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College | Rankings | 1/24/2019

2019 Division II College Preview

Nick Herfordt        
Photo: Luke Jackson (UNC Pembroke Athletics)

2019 College Baseball Preview Index | PG College Facebook Page
 | @_eephuspitch (Nick Herfordt) | @B_Sakowski_PG

Listed below are the Preseason Top 25 teams at the NCAA Division II level followed by detailed capsules of each program and the top D-II prospects in regards to the MLB Draft. The rankings and the first three capsules (teams ranked 1-3) are available for free, the rest is available with a College Baseball Ticket (CBT) subscription. To learn more about the College Baseball Ticket and to sign up today please visit this link.

Final 2018 NCAA Divisions II and III and NAIA Rankings

Last season in the American League two of the top eight leaders in batting average previously played for NCAA Division II teams. JD Martinez, a former Nova Southeastern Shark, and Joey Wendle, who previously suited up for the West Chester Rams, found their names listed among baseball’s elite.

Additionally, schools such as the University of Tampa annually send handfuls of their alumni to professional baseball. Every year since 2002 at least one Spartan player has had their name called, with 11 players getting selected the last two seasons alone.

D-II diamonds across the country showcase top talent and this year is no different. Limiting the preseason rankings to only 25 teams was an arduous task as they were many more deserving clubs chock full of talent which were deserving of recognition. The same can be said about the division’s top prospects. Each year there are dozens of players selected in the MLB amateur draft and many of the names called in May won’t even be in this list.

Nevertheless, here are the top D-II players and teams headed into the 2019 season.

2019 Perfect Game NCAA Division II Preseason Top 25 Teams

Rk. School ST Record
1 North Greenville Crusaders SC 46-10
2 Tampa Spartans FL 42-11
3 UNC Pembroke Braves NC 39-15
4 Colorado Mesa Mavericks CO 43-16
5 Georgia College Bobcats GA 44-12
6 Mercyhurst Lakers PA 36-13
7 Mississippi College Choctaws MS 36-17
8 Columbus St. Cougars GA 43-13
9 Florida Southern Moccasins FL 42-9-1
10 Central Missouri Mules MO 39-17
11 Augustana Vikings SD 48-9
12 Texas A&M Kingsville Javelinas TX 41-15
13 Quincy Hawks IL 41-18
14 North Georgia Nighthawks GA 31-22
15 Lubbock Christian Chaparrals TX 34-20
16 Minnesota State Mavericks MN 31-16
17 UC San Diego Tritons CA 42-15
18 Nova Southeastern Sharks FL 35-16
19 West Florida Argos FL 31-19
20 Southern New Hampshire Penmen NH 39-15
21 West Texas A&M Buffs TX 40-14
22 Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars IL 47-9
23 USC Aiken Pacers SC 35-19
24 St. Leo Lions FL 38-11
25 Bloomsburg Huskies PA 31-20

1. North Greenville Crusaders
The Crusaders finished last season ranked in the top 25 in batting average, scoring and stolen bases – however five impact players from that lineup moved on after the final out. With such sizable holes left in Tigerville it would be rational to think that that formerly explosive offense would be left relatively inert. However, three solid regular hitters do return, along with an arsenal of incoming players who are predicted to have an immediate impact and refuel the roster.

Among the players headed back to campus are Jeffery Chandler and Utah Jones. Chandler hit .351 and was able to amass 16 doubles and eight home runs despite missing a month due to injury. Jones, a slick-fielding shortstop who played previously at North Carolina, hit .358 in his first year switch-hitting. His brother Ryder plays for the San Francisco Giants.

NGU’s most prominent transfer comes with a bit of baggage. Former Georgia first baseman, Adam Sasser, was dismissed from the Bulldog team after a nationally reported incident in which he was alleged to have made racially derogatory comments toward UGA quarterback Justin Fields. Sasser had been a second-team All-SEC selection the previous spring, batting .317 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI. He should be the most talented player in the conference and has the potential to be drafted in the first 10 rounds.

Another lauded incomer from a D-I powerhouse is third baseman Michael Neustifter. He too was a second team all-conference selection, earning the honors at Oklahoma State where he was second on the team in hitting at .299. Also joining the team is Jeremy Whitehead who has tremendous speed and will be the team’s leadoff hitter after failing to find his groove at East Carolina.

What really gets head coach Landon Powell excited about this year’s edition of his team is the pitching staff. The Crusaders return almost all of their key arms from last season. That includes Tucker Burgess, who was a First Team All-American and Hero Sports National Pitcher of Year after earning 14 wins and a 2.98 ERA while throwing 96 2/3 innings. He also had an astonishing 89-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’ll once again be backed by Ethan Garner who was 7-1 with 66 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings with only 13 walks. Garner was the Conference Carolinas freshman of year two years ago and an all conference selection last season. Also back in the bullpen will be Kipp Rollings, a potential draft pick closer with mid-90s heat and a legit cutter and slider.

Two transfers put the stamp on the Crusader’s excellence. Michael Giacone was recruited by such esteemed college pitching factories such as Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and Oregon. However, he didn’t get D-I grades. Thus, the California JUCO Pitcher of the Year will be bringing his 1.84 ERA and 95 strikeouts to NGU. Ryan Kirk, started 12 games as a freshman at Campbell. After missing last season due to injury, he too will complete for a spot in the rotation.

2. Tampa Spartans
The perennial powerhouse Tampa offense won’t have its leading hitter or slugger back in uniform, but a hybrid of holdovers and transfers give the Spartans a once-again imposing starting nine. Four everyday hitters return, most noticeably marked by Nick Detringo, an All-American caliber outfielder who hit .348 with 17 doubles and has the speed and moxie which allowed him to pilfer five bases in one game last season.  Another welcome return is Drew Ehrhard, a hard working, respected second baseman who was named the team’s first sophomore captain since (current assistant coach and recruited coordinator) Jose Jimenez. Ehrhard hit .350 with 18 extra-base hits last spring.

The list of roster reinforcements is both long and impressive. Some of the highlights include the addition of Yorvis Torrealba, who hit .324 with 13 home run and 17 stolen bases at the College of Central Florida. He may have the highest ceiling of the incoming recruits. Danny Blair, who played in 41 games at South Carolina and was the Greenville Regional MVP, is penciled in to start in UT’s outfield. Nick Derr, who started 70 games at Florida State the past two seasons, should be the Spartans’ third baseman.

Keven Pimentel, last year’s No. 2 starter and a PG All-American in 2013, assumes the primary role this year. Last spring he was the Sunshine State Pitcher of the Week twice in a season in which the he had a 2.42 ERA and threw 78 innings. Two other former D-I pitchers (Pimentel had pitched at Miami previously) will likely join him in the rotation. Righthander Mason Duke performed admirably at Alabama where he appeared in 15 games and drew a 3.41 ERA in 31 2/3 innings with a 33-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Tanner Forster looked very good as a starter at Northern Illinois last year. While compiling 69 2/3 innings, he accumulated a 2.33 ERA and struck out 76 batters.

Yet another former D-I player who could compete for a spot in the rotation is Bo Weiss. Weiss, the son of the former American League Rookie of the Year and Colorado Rockies manger Walt Weiss, has transferred to Tampa after struggling to earn innings at North Carolina despite having a sub 3.00 ERA for the Heels when he did take to the mound.

3. UNC Pembroke Braves
Last season the Braves finished in the top three nationally in both batting average and run scored. From that team five players return who started at least 49 games and accumulated a minimum of 189 at-bats. That group batted a combined .348 with 40 home runs and 57 stolen bases. The biggest boppers of the bunch include Luke Jackson, a consensus All-American who hit .397 with 12 home runs and 26 multi-hit games, Ethan Baucom, who batted .391 and hit 10 home runs, and Seth Hartings, who hit .365. Jarratt Mobley didn’t put up the same stunning offensive numbers as the aforementioned group but he is just as valuable to the team’s success as he played masterful defense at shortstop.

The question of how good the Braves can be will depend on their pitching staff, which was bolstered heavily during the offseason. They added a top starting pitcher in Nile Ball who was a bullpen specialist at Missouri last season. In 21 appearances for the Tigers he had 3.52 ERA and held opposition to a .219 batting average. Other reinforcements include Tanner Routh, who originally signed with Campbell and redshirted last season, and Brandon Winstead, who is penciled in to be the team’s closer after playing the last seasons at Pitt Community College.

The staff does return a wealth of experience, nearly 300 innings and 39 games started, however, pitching wasn’t exactly the Braves’ bread and butter last season. The team ERA was 5.36, which even in the offensive friendly Peach Belt Conference is a bit stout. One returner who could factor big is Landen Smith. He had earned a thick 8.23 ERA in the middle of the year but was able to turn it around and shave more than two and a half runs off that mark by the end of the season. River Ryan, a redshirt utility player who was the team’s shortstop in 2017, could also step up and provide invaluable innings.

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