In 2005 Angelo State resurrected its baseball program from its past junior college roots following repeated requests from students and the community. While expectations were high, it’s doubtful anyone forecasted their immediate success as the rekindled Rams finished their debut season with an impressive 30-25 record. In the following years ASU’s success continued to skyrocket almost exponentially as it only took them just three short years to reach the 50 win plateau as well as earn their way to the NCAA Division II National Championships. Not once in their 18 year history have they finished below .500 as they have solidly churned out title after title. Their success has not been limited to conference championships either. Over two dozen Ram players have earned All-American accolades and they’ve reached the national finals five times – including each of the past two seasons. It’s highly probable they would have advanced each of the last three seasons as they were top ranked and 19-3 when the 2020 season was halted.
The Rams have had only a single coach since 2005, Kevin Brooks, who moved into the position after being an assistant at Hardin-Simmons. When ASU defeated UAFS 15-2 earlier this month, it was Brooks’ 700th wearing blue and gold. Despite all the school’s tremendous success, one accomplishment has so far eluded Brooks and San Angelo State – a national title. With a 26-4 record so far this season, and 11 of their wins coming by no less than ten runs, this could be the Ram’s year.
The offense, which finished with a fourth in the nation .357 batting average last season, is hitting at that same impressive rate this year. That mark is only two points behind Metro State who plays their games almost exclusively in thin air Colorado, and is nine percentage points above Newberry who is third at .348. They are averaging 10.4 runs per game thanks in part to Sam Houston State transfer Jacob Guerrero, who is batting .506 with 15 extra base hits in only 83 at bats with just three strikeouts. Catcher Tripp Clark, who has the tools to play at the next level, is batting .394 and is tied for the team lead with six home runs and has nearly thrown out half of potential base stealers. The offense also has Austin Beck who finished with a .420 batting average last season with 33 stolen bases as a freshman, and senior center fielder Thomas Cain who has been able to amass a .355 average over his college career with 76 stolen bases. Of the eight hitters on the team who have more than 50 at bats so far this spring, none are batting less than .320.
Regardless of how impressive the everyday lineup is, the Rams’ pitching may be even better.
Kade Bragg was ranked as one of the the top 100 left handed pitchers nationally coming out of high school and initially was headed to Texas Tech before finding his way to San Angelo. His performance this season has been nothing short of spectacular. In seven starts he has a perfect 7-0 record and only allowed two earned runs over 41 ⅔ innings for a second in D-II 0.43 ERA. He has struck out 56 batters while only allowing 17 hits for a 3.67 hits allowed per nine innings which is third in the nation. Aaron Munson has also dominated over seven starts. He has a 2.68 ERA and struck out 54 batters in 40 ⅓ innings while only allowing 30 hits for a .201 average. Mason Bryant threw sparingly two seasons for the Texas Longhorns. His ERA is a bit robust so far this spring, but he had struck out 49 batters in 32 ⅔ innings. ASU also has Braxton Pearson who spent two seasons at TCU and threw well in the Cape Cod League over the summer. He is just short of reaching the threshold (1 IP per team game) to be ranked in the top ten nationally in WHIP as he has only allowed 17 hits and four walks over 27 innings. His ERA is 2.33 over five starts with two complete games.
Last week the Rams went 5-1 with two lopsided wins over DIII Southwestern in which they outscored the Pirates 39-5 and took three of four from St. Mary’s. The Rams’ position in the Perfect Game rankings top five shouldn’t be challenged until late April when they face #18 St. Edward’s and #17 West Texas in back-to-back weekends. The Rams are third in the national rankings this week, the same position they started the season.
|Rank||School||State||Overall Record||Last Week||Prev Rank|
|1||North Greenville Crusaders||SC||24-2||4-0||1|
|3||Angelo State Rams||TX||26-4||5-1||3|
|5||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||19-6||2-2||4|
|7||Mount Olive Trojans||NC||17-7||2-2||5|
|9||East Stroudsburg Warriors||PA||17-3||4-0||9|
|11||Central Missouri Mules||MO||18-7||3-0||11|
|12||Southern Arkansas Muleriders||AR||18-7||4-0||12|
|13||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||13-4||3-0||13|
|15||UNC Pembroke Braves||NC||21-5||3-1||19|
|16||Wayne State Warriors||MI||12-2||1-0||16|
|17||West Texas A&M Buffs||TX||19-7||3-1||14|
|18||St. Edward’s Hilltoppers||TX||19-6||3-1||21|
|19||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||15-7||4-0||22|
|20||West Georgia Wolves||GA||20-4||4-0||24|
|21||Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes||CA||19-4||3-2||17|
|23||Metro State Roadrunners||CO||19-7||3-2||23|
|24||Arkansas Tech Wonderboys||AR||19-7||3-0||25|
|25||Valdosta State Blazers||GA||18-8||3-1||NR|
Dropped: Southern New Hampshire
Ok. I’m convinced. Missouri Baptist is legit.
The Spartans won their first 11 games of the season which included victories over Faulkner and Science at Arts; however neither the Eagles nor the Drovers have been playing their best ball this season which takes a little luster off the wins. MBU next split their next four games against Central Methodist and Jamestown, and it appeared they may be coming back to earth a bit. However since then they’ve won a pair against Midland, a series over Baptist Bible and last week swept a double-header over a hot Georgetown College club. Also, an 8-0 drubbing of Texas Wesleyan in February looks more impressive in hindsight as the Rams have been quite excellent this year. After joining the rankings last week at number 24, the Spartans have made the biggest move of any team all season, a dozen-team jump into the number 12 position.
The reason for the hesitancy to rank MBU sooner and higher has been last year’s pedestrian 25-23 finish. While it is not uncommon for Spartan teams to put together some pretty spectacular season win totals (they averaged 45 wins from 2014-17) they hadn’t been quite as successful over the past five years. Last year they finished fourth in the American Midwest Conference regular season which was their worst finish in ages (excluding the 2020 season), and their top offensive player who led the team in batting and home runs graduated, as well as their next leader in total bases. Additionally, and most importantly, their top two starting pitchers would also not be returning to campus. It looked like the Spartans were simply playing above their heads early. Alas, that most definitely does not seem to be the case. The Spartans are looking to be one of longtime Head Coach Eddie Uschold’s best teams yet.
Senior shortstop Alex Adams is batting .446 with occasional pop and speed. Another senior, Blane Besse, who played with Adams at nearby Lafayette High School, is hitting .375. Transfers Cole Robinson and Blayne Yarger have been big contributors as well. Robinson was the consensus pick as Missouri’s top prep prospect at first base and 18th overall nationally. He initially started his college career at Missouri State, but never got on the diamond with the Bears. He is making up for lost time in the middle of the MBU order and batting .362 with a team leading seven home runs. Yarger, a center fielder, is second on the team with a .394 average and is tops with ten stolen bases.
Anthony Green has been magnificent after transferring from Jefferson College. In only 31 innings he has struck out 52 batters while only allowing 21 hits. His exorbitant strikeout totals are common on the Spartan staff. As a team they have 206 strikeouts in only 167 ⅓ innings. Another primary contributor to those numbers is Brady Stephan who never got on the mound at Lindenwood. In six relief outings he has struck out 26 batters in only 18 ⅔ innings. His ERA is 1.45 and he is limiting opposition to a .197 average.
This week Missouri Baptist has games Monday and Tuesday against Columbia College who started the season ranked in the Top 25, but fell out last week. A series win over the Cougars would further demonstrate that the Spartans are a legitimate contender to return to Lewison and the NAIA Baseball World Series for the first time since 2017.
|Rank||School||State||Overall Record||Last Week||Prev Rank|
|2||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||25-3||2-1||2|
|4||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||22-4||2-1||6|
|5||LSU Shreveport Pilots||LA||22-6||4-1||4|
|8||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||OK||21-6||2-2||9|
|9||Hope International Royals||CA||17-6||1-2||5|
|10||Webber International Warriors||FL||24-7||0-3||8|
|11||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||ID||18-4||3-1||11|
|12||Missouri Baptist Spartans||MO||18-3||3-0||24|
|13||Texas Wesleyan Rams||TX||21-7||4-0||16|
|15||William Carey Crusaders||MS||20-6||4-0||17|
|16||Loyola Wolf Pack||LA||20-9||2-1||15|
|23||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||16-12||2-1||19|
|24||Central Methodist Eagles||MO||12-8||0-0||23|
The first replacement of a team at the top of a small school Top 25 this season occurred at the DIII level. While preseason number one Salisbury hasn’t played poorly overall, they’ve gone 4-3 over their last seven games which included a staggering 23-4 loss to Johns Hopkins and a home defeat last week to a sub .500 Ursinus team. The Gulls could have solidified their selection as the division top team with a strong showing against #23 ranked Montclair State last weekend, but unplayable field conditions canceled the series. Salisbury will have an opportunity to reclaim the top spot over the next few weeks with games against Rowan, Christopher Newport and Catholic who are all ranked.
Meanwhile, the number one position has been taken over by Birmingham-Southern. The Panthers have been DIII’s strongest team on the field this season with a pair of wins over #11 Trinity, and single victories over #5 La Grange and formerly ranked East Texas Baptist and Webster. Last week the Panthers also added a series win over Berry as well as trounced a very high caliber Piedmont team 13-1. They have a challenging week ahead with games against #10 Wisconsin Whitewater and a series with rankings outlier Rhodes.
BSC’s offense is led by Ian Hancock who was a FIrst Team All-American last season after batting .356 with 16 home runs. He is currently hitting .317 and leading the team with 13 extra base hits. Cam McNearney and Andrew Dutton have been just as integral to the offense. McNearney is leading the team in hitting at .340 and is second on the team with five home runs. Dutton, the team’s leadoff hitter and second baseman, has a .479 on base percentage.
The Panther’s pitching has been especially prolific with three starters having ERA’s under 3.00 and the staff as a whole currently has a 3.23 ERA as a team. Hansen McCown was rated highly coming out of high school and is breaking out as a senior reliever. In eight relief appearances he has only allowed 13 hits and seven walks over 24 ⅓ innings for a 0.82 WHIP. He has a team leading 1.48 ERA and has struck out 31 batters.
Shenandoah, who improved to 16-2 overall and had a win over Salisbury, were also considered for the number one position. Gavin Horning has been phenomenal this season with a .476 batting average with seven doubles, four triples and four home runs in 63 at bats.
Two teams have been added to the backend of of this week’s Top 25. Randolph-Macon rejoins the list after starting the season at the #24 position. Cal Lutheran, who was mentioned last week as a team to keep an eye one, joins the Yellow Jackets at the #25 spot following their series win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
|Rank||School||State||Overall Record||Last Week||Prev Rank|
|4||Baldwin Wallace Yellow Jackets||OH||13-2||2-0||2|
|9||North Central Cardinals||IL||10-3||3-1||11|
|12||UW-Stevens Point Pointers||WI||5-2||2-2||6|
|14||Eastern Connecticut Warriors||CT||10-1||5-1||17|
|17||Johns Hopkins Blue Jays||MD||12-2||3-1||18|
|18||Denison Big Red||OH||9-3||3-1||19|
|21||Christopher Newport Captains||VA||18-6||3-1||21|
|23||Montclair State Red Hawks||NJ||6-1||0-0||23|
|25*||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||VA||13-3||2-1||NR|
|25*||Cal Lutheran Kingsmen||CA||12-4||2-1||NR|
Dropped: East Texas Baptist