College Preview

NCAA Division II Preview

Tampa looks for third title in four years




DIVISION II
TOP 5—HOW THEY'LL FINISH
Rank Team 2008 Record
1. Tampa 42-11
2. UC San Diego 43-18
3. Mount Olive (N.C.) 58-6
4. Central Missouri 47-17
5. Florida Southern 29-21
PLAYERS TO WATCH
C—T.J. Nichols, Jr., Indiana, Pa. (.406-4-34). 1B—Ben Minard, Jr., Ashland, Ohio (.435-11-61). 2B—Robbie Shields, Jr., Florida Southern (.348-9-36). 3B—Greyson Schram, Jr., Concord, W.Va. (.451-16-64). SS—Vance Albitz, Jr., UC San Diego (.355-3-45, 11 SB). OF—Matt Cotellese, Sr., West Chester, Pa. (.415-12-58, 21 SB); Karl Derbacher, Sr., Southern Connecticut State (.408-0-53, 28 SB); Alex Vertcnik, Jr., Mount Olive, N.C. (.416-7-77). DH—Gabe MacDougall, Sr., Lynn, Fla. (.389-21-65, 16 SB).
SP—Mike Adams, Sr., Franklin Pierce, N.H. (11-1, 1.36, 113 SO/112 IP); Darin Gorski, Jr, Kutztown, Pa. (8-4, 2.44); Dan Grife, Jr., Mercyhurst, Pa. (6-5, 2.50, 78 SO/68 IP). RP—Chris Matlock, Sr., Central Missouri (5-2, 2.13, 11 SV, 79 SO/68 IP).
Player of the Year: Robbie Shields, ss/2b, Florida Southern.
Pitcher of the Year: Mike Adams, rhp, Franklin Pierce, N.H.
TOP PROSPECTS, 2009 DRAFT
1. Robbie Shields, 2b/ss, Florida Southern
2. Carmine Giardina, lhp,Tampa
3. Steve Grife, rhp, Mercyhurst (Pa.)
4. Darin Gorski, lhp, Kutztown (Pa.)
5. Eric Stephens, 1b, Chico (Calif.) State
6. Yan Gomes, c/1b, Barry (Fla.)
7. Travis Tartamella, c, Cal State Los Angeles
8. Alex Koronis, rhp, Tampa
9. Matt Speake, rhp, Southern Arkansas
10. J.D. Martinez, of, Nova Southeastern (Fla.)
NOTING DIVISION II
•  The Division II College World Series moves to Cary, N.C., the next two seasons, with USA Baseball's National Training Complex serving as the host site. Defending national champion Mount Olive (N.C.) will host. The tournament was held in Sauget, Ill., last year after a three-year run in Montgomery, Ala.
• Longtime Division I assistant Vince Beringhele, who spent 15 years at UCLA and then four at Loyola Marymount, has been named the head coach at Cal State Los Angeles, after serving last year as interim head coach. Beringhele guided the Golden Eagles to a 29-22 record last year with a young lineup that often featured six freshmen, and this year they've added C Travis Tartamella, who transferred after two seasons at Pepperdine. Tartamella was an unsigned 50th-round pick in 2006. Cal State LA is one of four solid national contenders in the California Athletic Association, where UC San Diego and perennial power Chico State are favored atop the league. Chico adds Northwoods League all-star and Cal State Fullerton transfer 1B Eric Stephens to a team already featuring sophomore RHP Pete Mickartz, who led the nation with 13 victories as a freshman.
•   UCSD wasn't able to bring any D-I transfers in, but the Tritons return veteran infielders Garrett Imeson, a senior and two-time all-league selection, and 5-foot-8 Jr. SS Vance Albitz, who struck out just seven times while setting a school record with 86 hits. Albitz also won the Rawlings Gold Glove award for D-II shortstops, making just seven errors in 2008. The Tritons are coming off a program-record 43 victories and also return key pitchers Tim Shibuya (8-2, 2.42), who moves into the rotation, and Guido Knudson (6-5, 4.08), who moves into the closer role vacated by all-American Keith Noe.
•  Mount Olive lost just six games last season but will have to defend its title without key pieces, such as 1B Erik Lovett (.371-18-77), C Jason Sherrer (.402-11-83), and RHPs Ryan Schlecht (13-0, 2.94) and Casey Hodges (10-1, 2.53). Five starters return to the lineup, including leading batter OF Alex Vertcnik (.416-7-77, .513 OBP). Sr. RHP Kyle Jones (4-0, 1.30) emerged as a key starter down the stretch in the title run and will be asked to take on a larger load in the rotation, with help from Evansville transfer RHP Ryan Kussmaul.
•  Tampa, which won the previous pair of D-II titles, fell short in its bid for a three-peat but reloads this year with a pair of D-I pitching transfers in LHP Carmine Giardina (Central Florida) and RHP Alex Koronis (Miami). Giardina was a 28th-round pick out of high school in 2006 who originally committed to Texas before spending two seasons at UCF, struggling to a combined 4-5, 7.36 mark. They join a trio of pitchers—Josh Bowman, Daniel Foltz and John Widenbauer—who combined to go 16-0 as freshmen last season. The Spartans also will be strong up the middle, with a pair of seniors, C Jose Jimenez and Panamanian SS Jesus Barroso, joined by juco transfer 2B Correy Figueroa, the son of ex-big leaguer Bien Figueroa. Rival Florida Southern, however, returns D-II's top prospect in Jr. SS Robbie Shields as well as a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference transfers in 1B Nick Stanley (N.C. State) and LHP Matt Zoltak (Clemson).
•  Indiana (Pa.) improved by 16 victories last season, with the first winning season for the program since 1998, and the Crimson Hawks could make another jump in 2009 built on a strong, veteran lineup featuring Jr. SS Paul Bingham (.392, 20 SB), a rangy, 6-foot-3, 200-pounder who is also a plus runner; Jr. C T.J. Nichols, the team's top hitter last year (.406); and brother RHPs Colby and Corey Betz, twin juniors who are the team's top starter and closer. However, the competitive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference also features Shippensburg, which reached the D-II World Series last year; as well as Mercyhurst and Kutztown, home to top prospects RHP Steve Grife and LHP Dan Gorski, respectively.