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College  | Rankings  | 4/3/2024

DII/DIII/NAIA Rankings Update: April 3

Nick Herfordt     
Photo: Ryan Doubek (Benedictine Athletics)
Many of the top teams in each of the three small school divisions are regulars in the Top 25. Rarely, if ever, has there been an edition of the rankings without perennial powers such as Tampa, Colorado Mesa, Southeastern, Georgia Gwinnett or Endicott. Those top schools are always somewhere in the mix, if not at the top of it. In addition to the updated rankings is a look a school in each of the divisions which hasn’t been included in the rankings over the past year or two, but is having an incredible season and surpassing their preseason prognosis - perhaps one which will propel them to the upper echelon where they become a rankings mainstay for weeks to come.   

NCAA DII



Rk School State Record Last Week Prev. Rk
1 Tampa Spartans FL 29-3 3-1 1
2 Central Missouri Mules MO 30-4 4-0 2
3 Point Loma Sea Lions CA 26-7-1 4-0 3
4 North Greenville Crusaders SC 26-7 4-0 4
5 Mount Olive Trojans NC 24-8 4-0 5
6 Millersville Marauders PA 25-5 4-0 6
7 Angelo State Rams TX 23-11 1-0 8
8 UNC Pembroke Braves NC 25-9 4-0 10
9 Colorado Mesa Mavericks CO 21-9 3-1 13
10 Young Harris Mountain Lions GA 25-9 1-4 7
11 St. Leo Lions FL 27-4 3-0 15
12 Missouri Southern St. Lions MO 28-8 2-2 11
13 West Florida Argos FL 21-11 3-1 12
14 Ashland Eagles OH 20-3 4-0 14
15 Augustana Vikings SD 17-6 0-2 9
16 East Stroudsburg Warriors PA 24-3 5-0 19
17 Seton Hill Griffins PA 17-9 3-2 17
18 Georgia Southwestern Hurricanes GA 25-9 1-2 16
19 West Texas A&M Buffs TX 25-9 3-1 18
20 Catawba Indians NC 25-9 3-1 20
21 Northwest Nazarene Nighthawks ID 22-6-1 3-1 23
22 Lee Flames TN 25-9 3-1 21
23 Lubbock Christian Chaparrals TX 23-11 3-1 24
24 Cal State Monterey Bay Otters CA 21-11 3-1 25
25* Lander Bearcats SC 22-11 2-2 22
25* North Georgia Nighthawks GA 21-10 2-1 NR


Isolated in the Pacific Northwest, only five members of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference field baseball teams. There had been a sixth, but Concordia (Ore) shut down in 2020. With such a small number of schools, it wasn’t just a couple of years ago that the GNAC was even awarded an automatic entry into the NCAA DII Baseball Tournament. While there have been some impressive teams to play in the conference, only once has a GNAC team advanced out of the west to represent the region in the final eight. As a result, the national spotlight hasn’t often highlighted many of its teams. Sasquatch sightings are more frequent in that area of the country than nationally ranked baseball teams. Yet this spring Northwest Nazarene has compiled one of the top on-field performances of the season.  

The Nighthawks began the year with a split of two games on the road against #3 ranked Point Loma. Another pair of contests were canceled due to weather, as were games against Concordia Irvine and Stanislaus State - although NNU did earn a pair of wins and a tie against the Warriors before having to head back north. Nazarene also impressively earned a series win against Colorado Mesa in Grand Junction in late February. In all the team hasn’t lost a series all year, have a 22-6-1 overall record and has maintained their position in the Top 25 following their wins over CMU.     

The wins have been a team effort with few standouts on the roster who are called upon to carry the load - although newly minted Nighthawk Trevor Tishenkel does wield a pretty impressive bat. The senior outfielder joined the team this season after previously playing at a pair of DI schools,  Cal and Cal Poly. While he was a regular at Berkley, batting .264 in 39 games, he didn’t see much action last year as a Mustang. He is NNU’s top offensive threat this season with a .653 slugging percentage, generated by 32 hits in 101 at bats which include a team leading 10 doubles and eight home runs. Another newcomer, Carter Walsh, is another important part of the lineup as well. In addition to manning centerfield, the freshman is batting .314 with 10 doubles and leading the regular lineup with both a .425 OB% and 14 stolen bases. A long time member of the team leads the pitching staff. Kyle Ethridge is in his fifth season as a starter.  In 45 ⅓ innings in 2014 he has only allowed 36 hits (.218 B/AVG) with only six walks (0.93 WHIP). 

The next week should give a strong indication if NNU has what it takes to make a second trip to Cary. They’ll play Western Oregon on the road this weekend, and then travel down to Orem, Utah to face DI Utah Valley for a midweek matchup.  


NAIA

Rk School State Record Last Week Prev. Rk
1 Southeastern Fire FL 29-4 2-2 1
2 LSU Shreveport Pilots LA 28-3 3-0 2
3 Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies GA 30-5 4-0 3
4 Cumberlands Patriots KY 30-4 3-0 4
5 William Carey Crusaders MS 22-10 4-0 8
6 Webber International Warriors FL 28-8 4-0 7
7 Faulkner Eagles AL 24-10 2-2 5
8 Central Methodist Eagles MO 27-6 2-2 6
9 Missouri Baptist Spartans MO 23-8 2-1 9
10 Doane Tigers NE 23-5 3-1 11
11 Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes KS 24-7 3-0 12
12 Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs TN 22-12 2-2 10
13 Loyola Wolf Pack LA 26-8 5-0 16
14 Reinhardt Eagles GA 22-11 2-1 20
15 William Jessup Warriors CA 26-6 1-1 14
16 Hope International Royals CA 23-9 3-0 18
17 Bellevue Bruins NE 23-10 3-1 17
18 Benedictine Mesa Redhawks AZ 22-9 0-2 13
19 Ottawa (OUAZ) Spirit AZ 23-11 2-0 25*
20 Tabor Bluejays KS 23-8 5-0 NR
21 Vanguard Lions CA 22-12 0-1 19
22 Concordia Bulldogs NE 23-8 4-0 23
23 Lewis-Clark State Warriors ID 19-9 2-2 15
24 Taylor Trojans IN 23-11 2-2 21
25 Oklahoma City Stars OK 22-12 1-2 22

Dropped: Keiser

The Tabor Bluejays have consistently fielded a strong program over the past decade and under Head Coach Mark Standiford; however they averaged a good number more wins ten years ago than they have recently with trips to the NAIA World Series in both 2014 and 2015. They missed out on both the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference and NAIA Opening Round last season, but they have one of the division’s top records this spring despite a terrible start to the year. Tabor had an opening day win over Reinhardt, but lost six of their next eight with series losses to Wayland Baptist and Friends.  They have since gone 21-2, frequently scoring double-digit runs on their way to lopsided victories. This past week they not only took two games from previously ranked Freed-Hardman, they also swept Ottawa to join the rankings at the number 20 position.

Tabor is batting an incredible .377 as a team which easily leads the NAIA. They have four regulars batting over .400, topped by Tyler Mata Lloyd and his .478 average. Lloyd also has 29 walks for an astonishing .601 OB% in 32 games, as well as 22 stolen bases. Miguel Ramos III and Marcelo Aguirre are hitting .436 and .407 respectively, and both have a team leading seven home runs. Garryn Plummer is right behind them with six home runs and a .432 average. Only one player on the team with more than 20 starts is batting less than .350. They also have a collective .978 fielding percentage with only 22 errors credited to them on the season. Pitchers have a 10.74 ERA against Tabor this spring.

The Bluejay pitching has been pretty solid this season as well. It’s not as superlative as the offense, but they definitely can hold their own. Cutter Smith and Payton Tinker have combined to throw 100 ⅓ innings with 92 strikeouts and three complete games. Garrick Levesque has been a darling out of the bullpen. In eight games he has a 1.35 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 13 ⅓ innings.

Tabor will face Avila this weekend before a big, big showdown against Kansas Wesleyan next week. KWU has consistently been near the top ten of the rankings all season. 


NCAA DIII

Rk School State Record Last Week Prev. Rk
1 Endicott Gulls MA 17-1 5-0 1
2 Salisbury Seagulls MD 19-5 3-1 2
3 East Texas Baptist Tigers TX 21-6 4-0 5
4 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays MD 14-6 3-0 6
5 Rowan Profs NJ 13-4 1-2 4
6 Denison Big Red OH 19-2 4-0 7
7 Baldwin Wallace Yellow Jackets OH 18-3 3-0 10
8 Shenandoah Hornets VA 18-6 2-3 3
9 Lynchburg Hornets VA 17-7 3-1 9
10 Eastern Connecticut Warriors CT 14-5 5-0 13
11 Salve Regina Seahawks RI 16-2 3-1 8
12 UW LaCrosse Eagles WI 11-4 3-1 11
13 La Verne Leopards CA 15-5-1 2-1 12
14 UW-Whitewater Warhawks WI 14-3 5-0 14
15 Christopher Newport Captains VA 15-6 2-0 15
16 Benedictine Eagles IL 16-2 3-1 18
17 Montclair State Red Hawks NJ 18-4 2-1 16
18 Trinity Tigers TX 17-7 3-0 19
19 Case Western Reserve Spartans OH 17-6 3-1 20
20 Aurora Spartans IL 14-5 2-2 17
21 Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens CA 22-6 3-1 21
22 Cortland State Red Dragons NY 12-8-1 6-0 25
23 Misericordia Cougars PA 14-7 3-0 23
24 Buena Vista Beavers IA 16-5 2-1 22
25 Arcadia Knights PA 16-7 4-0 NR

Dropped: NC Wesleyan

Despite having a 30-14 record with a strong showing against regionally ranked opposition and placing second in both the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference regular season and tournament, Benedictine was not chosen for the NCAA tournament last season. Despite that unfortunate setback, the team returned a tidal wave of talent for the 2024 season which earned them their first ever inclusion in the Perfect Game preseason rankings. Their initial #23 position appears to have been an undervalue of their ability as they have steadily climbed their way up to the #16 spot this week. The Eagles are 16-2 and their two losses were both by only a pair of runs. They have earned their wins with both a dynamic offense along with some excellent experienced pitching performances. 

On offense the team is batting .321 and led by catcher Logan Gregorio who hit .390 as a freshman with a conference leading 18 doubles with eight home runs last year. Currently he is hitting .406 with seven doubles and five home runs in just 69 at bats over 18 games.  He had a 28-game hitting streak headed into the season which was extended to 37 before going 0-3 against Wisconsin-Oshkosh on March 16th - it is the only time this season he has failed to get a hit - but he did walk twice.  Kevin Bushnell and Brennan Fisher have been spectacular at the plate as well. Bushnell is hitting .390 and Fisher is hitting .354 with a team leading six home runs. Ryan Doubek, who like Bushnell is a graduate student, had a .325 average with three triples and seven stolen bases. 

On the mound the team has an excellent 3.54 mark. While they haven’t racked up a high number of strikeouts, they more impressively rarely issue walks. As a team they are holding opposition to a .239 average with a 1.29 WHIP. Nick Kosmetatos, Andrew Kurcz and JT Adams have been solid as starters. Austin Pizer has made scoring against Benedictine late near impossible. In eight appearances he has a 0.92 ERA and only allowed 17 hits and a pair of walks over 19 ⅔ innings while striking out 15. 

Their schedule has been solid and the Eagles haven’t compiled their wins playing cupcakes. They played seven games over eight games in Florida and won each of the contests, including a 14-5 win over Webster and a 13-1 dubbing over Fitchburg State in the finale. Last week they swept a double header from Aurora which gives them the upper-hand in the NACC season standings. The Eagles face St. Norbert this weekend and will battle Milwaukee School of Engineering next week. MSOE is currently the only team ahead of them in the conference standings.