Game will be providing weekly ranking updates of the top 25 NAIA
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2015 Perfect Game College Baseball Preview Index
would be easily to anoint Cumberland as the preseason favorite to
capture the NAIA title once again in 2015. The Bulldogs have a Hall
of Fame head coach, are the reigning national champions and have
already captured the crown three times in school history, including
twice in the last four years. Last year’s CU club was a resilient,
scrappy bunch which five times was faced with a win-or-go-home
scenario and prevailed each time.
it would be rash to peg them as the top them headed into the spring.
Last year’s edition of the Bulldogs was the last team standing
fueled by an extraordinary late-season surge with a senior-laden
squad that now needs to replace 16 players from last season’s club,
including almost the entire starting lineup. With that being said, it
opens the door wide open for someone to dethrone the Bulldogs as the
top dog in the NAIA.
the NCAA Division I level where a clear-cut preseason favorite has
been established, this year’s NAIA race to Lewiston should be a
week-to-week battle for the top rankings both within conferences and
nationally. There are many teams with high quality pitching and
several schools with a lineup full of thunderous bats, yet few teams
seem to be bringing back a stocked roster with a top-shelf mix of
of that, selecting and positioning the teams for Perfect Game's
preseason ranking of the Top 25 NAIA teams was a daunting task. Even
more difficult was choosing which club would be given the title of
the preseason top team.
select the preseason No. 1 team and complete the preseason Top 25,
dozens of teams were evaluated and considered. To make the decision
reams of paper were scribbled upon, countless highlighters met their
demise and immeasurable hours were spent trying to figure out what
the aforementioned illegible scrawls on the notes said. Each club was
scrutinized inside out, upside-down and sideways until the top team
was chosen and the rest of the clubs were put into position.
the top team was the most arduous task. Cumberland was removed from
consideration as the top team without much deliberation. Too many
cogs were going to be absent from the machine that won it all last
season. CU wasn’t completely put out of the equation, however. The
Bulldogs still have a pair of experienced starting arms, including
ace Jake Collier, which will always give them a chance to compete.
Plus, a program like Cumberland doesn’t rebuild, they reload, and
after they go through some growing pains, they could easily challenge
for a title once again.
CU out of the picture the next thought goes to Lewis-Clark State. The
Warriors have been the longtime bullies of the division, having won
16 of the last 28 titles, but much like Cumberland, Lewis-Clark State
also had a senior exodus. They will be without a ton of experienced
and valuable talent that makes selecting them for the top position a
risky proposition at best. One could re-read the last sentence from
the previous paragraph and substitute “Lewis-Clark State” for
Baptist and Faulkner were both ranked No. 1 at one point during the
2014 season and were given extra long looks at being the top team for
Bison were a near unanimous choice as the top team headed into the
postseason last year and have a wealth of talent headed back to the
field. Unfortunately some of the few bats and arms that are missing
were some of their best players statistically. The same can be said
for the Eagles. Tons of talent will be between the chalky lines but a
couple of key absent players here and there leaves too many question
marks for the 2013 NAIA champions.
tirelessly searching through stats and rosters like Juan
Ponce de León seeking the Fountain of Youth, or an angry
grandfather trying to find the lost TV remote, a top team was finally
discovered. A club with the proper combination of returning top
talent in the lineup, in the field, on the basepaths, on the mound
and in the bullpen which makes them the 2015 team to beat in the
2015 preseason top team is the Missouri Baptist Spartans.
Eddie Uschold has had MBU on the cusp of greatness for a while,
especially the past couple of years. In 2012, the Spartans were one
strike away from advancing to the NAIA World Series for the first
time but were usurped by a late Lee Flames’ rally. The club finally
made it to Idaho in 2013 and finished the season fifth in the nation.
year the Spartans made their way up the rankings to the third spot
midseason but were eliminated in the postseason after dropping their
final two games to Cumberland, the eventual national champion. This
could be Missouri Baptist’s year.
Spartans are lead by a pair of All-Americans in Orlando Olivera and
Brandon Zywicki. Olivera was in the top 10 of most major hitting
categories last season and was a First-Team All-American. He hit .445
with 11 homers and slugged .683. He also topped in the NAIA in hits
per game. Zywicki was eighth in the nation with eleven wins and
finished the season with a 3.05 ERA. He went the distance in five of
his 16 starts and recorded 66 strikeouts in 97.1 innings pitched.
be joined by a robust roster of returners which includes four regular
batters who hit .290 or above and a pair of starting pitchers who
went a combined 18-2. Add in an experienced closer, a solid middle
relief staff and some talented transfers and freshmen and Coach
Uschold will have himself a championship stew cooking.
2015 Perfect Game NAIA Preseason Top 25 Teams
||2014 Record (Conf.)
||Lewis-Clark State (Id.)
||Point Park (Pa.)
||The Master's (Calif.)
||Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio)
2015 NAIA Top 20 Prospects
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