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College  | Rankings  | 2/3/2017

2017 Division III College Preview

Nick Herfordt     
Photo: SUNY Cortland 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 III level followed by detailed capsules of each program and the top 10 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

Last season Trinity captured their first D-III baseball national championship after a banner season in which they won a school record 44 games with only seven losses, three of which were by only a single score. The Tigers steamrolled the second half of the season, going a perfect 17-0 after losing a series in early April. Those victories included six triumphs in tournament play by a margin of at least five runs. With such a juggernaut of a roster you’d think the Tigers would be a top team headed into the new season, or at least minimally a top 10 club. Nonetheless, Head Coach Tim Scannell’s team isn’t in the running to start a dynasty, quite the opposite in fact. The Tigers are on the outside of the Top 25 looking in to start the year.

The 2016 edition of Tigers baseball was a roster full of upperclassmen who spent seasons playing together and developing as individuals and as a team.  Their high-octane offense and proficient pitching staff hadn’t been built overnight. When the last out was made in Appleton, Wisconsin, it would be the final appearance for the Tiger’s entire starting lineup as well as three of their starting pitchers. Only three members of the staff are back who provided significant innings and the batter with the most at-bats back totaled only 47. A new champion will be crowned in 2017. Coach Scannell is good, but he’s not that good.

It is a wide-open field as to who that champion will be. Some of the usual suspects are back in fine form including Cortland State and Wisconsin-Whitewater, who took home the title the previous two seasons, and Birmingham-Southern and Emory who look scary good on paper, but each has an Achilles’ heel. While that quartet comprises the favorites, considering them head and shoulders above the rest would be overly presumptive. There are a number of very capable teams that could capture the crown this season, including a few quality clubs that are just on the cusp of the Top 25. If a team in the second half of the rankings were to take the title it would be a surprise, but not a shock, not by any means.

Following are the top NCAA Division III teams headed into the 2017 season.

2017 Perfect Game Division III Preseason Top 25 Teams

Rk. 2016 School ST '16 Record
1 2 Cortland State Red Dragons NY 43-8
2 7 Birmingham-Southern Panthers AL 39-13
3 11 UW Whitewater Warhawks WI 34-17
4 4 Emory Eagles GA 34-12
5 9 Oswego State Lakers NY 35-11
6 17 Wooster Fighting Scots OH 37-13
7 8 Shenandoah Hornets VA 35-12
8 6 La Roche Redhawks PA 43-12
9 5 Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets VA 35-8-1
10 18 Concordia University Chicago Cougars IL 34-13
11 3 UW La Crosse Eagles WI 39-10
12 16 St. John Fisher Cardinals NY 39-13
13 25 Occidental Tigers CA 32-10
14 14 Tufts Jumbos MA 35-8
15 NR Whitworth Pirates WA 30-13
16 NR Tyler Texas Patriots TX 32-19
17 23 Frostburg State Bobcats MD 30-14
18 20 St. Scholastica Saints MN 32-11
19 22 Cal Lutheran Kingsmen CA 31-13
20 NR Texas Lutheran Bulldogs TX 26-15
21 13
Salisbury Seagulls
22 19 Susquehanna River Hawks
PA 35-12
23 NR Rhodes Lynx TN 26-20
24 NR Centenary Gents LA 26-13
25* 24 North Central Cardinals IL 31-12
25* NR Wartburg Knights IA 34-13

1. Cortland State Red Dragons, State University of New York Athletic Conference
Coach Joe Brown touts that this year’s club could be the deepest pitching staff he’s had the past decade, and that’s really saying something considering the arms he’s seen. The roster took some hits due to graduation, but the Dragons had a hydra-like infusion of players to take their place with two talented transfers or incoming freshman to replace each loss. The left side of the infield, with shortstop Paul Dondero and third baseman Steven Figueroa, highlight the offense. Redshirt hurler Alex Weingarten, who won nine games with a 2.83 ERA in 2015, Billy Goncalves, a serendipitous transfer from defunct D-II program Dowling, and Jeff Cooke, who excels as both a starter and out of the bullpen, showcase the pitching staff.

2. Birmingham-Southern Panthers, Southern Athletic Association
The Panthers spent the bulk of last season in the top five and the nucleus (as well as some mitochondria and chloroplasts) of that terrific team is back for more this spring. They’re so good that it nearly took a coin-flip to determine if the Panthers or Cortland should be the preseason No. 1. Ryan Gaines, who took home All-American, All-Region, SAA Pitcher of the Year and All-SAA First Team honors is back after finishing 11-2 with a 2.31 ERA last season. He’ll be backed by Stephen Himic whose statistical numbers are nearly as good, if not better. Leading hitter Sam Roberts can’t just hit, but he’s also a national gold glove winner.

3. UW-Whitewater Warhawks, Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
The Warhawks return eight positional starters and two starting pitchers from a team that reached the final eight. The wheels would have to completely fall off the Warhawks wagon for them not to earn their 10th WIAC championship and 12th NCAA Tournament appearance for Head Coach John Vodenlich. Cal Aldridge, who topped the team in hits, total bases, slugging percentage, home runs and RBI last spring and will be in the heart of the order once again. Austin Jones was selected by the Chicago Cubs in last year’s amateur draft and will be looking to impress and get a call again this spring.

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