .341 batting average, 11 home runs and 12 stolen bases to earn first team conference honors. Rejoining him on the roster, and likely on the GLIAC First Team honor list, is infielder Chris Tanderys. Tanderys is another long time member of the team who rebounded from a difficult 2021 season to bat .338 and lead the team with a .462 on base percentage. Like DeLanoy and Tanderys, Ryan Foley is a graduate student looking to end his college career with a championship. In addition to providing stellar defense in center field, he has a cumulative .333 average over four seasons.
Ryan Korolden and Karter Fitzpatrick had a combined 17-2 record last season and both received First Team All-GLIAC honors. Korolden is the reigning GLIAC Pitcher of the Year as he held opposition to a .194 batting average, had a 2.14 ERA and struck out a team-high 70 batters in 75 ⅔ innings. Fitzpatrick lowered his ERA from a robust 6.23 figure in 2021, to a lean and mean 2.65 and was second on the team in strikeouts. Brennan Cox, who spent most of last season coming out of the bullpen, is yet another graduate student on the team. Over five seasons he had struck out 136 batters in 115 ⅔ innings and has held opposition to a .226 batting average. Ashton Potts, who excelled at Kellogg CC, has been penciled in to complete the rotation.
18. NOVA SOUTHEASTERN SHARKS (36-17)
The Sunshine State Conference was particularly impressive last year with five teams finishing the year with top twenty-five caliber seasons. However a couple of those teams were significantly propelled by superlative individual accomplishments by players who graduated or were drafted. The Sharks however had their successes spread across the roster which should keep their high-caliber of play going into the new season.
The top three leading hitters from last season all return. Duncan Pastore topped the team with a .370 average and was second in total bases. Adam Frank, who started his career playing with DI schools Fairleigh Dickinson and the University of Miami, batted .333 in his first season as a Shark. Daniel Irisarri raised his average from .262 ast a sophomore to .340 last season and was a perfect 19 for 19 stealing bases. If shortstop Tyler Epstein can find his 2021 groove in which he batted .360, it would be a tremendous boon to their run scoring success. His average dipped to .269 last spring, but still provided invaluable defense. Ihosvany Castaneda, a transfer from SSC rival Barry, also makes the team better. He hit .318 over two seasons for the Bucs.
Carlos Rey was absolutely remarkable last season. He earned a 1.40 ERA and only allowed 23 hits over 51 ⅓ innings while striking out 76. His 16 appearances were primarily in relief, but he’ll see more action as a starter this season. Cooper Omans made nine starts in 14 appearances last season. He held batters to a .231 average and had a 4.08 ERA. The other spots in the rotation will likely be taken by newcomers. Frank Elissalt was a freshman All-American at La Salle and spent last year at Florida Southwestern State. Anthony Karoly is another candidate to start games despite being a freshman. The Sharks also have one of the top relievers in Michael Dillon. He joined the NSU roster last year after pitching at Xavier. He had a 1.73 ERA and 14 saves in 21 appearances.
19. EAST STROUDSBURG WARRIORS (41-20)
The Warriors set the school record for wins last season and advanced to the Atlantic Super Region where they played three close games with Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference rival West Chester before having their season come to a close. With a large cache of players returning, as well as the addition of some key transfers, the Warriors’ winning ways should continue and surpass last season’s results.
Jack Rothenhausler was the PSAC East Freshman of the Year as he made 44 starts and batted .337 and slugged .595. He’ll be back in the middle of the lineup with Ben Piripavel who has a career .331 average and stole 31 bases last spring. Also back to solidify the defense is Jeremy Piatkiewicz who set a school record in assists while batting .333. New to the team is Mike Kelly who batted .372 for Kutztown with 19 stolen bases. Another transfer, Cameron Hubbard from Lehigh, should find his way into the middle of the starting lineup as well. There are definitely some question marks to the offense, but if they play to their potential they will be dangerous.
The pitching staff is what will win games for ESU this spring. Few teams can boast a duo as daunting as Chase Nowak and Brent Francico. Nowak amassed 89 innings over 16 starts in which he struck out 91 batters and held opposition to a .227 average. Francisco struck out 116 batters in 89 ⅓ innings while only issuing 13 walks. Tom Reisinger, who struck out 88 in 68 innings last season also returns to give the team three pitchers who combined to make 42 starts. Nick McAuliff, who threw for both Kutztown and at the University of New Orleans gives the staff extra support.
20. METRO STATE ROADRUNNERS (35-22)
With Colorado Mesa losing almost their entire starting lineup, Metro State has a perfect opportunity to claim the RMAC crown as almost their entire roster returns.
Cam Yuran led the team with a .400 batting average last season and added 14 home runs to amass a team-high .777 slugging percentage. Ross Smith led the team with 20 home runs while maintaining a .339 batting average and both Colin Stone and Zach Schuler slugged over .700 as well. In addition to all those already accomplished players, the team will welcome back Jake Williams to the roster. Williams batted .369 with 16 home runs in 2021, but missed last season due to injury. Expect the bulk of MSU’s box score to tally well into double-digit run totals.
Unfortunately, the high score may not be limited to the Metro State offense. The staff is revamped and inexperienced in pitching the hitter-friendly RMAC. A pair of transfers Carson Brown, who pitched previously at Utah Valley, and Massino Vega a redshirt freshman, are candidates to be in the rotation, as is Jack Slominsky who threw at Scottsdale CC in 2022. Reichle Archilse, who struck out 69 batters in 52 innings over nine starts last season is the most dependable returner along with Eric Cox who earned three wins and nine saves with a 2.36 ERA.
21. HENDERSON STATE REDDIES (40-17)
The Reddies shattered the school win record last season, besting the previous mark by six. Nonetheless, HSU’s historic season came to a close at the hands of Southern Arkansas who was a bee in the Reddies’ bonnet all year. Not only did SAU eliminate the Reddies in the NCAA postseason, they also topped them in the Great American Conference regular season standings and conference tournament. With their top everyday players returning to campus, along with ⅔ of their starting rotation. HSU will battle with SAU once again for not only conference supremacy, but a trip to Cary as well.
This year will be Greyson Stevens’ fifth as a starter for HSU, and he has been an impact player since he arrived on campus. He enters the season as the school’s all time leader in total bases and is second in hits and home runs. In addition to excelling on the field, he was honored as the school’s Duke Wells Inspirational Award winner. Last season he batted .351 with 10 home runs. Kaden Argenbright’s numbers dipped a bit from 2021 when he led Henderson with a .394 average, but still supplied plenty of offense with a .310 average with 20 doubles and six home runs. Dillan Thomas and Cade Tucker will also be back in action. They lead the team in batting average at .391 and .364 respectively. A solid addition to the middle of the lineup is Luke Rice. Rice was a JUCO First Team All American at Arkansas Rich Mountain where he batted .393 over two seasons with 20 home runs.
Ryan Galvan and Andrew Howard have been penciled in as the team’s primary starters. Galvan had a 3.86 ERA and 6-1 record over 15 starts. Howard will be making the transition from the bullpen where appeared in 20 contests and struck out 48 batters in 45 innings with a 3.60 ERA. Nick Sesito, who impressed at Tyler Junior College will be a new addition to the rotation as will Reese Weaks from Western Texas College. Cade Tucker started 14 games last season, but will head to the bullpen to close games this spring. He struck out 48 batters in 45 innings with a 3.60 in 2022.
22. COLORADO MESA MAVERICKS (43-17)
The Mavericks are admittedly in the preseason rankings more on reputation than results. Last year CMU won their 10th straight RMAC regular season title and made their 13 consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. However almost the entire offense, most notably Haydn McGeary who batted .481 with 35 home runs, has graduated. The pitching staff is not in much better shape. The roster primarily consists of players who had been stuck behind established upperclassmen. This year they will finally get their opportunity to shine.
Conrad Villafuerte and Harrison Rodgers are two of the few everyday players returning. Last season Villafuerte batted .362 with 22 extra base hits and Rodgers hit .338 with 12 home runs. Julian Boyd and Stevenson Reynolds looked very good last year in limited roles. Boyd batted .416 in 89 at bats and Reynolds hit .365 in 32 appearances. Sophomore Max Valdez, is a highly rated catcher and could be the school’s next breakout star. Transfer Paul Schoenfeld from Butler CC will likely be the team’s leadoff hitter.
The Mavericks do have one proven elite commodity returning in Kannon Handy. He finished 2022 with a 4.47 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 86 ⅔ innings. He also threw a no-hitter against Colorado School of Mines. Jared Ure and Anthony Durbano, who both redshirted last season after having Tommy John surgery, should elevate the staff and could wind up with starting roles. Ure struck out 31 batters in 27 innings with a 2.33 ERA in 2021. Durbano made 17 appearances in 2021 in which he was credited with five wins and a pair of saves. Cooper Vasquez, who made 16 appearances with five starts also returns. He struck out 52 batters in 47 innings.
23. NEWBERRY WOLVES (38-13)
Newberry earned 38 wins last season and had their highest winning percentage in school history, but were left off the NCAA postseason dance card when pairings were announced. Their omission should be the driving force which ensures the talented team is not left watching this season. With several top players both on offense and the mound back, as well as a solid team defensively, Head Coach Russell Triplett’s team should put themselves in a position not to be overlooked this spring.
The Wolves rarely hit home runs, in fact many teams often put more over the fence in a week than Newberry did all of last season. That isn’t to say Newberry isn’t a threat on offense. The team batted .334 in 2022, legged out 103 doubles and stole 151 bases. Braylin Marine and Henry Gibson were two of the top hitters in the country. Marine hit .421 with 21 doubles and 32 stolen bases. Gibson hit .422 with 20 extra base hits in only 147 at bats. Jacob LeBron batted .368 and stole 21 bases. Donovan Ford, who hit .292 as a freshman in a limited role, may prove to be one of the top hitters as well.
Like the offense, the pitching doesn’t dazzle with jaw dropping numbers, but they do get the job done. Tyler Chinpire had the lowest ERA among starting pitchers at 3.07 over 13 starts. Joe LaFiroa, moved from the bullpen into a starting role last season and the transition was a success. In 62 innings he struck out 63 batters with a 4.35 ERA. Rylan Brown is a third experienced starter back in action. He made eight starts in 12 appearances and totaled 41 ⅓ innings with a 4.14 ERA. Kyle Baker, a redshirt senior, is likely the team’s best bet for a closer. He struck out 37 batters in 33 ½ relief innings/
24. CAL STATE MONTEREY BAY OTTERS (38-17)
The Otters followed up a California Collegiate Athletic Association regular season title with two solid wins in the West Regional, but let leads slip in back-to-back games to Azusa Pacific to have their season come to a close. WIth a solid core of players back on offense and defense CSUMB is the definite favorite to take home the CCAA title once again, but will face increased competition from Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona.
Shortstop Brady Miguel led the Otters in batting average at .395 with 22 extra base hits which included six triples and was named the CCAA Most Valuable Player. He will once again led the offense with help from Chase Lindemann and Nico Hartojo. Lindemann hit .317 on the season with only 14 strikeouts in 199 at bats and Harojo batted .306, was second on the team with seven home runs and will also see action as a starting pitcher. Redshirt senior Kyle Guerra has hit as high as .398 in a season and has centerfield locked down defensively. Jack Tomlinson, a transfer from SJ Delta College, will likely find a spot in the heart of the batting order.
Ryan Platero, who struck out a team high 75 batters in 73 ⅓ innings with only 15 walks will likely be the only regular starter from last season back in the rotation. Aiden Lee, a transfer from the University of San Francisco, may take over the number one starting role, and Harojo will have his name penciled in often as well. Nate Rohlick, who spent last season at the University of Nevada should complete the rotation. Chris Tonna, who took over the starting role last season, will be the closer once again. Last season he had a 2.72 ERA over 36 ⅓ innings.
25. AZUSA PACIFIC COUGARS (38-19)
Azusa Pacific reached the West Region finals for the third time in the last four seasons under new head coach Kirk Nieuwenhuis. The Cougars offense should roar once again, but their pitching staff is highly suspect going into the new season. APU was able to win 38 games last season despite the pitching staff’s team ERA of 6.03, 226 walks issued and 81 home runs allowed. If the pitching develops they’ll easily be one of the top teams in the west, but if it continues to falter, it may not matter how potent the offense is.
APU belted 100 home runs last season and most of the players responsible for putting the ball over the wall are back once again. Omar Lopez topped the team in batting, yet may have made more of an impact on defense as the team’s soft-handed shortstop. Tido Robles and Spencer Rassmussen both batted over .300 and combined to hit 34 home runs. Casey O’Laughlin, a strong senior earned a degree at Northwestern, hit eight home runs and should easily surpass that total this spring.
Steven Silvas and Isaac Mendez are two of the top pitchers returning Silvas fanned 55 batters in 45 ⅓ innings and only allowed 33 hits. Mendez led the team in ERA at 3.34 which was fifth in the PacWest over 59 ⅓ innings. David Hays made 15 starts in 2022 and led the team with 87 strikeouts and held opposition to a .230 average while also supplementing the offense with a .290 average in 62 at bats. Tyler Herges, a redshirt freshman, will also get an opportunity to start.