The first DII baseball Power 10 rankings of 2023
By: WAYNE CAVADI | NCAA.COM
No. 1 North Greenville: The Crusaders are off to a 17-2 start and are defending their crown quite strongly. They are hitting .340 as a team and have slugged 26 home runs. While they haven’t played the toughest schedule in these rankings, they are handling business as expected. It appears all they need is a small lead because the bullpen has been nasty. Dawson Taylor, Nate Roof, and Mike “Nightmare” Rodriguez are all touching the 90s with their fastball, have struck out 46 batters in 30.1 innings, and have allowed four earned runs so far.
No. 2 Tampa: Tampa is off to a 14-3 start and two of those losses came to Quincy in the second series of the season. So, the Spartans are once again cruising, winners of eight of their last 10. Tampa hasn’t played a top-50 schedule, but it is 5-1 in one of DII baseball’s toughest regions, so that’s a promising start. The offense is hitting an impressive .332, but the .415 team on-base percentage shows this team is smart and disciplined at the plate. Eli Thurmond has been a welcome addition in the rotation, going 2-0 with a 0.99 ERA in his first five DII starts.
No. 3 Angelo State: The Rams are 17-3 and all wins have come in region, so they are already building quite the postseason resume. It is worth noting that they have played just one would-be regionally ranked team (UT Tyler) and have split the season series so far. The Rams are in the top 5 in hitting, batting a combined .367 and are third in the division with 204 runs scored. Jacob Guerrero, who saw limited action with Sam Houston State last year, is exploding on the DII baseball scene, hitting .500 with seven doubles and two home runs in his first 15 games. It’s early, but the starting pitching looks vastly improved from last year, and that’s dangerous for the entire South Central region.
No. 4 Columbus State: This spot was close, but a mid-week shutout of (spoiler) fellow Power-10er Montevallo secured the spot. The Cougars needed that having played a relatively soft schedule so far, and although they have lit it up to a 14-3 record, the victory over the nationally ranked Falcons show that the Cougars are very much for real. You’d think losing the program’s all-time leader in home runs would leave a hole to fill, but Derek Wylie (seven) and Matt McDade (six) are doing just fine filling the homer void. Most importantly, the Cougars three key starters — Noah Windhorst, Colton Joyner, and Peyton Burton — are pitching extremely well.
No. 5 Southern Arkansas: The 13-5 record doesn’t speak to how good this team is. The Muleriders could still very well be the top seed in the Central, despite a hot start from Central Oklahoma. This lineup is so deep and having the experience of a trio like Riley Orr, Brandon Nicoll, and Brett McGee is almost unfair. Here’s a fun little tidbit. Jeremy Adorno, last year’s pitcher of the year, is now 3-0. The sophomore has never lost a DII baseball game. Having that as your ace will certainly do the trick.
No. 6 Montevallo: The Falcons were one of my preseason sleeper teams because of the absurd number of returners, and thus far, they have been sharp. The loss to the Cougars stings, but a 15-3 start is still worthy of a spot here. Sam Kuchinski, the reigning GSC co-player of the year, is off to a torrid start, hitting .435 with a 1.356 OPS and six homers in 18 games. Righty Logan Samuels, who had some MLB draft preseason buzz thanks to low-90s fastball, is showing why, already 3-0 with 33 strikeouts in 23.2 innings.
No. 7 Millersville: If brackets were made today, I have the Marauders the top seed in the Atlantic, and that makes them worthy of a Power 10 spot. Now 16-4, the only ding to their resume is a series loss to Molloy, but they have won nine of 10 since. Bren Taylor is off to a sensational start (as expected), hitting .423 with seven doubles, two triples, two home runs, and eight stolen bases and the pitching staff has a combined 2.79 ERA. That will work.
No. 8 Cal State San Bernardino: The Coyotes are sure checking off a lot of boxes early on their 13-1 start. A series win against nationally ranked Point Loma, the early West favorites, not only gives them a bump but helps their strength of schedule. The Yotes were a .500 team last year, and I am typically hesitant to jump on a team this highly so early based on a hot start, but the metrics make them deserving for now (and remember, the Power 10 aren’t a projection, but the hottest teams to date this season). DeShawn Johnson is hitting .521 with three home runs through 14 games and looks like a real strong player to watch out West.
No. 9 Illinois Springfield: Despite an opening weekend series loss to Lenoir-Rhyne, the Prairie Stars have gone on a 9-1 run since. This is a team that lost two of the best hitters in baseball, so an adjustment period was expected. While the offense is coming around, the starting pitching has been impressive. Ryan Carmack should be on everyone’s radar. The transfer has a nice fastball that hits the low 90s and a hard breaking slider, but he’s also been nearly unhittable. His numbers are insane: a 0.95 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 42 strikeouts in 19 innings through four starts. A big matchup against Drury this weekend could affect where we see UIS next week.
10. MSU Denver: I had Colorado School of Mines as the team to watch in the RMAC, but the Roadrunners have stolen the show. While they haven’t had that signature series win yet, a huge one awaits against Colorado Mesa this weekend. The team is hitting .363 with 35 home runs. There are six players with at least five home runs through 18 games, so unless you have a young Greg Maddux reincarnated on a DII mound, expect to see a ton of runs scored when the Roadrunners come to town.