There wasn’t too much movement in the NCAA D-II rankings this week, especially at the top half of the rankings where the teams positioned from first to five went a combined 16-2. Previously six ranked Southern Arkansas did drop a few spots however after losing a close conference series to Henderson State. It was a respectable loss however as the Reddies had been previously in the Top 25, and would have returned this week had they not been surpassed by two other schools having especially strong starts to the season, Lenoir-Rhyne and West Georgia.
Lenoir-Rhyne had a record breaking season last year as they won their first South Atlantic Conference Tournament title since 2001, had wins over top ranked teams, earned their most wins in a single season in program history, had a 19 game winning streak, and finished one game short of reaching Super Regional play. However they returned to play this spring without four key position regulars, which included their top two sluggers, which kept them just outside the initial rankings. That exclusion was remediated this week as they returned to the Top 25 at the number 20 position.
The Bears not only soundly beat Catawba on the road, they swept three SAC games from Emory & Henry by outscoring the Wasps 46-14. Blake Bean, a graduate student transfer who played four sensational seasons at D-III Kalamazoo College, has been an absolute monster for LR. He is leading the team in hitting at .385 and is leading all of D-II with 12 home runs. On Sunday against E&H, Bean was 4-8 with three home runs. Pitching has been excellent for the Bears as well this year. All three starting pitchers have more than a strikeout per inning. Joshua Lanham is the best of the bunch. Last season he struck out 112 batters in only 90 innings with three complete games. So far this season he has a 2.50 ERA and is holding opposition to a .215 average over 36 innings with 48 strikeouts.
LH has their biggest series of the season to date this upcoming weekend. They’ll host seventh ranked, and 2021 National Champion Wingate.
West Georgia has been absent from the Top 25 for the past few seasons, but returns this week after earning a lopsided win over Tuskegee and winning two of three at Valdosta State. The Wolves also have series wins over Augusta, West Alabama, Lee and Union to start the year. With 7-16 Emory & Henry headed to campus this weekend, UWG should easily add another as they challenge Montevallo for the top of the Gulf South Conference standings.
The Wolves’ offense has been sensational early and is batting .335 and slugging .437 with speed. Anthony Calabro, is compiling another strong season after batting .343 with eight home runs and
21 stolen bases last year. He is currently batting .466 and has already mashed nine home runs. Peyton Berry has impressed in a dual role on the mound after returning from injury and missing all of last season. In six appearances this spring, which include a pair of starts, he has only allowed 10 hits over 20 ⅓ innings with 19 strikeouts and has a 1.33 ERA.
|Rank||School||State||Prev Rank||Overall Rec.||Week Rec.|
|1||North Greenville Crusaders||SC||1||20-2||3-0|
|3||Angelo State Rams||TX||3||21-3||4-0|
|4||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||4||17-4||3-1|
|5||Mount Olive Trojans||NC||5||15-5||3-1|
|9||East Stroudsburg Warriors||PA||10||13-3||2-1|
|11||Central Missouri Mules||MO||11||15-7||4-1|
|12||Southern Arkansas Muleriders||AR||6||14-7||2-2|
|13||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||13||10-4||2-1|
|14||West Texas A&M Buffs||TX||14||16-6||4-0|
|15||Southern New Hampshire Penmen||NH||15||10-4||3-1|
|16||Wayne State Warriors||MI||17||11-2||7-1|
|17||Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes||CA||18||15-2||2-1|
|19||UNC Pembroke Braves||NC||24||18-4||5-0|
|21||St. Edward’s Hilltoppers||TX||21||16-5||4-0|
|22||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||25||11-7||2-1|
|23||Metro State Roadrunners||CO||16||16-5||1-2|
|24||West Georgia Wolves||GA||NR||16-4||3-1|
|25||Arkansas Tech Wonderboys||AR||20||16-7||2-2|
Dropped: Point Loma (19), Augustana (23)
The Bellevue Bruins started last week with a convincing 11-3 win over now #19th ranked St. Thomas, a school which had rudely welcomed them to Florida with a pair of losses. As the Bruins’ bats continued to warm up under the Florida sun on Tuesday, the Bruins mauled Warner with a 20-2 rout. All nine BU starters recorded a hit and either scored or drove in a run against the Royals’ on their home field. The next two games also resulted in double-digit run totals as Bellevue held off a late St. Francis rally to win 10-9, then mercy ruled Northwestern College 15-3. The Bruins had one more game as a part of their Florida trip, a matchup against top ranked, undefeated and defending champion Southeastern.
The Bruins jumped to a quick lead thanks to singles and small ball to plate two runs in the first inning. After SEU halved the deficit in the second inning, Bellevue scored twice more in the third to increase their lead to three. Blake Crippen, who had earned the win over STU on Monday, limited the Fire to two runs over six innings before handing the ball over to Dustin Schorie, who made both his season and Bellevue debut after pitching previously at Texas Wesleyan. Schorie limited SEU to two runs over the final three innings to earn the save. The four scores by Southeastern were a season low as they had been averaging a ridiculous 11.4 runs on the season with an astonishing 16 per contest over their last nine games.
As Bellevue returns home they’ll begin their defense of their North Star Athletic Association titles. They don’t have any games remaining on their schedule with ranked opponents and should soundly stockpile victories and another opportunity to host an NAIA Opening Round with the advantage or returning to Lewiston.
The Bruins were not the only Nebraska-based team with noteworthy accomplishments last week. Concordia has started the season 18th in the rankings, but were removed last week after dropping some close contests. The Bulldogs are back this week as they earned five wins last week which included three over St. Thomas and two more over Lawrence Tech and Calumet College in which they outscored their opponents 32-4.
Jesse Garcia led Concordia’s potent offense which is batting .336 on the season and slugging .578 as a team. Last week he hit .467 as he was 14 for 30 with a pair of home runs and four doubles and was named the GPAC Player of the Week. Joey Grabanski, was nearly just as destructive at the dish as he had nine hits which also included a pair of home runs.
Like Bellevue, Concordia has returned home to begin conference play. Unlike the Bruins however, the Bulldogs have some competitive contests against ranked opposition which includes Doane and potentially Mount Marty who has started the season with a 17-4 record but is currently on the outside of the Top 25.
|Rank||School||State||Prev Rank||Overall Rec.||Week Rec.|
|2||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||2||23-2||6-0|
|4||LSU Shreveport Pilots||LA||6||18-5||5-0|
|5||Hope International Royals||CA||5||16-4||0-0|
|6||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||4||20-3||4-2|
|8||Webber International Warriors||FL||8||24-4||5-1|
|9||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||OK||9||19-4||3-0|
|11||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||ID||10||15-3||0-0|
|15||Loyola Wolf Pack||LA||NR||18-8||3-1|
|16||Texas Wesleyan Rams||TX||NR||17-7||2-2|
|17||William Carey Crusaders||MS||17||16-6||2-2|
|19||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||11||14-11||4-4|
|23||Central Methodist Eagles||MO||23||12-8||3-0|
|24||Missouri Baptist Spartans||MO||NR||16-3||2-1|
Dropped: Faulker (19), Freed-Hardeman (21), Clarke (22), Columbia (24)
The aforementioned Doane Tigers, yet another Nebraska based school, also had a solid week. They completed a four game of Park on Monday, and won a pair of games over Midland on neutral ground over the weekend. Lucas White, a slugging senior from California, is batting .400 for Doane and has five of the team’s fifteen home runs. The 13-3 Tigers started the season ranked 24th and have moved up to the 20th position. They’ll be challenged this week with games against McPherson and Dakota Wesleyan.
Salisbury remains the top team in NCAA D-III; however their grip on the top spot is definitely not as strong as it was headed into the season. Their early wins over Cortland don’t look quite as impressive as the Dragons are under .500. They also had the regrettable 4-24 manhandling loss against Johns Hopkins earlier this month. They did respond well this past week however with a 19-3 takedown of Washington College and a sweep over Moravian in which they outscored the Greyhounds 27-5. They will be strongly tested this week with a midweek game against fourth-ranked Shenandoah and a road series against #23 Montclair State. Should they falter Baldwin Wallace or Birmingham Southern could be next week’s number one. BSC has been especially impressive this young season. They won two of three against #15 Trinity on the road to start the season, and then won games against #5 LaGrange, #25 East Texas Baptist and previously ranked Webster. Last weekend they had wins over Covenant, Huntingdon and Emory.
With Webster and Ithaca struggling to start the season, it opened the way for two schools to join the rankings mix, Catholic and Methodist.
Catholic advanced to Cedar Rapids and the D-III College World Series last spring, but like many schools who make it to the finals, they had a roster heavy on senior talent. With only one returning regular who batted over .300 and a pitching staff susceptible to giving up runs, the Cardinals were left out of the initial rankings, but made their 2023 debut this week at number 22.
Catholic’s offense is led by a pair of slugging sophomores who were limited to cameo roles last spring. Joe Marini had only 15 at bats over 10 games last year, but has bust out big time this spring. The New Jersey native is leading the team in batting at .450 with 18 hits in only 40 at bats. He also has seven extra base hits to amass a .875 slugging percentage. Mitchel Johnson is also making the most out of his new found playing time. After only getting 17 ABs in 2022, Johnson has been a mainstay in the middle of the batting order. He is hitting .386 with seven extra base hits and leading the team in walks. Tucker Alch’s success this season has not been a surprise. He was the Landmark Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2022 as he led the team with 92 ⅓ innings and 117 strikeouts which were in the top ten nationally. In four starts this spring he has only allowed 12 hits this season over 25 innings with 32 strikeouts and has a 1.08 ERA. His and the team’s success may have rubbed off on the pitching staff as their team ERA is down from a robust 6.12 last year to a slim 3.35.
Methodist is also making their 2023 rankings debut at 20. The 14-1 Monarchs went undefeated at the Armstrong Invitational two weeks ago which included a win over Christopher Newport. Last weekend they swept a doubleheader over a strong Piedmont team.
Sophomore outfielder Jackson Deal was hitless in eight at bats last season and saw action primarily as a pinch runner. In 14 games this spring he is batting .457 with three doubles, two triples and a pair of home runs to lead the offense. Perhaps most impressively is that he has patiently drawn 16 walks to generate a .609 on base percentage.
Two teams in the west to keep an eye on are Chapman and Cal Lutheran. The Panthers began the season ranked in the top ten but quickly fell out after a dismal start which included some uncharacteristic lopsided losses. They won two of three over visiting Webster this past weekend, but the Warlocks, who also had been in the top ten, have been underperforming as well. Cal Lutheran won the SCIAC tournament last year and have earned a 10-3 record. Their sophomore ace Luke Wechsler has a 0.33 ERA over four starts in which he has held opposition to a .221 average. Wechsler and the Kingsmen have an upcoming series with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps who joined the top ten this week.
|Rank||School||State||Prev Rank||Overall Rec.||Week Rec.|
|2||Baldwin Wallace Yellow Jackets||OH||2||11-2||4-0|
|6||UW-Stevens Point Pointers||WI||6||3-0||1-0|
|11||North Central Cardinals||IL||11||7-2||2-0|
|17||Eastern Connecticut Warriors||CT||21||5-0||2-0|
|18||Johns Hopkins Blue Jays||MD||22||9-1||4-1|
|19||Denison Big Red||OH||15||6-2||1-2|
|21||Christopher Newport Captains||VA||24||15-5||4-1|
|23||Montclair State Red Hawks||NJ||23||6-1||3-1|
|25||East Texas Baptist Tigers||TX||18||10-6||3-1|
Dropped: Webster (14), Ithaca (19)