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College  | Rankings  | 1/26/2017

2017 Division II Baseball Preview

Nick Herfordt     
Photo: Tampa Athletics

2017 College Baseball Preview Index | @PGCollegeBall | @_eephuspitch (Nick Herfordt) |  @B_Sakowski_PGPG College Facebook Page

Listed below are the Preseason Top 25 teams at the Division II level followed by detailed capsules of each program and the top 30 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 2016 NCAA Divisions II and III and NAIA Rankings

About a decade ago the NCAA developed a "Life in the Balance" initiative aimed at defining the D-II experience. Basically it’s a philosophy that intertwines academics and life skills with athletics. It seeks to find the happy medium between competition and education. That same balanced philosophy has seemingly seeped into the soil of baseball diamonds across the nation as never in my years in forecasting D-II baseball have I found the playing field to be so level.

Typically about 50 teams are seriously polled and evaluated in determining the preseason favorites with another dozen or so given a keen eye as well in deciding if they are among the nation’s elite. This season a true figure of how many teams received significant consideration is easily double that. Scores of pages of statistics from schools across the county were scrutinized, inspected, examined and asked to turn their heads and cough to pick the best of the bunch.

There are 25 teams listed below, but the number easily could have been much higher. There are several squads with national title talent not on the list. Two schools who advanced to the D-II Baseball Championship last season didn’t make the cut, nor did last year’s preseason No. 1 or half the teams which were in the final rankings.

It is because of that equilibrium that an extra effort was made to look at the teams from top to bottom. They weren’t judged on last year’s performance, but rather this year’s potential. Following are the schools determined to be most likely to making the trip to Grand Prairie, Texas this May to decide which school will top the list after the final dogpile and hoist the championship trophy above their heads.

2017 Perfect Game Division II Preseason Top 25 Teams

Rk. 2016 School ST ’16 Record
1 3 Tampa Spartans FL 41-10
2 1 Nova Southeastern Sharks FL 44-16
3 13 West Florida Argos FL 36-17
4 10 Cal Poly Pomona Broncos CA 42-19
5 16 USC Aiken Pacers SC 40-18
6 25* Lubbock Christian Chaparrals TX 37-19
7 NR Minnesota State Mavericks MN 36-18
8 8 Colorado Mesa Mavericks CO 43-13
9 25* Dixie State Trailblazers UT 40-14
10 NR Belmont Abbey Crusaders NC 39-16-1
11 NR Point Loma Sea Lions CA 32-16
12 NR North Georgia Nighthawks GA 32-20
13 NR Emporia State Hornets MO 39-19
14 5 Franklin Pierce Ravens NH 48-9
15 19 Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles IN 38-21
16 15 Mercyhurst Lakers PA 43-14
17 NR St. Mary’s Rattlers TX 32-21
18 2 Millersville Marauders PA 53-7
19 NR Wayne State Warriors MI 28-24
20 NR Florida Tech Panthers FL 29-21
21 20 Angelo State Rams TX 39-22
22 NR Augustana Vikings SD 37-17
23 NR Azusa Pacific Cougars CA 30-20
24 NR Henderson State Reddies AR 31-25
25 NR Lincoln Memorial Railsplitters TN 28-21

1. Tampa Spartans, Sunshine State Conference
The seven-time national champions spent last year firmly positioned in the top five for the duration of season and were the second-ranked club heading into the postseason. However a pair of surprising home upsets in the South Regional foiled their opportunity to bring home an eighty trophy. This season anything less than taking home a third title in six years will be a disappointment for the Spartans who somehow look even better than they did last spring. Leading batsmen Kevin Santa and Laz Riveria, who each batted well over .400 last season, return, as well as four other regular hitters who hit over .350. Christopher Williams was the team’s ace last season and will be back for another year on the mound. Despite winning 10 games with 72 strikeouts in 74 innings, his top spot in the rotation isn’t assured as he’ll be pushed by newcomer David LeBron, who excelled at the College of Central Florida. Garrett Cave, a transfer from Florida Atlantic, dazzled over the summer in the Cape Code League where he was an all-star, leading the league in saves while striking out 34 in 19 1/3 innings.

2. Nova Southeastern Sharks, Sunshine State Conference
Much of the meat of NSU’s sirloin caliber club is back on the menu and will be focused on being the first team to take home back-to-back titles in 10 years. Leading slugger Brandon Gomez, whose 21 homers and 75 RBI topped the team, will once again be firmly entrenched in the heart of the lineup. The everyday Shark lineup also has top performers back at the important shortstop and catcher positions – an absolute feather in any coach’s cap. D-I transfer Jeremy Vasquez was an everyday starter at Florida and excelled in the Cape Cod League over the summer and the presence of his bat makes an already potent offense more formidable. NSU will be without their top starter and closer from last season, but do have a pair of everyday arms who made a dozen starts apiece to solidify the staff while transfers establish themselves. Derik Beauprez and Devin Meyer both headed up I-95 from the University of Miami and are expected to play major roles on the staff.

3. West Florida Argonauts, Gulf South Conference
The Argos spent the bulk of last season in the top 10 but faltered when the games really counted, bowling out of both the GSC and South Regional tournaments with narrow upset losses. The ’11 national champs will be looking to right their postseason wrongs with a team heavy on quality pitching combined with a plethora of potent bats which puts them on the short-short list of title contenders. The pitching staff is paced by J.T. Granat whose 2.49 ERA was among the best in the South Region. Granat and Walker O’Connor each earned eight wins and were All-Region selections. Also back is bullpen bully Jarrod Petree whose pitching prowess was profiled in the New York Times back in 2006 when he was a wee 12 years old. Petree only allowed 29 hits in 47 innings while striking out 45 after a move to the UWF bullpen. Noteworthy transfers to Pensacola include Brian Browning from Ole Miss, Jared Middleton – who redshirted at Florida State – and Brandon Harmon from the College of Central Florida.

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