It is often stated that baseball is a game of inches. A home run could turn into an out or a strike could be judged to be a ball with just the slightest variation in its path. This slight alteration can dramatically impact not just a game, but a team’s entire season.
Often however it takes more than the small difference between a line drive base hit and a quickly gloved out to change a team’s fortunes – especially for the better. When a team is in an extended rut it sometimes requires a change at the top to alter their on field fortunes.
Along with each of the updated rankings is a look at a school in each of the three divisions who have made a head coaching change in the last few seasons. With the new dugout leader the overall box score results have taken a turn for the better. While neither of the trio of teams are currently positioned in their respective Top 25, they each have earned consideration for the national rankings and have an opportunity to further enhance their reputation with a strong finish to the 2023 season.
|Rank||Team||Prev Rk.||State||Overall Rec.||Week Rec.|
|1||North Greenville Crusaders||1||SC||38-6||3-1|
|3||Angelo State Rams||3||TX||36-6||3-1|
|4||Central Missouri Mules||5||MO||30-11||3-1|
|5||Southern Arkansas Muleriders||6||AR||30-11||3-1|
|7||East Stroudsburg Warriors||4||PA||30-7||2-2|
|8||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||11||CO||29-9||2-1|
|9||Mount Olive Trojans||10||NC||28-10||4-0|
|15||Columbus St. Cougars||16||GA||27-12||2-1|
|16||Metro State Roadrunners||20||CO||34-8||4-0|
|17||Wayne State Warriors||17||MI||24-6||3-2|
|18||Minnesota State Mavericks||15||MN||24-9||2-3|
|19||UNC Pembroke Braves||22||NC||32-10||4-0|
|20||Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes||19||CA||29-11||2-2|
|21||Cal State Monterey Bay Otters||24||CA||25-11||3-2|
|22||Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars||18||IL||28-10||2-2|
|23||St. Edward’s Hilltoppers||21||TX||32-9||3-2|
|25||West Florida Argos||NR||FL||25-14||3-0|
Dropped: No. 25 Valdosta State
Before Head Coach Pat Evers took over the team in 2019, Mayville typically struggled to reach the .500 mark and were consistently mired in the second half of their conference standings. With Evers at the helm the Saints have made significant strides and the team is on the brink of being both a regional force and national contender. In his first season the Saints set new records for both total and conference wins and tied for first in the Great Lake Valley Conference standings. Last season’s 32-20 record established a new program record for wins – one which is likely to be broken again by this year’s edition of the team. The Saints are currently 23-12 and have played one of D-II toughest schedules. Of their 12 losses, nine of them have come against teams currently ranked in the Perfect Game Top 25, and seven of the nine were to teams in the top six of the rankings. Last week they split a four game series with Illinois-Springfield, a team which is currently #22 in the rankings and advanced to the NCAA DII Baseball Championship last season. All 13 of their remaining regular season games are at home where they are 11-2 and 12 of the contests are against GLVC teams without a winning conference record.
The unquestioned leader of the Saints’ offense is junior outfielder Michale Gould. He is batting a lofty .465 which is fourth nationally. He also has eight home runs, 14 doubles and nine stolen bases. Zeb Roos and Jacob Hager are also big contributors on offense. Center fielder Roos is batting .289 and leading the team with 19 stolen bases with seven home runs. Hager is batting .310 and leading the team with nine home runs despite missing a chunk of games earlier in the season.
The pitching staff has not dominated statistically, but gets the job done. Senior Austrian import Jamie Young has made steady improvements each of the last three years to lead the pitching staff. His 3.70 ERA leads the starters. Jacob Kroeger has the best overall stuff on the staff, but struggled early. He has been pitching much better of late with 21 strikeouts over his past 15 ⅔ innings which include outings against Quincy and UIS, and should tear through his remaining opposition.
Look for the Saints to finish strong and challenge for third in the GLVC standings. With a strong showing in the conference tournament, the Saints would have a strong chance of receiving a bid to play in the Midwest Regional play and would be a darkhorse to advance out of the bracket.
|Rank||Team||Prev Rk.||State||Overall Rec.||Week Rec.|
|2||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||2||GA||36-5||4-0|
|3||LSU Shreveport Pilots||3||LA||34-6||4-0|
|5||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||5||TN||35-6||4-0|
|8||Hope International Royals||9||CA||27-7||3-0|
|9||Missouri Baptist Spartans||8||MO||32-5||2-1|
|10||William Carey Crusaders||14||MS||31-9||2-1|
|11||Benedictine Mesa Redhawks||11||AZ||33-8||5-1|
|12||Webber International Warriors||12||FL||32-11||2-1|
|14||Central Methodist Eagles||13||MO||28-12||3-1|
|16||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||15||OK||30-11||1-1|
|18||Texas Wesleyan Rams||19||TX||30-11||3-0|
|19||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||20||ID||26-12||4-0|
|20||Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes||22||KS||33-10||3-1|
|24||Loyola Wolf Pack||24||LA||27-15||3-0|
Dropped: No. 23 Georgetown
AVE MARIA GYRENES
Prior to the 2022 season Ave Maria had only a single winning season since the program was developed in 2010, and that was back in 2013. It’s understandable why the fledgling program had difficulties winning games despite the campus being located in sunny, baseball-friendly, southern Florida. Not only did the Gyrene coaches have to compete against several other schools in state for recruits, but they also played in the Sun Conference, one of the NAIA’s most competitive baseball conferences. Alas, the Gyrenes’ days of being a conference also-ran may be over. They currently are one of the top teams in the NAIA and clinched their first postseason berth in a decade. They currently are at 29-10 and are one of a small handful of teams who can claim to have defeated top ranked Southeastern.
It’s unlikely the Gyrene’s resurgence would have taken place without current head coach Michael McCormick. McCormick, a former college pitching standout and MLB draft pick by the White Sox, joined the team as an assistant coach during the shortened 2020 Covid season. He was appointed to be the interim head coach in 2021 and named head coach last year. In the team’s first full season with him officially at the helm, the program had their first winning record in over 10 years as the offense broke several school records including runs, home runs and stolen bases. The pitching staff also dramatically improved and established a new school high in strikeouts as they lowered their team ERA from a robust 8.33 to 6.49.
The offense, which is hitting .312 as a team and slugging .477 with 135 stolen bases, is solid throughout the lineup. David Leonardi tied the school single season home run record last season, and has topped the mark again this spring. He has 13 home runs with 10 doubles and 11 stolen bases. Sophomore Jose Gonzalez is second on the team in total bases as he is batting .357 with 14 doubles, 4 triples and five home runs. Tanner Kelley and Daniel Caylor have combined to steal 57 bases while only being caught three times. Caylor had set the program record in stolen bases and either he or Kelley will certainly eclipse the mark this spring. Kelley started his career at Illinois State and is batting .349 in his first season at Ave Maria.
Sophomore Cameron Horner is the team’s top pitcher. This season he has been credited with nine wins while striking out 69 batters in 66 ⅓ innings. Senior Justin David has been exceptional in relief. A few atypical outings inflated his ERA to 3.86, but he ordinarily is a dependable closer. He has only allowed 22 hits in 35 innings with 42 strikeouts.
With their series win over Warner last weekend the Gyrenes will be playing in the Sun Conference Playoffs for the first time since 2013. Ave Maria is currently second in the conference standings, but still has series with Webber International and Keiser, the teams third and fourth in the standings remaining. Nevertheless, their current 11-4 conference record should keep them in the second position barring a complete meltdown. Despite that, Ave Maria still needs to finish strong to secure a bid to the NAIA postseason. While they do have a win over SEU, it is their only victory over a ranked opponent. Their overall schedule has been a bit light with games Trinity Baptist (9-23), Ohio Christian (13-26), Massachusetts Maritime (DIII), Florida National (13-14) and Cornerstone (16-23). They’ve shown they can beat the teams they should beat, but still need to prove they can compete with the upper echelon.
|Rank||Team||Prev Rk.||State||Overall Rec.||Week Rec.|
|4||Baldwin Wallace Yellow Jackets||4||OH||22-5||3-1|
|6||Johns Hopkins Blue Jays||6||MD||28-3||5-0|
|11||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||13||VA||26-6||3-1|
|12||Christopher Newport Captains||12||VA||27-7||2-0|
|14||Eastern Connecticut Warriors||16||CT||23-5||4-0|
|16||East Texas Baptist Tigers||20||TX||24-8||4-0|
|17||UW-Stevens Point Pointers||NR||WI||16-9||4-1|
|23||Denison Big Red||18||OH||21-6||2-1|
|24||NC Wesleyan Batting Bishops||24||NC||23-8||3-1|
Dropped: No. 19 Trinity, No. 22 Montclair State
MARY WASHINGTON EAGLES
The Mary Washington baseball program has had a long history of enviable success. Throughout the 90’s and start of the century the Eagles were often conference champions and nested in the national rankings. However over the past decade the team hasn’t been able to achieve the same level of success. From 2018 to last spring, the Eagles finished under .500 each year. This season however, the Eagles are looking like the team’s of old and are currently an impressive 25-10. After a 6-5 start UMW won eight games in a row which included a victory over Randolph-Macon who is currently positioned eleventh in Perfect Game national rankings. Last weekend they went toe-to-toe with top ranked Salisbury, but were outlasted 12-10.
Some of the credit for the Eagles’ resurgence must be given to Head Coach Kelly Swiney who is in his fourth year at the helm. He took over the team after a successful run at Allegheny College, where he had been a three-year starter. The team’s winning percentage has steadily climbed in each of his seasons at UWM. Last year’s edition of the team only went 17-23, but they were highly competitive with eight of the losses being by two or less runs.
The offense has been a strong point for the team this year as they have a team batting average of .309. Junior outfielder Bobby Ayscue is having a tremendous season once again and is likely to earn all Coast-to-Coast honors once again. He is batting .370 with 14 doubles, five triples and 13 stolen bases. Noah Roots missed much of the first half of the season, but has been formidable at the plate since his return to the regular lineup. He is batting .451 on the year which includes a brillant 5-5 performance against Susquehanna in which he hit his first home run of the season.
A pair of freshmen have propelled the pitching staff this spring. Jackson Myers has been phenomenal in his first full collegiate season. In nine starts he had a 2.68 ERA and has struck out 48 batters in 50 ⅓ innings. Ryan Northup has excelled in a dual role. He has a 2.70 in 10 appearances which include three starts. In 30 innings he has held opposition to a .235 batting average. Brendan McComber has twice earned C2C honors and is having another strong season. He had a 4.05 ERA and is leading the team with 49 strikeouts.
Despite their strong record, the Eagles’ postseason resume still needs some juice if they are to play beyond the C2C Tournament. They have a single game with #11 Randolph-Macon this week and a pair against #12 Christopher Newport over the weekend. They finish their regular season with another shot at Salisbury. Winning at least two of those games, combined with a win in the conference tournament, could get them an invite to the NCAA postseason.