DII/DIII/NAIA Rankings Update: March 8

Photo: Brent Francisco (Taj Falconer)

In a matchup of NCAA D-II teams positioned within the top fifteen of the rankings, East Stroudsburg won three games against visiting Southern New Hampshire. With the wins the Warriors’ win streak climbed to ten as they swept their third consecutive series. The victories also vaulted them into the top ten of the national rankings as they flipped positions with the Penmen. 

As they have much of the season to date, ESU’s pitching propelled them to victory. They only allowed four total runs against a team that has advanced to the NCAA Division II Championship in three of the last four opportunities. In the finale on Monday, redshirt junior Brent Francisco shutout SNHU for six innings before handing the game off to the bullpen. On the season Francisco has a 1.17 ERA over 23 innings and has only allowed 14 hits. He and the other two regulars in the Warrior rotation, Chase Nowak and Tom Reisinger, have a combined 2.27 ERA on the young season.

While the Warriors’ pitching unquestionably deserves recognition for their success this season, the offense deserves some accolades as well. ESU hasn’t been punishing pitchers with a powerful lineup, but instead have been wearing them down with patient hitting and aggressive base running.  An prime example of the aggressive and difficult to combat ESU offensive is leadoff hitter Ben Piripavel.  He has drawn 17 walks in only 56 plate appearances to compile a lofty .482 on-base percentage. Once he’s gained that initial foothold on the base paths, he turns the free passes into the equivalent of extra base hits. He already has 13 stolen bases on the season, and as a team the Warriors were a perfect 21-for-21 in stolen base attempts against SNHU and are in the top five in NCAA D-II for the season.

There was one addition to the D-II Top 25  with Arkansas Tech rejoining the Perfect Game rankings for the first time this year. Unlike ESU who made the move with pitching, the Wonderboys have taken a much more offensive path to gain recognition.  The Wonderboys swept previously 21st ranked Henderson State and amassed 47 runs in three games over the Reddies. On the season Tech is batting .320 as a team and have scored at least nine runs in 13 of 19 games – 12 of which were wins. In addition to usurping HSU last week, ATU has wins over Central Missouri and Southern Arkansas, and nearly upset top ranked North Greenville to start the season. 

Keaton Ranallo, a transfer from Seminole State College, has been battering baseballs this season for Tech. He is hitting .315 with a team leading eight home runs. Nick Jones has finally been able to get some game action and display the skill which made him a highly regarded prep player out of Little Rock. He is leading the team in hitting at .407 with an on-base percentage of .522 as he has 10 walks and three HBPs with only five strikeouts. 

RankSchoolStatePrevOverall Rec.Week Rec.
1North Greenville CrusadersSC117-24-1
2Tampa SpartansFL213-33-1
3Angelo State RamsTX417-34-0
4Columbus St. CougarsGA614-33-0
5Mount Olive TrojansNC712-44-1
6Southern Arkansas MuleridersAR512-52-2
7Wingate BulldogsNC312-61-2
8Montevallo FalconsAL815-23-1
9Millersville MaraudersPA915-45-1
10East Stroudsburg WarriorsPA1511-23-0
11Central Missouri MulesMO1111-62-1
12Quincy HawksIL128-34-0
13Minnesota State MavericksMN138-34-1
14West Texas A&M BuffsTX1412-63-1
15Southern New Hampshire PenmenNH107-30-2
16Metro State RoadrunnersCO1615-33-1
17Wayne State WarriorsMI174-13-0
18Cal State San Bernardino CoyotesCA1813-14-0
19Point Loma Sea LionsCA199-31-0
20Arkansas Tech WonderboysARNR14-54-0
21St. Edward’s HilltoppersTX2012-53-1
22Newberry WolvesSC2314-42-1
23Augustana VikingsSD2210-62-1
24UNC Pembroke BravesNC2413-43-1
25Colorado Mesa MavericksCO259-63-1

Dropped: Henderson State (21)

In NAIA action a team has entered the national rankings for the first time in program history. The surprising Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) Lions pulled off an impressive sweep over previously 19th ranked USAO. Their win Sunday was the team’s 17th against only five losses and has earned them recognition as the 18th positioned team in this week’s Perfect Game Top 25 rankings. In addition to their series sweep over the Drovers, SAGU has quality wins this season over Mount Marty and Tabor and played well against Vanguard on the road.

It wasn’t long ago opponents could see an upcoming series against SAGU and immediately pencil in wins. In 2017 and 2018, their record was an unimpressive 27-68 and were on the losing end of numerous double-digit losses. The next season Matt Cornacchione was hired to lead the Lions and revamp the paltry program which had never finished over .500. It wouldn’t be the first time Cornacchione was tasked with resurrecting a struggling school’s team. He had previously transformed Nyack College, a D-II program outside of New York City, from an abysmal 3-35 performer, to a 26 win turnaround. His success was immediate. In 2019 the Lions won a school record 26 games and reached the Sooner Athletic Conference semifinals. The record would be bested once again in each of the next two complete seasons as SAGU won 29 games in 2021, and 36 games last season. Last year’s success also included their first winning record in the SAC and advancing to the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) World Series for the first time in program history.

A big part of the Lions’ success has been due to their pitching. In November Michael Watson was named to the 2023 Preseason All-American Team, the first SAGU player ever to receive the honor. Watson, who was also named the NCCAA National Pitcher of the Year, had a 2.99 ERA over 90 innings last season and struck out 140 batters which was third nationally and first in the SAC. He held opposition to a tiny .160 batting average and even picked off 13 runners. He has been just as formidable this season with a 2.50 ERA and has a 4-0 record in six starts with two complete games. Against USAO he scattered three hits over seven innings and struck out 10. However the success on the mound isn’t limited to just Watson. As a team the Lions have an impressive 3.38 ERA and have struck out 180 batters in 167.2 innings while only allowing 134 hits. 

The Lions’ offense has been formidable as well. The team is batting .289 and led by Bryson Collins and Matt Daiy. Collins is batting .365 with a team leading 10 extra base hits and 12 stolen bases. Daiy is hitting .410 and is among the team leaders in several categories despite not being a regular starter to begin the season.

The Lions’ have a quick opportunity to show they deserve their newly minted ranking as they face Texas Wesleyan.  The Rams have a 15-5 record and won their doubleheader over Bacone College by a combined score of 36-1. 

RankSchoolStatePrevOverall Rec.Week Rec.
1Southeastern FireFL121-05-0
2Georgia Gwinnett GrizzliesGA317-25-0
3Cumberlands PatriotsKY415-35-1
4Tennessee Wesleyan BulldogsTN516-13-1
5Hope International RoyalsCA616-43-1
6LSU Shreveport PilotsLA213-51-2
7Westmont WarriorsCA717-54-0
8Webber International WarriorsFL919-35-0
9Oklahoma Wesleyan EaglesOK1216-43-1
10Lewis-Clark State WarriorsID1115-35-0
11St. Thomas BobcatsFL1410-72-0
12Vanguard LionsCA1015-61-3
13Mobile RamsAL1617-23-0
14Georgetown TigersKY1511-20-0
15Bellevue BruinsNE87-40-2
16Reinhardt EaglesGA2010-72-0
17William Carey CrusadersMS2214-45-0
18SAGU LionsTXNR17-55-0
19Faulkner EaglesAL1710-82-2
20Doane TigersNE249-32-0
21Freed-Hardeman LionsTNNR12-93-1
22Clarke PrideIA137-60-3
23Central Methodist EaglesMO238-81-1
24Columbia CougarsMO2112-50-3
25Concordia CardinalsMI258-10-0

Dropped: Concordia (18), USAO (19)

Two California based schools which had been etched into the top half of the Top 25 have struggled early this season. Chapman and Pomona-Pitzer were removed from the rankings for the time being, in large part due to an upstart school which has earned wins over both teams. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps won two of three over the Panthers to close February and followed it up with a sweep of the Sagehens last week. The Stags improved their record to 11-4, are among the early leaders of the always formidable SCIAC and joined the national rankings at the 17th position. 

CMS’ junior first baseman Julian Sanders slashed .600/.611/1.467 against Pomoma-Pitzer and was named the conference’s Hitter of the Week. He had four home runs and 11 RBI over the weekend to raise his season totals to nine and 26 respectively in only 15 games played. 

After spending this upcoming weekend in the desert at the Tucson Invitational, the Stags have a three games series with fellow SCIAC leader Cal Lutheran which will give the winner an absolute inside-track to capturing the conference’s regular season title. 

Two other additions to the NCAA D-III Top 25 are Denison and Johns Hopkins. 

Denison was 35-11 last season (their second most wins in a single season) and advanced to a regional championship, but were eliminated by Salisbury in a series of hotly contested contests. Despite their successful season the Big Red were omitted from this year’s initial rankings as three-quarters of their rotation from last year had graduated. Nevertheless, Denison has continued their winning ways. Already in the young season they have victories over two ranked teams, Christopher Newport and North Central, as well as another over a very good Spalding club. They will look to add more notable wins this week with a series of scheduled games in Florida against NCC once again, as well as Arcadia and Babson.

Johns Hopkins started the season with a shutout win over perennial power Cortland to start the season, and embarrassed top ranked Salisbury on Sunday 23-4 to join the rankings. The Blue Jays frequently find their names in the Top 25 and advanced to the NCAA D-III College World Series in 2021, but finished with a disappointing and uncharacteristic 20-18 mark last year. Starting pitcher Gabriel Romano, a graduate transfer from Quinnipiac, was credited with both of the aforementioned wins. In 12 innings this season he has yet to give up a run and has only allowed a pair of extra-base hits.

RankSchoolStatePrevOverall Rec.Week Rec.
1Salisbury SeagullsMD18-13-1
2Baldwin Wallace Yellow JacketsOH28-23-1
3Birmingham-Southern PanthersAL313-15-0
4LaGrange PanthersGA48-33-1
5Rowan ProfsNJ53-03-0
6UW-Stevens Point PointersWI62-02-0
7Shenandoah HornetsVA710-13-1
8Arcadia KnightsPA82-20-1
9Endicott GullsMA91-01-0
10Lynchburg HornetsVA148-14-0
11North Central CardinalsIL115-21-1
12Aurora SpartansIL153-03-0
13Trinity TigersTX188-43-0
14Webster GorloksMO102-41-2
15Denison Big RedOHNR5-02-0
16UW-Whitewater WarhawksWI160-00-0
17Claremont-Mudd-Scripps StagsCANR11-43-1
18East Texas Baptist TigersTX177-52-1
19Ithaca BombersNY204-22-1
20Augustana VikingsIL226-23-0
21Eastern Connecticut WarriorsCT213-00-0
22Johns Hopkins Blue JaysMDNR5-03-0
23Montclair State Red HawksNJ233-01-0
24Christopher Newport CaptainsVA1911-42-3
25Bethel RoyalsMN251-20-0

Dropped: Pomona-Pitzer (12), Chapman (13) Marietta (24)

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