Final DII/DIII/NAIA Rankings (June 14)

Photo: Angelo State Baseball (Angelo State Athletics)

NCAA D-II

Preseason RankFinal RankNCAAStateFinal Record
31Angelo State RamsTX56-9
NR2Rollins TarsFL42-19
13North Greenville CrusadersSC50-11
224Colorado Mesa MavericksCO48-11
115Quincy HawksIL47-11
NR6Cal State San Bernardino CoyotesCA46-19
137Southern New Hampshire PenmenNH44-13
28Tampa SpartansFL43-11
89Millersville MaraudersPA46-10
NR10Seton Hill GriffinsPA48-13
1011Central Missouri MulesMO43-15
1512Augustana VikingsSD47-21
2413Cal State Monterey Bay OttersCA39-18
914Mount Olive TrojansNC38-17
NR15West Florida ArgosFL39-17
NR16Belmont Abbey CrusadersNC41-18
1217Minnesota State MavericksMN43-18
NR18Barry BucsFL35-19
2319Newberry WolvesSC43-15
1420Montevallo FalconsAL39-16
NR21UIndy GreyhoundsIN39-21
522Southern Arkansas MuleridersAR40-18
2523Azusa Pacific CougarsCA35-19
NR24UNC Pembroke BravesNC39-17
NR25*Illinois Springfield Prairie StarsIL36-15
1725*Wayne State WarriorsMI42-13

Entering the postseason Angelo State had compiled a stunning 42-8 record and had few falters during their regular season schedule.  They hadn’t lost a single series all year and there wasn’t a single weakness in their roster – they could hit, pitch, run and play defense, as well as anything else a team needed to do in order to compete. They certainly looked like they had what it would take to bring home their first national championship. However, it had appeared that way in a number of previous seasons as well. Last season they rolled into Cary with 50 wins and won their first game before two lopsided losses.  In 2021 they won two at the National Championship before dropping a pair to eventual champion Wingate. In 2020 they were cruising with a 19-3 record and number one rankings before COVID canceled the season. As optimistic as Rams’ players, coaches and fans were with their #whynotus hashtag, their had to be some quiet concern that this year would end with yet another unsatisfying early exit and thoughts on what could have been – alas, any worry would have been unwarranted. The Rams rolled through the postseason, going 14-1 against their most stringent of competition       

In Cary ASU earned a pair of wins over Southern New Hampshire and one over reigning champ North Greenville to advance to the championship game against Rollins. The Tars were representing the always formidable Sunshine State Conference whose teams have combined to win 19 D-II baseball titles. It would be a memorable game with the Rams unable to relax until the final out was made. The two teams traded scoring in the middle innings with the Rams ultimately jumping out to a 6-2 lead in the eighth thanks to a Tripp Clark two-run double and a Justin Harris single. 

Starting pitcher Aaron Munson kept Rollins at an arm’s length with yet another impressive outing. He would ultimately earn the win after tossing 5 ⅓ innings of solid baseball as he scattered five hits with four strikeouts. Austin Teel and Scott Ellis kept Angelo State ahead, but the Tars rallied late with the season on the line.  Kade Bragg, the Lone Star Conference Pitcher of the Year, who’d finish with an NCAA D-II leading 1.20 ERA, was brought in late to close the game. Despite his dominance over the season, Bragg kept it interesting.  

With two already on in the ninth, Bragg walked the bases loaded as ASU scrambled to keep a 6-2 lead with one out. He struck out the next batter, but Rollins’ next two batters, Adams Torres and Jeslyn Whitehead, each worked two full count walks which scored two runs and kept the bases loaded. A single scored another and the Tars had the bases loaded with senior Cameron Meehan at the plate.  In the type of situation every pitcher imagines growing up, Bragg managed to earn a strikeout to secure the win and title for Angelo State. 

D-II Top Most Outstanding Player  
Luke Napleton, Quincy – The Quincy catcher was the unanimous Player of the Year in the GLVC. He finished leading DII with 29 home runs and 187 total bases while slugging .824 with a .421 on-base percentage. His 80 hits on the season so far also included 18 doubles and a triple. He helped power Quincy to a program record for wins in a single season as well as both the GLVC regular season and conference tournaments and back-to-back regional championships. Unfortunately for the Hawks, Napleton likely won’t be back on campus next season as he recently decided to enter the transfer portal. 

D-II Top Most Outstanding Pitcher  
Kade Bragg, Angleo State – Wingate’s Mitch Farris was the top candidate headed into the postseason, but the Bulldogs failed to receive an invite and allow Farris to continue to compile stats. Meanwhile Bragg, who had already earned honors as the Lone Star Conference Pitcher of the Year, continued to shine.  He only allowed a pair of earned runs in three postseason starts, two of which were offensive juggernauts Colorado Mesa and North Greenville. In the title game he had a tumultuous appearance which kept Rollins in the game, but ultimately struck out two batters with the bases loaded to earn the save. He finished the season with a D-II leading 1.20 ERA with 124 strikeouts in just 104 ⅔ innings. He has only allowed 63 hits and issued just 39 walks for a 0.97 WHIP and .171 B/AVG. He threw four complete games on the season, two of which were shutouts in two of his last three outings during the regular season. 

D-II Most Valuable Player  
Drew Donaldson, UIndy – Donaldson helped the Hounds become the first-ever 7-seed in the super regional era to advance to the NCAA D-II Baseball Championship. He hit .410, which was .055 points higher than any regular player on the team. His 21 doubles, seven triples and 10 home runs also lead UIndy, as did his sixth in the nation 96 hits, 78 runs and 63 RBI. He also stole 17 bases and has made only seven errors in 242 chances as the team’s primary second baseman.  

NAIA  

Final RankPreseason Rk.NCAA State2023 Record
19Westmont WarriorsCA43-8
21Southeastern FireFL58-6
322William Carey CrusadersMS49-11
43Georgia Gwinnett GrizzliesGA50-8
512Lewis-Clark State WarriorsID37-18
6NRIndiana WesleyanIN41-20-1
74Cumberlands PatriotsKY49-9
87Bellevue BruinsNE48-10
9NRTaylor TrojansIN42-17
102LSU Shreveport PilotsLA47-10
115Tennessee Wesleyan BulldogsTN43-11
12NRMissouri Baptist SpartansMO44-9
136Hope International RoyalsCA33-11
14NRBenedictine Mesa RedhawksAZ44-14
15NRKansas Wesleyan CoyotesKS44-15
1613Vanguard LionsCA35-18
1716Freed-Hardeman LionsTN40-21
1817Oklahoma City StarsOK32-21
19NRCumberland PhoenixTN36-15-1
20NRMidAmerica Nazarene PioneersKS35-28
2110Central Methodist EaglesMO36-19
228Webber International WarriorsFL40-17
2320McPherson BulldogsKS37-16
2424Doane TigersNE43-12
25NRMobile RamsAL35-15

Westmont quietly compiled wins all season long and was entrenched in the Perfect Game Top 10 for the duration of the season. They weren’t fueled with an explosive offensive, generating oodles of runs like Southeastern or Georgia Gwinnett, as their final slugging percentage was 85th in the nation, but they had a strong pitching staff. The Warriors’ hurlers kept opponents on their heels and off the base paths all season with a team 3.85 ERA which ranked seventh in the nation and held hitters to a .243 batting average. They also touted an extremely deep pitching staff with seven pitchers who threw no less than 27 innings while having an ERA no more than 2.97. 

After completing both the GSAC Tournament and NAIA Opening Round undefeated, the Warriors made their second consecutive trip to Lewiston with the hopes of avenging last season’s early 0-2 exit.  

Westmont earned three quick wins – to reach a streak of 12 in a row, as they set back Cumberlands, Taylor and Willam Carey to become the lone remaining unbeaten team in the tournament. The victories also established a new program record for wins in a season. However they faced top ranked Southeastern in their next contest. The Fire prevailed 10-3 which created a rematch with the loser heading home and the victor moving on to the championship game. The Warriors extinguished the Fire’s title hopes 6-4 propelled by unique team effort in which Westmont didn’t earn an extra base hit, but drew seven walks and was hit by a pitch three times. Bryan Peck threw well over five innings to earn the win. He was the ace of the staff and finished with a 3.11 ERA and 109 strikeouts.  

In the title game Westmont faced hometown favorite Lewis-Clark State, who despite gaining entrance into the tournament solely based on their campus hosting the World Series, had made the most of the opportunity. LCSC had swept through the NAIA Opening Round as well and won three win-or-go-home contests against MidAmerican Nazarene, Taylor and William Carey.    

In the finale the two Warrior teams traded runs and the game was tied at six headed into the eighth inning. Westmont took advantage of an error to put the potential go-ahead run on base. A sacrifice hit and double-steal put two runners in scoring position. A walk loaded the bases. Parker O’Neil drew a walk to plate the unearned, go-ahead run. 

With the game on the line in the ninth inning, Gabe Artega was asked to stay on the mound and complete the win after having come in late in the seventh. He struck out one and induced a pair of fly outs to give Westmont their first baseball national title.  

NAIA Most Outstanding Player  
Cole Turney, Cumberland – In almost any other season Georgia Gwinnett’s Ajay Sczepkowski would have earned this distinction with his .421/.521/1.009 slash line and 36 stolen bases, but Turney’s numbers were just too obscene. He led the NAIA with a .521 average and had 32 home runs in only 140 at bats to amass a 1.286 slugging percentage. Turney was edged by Sczepkowski for the NAIA home run total, but Ajay had 74 more at bats. The feared Turney was walked 53 times and hit by a pitch 13 tims to amass a ridiculous .675 on base percentage.  

NAIA Most Outstanding Pitcher  
Eli Davis, Oklahoma City – Davis was the Sooner Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and finished the season with a 1.83 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 103 ⅓ innings. He only allowed 74 hits and issued 32 walks for a .196 B/AVG and 1.03 WHIP. He threw six complete games and even earned a save as he helped OCU advance to the NAIA Opening Round finals. 

NAIA Most Valuable Player Candidates (tie) 
Lucas Goodin, Indiana Wesleyan – The Wildcats advanced to Lewiston for the first time in program history thanks in large part to Lucas Goodin. Their win over Missouri Baptist to send them to the World Series is an encapsulation of what he had done for the team as he led off the game with a home run and regained the lead late with a three-run blast. He finished the season with a team leading .373 average and also led the team with 14 doubles, 19 home runs and 38 stolen bases. In Lewiston he went six for 16 with two doubles.  

Alan West, Central Methodist – While the Eagles didn’t return to the NAIA World Series, they came close with West on the roster. He not only was one of the top pitchers in the NAIA as he was named the Heart of America Conference Pitcher of the Year, he also played outfield and topped the team in hitting with a .404 average with 10 doubles, seven triples and nine home runs.  

NCAA D-III 

Final RankPreseason Rk.NCAA State2023 Record
116Lynchburg HornetsVA48-8
2NRJohns Hopkins Blue JaysMD48-8
33Baldwin Wallace Yellow JacketsOH39-12
418East Texas Baptist TigersTX42-15
51Salisbury SeagullsMD36-8
610Shenandoah HornetsVA42-10
75Endicott GullsMA45-9
8NRMisericordia CougarsPA40-15
9NRUW LaCrosse EaglesWI34-10
104Birmingham-Southern PanthersAL39-11
1114Aurora SpartansIL42-6
1222Marietta PioneersOH37-13
137Rowan ProfsNJ33-15
14NRWheaton LyonsMA42-9
15NRDenison Big RedOH36-10
168UW-Stevens Point PointersWI33-14
1721Christopher Newport CaptainsVA33-11
1819Ithaca BombersNY31-16
199Arcadia KnightsPA32-14
20NRLa Verne LeopardsCA30-12-1
2120Eastern Connecticut WarriorsCT35-12
22NRSalve Regina SeahawksRI39-10-1
23NRCortland State Red DragonsNY34-13
24NRNC Wesleyan Batting BishopsNC36-10
2522Augustana VikingsIL39-9

Last season Lynchburg struggled in the postseason with earlier than anticipated eliminations in both their conference tournament and their hosted regional. With the bulk of the roster returning this spring, the Hornets were set to avenge their premature exits.   

Despite welcoming back eight regulars who started at least 23 games, the Hornet’s strength going into the season was their pitching staff. They returned three starting pitchers who threw a minimum of 70 innings as well as another who has their season cut short due to injury. As anticipated, the pitching did prevail. They topped D-III in team ERA with a 3.23 mark and struck out nearly 500 batters. 

Lynchburg quickly reversed last year’s misfortunes by winning the ODAC tournament as they swept their competition and followed that up by winning three of four games to capture the Rocky Mount Regional. They reached their first D-III World Series after taking two games from Shenandoah.  

In Cedar Rapids Lynchburg won each of their first three games to advance to the best of three final against top ranked Johns Hopkins. After splitting the first two games, the two teams collided in a memorable winner-take-all finale.  

Seasoned reliever Jack Bachmore made just his second start of the season and was roughed up in the first inning as he allowed four earned runs. He regained his composure and kept the Blue Jays off the board for the next three innings while his team battled back to tie the game.  

In the bottom of the fifth inning Lynchburg took the lead. After two walks and a HBP, Jackson Harding laced a ball into a gap in the outfield to clear the bases. The double gave the Hornets a 7-5 lead.   

In the eighth JHU threatened to take back the lead. After an HBP and two walks, Dylan Whitney singled up the middle. The runner from third was able to score to shrink the lead to one, but when a second runner tried to cross the plate, Carrson Atkins’ apt throw from centerfield easily beat the runner to keep Lynchburg on top. The Blue Jays were able to load the bases, but Wesley Arrington came in to strike out the next batter.  

In the top of the ninth Hopkins looked to tie the game. The first two batters were put down in order to bring up the Blue Jays’ cleanup hitter Sam Frank. Frank, who had homered earlier in the game, was victimized by a full-count fastball from Arrington to give the Hornets the win. 

D-III Most Outstanding Player (tie)
Matthew Cooper, Johns Hopkins – Hopkins helped the Blue Jays reach the national title game as he batted .405 with 17 doubles and a D-III leading 25 home runs. His 177 total bases also lead D-III. At the D-III College World Series he had eight hits and a home run.  

Ben Lea, East Texas Baptist – Lea led the Tigers in batting with a .409 average and 24  home runs to amass an .881 slugging percentage. He has also walked 30 times and been hit by a pitch eight times to generate a .504 on base percentage. He was named the American Southwest Conference Player of the Year and batted .470 in Cedar Rapids with two extra base hits. 

D-III Most Outstanding Pitcher  
Harrison Boushele, Augustana – Bouchsele was the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin Pitcher of the Year as he helped Augustana to a new program record in wins. He had a 1.63 ERA and struck out 109 batters in just 83 innings. He only allowed 57 hits for a .189 B/AVG and his 25 walks kept his season WHIP to 0.99. 

D-III Most Valuable Player  
Jack Thomson, Lewis & Clark – Thompson earned his second Northwest Conference Player of the Year award as he helped the Pioneers to one of their most successful seasons in program history. Lewis & Clark earned their first-ever trips to both the NWC  Tournament and NCAA Tournament fueled by Thompson’s offense. He led the team in several offensive categories including batting average (.382), doubles (15), home runs (23), runs (71) and RBI (55). 

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