College | Rankings | 1/25/2018

2018 Division II College Preview

Nick Herfordt        
Photo: Mercyhurst Athletics

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Listed below are the Preseason Top 25 teams at the NCAA 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 2017 NCAA Divisions II and III and NAIA Rankings

It’s not uncommon for the reigning national champion of a college sport to be the preseason No. 1 the following season; in fact it’s quite common. However, let’s be honest, this distinction typically isn’t formulated on astute forecasting. To be blunt, it’s a tepid, uninformed prediction using only the past season’s final outcome as basis. There really isn’t much of a look into who teams are brining back and taking in the preseason rankings they are too often a rehashed, slightly remixed roster of clubs from the previous final poll.

This methodology is flawed because, in regards to the top teams, the reason a school is among the nation’s elite is typically because they had a roster full of experienced upperclassmen along with top-shelf talent which made them the best of the best. Thus, at season’s end, the band breaks up for good. Senior players graduate and the top players get drafted into the professional ranks.

Back-to-back titles aren’t common. In the last 40 years a school has won the college baseball national championship twice in a row just eight times in D-I and D-II baseball combined; that’s only 10 percent of the time. If you factor in the pair of occasions it has happened in D-III baseball the percentage drops to just over eight percent.

Therefore, if you’re a fan of West Chester you may think that’s it time to slow your roll in regards to clearing out a spot for another trophy, but I’ve gotta say, these dudes can totally do it.

The Golden Rams return much of the team that dog-piled in Grand Prairie last spring by sweeping their way through the NCAA postseason.  Nick Ward, Shane Dressler and Jared Melone each started every game last year and batted a combined .360 and had well over 100 total bases between them. The pitching staff looks good again too with Mike Cipolla and Jon Fisher, two of their three best starters, again back in purple and gold. Granted there are some holes to fill but head coach Jad Prachniak has some D-I transfers coming in to fill the void, along with Tyler Forbes, who earned all conference honors last season at Northampton Community College.

Their title defense won’t be easy as WCU will have a target on their back as teams bring their best to come at the king, but these Rams not only have talent and experience, they’ve got the confident strut of a champion and they are not going to go down without a fight.

2018 Perfect Game NCAA Division II Preseason Top 25 Teams

Rk. 2017 School ST '17 Record
1 1 West Chester Golden Rams PA 44-12
2 4 Delta State Statesmen MS 45-13
3 6 Tampa Spartans FL 39-14
4 16 Minnesota State Mavericks MN 46-11
5 3 Colorado Mesa Mavericks CO 50-12
6 7 Mercyhurst Lakers PA 38-8
7 13 Lubbock Christian Chaparrals TX 38-16
8 14 Emporia State Hornets KS 42-13
9 NR Cal Baptist Lancers CA 35-18
10 NR UNC Pembroke Braves NC 41-17
11 18 St. Thomas Aquinas Spartans NY 44-17
12 NR Florida Southern Moccasins FL 35-17
13 20 Northwood Wolves MI 46-13
14 NR Georgia College Bobcats GA 35-14
15 NR Catawba Indians NC 40-17
16 15 Azusa Pacific Cougars CA 42-12
17 NR New Haven Chargers CT 31-13
18 17 Nova Southeastern Sharks FL 35-18
19 2 UC San Diego Tritons CA 44-19
20 NR St. Cloud State Huskies MN 41-18
21 25 Lincoln Memorial Railsplitters TN 35-19
22 NR North Greenville Crusaders SC 38-15
23 23 Belmont Abbey Crusaders NC 37-17
24 10 Angelo State Rams TX 43-15
25 NR Oklahoma Baptist Bison OK 42-15

1. West Chester Golden Rams
The Rams started last season unranked with the prediction that it was going to be a rebuilding year, but head coach Jad Prachniak’s team went off script and went won the title a year early. It was the second national title in five years for WCU, capturing the D-II crown in style by sweeping their way through both the regional and national tournaments. With that being said, 2018 was supposed to be the year they competed for the title. Now along with another year of practice and experience under their belt, they also have the confidence and swagger that comes with being a champion. Almost all the cogs are still in place from last year’s machine, including top hitter Shane Dressler (.375) and two of three of their top starting pitchers.

2. Delta State Statesmen
The Statemen, like West Chester, retain much of the 2017 team that powered them into the postseason and to the national championships. The offense is led by reigning Tino Martinez Award winner Zack Shannon (.434/.498/.758) who is just one of four returning All GSC selections back in the lineup. The pitching staff is again topped by Seth Birdsong, who earned the victory in 10 decisions last season during a year in which he threw 101 2/3 innings and held opposition to a 3.01 ERA. Although the retuning roster alone is enough to make them a favorite to reach the finals, head coach Mike Kinnison added some quality transfers as well to make the team even more imposing.

3. Tampa Spartans
Perennial power Tampa will once again field a championship quality club filled with carryover talent combined with one of head coach Joe Urso’s patented top shelf recruiting classes. Matching last year’s monster offensive numbers, a team tat collectively slugged .528, will be a tall order, but the pieces are in place for them to score just as many runs hitting for average with speed. The top returning hitter is Darren Miller, who is in line to become the next great Spartan slugger. Last season he batted .371 with 13 home runs and 15 doubles. Few, if any pitchers will be as formidable as David LeBron. He fanned 103 in 91 innings last season while holding opponents to a .213 batting average. He’ll be joined by Cole Aker, who put up good numbers at North Carolina but wasn’t getting the innings he needed to flourish.

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