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College : : Story
2012 NAIA Preview
Allan Simpson        
Published: Friday, January 27, 2012

Lewis-Clark State's Reign As NAIA Power At Stake With Oklahoma City, LEE Ranked 1-2

In the 27-year period from 1981 to 2008, Idaho’s Lewis-Clark State won 16 NAIA World Series championships and finished second six more times. It never went more than three years in that stretch without winning at least once.

The Warriors have again gone three years since winning their last NAIA World Series title in 2008, a relative drought by that school’s historically-relevant standard of success. But there are questions whether one of the greatest dynasties in college sports may be coming to an end, especially with the retirement prior to the 2011 season of the mastermind of the team’s success, long-time coach Ed Cheff, who went 1,705-430 in 34 seasons.

Under new coach Gary Picone, a long-time Cheff assistant, the Warriors (38-17) failed to win at least 40 games for the first time in 32 years in 2011 and bowed out of the NAIA World Series with just a 1-2 record for the second straight season.

If a changing of the guard is in order at the NAIA level, the most-logical candidates to replace Lewis-Clark State at the top of the pack are perennial powers Oklahoma City and Lee (Tenn.). Between them, those schools have won only one national title (Oklahoma City in 2005), but have a combined five second-place finishes in the last decade.

As the 2012 NAIA baseball season sets to open on a number of fronts this weekend, Oklahoma City and Lee are 1-2 in Perfect Game’s ranking of the nation’s Top 10 NAIA teams (see below). Coincidentally, those schools also boast the top two prospects in the NAIA ranks for the June draft in Oklahoma City junior catcher Dane Phillips and Lee junior righthander Kris Hall.

Oklahoma City already projected as the nation’s No. 1 team prior to landing Phillips in December after he was denied a waiver by the NCAA that would have made him eligible to play at Arkansas in the 2012 season. Phillips had transferred to Arkansas from Oklahoma State late last summer. By transferring again to an NAIA school, he is eligible to compete immediately for Oklahoma City.

Phillips projects as a second- to fourth-rounder in this year’s draft, with his stock likely to fluctuate depending on his ability to shore up some of the acknowledged defensive deficiencies in his game. His ability to hit has never been questioned.

He spent his first two college seasons at Oklahoma State, hitting .337-3-34 as a freshman and a near-identical .337-4-34 as a sophomore. Last summer, he appeared to elevate his worth by hitting .349-4-34 in the Cape Cod League, while narrowly missing winning a batting title.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Hall, meanwhile, went 4-1, 3.46 with eight saves for a 51-14 Lee team in 2011, but was passed over in last year’s draft as a 21-year-old sophomore. He significantly elevated his stock for this year’s draft, though, by leading Gastonia to a Coastal Plain League championship last summer with a fastball that reached 94 mph. The pitch subsequently peaked at 96 in the fall.

Phillips augments an Oklahoma City roster that returns catcher Chad Carmon (.323-4-41), first baseman Miguel Beltran (.346-13-66) and lefthander Rich Hawkins (10-5, 2.04), and welcomes several other prominent transfers, notably senior righthander Blake Schwarz, who went 10-2, 2.18 last spring for Division II Minnesota State-Mankato and later was selected the Northwoods League’s pitcher of the year during the summer.

Hall’s supporting cast at Lee is nearly as impressive as Phillips’ at Oklahoma City. Lee also returns a power-hitting first baseman in Roberto Reyes (.321-13-64), and its roster has been bolstered by a number of prominent transfers from four-year schools and junior colleges.

Lewis-Clark State begins the 2012 season at No. 4, and can’t be counted out as it has historically gained a significant home-field advantage as the host team in the NAIA World Series, which has been played in Lewiston, Idaho, from 1984-91 and 2000-present.

The Warriors have traditionally thrived by annually bringing in a wave of transfers, and two of their key newcomers this year are power-hitting first baseman Eric Peterson and righthander Terik Gofinch, both former University of Washington players.

California’s Concordia College (43-19) was a surprise winner of the NAIA World Series in 2011 and should be in the hunt again with the return of righthanders Blake Harrison (8-1, 2.74) and Brent Clapper (9-4, 4.32). Outfielder/lefthander Aaron Gates, a transfer from Pepperdine and former West Coast Conference all-star selection, is a key addition.

Scouts will get an early opportunity to view many of the top NAIA prospects over the next 2-3 weeks, especially those playing for traditional Sun Belt schools, as their counterparts in the more powerful Division I ranks won’t kick off their 2012 season until Feb. 17, the uniform starting day for D-I teams.

The 10-team 2012 NAIA World Series will be contested May 25-June 1 in Lewiston.

NAIA Top 10 Teams

RK School ST 2011 Record Top Prospect (previous school)
1 Oklahoma City OK 47-12 Dane Phillips, c (Oklahoma State)
2 Lee TN 51-14 Kris Hall, rhp
3 Faulkner AL 48-15 Cooper Moseley, 2b/rhp (Georgia)
4 Lewis-Clark State ID 38-17 Eric Peterson, 1b (Washington)
5 Azusa Pacific CA   Jordan Leyland, 1b (UC Irvine)
6 Concordia CA 43-19 Aaron Gates, of/lhp (Pepperdine)
7 Embry-Riddle FL 51-11 Ben Kline, ss (Creighton)
8 Belhaven MS 45-18 Geoff Thomas, rhp (Southern Miss)
9 Fresno Pacific CA 32-21 Michyael Rivera, rhp (None)
10 British Columbia BC 31-17 Keaton Briscoe, 2b (None)

NAIA Top 50 Prospects

RK Player POS. YR B-T HT WT School Hometown ST Last Drafted Previous School
1 Dane Phillips C JR L-R 6-2 190 Oklahoma City Nacogdoches OK Mariners '09 (49) Oklahoma State
2 Kris Hall RHP JR R-R 6-3 215 Lee (Tenn.) Strongsville OH Never drafted Cleveland State (Tenn.) CC
3 Geoff Thomas RHP JR R-R 6-1 190 Belhaven (Miss.) Stone Mountain GA Astros '09 (12) Southern Mississippi
4 Cooper Moseley RHP/SS JR L-R 5-11 185 Faulkner (Ala.) Montgomery AL Cardinals '11 (45) Central Alabama CC
5 Blake Schwartz RHP SR R-R 6-3 205 Oklahoma City Rosemount MN Never drafted Minnesota State-Mankato
6 Jordan Leyland 1B SR R-R 6-4 240 Azusa Pacific (Calif.) San Dimas CA Rays '11 (44) UC Irvine
7 Aaron Gates LHP/OF SR L-L 6-1 190 Concordia (Calif.) Villa Park CA Rockies ’08 (33) Pepperdine
8 Chuck Ghysels RHP SR R-R 5-11 200 Truett McConnell (Ga.) Springboro OH Reds '10 (36) Maryland
9 Vince Spilker RHP JR R-R 6-4 220 Lee (Tenn.) Raytown MO Dodgers '11 (20) Johnson County (Kan.) CC
10 Michael Rivera RHP JR R-R 6-0 225 Fresno Pacific Berkeley CA Never drafted  
11 Travis Burnside OF JR R-R 6-2 185 Tennessee Wesleyan Waterloo SC Dodgers '11 (25) Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC
12 Andrew Morris RHP SR R-R 6-3 190 Auburn-Montgomery Prattville AL Brewers '10 (16) Gulf Coast (Fla.) CC
13 Corey Black RHP/SS JR R-R 5-10 160 Faulkner (Ala.) San Diego CA Never drafted San Diego State
14 Eric Peterson 1B JR L-R 6-5 215 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) Renton WA Royals '09 (28) Washington
15 Ryan Gibson LHP JR L-L 6-4 230 Oklahoma City Yukon OK Marlins '09 (48) Oklahoma
16 Derek Vaughn RHP JR R-R 6-1 185 Texas Wesleyan Edmond OK Rays '11 (47) Oklahoma
17 Zach Sterling RHP SR R-R 6-3 200 Faulkner (Ala.) Lima OH Never drafted Western Illinois
18 Ben Kline SS SR R-R 6-3 185 Embry-Riddle (Fla.) Omaha NE Never drafted Creighton
19 Michael Vaughn C SO   6-2 185 Fresno Pacific Peoria AZ Never drafted Colorado Mesa
20 Blair Moore SS SO L-R 6-3 210 Cal Baptist Riverside CA Never drafted San Diego State
21 Derek Benny RHP SR R-R 6-5 215 Fresno Pacific Roseville CA Athletics ’08 (45) Fresno State
22 Vladimir Camacho LHP JR L-L 5-11 210 Lee (Tenn.) Jamaica Plain MA Never drafted Western Oklahoma State CC
23 Pat Merkling LHP JR L-L 6-1 185 Lee (Tenn.) Woodstock GA Orioles '11 (44) West Georgia
24 Kyle Hardy 3B SR R-R 6-3 220 Missouri Baptist Miami FL Giants '10 (31) Missouri State
25 Edmanuel Rivera SS JR R-R 5-11 180 Lee (Tenn.) Cidra PR Never drafted Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC
26 Terik Gofinch RHP JR R-R 6-3 170 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) Tacoma WA Never drafted Washington
27 Patrick Goelz RHP JR R-R 6-3 175 Oklahoma City Palm Bay FL Never drafted Bethune-Cookman
28 Ricky Holm LHP JR L-L 6-3 210 Cumberland (Tenn.) Marysville WA Never drafted Everett (Wash.) CC
29 Andy Hillis RHP SO R-R 6-7 215 Lee (Tenn.) Brentwood TN Cardinals '09 (49) Tennessee
30 Joey Leftridge OF SR R-R 6-1 180 Texas Wesleyan Dallas TX Braves '09 (27) Angelo State (Texas)
31 Brett Blaise LHP SR L-L 6-5 190 Belhaven (Miss.) Columbus MS Never drafted Pearl River (Miss.) JC
32 Tristan Heckerl RHP SR R-R 6-2 185 Menlo College (Calif.) Seoul KO Never drafted Trinity (Calif.)
33 Roberto Duran 3B JR R-R 6-1 215 Lee (Tenn.) Brooklyn NY Never drafted Western Oklahoma State CC
34 Sean Bouthilette RHP SR R-R 6-2 210 Campbellsville (Ky.) Elizabethtown KY Never drafted Kentucky
35 Chipper Smith LHP JR R-L 6-2 200 Cumberland (Tenn.) Valencia CA Never drafted CC Southern Nevada
36 Devyn Rivera RHP SR R-R 6-3 190 Cal Baptist Higley AZ Never drafted Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) CC
37 Taylor Eikenberry LHP JR L-L 6-1 200 Union (Ky.) Rock Falls IL Never drafted Iowa Western CC
38 Keaton Briscoe 2B JR L-R 6-0 180 British Columbia North Vancouver BC Never drafted  
39 Michael Revell OF/1B JR L-R 6-2 200 Faulkner (Ala.) Havana FL Rangers '09 (16) Chipola (Fla.) JC
40 Hunter Ovens OF SR R-R 5-11 210 Webber International (Fla.) Bradenton FL Padres ’07 (25) Manatee (Fla.) JC
41 Michael Finnigan LHP JR L-L 6-4 215 Azusa Pacific (Calif.) San Bernardino CA Orioles '11 (25) San Bernardino Valley (Calif.) CC
42 Casey Shiver RHP JR R-R 6-3 170 Southern Poly (Ga.) Loganville GA Never drafted Gordon (Ga.) JC
43 Chris Page 1B SR L-R 6-5 240 Embry-Riddle (Fla.) Batavia NY Reds '09 (50) Genesee (N.Y.) CC
44 Devon Zenn OF JR L-L 5-11 190 Azusa Pacific (Calif.) Benicia CA Angels '09 (27) JC of Marin (Calif.)
45 Tyler Carter RHP JR R-R 6-2 210 Lubbock Christian (Texas) Flower Mound TX Never drafted Navarro (Texas) JC
46 Blake Carruthers OF SR R-R 5-11 185 British Columbia Calgary AB Never drafted Central Washington
47 Jordan Reid RHP JR R-R 6-2 195 Auburn-Montgomery Dothan AL Never drafted Auburn
48 Alan Garcia RHP JR R-R 6-4 210 Azusa Pacific (Calif.) Hermosillo MX Giants '11 (40) Eastern Arizona JC
49 Robert Shipman 1B/LHP JR L-L 6-2 230 Edward Waters (Fla.) Quitman GA Never drafted Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) JC
50 DeMarcus Tidwell OF SR R-R 6-3 190 Southern Poly (Ga.) Grenada MS Indians '10 (28) Yavapai (Ariz.) CC



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