Monday, May 11, 2015

2015 Division II South Central Regional Preview

It is finally postseason time for NCAA Division II baseball, as the regional tournaments have been revealed and teams begin preparing for the run to Cary, N.C. and the Division II Baseball Finals at the USA National Training Complex. Below, we take a look at each of the teams in the region to provide a preview for fans to get a sense of what to expect as this week rolls on.
(Seed. Team (Overall Record) (SOS Rank, Opp. WP, Record vs regional teams))
1. Colorado Mesa (46-7) (22nd, .563, 14-3)
2. St. Edward's (40-11) (164th, .502, 4-3)
3. Angelo State (37-15) (144th, .508, 6-4)
4. Colorado State-Pueblo (39-14) (128th, .512, 1-4)
5. West Texas A&M (35-18) (98th, .520, 4-5)
6. St. Mary's (38-14) (184th, .491, 2-4)
Played at Grand Junction, Colo. (Sam Suplizio Field)

2015 NCAA Division II South Central Regional Tournament Page

By all the numbers, Colorado Mesa is the heavy favorite here. The real fun will come in the 2-6 seeds, where anyone could find themselves in the championship series in this region.

The Mavericks didn't miss a single beat despite graduating the national player of the year last season. CMU rolled through the RMAC with little resistance, thanks to an offense that is going to be tough for anyone to stop. The offense ranks 5th in Division II in hits (634), 6th in doubles (126), 7th in batting average (.349), 11th in runs (441), 15th in slugging percentage (.524) and 17th in on-base percentage (.417).

CMU has nine players who have started at least 21 games and are hitting over .300, led by Alex Fife, who is hitting .432 with 55 runs, 14 doubles, 7 HR, 37 RBI, a .634 slugging percentage, a .509 on-base percentage and has drawn 30 walks to only 15 strikeouts. Kyle Serrano (.393, 59 R, 75 H, 12 2B, 6 HR, 54 RBI, .489 OBP), Bligh Madris (.380, 19 2B, 4 HR, 52 RBI, .566 SLG) and Austin Wallingford (.371, 48 R, 11 HR, 48 RBI, .629 SLG, 17/21 SB) lead that potent offense, and will be a difficult road to travel for any pitching staff in this region.

On the mound, the Mavericks are led by Ryan Reno (11-2, 3.03 ERA, 4 CG, 58/7 K/BB in 86 IP), while Tyler Ehlers (8-0, 2.56 ERA, 20 app., 7 GS, 3 SV, 45 K in 63.1 IP) is a utility pitcher who has contributed both as a starter and out of the bullpen this season. Joey Capistran (6-0, 0.85 ERA, 5 SV, 35/6 K/BB in 31.2 IP) and Dakota Behr (2-1, 1.59 ERA, 37 K in 34 IP) are one of the best bullpen duos in the country.

As we get in to the 2-6 seeds that all seem to be interchangeable, St. Edward's might hold the advantage due to a spectacular trio of starting pitchers that will lead the Hilltoppers. Bryce Davis (8-1, 2.50 ERA, 15 app., 8 GS, 40/8 K/BB in 75.2 IP), Collin Sherrod (8-1, 2.65 ERA, 8 CG, 94 K in 102 IP) and Cameron Stanton (8-1, 2.76 ERA, 63 K in 84.2 IP) all have the potential to shut down any team in this regional, and you can expect consistent games from each of them in the tournament. When it comes to them leaving the mound, Cam Hatch (5-4, 1.71 ERA, 21 app., 8 SV, 27 K in 26.1 IP) is taking over out of the bullpen with great success.

On offense, St. Edward's will not overwhelm you, but they do have a plethora of hitters who will all give you a solid battle. J.D. Arrowood (.375, 48 R, 19 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 50 RBI, .560 SLG, .446 OBP) is the leader of the group, while Joseph Olson (.371, 2 HR, 34 RBI) and A.J. Hermanson (.363, 52 R, 12 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 41 RBI, .537 SLG, .430 OBP) provide significant support in a well-rounded lineup that features seven full-time starters hitting .299 or better.

Without a doubt, the top pitcher in this regional tournament will belong to Angelo State, who will roll out Steve Naemark, he of a 9-1 record with a 1.11 ERA, 114 K in 97.1 IP and a .205 batting average against. Naemark is all over the Division II leaderboard, ranking second in the country in games started (15) and strikeouts, while placing 9th in ERA. He is also 13th in wins, 22nd in WHIP (0.97) and 45th in strikeouts per nine innings (10.54).

He is paired with a pair of extremely reliable starters behind him in Blake Bass (10-2, 2.18 ERA, 3 CG, 99 K in 90.2 IP) and Bryce Zak (5-6, 2.60 ERA, 85 K in 69.1 IP), When it comes to the bullpen, the production doesn't dip at all, as Graylon Brown (3-2, 2.06 ERA, 27 app., 12 SV, 42 K in 39.1 IP) and Dillon Becker (7-2, 2.68 ERA, 26 app., 5 SV, 53 K in 37 IP) are two of the better relievers you will find in this region. The team's 3.03 team ERA is 8th in Division II, while their 10.0 strikeouts per nine is 4th-best and their 3.11 K/BB ratio is 10th-best in the country.

At the plate, the Rams have a three-headed monster in Paxton DeLaGarza (.401, 36 R, 77 H, 15 2B, 7 HR, 44 RBI, .599 SLG, .452 OBP), J.C. Snyder (.353, 22 2B, 6 HR, 30 RBI, .578 SLG) and Nehwon Norkeh (.324, 54 R, 14 2B, 10 HR, 33 RBI, .569 SLG), but the lineup gets much easier to traverse outside of them.

One of the teams that has the potential to compete with the Mavericks at the plate is the Thunderwolves of Colorado State-Pueblo. The RMAC runner-up is ranked inside the top 20 in Division II in on-base percentage (.428), batting average (.338), triples (20), walks (219), HBP's (68), and hits (574).

That offense is led by Mike Wagner (.400, 40 R, 10 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 45 RBI, .600 SLG, .500 OBP) and Jordan Godman (.389, 57 R, 14 2B, 5 3B, 4 HR, 35 RBI, .579 SLG, .483 OBP, 31/39 SB) in nearly every category on the team, as they lead a lineup that has eight regulars hitting .275 or better, including seven of which are .329 or better.

The Thunderwolves' shortcomings come on the mound, where the team's 4.13 ERA is going to be tough to overcome with the other talented pitching staffs in this regional. Zac Wittmus (7-1, 2.66 ERA, 77 K in 84.2 IP) and Victor Soto (8-3, 3.75 ERA, 49 K in 62.1 IP) lead the starting rotation, while Kevin Megyeri (1-1, 1.74 ERA, 27 app., 12 K in 10.2 IP) is a specialist and the pair of Doug Finley (3-2, 3.44 ERA, 25 app., 2 SV, 47 K in 34 IP) and Wyndam Williams (5-1, 3.46 ERA, 22 app., 9 SV, 26 IP) anchor a pretty solid bullpen for CSU-P. Also, I can't go this entire preview without mentioning that the Thunderwolves possess a reliever named Bodacious Ball. Do with that what you will.

West Texas A&M is not a team that is going to blow you away with any big numbers, but the pitching staff is going to have to carry the Buffs if they want to pull a few upsets in this tournament. Tyler Gibson (6-3, 2.38 ERA, 3 CG, 83 K in 94.2 IP) and Trujillo Brooks (2-2, 3.62 ERA, 51 K in 72 IP) provide a reliable duo, while Paul Lujan (5-2, 1.74 ERA, 23 app., 11 SV, 32 K in 31 IP) is one of the top closers in the region, and the pair of Kyle Tinius (5-2, 2.08 ERA, 18 app., 37 K in 39 IP) and Sean Michel (6-0, 2.94 ERA, 20 app., 2 SV, 23 K in 33.2 IP) are very good middle relievers. The pitching staff will keep the Buffs in a lot of games, but the offense is going to have to make some big strides to provide victories.

That offense consists of only four full-time starters hitting over .300, with the top batting average belonging to Matt Cole (.326, 36 R, 15 2B, 3 3B, 34 RBI). The biggest bat in the lineup is that of Josh Day (.324, 44 R, 11 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 47 RBI, .516 SLG, .407 OBP), who I have to think is not going to see a whole lot to hit throughout the tournament.

The St. Mary's strength of schedule left a lot to be desired, but this is a dangerous team by way of an impressive pitching staff and a good, not great, offense. That Rattlers pitching staff is fifth in Division II in hits allowed per nine innings (7.68) and 9th in shutouts (7), to go along with being 17th in WHIP (1.26). Matt McClain will give a good run to Naemark for the top pitcher in the region, as he is 8-3 with a 1.76 ERA, 5 complete games and 66 strikeouts in 81.2 IP. Cody Butler (11-2, 2.55 ERA, 5 CG, 75 K in 98.2 IP) and Kris Gardner (11-3, 3.52 ERA, 3 CG, 65 K in 94.2 IP) complete a trio that will give fits to every offense in the region, including Colorado Mesa. Because of the advantage on the mound that the Rattlers will have over Mesa, I wouldn't be surprised if that game is a little tougher for the Mavericks than what is expected.

Offensively, Brooks Orton leads the Rattlers in a number of categories, including average (.363), hits (69), home runs (5), RBI (46), slugging percentage (.526) and on-base percentage (.437). Paired with Scott Jones (.356, 3 3B, .456 SLG), Derek Hamilton (.332, 36 R, 10 2B, 3 HR), AJ Perez (.330, 48 R, 13 2B, 4 3B, .414 OBP) and Bryce Brandl (.319, 5 HR, 26 RBI, .471 SLG), St. Mary's will at least cause a little concern for opposing pitchers, as there is no real weak spot, nor is there a big bat to attempt to pitch around.

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