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Thursday, January 18, 2018

2018 NAIA Baseball Preview

Nick Herfordt         Brian Sakowski        
Photo: Mike Campbell/Campbell Photography




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Listed below are the Preseason Top 25 teams at the NAIA level followed by detailed capsules of each program and the top 15 NAIA 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 2017 NCAA Divisions II and III and NAIA Rankings

In the event of a nuclear war it’s universally forecasted that the planetary climate would change violently and irrevocably. Temperatures would plunge below freezing, even in summer, endangering the world’s food supply as ashen clouds would block the sun. Burning cities and countrysides would devastate health conditions for any surviving plants and animals around the globe. Mankind would fight for its survival against radiation despite knowing its battle can’t be won.

However despite all this, one thing would unquestionably remain the same. Even as chaos reigns supreme while civilizations crumble and turn to dust, Pat McCarthy’s Faulkner Eagles will yet again be a favorite to contend for the NAIA baseball title.

Year after year after year the Eagles have found themselves among the nation’s elite. Top players come and go, yet somehow they are continuously and instantly replaced with other exceptional athletes to take their place. Under McCarthy’s direction Faulkner has advanced to the national tournament eight of the nine years with World Series appearances in six of the last seven. His team took home the title in 2013 and were the NAIA’s runner-up the past two springs.

This year Faulkner is expected to make the trip to Lewiston once again. The Eagles’ have five offensive starters back from last year’s club, which outscored opposition 481 to 218, and replenished the roster with another crop of capable hitters to fill in any holes. On the mound, the staff is almost an embarrassment of riches with the ilk of Tyler Tungate and Israel Fuentes who combined to earn the win in 22 of 23 decisions last season.

Nevertheless, the Eagles’ destiny is not set in stone. Faulkner will compete with the elite, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be taking home the championship trophy at the end of the season. There are dozens of quality teams ready to trade blows with them and another group of dark horse contenders ready to earn their chance to dog pile in Lewiston should the ball bounce their way.

The Eagles are Perfect Game’s pick to win it all this season, but from the Top 25 capsules below you can see that it will be another competitive and exciting year on diamonds across the country. Each of these teams, along with an optimistic handful of others, has what it takes to be the NAIA’s last team standing.


2018 Perfect Game NAIA Preseason Top 25 Teams

Rk. 2017 School ST '17 Record
1 1* Faulkner Eagles AL 54-12
2 3 Oklahoma City Stars OK 50-10
3 11 Bellevue Bruins NE 51-11
4 24 St. Thomas Bobcats FL 35-19
5 18 Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs TN 47-15
6 15 Texas Wesleyan Rams TX 47-15
7 4 William Carey Crusaders MS 45-20
8 8 Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles OK 51-12
9 23 Clarke Pride IA 46-14
10 NR LSU Shreveport Pilots LA 40-21
11 17 Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies GA 40-21
12 9 USAO Drovers OK 45-17
13 10 Hope International Royals CA 35-18
14 6 Missouri Baptist Spartans MO 45-16
15 NR Concordia Cardinals MI 43-13
16 13 Northwestern Ohio Racers OH 44-12
17 1* Lewis-Clark State Warriors ID 40-14
18 7 The Master's Mustangs CA 41-23
19 NR Cumberlands Patriots KY 43-17
20 18 Indiana Southeast Grenadiers IN 48-15
21 22 Webber International Warriors FL 39-17
22 16 Indiana Tech Warriors IN 44-14
23 NR Point Park Pioneers PA 35-19
24 NR Antelope Valley Pioneers CA 37-18
25 NR Taylor Trojans IN 35-21


1. Faulkner Eagles
After a pair of bitter bridesmaid finishes at the NAIA World Series, Faulkner is an easy choice for 2018’s preseason favorite. A quality core of experienced Eagles will mesh with another top-shelf recruiting class focused in earning head coach Pat McCarthy his second undisputed national title in five years. The Eagles’ bats will be rowdy as always, but it’s their pitching which will really sink their talons into opposition. Tyler Tungate and Israel Fuentes combined to go 22-1 last season despite facing one of the most strenuous schedules in the nation, and senior Jonathan Wilkins, who held opposition to a .157 average as a closer, is back in the bullpen.

2. Oklahoma City Stars
The Stars are the winningest program in college baseball since 1991 with 1,336 wins and by all accounts that number will continue to rise in 2018. The Stars finished last season in the top 10 in slugging percentage, runs, RBI, hits, batting average and doubles and likely will be among the nation’s leaders once again. In addition to returning three hitters who batted a combined .382 with 73 doubles, the Stars have Lane Miligan, who batted .405 in 33 games, and a trio of D-I transfers to fortify their starting lineup. The pitching staff has a pair of seasoned starters highlighted by Matt Young, who rebounded from injury to throw 101 innings and amass 125 strikeouts while only allowing 80 hits. 

3. Bellevue Bruins
Coming off back-to-back 50-win seasons, seven consecutive NAIA opening round appearances and a runaway North Star Athletic Association title with a 23-1 conference record, the Bruins will be a national title contender once again. Despite losing some key players, BU returns six position players and three starting pitchers along with a quality recruiting class that will look to give Bellevue their second World Series appearance in three years. The Bruins pulled off one of the coups of the offseason in signing Austin Alexander (.377/.450/.719) away from Georgia Gwinnett to insert in the middle of an already potent batting order.


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