This is the final week of the D-II regular season and conference championships. While a number of conferences have already had their tournament and awarded automatic berths to the postseason, there are just as many still in the process of being played.
The D-II national championship field is a bit different than its counterparts. There are a maximum of 56 teams which are put into eight different regional brackets of varying size. Each of the brackets consists solely of two or three conference candidates, and the number of teams in the bracket depends on the total size of the teams from the contributing conferences. This unique format creates some highly competitive brackets, especially in the south and southeast where college baseball is more of a hotbed.
Accompanying this week’s rankings is a look at some of the major stories developing in each of the eight regions.
|Rank||Team||State||Previous||Overall Rec.||Week Rec.|
|1||North Greenville Crusaders||SC||1||44-8||0-2|
|4||Colorado Mesa Mavericks||CO||4||41-9||4-0|
|5||Angelo State Rams||TX||5||44-8||2-0|
|6||Central Missouri Mules||MO||6||38-13||2-0|
|9||Mount Olive Trojans||NC||15||36-15||4-1|
|11||East Stroudsburg Warriors||PA||8||35-11||2-1|
|12||Minnesota State Mavericks||MN||18||35-13||5-0|
|13||West Florida Argos||FL||17||35-15||3-1|
|15||UNC Pembroke Braves||NC||13||38-15||2-2|
|16||Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars||IL||22||35-11||4-0|
|17||Southern Arkansas Muleriders||AR||19||36-16||2-1|
|18||Metro State Roadrunners||CO||11||40-10||2-2|
|19||Wayne State Warriors||MI||20||38-10||4-1|
|20||Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes||CA||16||35-15||2-2|
|21||Cal State Monterey Bay Otters||CA||21||33-15||2-2|
|22||Valdosta State Blazers||GA||NR||33-17||3-1|
|23||Columbus St. Cougars||GA||10||36-15||2-2|
|24||Point Loma Sea Lions||CA||24||34-12||0-0|
Dropped: Belmont Abbey
It looked like East Stroudsburg was going to be the team to beat in the Atlantic after the Warriors took two of three over Millersville back in early April. Since then the Marauders have been the better club as they’ve gone 14-1 with their sole loss being by a single run. Thomas Caufield is leading MU with 110 total bases as he is hitting .345 and leading the team in doubles and home runs. Bren Taylor’s .411 average and 19 stolen bases lead the team. East Stroudsburg is still definitely in the mix and a region favorite, but the Marauders are looking strong. The upcoming PSAC Championships will likely determine which of the two will earn the designation of being the top seed.
Meanwhile Charleston has been scoring lots of runs as of late. Their sophomore slugger Kyle West has 19 home runs and is batting .403 with 26 stolen bases. He’ll have to keep up the pace if this is to be the year the Golden Eagles advance to Cary. Despite some very strong seasons by Charleston and other Mountain East teams of late, the PSAC consistently sees one of its teams advance to the final eight.
Unless Central Missouri falters in the MIAA tournament, the road to Cary will go through Warrensburg. The Mules haven’t lost a series all season – although they did split with Arkansas Tech way back in early February. Carter Young and John Prudhom have been quite the one-two punch in the UCM lineup. Young is batting .366 with 75 hits and Prudhom is hitting .346. They both have 16 home runs. As a team the Mules have successfully stolen 138 bases in 165 attempts.
Do not count out Henderson State from making the tournament despite being 10th in the latest NCAA regional rankings. The Reddies had a slow start but have topped GAC leader Southern Arkansas three times already this season and will play them once more in the conference finals. Their reliever Henry Coppens has been spectacular with 42 strikeouts in 30 ⅔ innings while only allowing 14 hits. He has a 1.17 ERA and is holding opposition to a .132 average.
The East Region is Southern New Hampshire’s to lose and they are easily the favorite to advance out of the group. As their modus operandi, the Penmen are getting done again with excellent pitching. Josh Roberge has 87 strikeouts in 67 innings with four complete games. Jeffery Praml has officially completed his transition from reliever to starter and is looking sharp on the mound as always. His 2.43 ERA leads the starters and he is holding opposition to a .234 average.
Goldey Beacom is continuing to be one of the top teams in the region since the program was reinstituted in 2017. Performers like the Lightning’s Johnny Kampes are a reason they’ve been so successful so quickly. Kampes is one of the top offensive overall performers to keep an eye on in the region with a .357 average with 10 home runs. Over his past four games he has gone 12 for 19.
Wayne State’s comparatively soft schedule makes them a prime candidate to be a dark horse to win the region as Quincy and Illinois Springfield will get the lion’s share of picks to advance. The Warriors don’t have a lot of depth, especially on offense, so they will depend heavily on Rudy Ramirez to power them on offense. Ramirez leads the team in batting with a .384 average while adding 15 stolen bases. Canadian shortstop import CJ Maury has seen his average jump to .292 while pacing the team with 23 stolen bases.
Quincy is the team to beat in the region and were strongly considered to be anointed the number one team nationally this week. The only team to best them in a series this season has been Rollins, and that was back in mid February in Florida. Catcher Luke Napleton may be D-II’s most valuable player this spring. He is hitting .370 with 26 home runs and 16 doubles. Kobe Essien has been remarkable on the mound for the Hawks. In 42 innings he has only allowed 34 hits while striking out 58 batters.
West Florida has certainly been making a remarkable run this season and have become one of the favorites to take home the national title just as they did back in 2011. While the team is solid throughout the lineup, the impact of sophomore transfer Darrien McDowell can not be understated. He is leading the team in multiple categories including batting average (.367), doubles (14) and home runs (12). Despite their offense’s prowess, it is the Argos’ pitching staff which makes them a top national contender. They have been stunning with three hurlers having sub 3.00 ERAs. Dalton Neushwander’s 2.01 ERA and .201 B/AVG earned him Gulf South’s designation as the conference’s Pitcher of the Year. Major Posey, a transfer from UCF, has a 2.87 ERA and is holding opposition to a .220 average.
The Gulf South as a whole has really played well this season as UWF, Montevallo and Valdosta State all appear to be headed into the NCAA postseason.
Tampa remains the team to beat overall in the region. Over the past weekend they won their 23rd Sunshine State Conference championship as they swept Lynn. The Spartans are particularly strong on offense this season. They are batting .344 as a team which puts them in the top five nationally despite playing one of D-II’s strongest schedules. They have two regulars batting well over .400. Lala Jordan is leading the team with a .435 average and has 30 stolen bases. E.J. Cumbo is batting .421 with 26 extra base hits.
Tampa has scheduled a late non-conference matchup with Newberry this week. The Wolves are a top ten team and recently won both the SAC regular season title as well as the postseason tournament. If the Spartans win the series, that will likely give them the juice to become the new number one team nationally.
Colorado Mesa had an excellent season last year and was a game away from advancing to Cary; however almost the entire roster was made up of upperclassmen who moved on after the final out was made. The roster needed an entire makeover. Yet somehow Chris Hanks has immediately rebuilt the team and made them contenders once again. The Mavericks are 41-9 and consistently scoring in the double-digits. They have seven players batting over .350 and are hitting .377 collectively as a team. Harrison Rogers, one of the few everyday players back from last year, is batting .379 with 32 extra base hits and 18 stolen bases. Julian Boyd became a regular this spring and has performed amazingly. He is hitting .432 with 20 doubles, 4 triples, 10 home runs and 33 stolen bases. Max Valdez, who isn’t even one of the Mav’s regulars, has seven home runs in only 83 at bats. The Mavs aren’t just all offense either. Kannon Handy has struck out 79 batters in 53 ⅔ innings while Jacob Rhoades is limiting opposition to a .235 batting average despite pitching in the very hitter friendly RMAC.
MSU Denver is another RMAC school looking to make the trip to Cary and nearly as formidable as Mesa. They have a 40-10 record and are batting .368 as a team with 99 home runs. Tanner Garner is among the leaders nationally in batting with a .457 average and has 25 doubles and eight home runs. Jack Slominski and Reichle Arcilise have put together strong seasons on the mound. The Roadrunners are tragically underrated in the latest NCAA Regional Rankings at fifth and it shouldn’t be a surprise if they advance deep into the postseason.
Despite an extremely lackluster performance in the Conference Carolinas tournament where they went 0-2 with a mercy rule loss, North Greenville is still the top team in the Southeast due to their overall body of work, but barely. They were the consensus number one to start the season, but it’s a real sword of Damocles situation for them to be considered the top pick now. There was one positive note that came out of NGU’s conference appearance. John Michael Faile hit his 75th career home run to tie the NCAA D-II record.
Newberry, who started the season ranked #23 in the Perfect Game rankings, has closed the gap to a whisker after winning the SAC tournament for the first time since 1999. They edged Wingate for the SAC regular season title as well. The Wolves have an opportunity to become the top team, not just in the Southeast Region, but nationally as well this week. Newberry is hosting Tampa for a three game series which could be a National Championship Series preview if both teams continue at their current pace. It’s quite the treat for fans who typically only get to see non-conference teams of this caliber face each other in the very early season – not when they are at the top of their game. The Wolves are very advantageous on the basepaths and have 159 stolen bases on the season. Braylin Marine, the team’s top hitter with a .429 average has 39 stolen bases, and Donovan Ford is hitting .400 with 44 swipes.
Point Loma has reemerged as the contender to win the West and return to Cary. The Sea Lions started the season with a respectable 14-8 record and fell out of the rankings until two weeks ago. They’ve gone 12-1 since mid April and recaptured their groove along with the Pac West regular season title. Their sophomore first baseman Jakob Christian is one of D-II’s most prolific home run hitters. He has put 24 balls over the fence this season while still batting a lofty .390. Another sophomore, Ray Cebulski, who transferred from Long Beach State, is excelling on the mound. He has only allowed 41 hits and eight walks over 50 ⅓ innings for a 0.97 WHIP. He has two complete games and a 3.93 ERA.
While no Great Northwest Athletic Conference teams were in the latest NCAA Regional Rankings, West Oregon appears to be headed back to the extended postseason as a rep from the conference. Twin brothers Derek and Jacob Maiben are both batting over .400 for the Wolves. Derek is the shortstop and is leading the team with a .421 average and 13 stolen bases. Jacob plays centerfield and is second on the team with a .405 average.
The NAIA regular season and conference tournaments have come to an end. The NAIA Opening Round begins next week with the announcement of teams to be made on Thursday, May 11th.
There are 31 automatic bids and four already determined at-large bids for a total of 35 teams revealed so far. In the NAIA Opening Round, six sites will host five teams and four locations will have four schools for a total of 46 teams competing in the tournament. Therefore there are 11 teams yet to be revealed for the NAIA national postseason. Here are the top picks, in order, of the teams most deserving to keep playing.
|Rank||Team||State||Previous||Overall Rec.||Week Rec.|
|2||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||2||47-5||3-0|
|3||LSU Shreveport Pilots||LA||3||44-8||2-2|
|5||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||5||42-9||2-2|
|8||Hope International Royals||CA||8||33-9||2-2|
|9||Missouri Baptist Spartans||MO||9||42-7||2-2|
|10||William Carey Crusaders||MS||10||44-9||4-2|
|11||Webber International Warriors||FL||12||40-15||3-2|
|13||Benedictine Mesa Redhawks||AZ||11||42-12||2-2|
|14||Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes||KS||13||42-13||3-2|
|20||Central Methodist Eagles||MO||17||34-17||1-2|
|21||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||ID||21||30-15||1-1|
|23||Texas Wesleyan Rams||TX||19||36-13||1-1|
|25||Oklahoma City Stars||OK||NR||30-19||4-0|
Dropped: Oklahoma Wesleyan, Tabor, Morningside
1. Hope International (33-9), Golden State Athletic Conference
The Royals lost two games to Westmont in their conference tournament, but are a sure bet to get an at-large invite nonetheless. Not only do they have one of the top records in the NAIA, they have series wins over both Westmont and Vanguard.
2. Missouri Baptist (42-7), American Midwest Conference
The Spartans won a series over Columbia during the regular season but lost two games to the Cougars in the AMC tournament. MBU had a strong showing at the Cajun Collision where they had wins over Texas Wesleyan and Science & Arts. They also split with Opening Round host Central Methodist during the regular season. The Spartans will definitely get an at-large invite.
3. Benedictine Mesa (42-12), California Pacific
The Redhawks have single wins over Taylor and Kansas Wesleyan, and swept three from Morningside. They lost the CalPac title game to Antelope Valley, but won a series against them in Mid April which was a part of a conference record 27-game win streak. Thankfully the Redhawks will be in. It would give fans an opportunity to see Dylan Bangs do his thing on the diamond. He is batting .431 with 18 doubles, seven triples, nine home runs and 12 stolen bases.
4. Webber International (40-14), The Sun Conference
The Warriors will absolutely positively get an at-large invite. They have 40 wins which include five victories over Ave Maria as well as a win over Southeastern. Other noteworthy wins include games against Indiana Southeast and Campbellsville.
5. Texas Wesleyan (36-13), Sooner Athletic Conference
The Rams won the Sooner Athletic Conference regular season while earning wins over LSU Shreveport, Louisiana Christian, MidAmerica Nazarene and Baker. They dropped a game to Oklahoma City in the SAC tournament, but won their series over the Stars. The Rams are not a lock to get an at-large bid, but pretty gosh darn close.
6. Reinhardt (33-18), Appalachian Athletic Conference
The Eagles played one of the most competitive schedules in the NAIA and earned wins over Webber International, Indiana Southeast, William Carey, Freed-Hardeman, Bryan and Union. They finished in second place in the Appalachian Athletic Conference regular season and third in the AAC Tournament. They have absolutely shown they are a team worthy of an at-large invite. The Canadian sensation Nash Crowell is batting .357 with 19 home runs to power the offense.
7. Cumberland (35-13-1), Mid-South Conference
The Phoenix won their first two games of the Mid-South Conference tournament, but were edged in their next two games by Cumberlands and Freed-Hardeman. They finished second in the conference standings with two wins over Bryan, a victory over Tennessee Wesleyan, as well as wins over IU Southeast and FHU. It would be a shame not to see Cole Turney (.523, 31 HR, .668 OB%) in the postseason.
8. Vanguard (33-16), Golden State Athletic Conference
The Lions played a strong out-of-conference schedule which earns them points for quality of opposition over quantity of wins. They faced Southeastern, LSU Shreveport and Antelope Valley, but lost those contests. They did however earn strong wins over St. Thomas, Keiser and SAGU. They were swept by Westmont on the road, but each game was competitive. In sum, they beat the teams they were supposed to, but didn’t earn any upset wins. Nonetheless, their strong pitch staff should have them in the NAIA postseason.
9. Morningside (36-13), Great Plains Athletic Conference
Morningside would be a third selection from the GPAC which would be a surprise as they typically don’t send three teams dancing. Had the Mustangs won one of their three games against Benedictine Mesa in March it definitely would have helped their cause. They have a pair of wins over both Doane and Concordia, as well as a road win over Bellevue. Had Roosevelt won the Chicago Collegiate Athletic Conference that would have helped their stock as well. They’re going to need a decision maker to take a chance on them and the GPAC.
10. Ave Maria (34-16), The Sun Conference
The Gyrenes finished second in The Sun Conference standings which is a significant mark of success. They were also one of the few teams to bear Southeastern this season. However, aside from the one win over the Fire, Ave Maria’s body of work isn’t super impressive. They don’t have any other big wins, went 0-5 against Webber International and loaded up their win total with games against the ilk of Ohio Christian, Trinity Baptist, Massachusetts Maritime and Dordt. Still, they did handle conference foes St. Thomas and Keiser who aren’t cupcakes.
11. Science & Arts (34-17), Sooner Athletic Conference
The Drovers had a slow start to the season but rebounded to win two games over both Bellevue and McPherson. During SAC play they swept first place Texas Wesleyan but finished behind the Rams in second place in the SAC standings. Oklahoma City won the conference tournament with a 10-run rule over the Drovers, so OSAO finished second in the regular season and tournament. It would make sense that Texas Wesleyan would get a second conference bid over the Drovers so the question becomes if the conference gets three teams to the NAIA Opening Round. The GPAC seems more worthy of three teams than the SAC this year so a school like Morningside could get the at-large bid over USAO as they too had a win over Bellevue.
12. Oklahoma Wesleyan (38-16), Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, or Tabor (34-18), Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, or Ottawa (36-17), Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference
The Eagles started the season with an impressive 20-4, but have been far less formidable the second half of the year. With Kansas Wesleyan and McPherson gaining bids, OKWU would have to edge Tabor and Ottawa to be a third team out of the KCAC. That seems unlikely as the Eagles finished fifth in the conference standings. They did defeat Ottawa in the tournament, but lost a series to them in March. They also lost two of three to Tabor late in the regular season. Had Kellen Brothers been able to pitch for OKWU the entire season, that may have made the difference for them. He had a 0.91 ERA and had only allowed 30 hits in 49 ⅓ innings in eight starts through March 17th.
The Bluejays finished third in the KCAC and had a late regular season series win over Oklahoma Wesleyan. Early in the year they earned wins over McPherson and MidAmerica Nazarene and swept Ottawa. A strong showing in the conference tournament would have helped their chances, but they went 0-2 for an early exit.
Ottawa went 1-2 in the conference tournament with their only win being against Friends. In the regular season they were swept by Tabor, but won their series over OKWU. In other action of note they swept three games from McPherson and went 1-4 against Kansas Wesleyan.
13. Louisiana Christian (36-14), Red River Athletic Association
The Wildcats finished second in the Red River standings and had a strong season overall, but have not done themselves any favors in the conference tournament as they lost to Houston-Victoria and LSU-Alexandria by a combined score of 2-26. They swept four games easily from Gulf Coast Athletic Conference champ Dillard to start the season and added wins against McPherson and Loyola while having strong losses to Southeastern, LSU Shreveport and Texas Wesleyan. Those lopsided losses in the conference really sting.
14. Loyola (31-22), Southern States Athletic Conference or Talladega Tornadoes (28-18-1), Southern States Athletic Conference
The Wolfpack was looking very, very good midseason with early wins over Freed-Hardeman, Mobile and Georgia Gwinnett, but went 7-12 to end the year. Many of the losses were quality as they were defeated by Louisiana Christian once, Georgia Gwinnett twice and William Carey five times, but they were losses nonetheless. Twenty-two losses seems a bit much for an at-large team. Middle Georgia State or Talladega would make more sense as another Southern States representative.
Talladega had series wins over both Mobile and William Carey and split with Webber International. A victory over Fisher is a small bonus. They lost a series to Loyola which would give the Wolfpack an upper hand. Could be a dark horse entry.
15. Indiana Tech (33-17), Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference
Tech earned wins over three teams that are in the tournament: Bryan, Fisher, Madonna and Oklahoma City; however none of them are ranked teams. The Warriors faced Concordia (MI) four times and the Cardinals won each of the contests, including two in the WHAC tournament. A third WHAC team in the tournament seems highly unlikely.
Two Texas teams are making moves in D-III just in time for the post season.
Despite winning the American Southwest Conference regular season last year East Texas Baptist was left out of the NCAA D-III postseason picture. They began this season as the 18th ranked team in the Perfect Game rankings, but fell out of the Top 25 after starting the season an unimpressive 11-8. Currently the Tigers are currently one of the hottest teams in D-III. They have gone 24-3 since March 18th, winning 14 straight games at one point during that stretch and easily won the ASC regular season crown once again as easily outdistanced Concordia Texas by seven games.
After a surprising loss in the first game of the ASC, the Tigers did not want to see a repeat of last year when they were left out of the national tournament. The Tigers responded by winning five straight games to claim the program’s first ever ASC Tournament Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAAs. In doing so they also set a new record for wins in a season and their 35 victories on the year is third best in D-III behind only top ranked John Hopkins and third positioned Shenandoah.
The Tigers’ Ben Lea is leading the division with 22 home runs while batting .434. Lead off hitter Jacob Evangelista, who started his college career at Stephen F. Austin, is blossoming with the increased playing time. He is hitting .342 and has 22 extra base hits and 24 stolen bases. Brett Wagner is another important cog in the Tiger win machine. He is hitting .360 with 13 home runs and 16 stolen bases.
Sayers Collins is having a third outstanding season in which he dominates on the mound. He already had 189 strikeouts in 130 ⅔ innings coming into the season. This year he has a 2.25 ERA over 13 starts. He has thrown four complete games and struck out a second-in-D-III 113 batters in 80 innings while only allowing 53 hits.
The Tigers have moved up to their highest mark of the season this week at number eleven. They now await news of where they will be playing in the national tournament.
Like ETBU, Trinity was highly ranked to start the season, but fell out of the Top 25 after a disappointing start. The Tigers began the year 13-9, which is a good start, but definitely not up to typical Tiger standards. Since March 31st however, Trinity has gone 15-5 to reenter this week’s rankings at #25. This past weekend Trinity won its 13th overall Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship.
The Tiger’s pitching staff has a 3.22 ERA which is third in the nation behind only Endicott and Lynchburg. Reliever Jack Martinzez, who was rated a nine out of ten in the Perfect Game Player Rating System coming out of high school, has a 1.80 ERA and has struck out 75 batters in only 45 innings. He has only allowed 22 hits as batters are batting a lowly .139 against him. Jackson Teer and Cade McGahan are a formidable duo on the mound. Teer was named the SCAC Pitcher of the Year as he finished with a 2.31 ERA and held opposition to a .208 batting average. McCahan has a 2.22 ERA and has struck out 64 batters in 65 innings.
|Rank||Team||State||Previous||Overall Rec.||Week Rec.|
|1||Johns Hopkins Blue Jays||MD||1||39-4||5-1|
|7||Baldwin Wallace Yellow Jackets||OH||6||31-8||2-1|
|9||UW-Stevens Point Pointers||WI||9||29-9||6-0|
|10||Christopher Newport Captains||VA||10||31-8||1-0|
|11||East Texas Baptist Tigers||TX||15||35-11||5-1|
|14||Denison Big Red||OH||21||31-8||3-1|
|15||Salve Regina Seahawks||RI||24||33-6-1||5-0|
|18||Eastern Connecticut Warriors||CT||17||30-10||3-2|
|20||Penn State Harrisburg Lions||PA||12||30-10||0-2|
|22||NC Wesleyan Batting Bishops||NC||22||33-8||4-0|
|23||Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets||VA||20||31-11||2-1|
|24||UW LaCrosse Eagles||WI||23||28-9||4-1|
Dropped: LaGrane, Bethel