DII/DIII/NAIA Rankings Update: March 6

Photo: St. Leo Baseball (Hailey Ji Cai Deyhun Latlief)

With the calendar changing to March the 2024 season is officially taking off the training wheels and hitting the highway. The next two weeks several teams have chock-full schedules with games being played in back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back days as a part of spring break trips to Florida. Nothing too exciting happened at the top of either of the three small school rankings this past week; however there have been some notable additions to both the DII and NAIA mix as noted below.   


The last time St. Leo was in the Perfect Game rankings was February 28th of 2019 when they were positioned 24th. They started the season 9-5 with three of their losses being slim defeats at the hands of Columbus State who was firmly entrenched in the top ten at the time. Unfortunately the Lions lost three of their next four series and haven’t been back in the Top 25 since. They’ve had some solid seasons, especially in 2022 when they went 36-17, but haven’t quite gained significant national consideration despite finishing third in the competitive Sunshine State Conference the last two seasons. Their absence has been remedied this week with the Lions pouncing into the rankings at the 18th position. The Lions are 13-2 on the young season and convincingly swept an excellent Barry ball club over the past weekend. 

A big part of the Lions’ success has been their pitching staff, and a big part of the pitching staff’s success has been due to the incredible performance of senior starter Luke Lashutka. Wowee zowie has he been something special. Lashutka, who started his college career at St. Bonaventure, threw primarily out of the bullpen his first two seasons at Leo. This year in five starts he has accumulated 39 innings in which he has only allowed a scant 28 hits (.201 B/AVG) and a single earned run for a diminutive 0.23 ERA. He has 30 strikeouts while only issuing four walks. Lashutka’s dominating start has overshadowed the performance of Braden Heidel who is having a breakout season of his own. Heidel only managed a pair of starts last season and he had a rather robust 5.84 ERA over 57 innings back in 2022. He has slimmed down to a stylish 2.29 ERA this spring in his first four starts. Also dropping jaws has been the performance of graduate relief specialist Nick Jennings. Jennings held opposition to a .171 batting average last season as the team’s closer. In six appearances this year he had struck out 12 batters in only 5 ⅔ innings while only allowing a single hit.

Offensively the Lions are batting .292 as a team. They haven’t traditionally hit for a lot of power – last year they only totaled 29 home runs on the season, but they are very aggressive on the basepaths. In 2023 six Lions reached double-digit totals in steals with Buck Anderson’s 30 topping the team. Anderson is back this season along with a number of other players who are always looking to do what it takes to move another 90 feet closer to home. Dylan Mass is hitting .356 and has already stolen 13 bases – the team as a whole has already swiped 60 bases. 

The Lions host 1-11 Kentucky Wesleyan this weekend, a team only batting .200 as a club with more strikeouts than hits. Look for St. Leo to continue their winning ways and continue to climb up the rankings. 

Another team reappearing in the DII Perfect Game rankings after an extended hiatus is Grand Valley State. The Lakers were last in the Top 25 way back on May 18th of 2016. GVSU was a rankings regular under Steve Lyon from 1999 to 2012, but couldn’t achieve the same success under his successor. The early results under new Head Coach Jordan Keur, who most recently was an assistant at Western Michigan, look promising. They scored 47 runs in their opening series sweep of Gannon and won two of three against Indianapolis, a team which advanced to the 2023 DII Baseball Championships, last week. They can cement their status as a national contender this month. They’ll play a week in Florida at the RussMatt Invitational before playing a series at highly ranked Seton Hill.

RkSchoolStateRecordLst WkPrev
1Tampa SpartansFL17-04-01
2North Greenville CrusadersSC16-33-12
3Point Loma Sea LionsCA12-5-11-2-13
4Mount Olive TrojansNC10-52-25
5Central Missouri MulesMO15-34-08
6West Florida ArgosFL12-53-24
7UNC Pembroke BravesNC15-33-17
8Young Harris Mountain LionsGA14-41-36
9Seton Hill GriffinsPA6-33-19
10Millersville MaraudersPA10-33-113
11Missouri Southern St. LionsMO17-43-112
12Angelo State RamsTX13-84-114
13Colorado Mesa MavericksCO7-71-110
14Georgia Southwestern HurricanesGA13-52-211
15Cal State Monterey Bay OttersCA10-63-116
16Augustana VikingsSD6-24-017
17Southern Arkansas MuleridersAR15-34-0NR
18St. Leo LionsFL13-24-0NR
19Francis Marion PatriotsSC10-61-215
20West Texas A&M BuffsTX13-52-221
21Lenoir-Rhyne BearsNC13-61-220
22Texas Tyler PatriotsTX11-92-218
23Grand Valley State LakersMI6-12-1NR
24Northwest Nazarene NighthawksID12-4-12-223
25Ashland EaglesOH5-12-125

Drop: Barry Bucs, Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes, Minnesota State Mavericks


With a 17-5 start, which includes a series win over Taylor to start the season, a victory over Hope International and series wins over Arizona Christian and The Master’s the past two weeks, OUAZ has entered the Perfect Game national rankings for the first time after their surprisingly sensational start. The Spirit are still young as a program, with their first season being in 2018. It’s been an abrupt rise to prominence for OUAZ. In 2019 they struggled severely with a 6-45 overall record, and half of their wins were against the Cetys Universidad Zorros, a school in Mexicali, Mexico. The Spirit have yet to finish a season with a winning record, but that string should certainly end this season. 

The team is batting .318 and is led by transfer Cristian Powell. The junior shortstop is batting .367 with two doubles, three triples and three home runs. Joey Winters, who batted .324 last season, has 26 hits for a .321 average.  On the mound Evan Massie and Connor Wilson have combined to strike out 58 batters in 56 innings. A big difference maker both on the mound and the plate has been transfer Brayden Marcum. It’s still early, but opposition has yet to score on him in a pair of bullpen appearances. At the plate he’s already hit a pair of home runs in only seven at bats. 

The Spirit’s upcoming schedule is not easy. They have Jessup, a team which was strongly considered for inclusion in this week’s rankings, followed up with series against Vanguard and Hope International. If they can win two of those series, OUAZ will officially emerge as a dark horse candidate to advance to Lewiston. That’s pretty amazing especially considering they finished 2023 by losing nine of their last ten games.

Another team to watch this week is resurgent Faulkner. The Eagles’ position in the preseason top ten, despite their poor performance in 2023, was shown to be warranted last week with a series win on the road against William Carey. The wins moved them up to the sixth position in the rankings with a 15-5 record. 

Few pitchers have dominated as much as Nicholas Graham this spring. The senior has a 1.93 ERA over six appearances and has struck out 45 batters in only 23 ⅓ innings. He has only allowed 16 hits and issued just seven walks so far – although six of them were last week in a loss to the WCU Crusaders.  On offense Orlando Lordy has continued the torrid hitting he started while playing for Benedictine-Mesa. He is batting .400 with seven doubles and five home runs. Juan Trinidad, who hit .312 his first two seasons, has elevated his game and is batting .369 and already has four home runs despite not hitting a single homer in 282 at bats from 2022-23.

The Eagles face another strong team this week when they welcome Loyola into town. The Wolf Pack has a 14-3 record following their series win at Blue Mountain and moved into the top ten.

Another perennial power making moves is Oklahoma City. The Stars were one of the last teams left out of the initial rankings and they’ve demonstrated their omission was not warranted. They have significant wins over Concordia (NE), Bellevue, Columbia, Central Methodist and Freed-Hardeman, and quality losses to Doane and MidAmerica Nazarene. The teams is retooled from last season and lost their dominant ace, but the Stars always field a quality squad.

RkSchoolStateRecordLst WkPrev
1Southeastern FireFL16-22-01
2Georgia Gwinnett GrizzliesGA16-22-12
3LSU Shreveport PilotsLA16-23-03
4Lewis-Clark State WarriorsID9-34-05
5Cumberlands PatriotsKY14-34-14
6Faulkner EaglesAL15-55-27
7Doane TigersNE13-14-011
8Central Methodist EaglesMO15-34-012
9William Carey CrusadersMS10-81-28
10Loyola Wolf PackLA14-33-114
11Missouri Baptist SpartansMO11-71-39
12Concordia BulldogsNE10-42-115
13Benedictine Mesa RedhawksAZ12-54-119
14Vanguard LionsCA13-80-36
15Bellevue BruinsNE7-71-018
16Tennessee Wesleyan BulldogsTN9-90-310
17Webber International WarriorsFL17-34-024
18Reinhardt EaglesGA12-73-023
19Kansas Wesleyan CoyotesKS11-70-316
20Taylor TrojansIN10-84-120
21Hope International RoyalsCA10-80-117
22Oklahoma City StarsOK14-83-1NR
23Freed-Hardeman LionsTN16-32-222
24Ottawa (OUAZ) SpiritAZ17-52-1NR
25Keiser SeahawksFL14-41-225


Still not much movement in the DIII rankings overall. No teams have been added or dismissed from the Top 25 as of yet with so many schools playing a light February schedule. Only four schools in the rankings have played at least ten games and one has yet to take to the diamond. A plethora of schools are heading south during spring break which should finally shake things up, but for now the positions are pretty steady.  

As anticipated, Johns Hopkins looked much more like the preseason pick to take home the title this week. After struggling to start the season, JHU mauled Juniata in a double-header with a combined score of 26-4. They’ll face a much more formidable opponent this weekend as they’ll host Salisbury on Sunday. Their season will really start rolling next week with a trip to Florida. They play one of the stronger schedules in the RussMatt with games against Webster, Bethel, Endicott, Wisconsin-La Crosse, Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Augustana (IL). By the end of the month we’ll definitely have a better gauge of how good this Blue Jay team can be.

With a pair of wins over Eastern Connecticut State last week, Shenandoah has probably played the best ball overall so far this season. They also split a pair of games with Misericordia and have a 9-1 record.

A great matchup planned for last Sunday was unfortunately canceled. The #23 Benedictine Eagles were supposed to play #24 Buena Vista but the weather didn’t cooperate. The senior laden Eagles have two convincing wins to start the season and the Beavers were the victors in six of their first seven. 

RkSchoolStateRecordLst WkPrev
1Johns Hopkins Blue JaysMD3-22-01
2East Texas Baptist TigersTX9-33-02
3Endicott GullsMA3-03-03
4Shenandoah HornetsVA9-14-04
5Misericordia CougarsPA4-33-18
6Eastern Connecticut WarriorsCT0-30-35
7Rowan ProfsNJ1-11-16
8Lynchburg HornetsVA5-41-27
9Christopher Newport CaptainsVA8-32-19
10Cortland State Red DragonsNY4-41-013
11UW LaCrosse EaglesWI0-00-011
12Salisbury SeagullsMD5-31-110
13Marietta PioneersOH1-40-012
14Salve Regina SeahawksRI5-13-014
15Birmingham-Southern PanthersAL8-23-115
16Denison Big RedOH5-13-017
17Baldwin Wallace Yellow JacketsOH4-21-116
18Aurora SpartansIL5-03-020
19Case Western Reserve SpartansOH5-21-218
20Montclair State Red HawksNJ5-13-021
21UW-Whitewater WarhawksWI2-22-219
22La Verne LeopardsCA6-12-122
23Benedictine EaglesIL2-02-023
24Buena Vista BeaversIA6-11-025
25Washington BearsMO6-31-224

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *