College : : Story
Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2013 NCAA Division II Preview

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Roger Crowley

Pennsylvania Boasts Defending Champ,
Top D-II Prospect, But Tampa Still No. 1

The NCAA Division II World Series was first contested in 1968, and it has been dominated through the years largely by Sun Belt teams, with Florida (16) and California (13) schools winning 29 championships between them.

But the 2012 series went very much against the grain as no Florida team even advanced to the eight-team series, and California’s entry (Chico State) went winless. And perhaps most noteworthy, a team from Pennsylvania won the event for the first time as West Chester (46-10) dominated from start to finish, beating Mississippi’s Delta State 9-0 in the final to go undefeated. The win marked Pennsylvania as the northern-most state ever to produce a D-II champion.

On the heels of that triumph, a Pennsylvania player, Seton Hill lefthander Alex Haines, stands an excellent chance of becoming the first Division II player to be selected in this year’s draft. Haines ranks No. 1 on the accompanying list of Top 25 Division II Prospects, as compiled by Perfect Game.

While Pennsylvania has been a stronghold of Division II baseball for years, it wasn’t until West Chester’s unexpected triumph a year ago that the state has begun to get its due national recognition.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Haines could only help to perpetuate the state’s growing reputation this spring if he can follow up on a strong season last summer in the New England Collegiate League, where he led one of the nation’s strongest summer leagues in both ERA (0.90, vs. 1.91 by his closest pursuer) and strikeouts (54), while going 5-2. In 40 innings, he allowed only 24 hits and six walks, and his .168 opponent batting average led the league by a wide margin. Predictably, he was selected that league’s top professional prospect.

With a fastball that sat at 90-95 mph, and peaked at 96 in a one-inning stint at the league all-star game, Haines’ velocity was the equal of any pitcher in the league. If he can maintain or even enhance that velocity this spring as a junior at Seton Hill while improving his secondary stuff, he could surge into the two 2-3 rounds in June.

That’s a far cry from three years ago, when the unknown Haines had no Division I teams courting his services and had little recourse but to hook on with Seton Hill, a somewhat obscure Division II college located little more than 15 miles from his home in Greensburg, Pa.

By his freshman year at Seton Hill, Haines had worked his velocity up to 91 mph, and was mainly at 92-93 as a sophomore, when he posted a 7-2, 4.24 record with 38 walks and 108 strikeouts in 70 innings. He took his game to yet another level on the summer.

While Haines should carry the torch for Pennsylvania’s D-II ranks this season, it might be a tall order for West Chester, with a depleted roster, to repeat its success of a year ago, or for any other team from Pennsylvania to contend again for a national title, although Seton Hill (46-11), Mercyhurst (39-17) and Shippensburg (32-21), in particular, should be among the contenders.

Five-time champion Tampa (38-10) ranks as a heavy early favorite to win the D-II World Series, especially after bolstering its roster with a number of Division I transfers while also bringing in several top players from Florida’s rich junior-college ranks. (See Top 10 Division II teams).

The Spartans, who haven’t had a losing season since their inaugural season in 1977 and went a combined 106-17 in winning back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007, appeared to be sailing along to another championship a year ago after winning the highly-competitive Sunshine State Conference. But their season came to a crashing halt when they lost two straight one-run games in the South regional.

Among Tampa’s newcomers is 6-foot-5, 215-pound righthander Jon Keller, an 11
th-round pick of the Mariners in the 2011 draft who went 4-1, 5.37 a year ago at Nebraska. With a mid-90s fastball, he steps in as the No. 1 starter for the Spartans and ranks No. 3 on the accompanying list of the Top 25 Prospects in the D-II ranks.

Former Troy lefthander Jimmy Hodgskin (No. 4), ex-Auburn middle infielder Zach Alford (No. 15) and outfielder Michael Danner (No. 16), who hit .365-10-69 at Polk State (Fla.) Junior College a year ago, also cracked the list. All are new to the team.

They join holdovers like junior outfielder Zach Gawrych (.365-3-14), the team’s top hitter a year ago, former University of Miami catcher Shane Rowland (.247-1-11), returning starters Ben Brown (7-2, 2.67) and Eric Luksis (2-0, 3.55), and closer Preston Packrall (5-3, 2.53, 7 SV).

Tampa begins its 2013 season on Friday with the opener of a three-game series against Bentley (Mass.) College.

The D-II World Series returns to Cary, N.C., the home of USA Baseball’s national training center, for the fifth year. The eight-team tournament will run from May 25-June 1.

NCAA Division II Top 10 Teams

RK School State 2012 Record Top Prospect (Previous College)
1 Tampa 
FL 38-10 Jon Keller, rhp (Nebraska)
2 Franklin Pierce
Zach Mathieu, 1b
3 *St. Mary's TX 49-11 Derek Hamilton, ss (Rice)
4 Mt. Olive
NC 44-10 Geno Escalante c (Cal State Fullerton)
5 *Delta State
MS 49-15 Taylor Stark, rhp/3b (Mississippi State)
6 Grand Valley State
MI 43-16 Giancarlo Brugnoni, 1b
7 *Minnesota State-Mankato MN 51-12     Bryce Belin, rhp
8 Nova Southeastern
FL 35-15 Carlos Asuaje, 2b
9 South Carolina-Aiken
SC 37-18 Zach Hayden, rhp (Middle Georgia CC)
10 UC San Diego
CA 33-24 Garrett Tuck, ss

*Participated in the 2012 Division II World Series

NCAA Division II Top 25 Prospects

RK Player POS. YR B-T HT WT College Hometown ST Previously Draft Prevous School
1 Alex Haines LHP JR L-L 6-4 215 Seton Hill (Pa.) Greensburg PA Never drafted  
2 *Brandon Bonilla LHP SO R-L 6-3 200 Grand Canyon (Ariz.) Greenwich CT Rockies '11 (37) Arizona State
3 Jon Keller RHP JR R-R 6-5 215 Tampa Cedar Rapids IA Mariners '10 (11) Nebraska
4 Jimmy Hodgskin LHP JR R-L 6-3 215 Tampa Winderemere FL Phillies '10 (43) Troy
5 Carlos Asuaje 2B/SS JR L-R 5-10 180 Nova Southeastern (Fla.) Weston FL Never drafted  
6 Chris Carlson OF JR L-L 5-10 185 Cal Poly Pomona Chino CA Red Sox '12 (33) Orange Coast
7 Geno Escalante C SR R-R 5-11 200 Mt. Olive (N.C.) Fairfield CA Brewers '09 (28) Chipola (Fla.) JC
8 Josh Wong 2B/1B SR R-R 6-1 200 Hawaii-Hilo Mililani HI Never drafted  
9 Giancarlo Brugnoni 1B JR R-R 6-3 230 Grand Valley State (Mich.) Grosse Pointe MI Never drafted  
10 Zach Mathieu 1B JR R-R 6-7 265 Franklin Pierce (N.H.) Derry NH Never drafted  
11 Blake Miller SS SR R-R 6-2 195 Western Oregon State Salem OR Never drafted Cal State Sacramento
12 Tim Mayza LHP/1B JR L-L 6-4 215 Millersville (Pa.) Pennsville PA Never drafted  
13 Joe Gunkel RHP JR R-R 6-6 210 West Chester (Pa.) Hershey PA Never drafted  
14 *Jorge Perez RHP SO R-R 6-2 205 Grand Canyon (Ariz.) Downey CA Never drafted  
15 Zach Alvord SS JR R-R 6-1 190 Tampa Alpharetta GA Braves '10 (18) Auburn
16 Michael Danner OF JR L-R 5-10 185 Tampa Tampa FL Never drafted Polk State (Fla.) CC
17 Kevin McGowan RHP JR R-R 6-5 215 Franklin Pierce (N.H.) Nashua NH Never drafted  
18 Alex Powers RHP JR R-R 6-4 170 Southern New Hampshire Brewster MA Never drafted  
19 Ryan Thompson RHP SR R-R 6-3 210 Franklin Pierce (N.H.) Fort McMurray AB Yankees '11 (36) Connecticut
20 Zak Blair SS SR L-R 5-10 190 Mercyhurst (Pa.) Jefferson OH Never drafted Winthrop
21 Chase Butler 3B/RHP JR R-R 5-11 190 Armstrong Atlantic State (Ga.) Rome GA Never drafted Georgia Tech
22 Bryce Bellin RHP JR R-R 6-3 190 Minnesota State-Mankato Appleton WI Never drafted  
23 Derek Hamilton SS JR R-R 6-0 180 St. Mary's (Texas) Lake Jackson TX Never drafted Rice
24 Ben Heairet LHP SR L-L 6-5 180 Augustana (S.D.) Omaha NE Never drafted Kansas State
25 Jackson Slaid C JR R-R 5-9 190 Montevallo (Ala.) Sibley LA Never drafted Louisiana State

*Not eligible for 2013 draft

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