Monday, May 11, 2015

2015 Division II West 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. Cal Poly Pomona (39-14) (84th, .528, 12-3)
2. Azusa Pacific (32-18) (71st, .534, 9-7)
3. California Baptist (30-20) (9th, .578, 11-9)
4. Dixie State (31-17) (73rd, .534, 6-14)
5. UC San Diego (33-19) (35th, .552, 2-8)
6. Point Loma (33-16) (152nd, .505, 4-9)
Played at Walnut, Calif. (Mazmanian Field)

2015 NCAA Division II West Regional Tournament Page

I think it is expected that Cal Poly Pomona is the favorite here. They rolled through the CCAA Tournament and won the regular season title by a game, and their record against teams who qualified for NCAA regional tournament play is by far the best in this region. Their pitching has been carrying them, ranking 4th in the country in ERA (2.72), 3rd in hits allowed per nine innings (7.43) and 4th in WHIP (1.16). Ryan Olson is leading the way for the Broncos, going 10-0 with a 1.54 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 70.1 innings on the mound. He is followed by Cody Ponce (5-2, 1.55 ERA, 53 K in 46.1 IP) and Chris Powell (7-2, 2.10 ERA, 71 K in 81.1 IP) to form a formidable three-headed monster in the starting rotation. That is in addition to Austin Boyle (1-1, 1.93 ERA, 29 K in 23.1 IP) and J.J. Franklin (0-2, 2.37 ERA, 10 SV, 21 K in 19 IP) in the bullpen.

The Broncos leave a lot to be desired at the plate, however. CPP is ranked outside the top 100 of nearly every batting category in Division II, but they do have a huge power threat in Kyle Garlick, who is hitting .338 with 13 doubles and 14 home runs, which is 27th in Division II. Having only four hitters over the .300 mark in the starting lineup is on the lower end of any regional team, but I expect that pitching staff to carry them a long way in the regional tournament, if not all the way to Cary.

When it comes to Azusa Pacific, the story moves towards the action at the plate for the Cougars, where they rank 19th in Division II in home runs with 60. That number is buoyed by Daniel Martin, who is batting .389 with 54 runs, 16 home runs and 59 RBI. Jordan Brower (.417, 22 2B, 7 HR, 50 RBI) and Ryan Santana (.364, 19 2B, 10 HR, 37 RBI) help boost those offensive numbers even more as part of a lineup that boasts six players hitting at least .300.

While APU doesn't have the team pitching numbers that CPP does, the Cougars do have one of the most electric arms in the country in Josh Staumont (5-2, 3.41 ERA, 100 K in 63.1 IP), who is allowing only a .153 batting average and ranks in the top 10 in strikeouts (9th), hits allowed per nine innings (4th, 4.69) and strikeouts per nine innings (2nd, 14.21). The strength of the Cougar pitching staff falls on the bullpen, led by Josh Grajeda (3-0, 0.99 ERA, 26 K in 27.1 IP, 22 app.) and Jonny Reid (3-0, 1.44 ERA, 34 K in 25 IP, 19 app.).

The first real "balanced" team when it comes to both hitting and pitching is California Baptist, which carries a .311 team batting average and a 3.37 team ERA. The Lancers have six hitters over .300, led by Antonio Chavarria's .406 average, 9 home runs and 46 RBI. CBU has five hitters with at least 12 doubles, not allowing for much of a break in the lineup at any point.

On the mound, the Lancers might lack the mind-boggling numbers of a true #1 starter compared to what CPP and UCSD are bringing in to this regional, but they have three very capable starters leading the way in Adam Hofacket (6-5, 2.39 ERA, 87 K in 94.1 IP), Jeremy McDonald (5-2, 2.50 ERA, 86 K in 75.2 IP) and Tyson Miller (7-2, 3.06 ERA, 80 K in 82.1 IP), who all ate up an insane amount of innings this season and all have held their opponents to a .230 batting average or under this year. The bullpen, however, leaves a bit to be desired. Andy Crowley has yet to allow a run in 12 appearances and 12 innings of work with five saves, but every option out of the bullpen outside of him results in a 3.77 ERA or above.

The Red Storm of Dixie State were the definition of a Jekyll and Hyde team during the season. DSU was one of the top teams in the country entering the season, but began the year 0-7. Not many people knew at that time that those seven games would be against a pair of top regional seeds (0-4 vs CPP, 1-3 vs Colorado Mesa), but it was a surprising start to say the least. After that, Dixie State rattled off 12 straight wins and 25 of their next 26 to vault themselves back in to the discussion and lead a furious charge back in to the rankings.

We have almost every aspect of the baseball field covered in this regional, as Dixie State's calling card comes on defense, where the Red Storm are 10th in Division II in fielding percentage at .973 with only 50 errors on the year.

DSU has five hitters over .300 in the every day lineup, led by Tanner Morache (.385, 38 RBI, 10 SB) and Kevin Kline (.355, 49 runs, 15 2B, 7 HR, 45 RBI).

On the mound, the Red Storm may be at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to the numbers. They lack the big arm and carry a 4.45 team ERA, with their top starter this season being Dylan File, who went 5-1 with a 2.95 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 55 innings. The other two regular starters, Aaron Pope (4-3, 4.02 ERA, 36 K in 56 IP) and Porter Clayton (5-4, 5.09 ERA, 59 K in 69 IP), will have a tall task against the offenses in this region, while the bullpen has a solid piece in it with Evan Parker (1-3, 2.66 ERA, 12 SV, 23 K in 23.2 IP).

The story of the season for UC San Diego has been pitching, pitching, pitching. Led by quite possibly the top pitcher in Division II baseball, Justin Donatella, the Tritons rank third in ERA (2.61), third in WHIP (1.13), third in shutouts (12), 4th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.63), 5th in K/BB ratio (3.38) and 9th in walks allowed per nine innings (2.57). Donatella himself is 2nd in WHIP (0.74), 5th in ERA (0.78), 8th in hits allowed per nine innings (5.11), 8th in strikeouts (103), 13th in wins (9), and 22nd in strikeouts per nine innings (11.44). The numbers for Donatella are head-spinning, as he went 9-2 with a 0.78 ERA in 12 starts, he was part of five shutouts, struck out 103 in 81 innings pitched and walked only 14 on the year, holding hitters to a .161 batting average.

The rotation that hitters in this region will face doesn't get much easier after him, either. Trevor Scott (7-5, 2.06 ERA, 59 K in 74.1 IP) and Troy Cruz (5-5, 2.88 ERA, 61 K in 65.2 IP) are great handcuffs to the ace, while Chad Rieser (0-1, 3.06 ERA, 3 SV, 42 K in 32.1 IP), John Erhardt (0-1, 3.18 ERA, 3 SV, 20 K in 22.2 IP) and Dan Kolodin (4-1, 3.34 ERA, 5 SV, 69 K in 56.2 IP) are the keystones to a shutdown bullpen for the Tritons.

The issue for UCSD this season, however, has been at the plate, where the Tritons are hitting only .284 as a team. They are led by Gradeigh Sanchez (.367, 25 RBI, .476 OBP), Jack Larsen (.355, 11 2B, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 12/12 SB) and Michael Mann (.323, 33 R, 30 RBI, .441 OBP), but those are the only three regulars hitting over .300 in the lineup. However, UCSD does lead Division II in walks, coaxing 278 of them this season, and are 4th in the country in sacrifice flies (36) to go along with a .972 fielding percentage that ranks them 11th in the nation.

Speaking of offensive struggles, it is amazing that Point Loma has put up the record they have with the offense that their team had this season. The Sea Lions were ranked outside the top 150 of Division II in nearly every offensive category, carrying a .267 team batting average. AJ Derr is a bright spot with a .350 average, but lacks extra base potential. Out of the team's 16 total home runs, 10 of them come from Ryan Garcia (.314, 21 2B, 4 HR, 35 RBI) and Devin Carter (.310, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 14/16 SB). The PLNU offense going up against CPP in the opening round of the tournament is going to be quite an uphill battle for the Sea Lions.

All hope is not lost, however, as PLNU features some solid starting pitching of their own. The team is led by three very consistent starters, as Trevor Abshire (7-2, 3.28 ERA, 44 K in 57.2 IP), Kellen Sheppard (4-2, 3.35 ERA, 61 K in 83.1 IP) and Eric Pierce (7-4, 3.50 ERA, 41 K in 74.2 IP) might not have front of the rotation-type numbers, but give the staff three very good #2-type starters. Mickey Dunleavy (4-0, 2.13 ERA, 16 app., 21 K in 25.1 IP) gives them a reliable arm out of the bullpen, as well. Coleman Huntley III ((2-2, 2.25 ERA, 13 SV, 30 K in 24 IP) leads all of Division II in saves, serving as the final step in a very good bridge from starting pitcher to the end of the game.

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