NCAA Division III Preview
2. Wooster (Ohio)
3. Cortland State (N.Y.)
4. Keystone (Pa.)
5. St. Thomas (Minn.)
6. Cal Lutheran
7. Roanoke (Va.)
8. UMass Boston
9. Salisbury (Md.)
10. Centenary (La.)
2017: Cal Lutheran
2016: Trinity (Texas)
2015: Cortland State (N.Y.)
2013: Linfield (Ore.)
2012: Marietta (Ohio)
2011: Marietta (Ohio)
2010: Illinois Wesleyan
Wisconsin-Whitewater returns its dual aces of last year’s 36-9 team. RHP Austin Jones (8-3, 1.91) and RHP Heath Renz (9-0, 1.96) give the team a pair of senior stars to depend on. Renz is 15-0 over the past two seasons. The lineup will be driven by seniors as well, as CF Dayton Bryden (.386/.500/.737), OF Brett Krause (.376/.429/.500) and 1B Bake Fleischman (.309/.389/.483) should ensure that the Warhawks score plenty of runs.
Cortland State (N.Y.) ended up one win short of a World Series appearance last year, which was one of the few potholes in an excellent 38-9 season. The Red Dragons should be one of the best teams in Division III again this year thanks to players like C Justin Teague (.374/.429/.452).
Wooster (Ohio) should be loaded once again. SS Michael Wielansky might be the best player in Division III and RHP Nanak Saran (8-0, 2.92) gives the team an established ace as well.
Keystone (Pa.) fans can expect their games to take a while, because the Giants have the lineup to score plenty of runs. Keystone’s pitching depth doesn’t match the bats, but RHP Troy Terzi, OF/RHP Dakoda McFadden and RHP Bray Currieri gives coach Jamie Shevchik some options.
The lone hitter from St Thomas (Minn.)’s 2017 conference champs that doesn’t return hit under .200 and the Tommies also bring back their top three starting pitchers and top two relievers. It’s fair to expect that the Tommies could take a further step forward in 2019. After playing center field last year, Jake Smith (.328/.393/.559) is moving to shortstop. RF Sam Cobbs (.372/.453/.591) is also a hitter to watch. Senior RHP Ryan Zimmerman (5-4, 2.77) and junior RHP Henry DeCaster (8-3, 2.42) are the anchors of the rotation.
Defending champion Cal Lutheran will have to start over a little after graduating a number of last year’s stars. 2B Max Weinstein (.384/.433/.530) does give the Kingsmen someone to rebuild the lineup around. The pitching staff has some more experience returning with senior RHP Nate Wehner (10-3, 2.68) and sophomore RHP Scott Roberts (6-1, 3.69).
Roanoke (Va.) is primed to make it back to the World Series after finishing third last year. The entire outfield returns including senior Sean Guida (.339/.414/.472), junior Scott Ellis (.344/.437/.383) and sophomore Sam Watson (.318/.381/.373).
UMass Boston not only brings back seven starters from last year’s batting order, but it also returns redshirt senior SS Dave Murphy, the team’s best hitter in 2016. Murphy hit .316/.425/.599 in 2016, so there’s reason to think the Beacons could score even more than the 7.2 runs per game they averaged last year.
Salisbury had no problem scoring runs last year. The Sea Gulls averaged 9.4 runs per game and should match that this year with seven starters from that lineup back for 2018. 3B Jack Barry (.333/.486/.618) and CF Justin Meekins (.329/.542/.454) are extremely productive hitters. The pitching staff has to replace its top three starters, so a quintet of transfers will be asked to contribute immediately.
Centenary (La.) brings back its top four starting pitchers and its closer as well as six lineup regulars from last year’s 35-10 conference champs. C Chris Zapata (.391/.455/.732) is the star of the lineup Junior RHP Matt Devillier (11-1, 2.98) and RHP Caleb Kirk (11-3, 2.83) gives the team a pair of rotation stalwarts.
Oswego State (N.Y.) brings back seven hitters from last year’s College World Series team, which was the first in school history. OF John Barnes and OF Mike Dellicarri will lead a very veteran team that has seven seniors in the projected lineup.
It should be tough to score against the College of New Jersey. RHP Matt Curry (9-0, 0.82 with a 27-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33 innings) is a lockdown closer. RHP Joe Cirillo (5-1, 1.48) had five consecutive complete games wins last season. SS Zach Shindler (.356/.455/.483) has started every game at shortstop each of the past two seasons for the Lions.
Trinity (Texas) should be back to form this year after a subpar 28-16 season last year. SS Zack Oretsky and C Parker Cormack provide plenty of defense. Senior RHPs Kevin Flores (7-3, 2.03) and Brendan Meyer have the stuff to dominate.
St. John’s Fisher (N.Y.) is still young, but sophomore LHP Anthony Brophy (9-1, 1.54) should provide a boost to a team that also has 1B Scott Eisenmenger’s (.381/.480/.669) excellent power. Sophomore OF/LHP Allen Murphy has a chance to develop into a star, as he’s 91-93 mph off the mound and also showed feel to hit last summer in the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
NCAA Division I Council Passes Transfer Reform Easing Restrictions
The NCAA’s Division I Council approved a rule change that allows all Division I athletes in all sports a one-time waiver to transfer and be immediately eligible.
TOP DRAFT PROSPECTS
1. Michael Wielansky, SS, Wooster (Ohio): Wielansky not only put together a dominant 2017 season (.425/.509/.731) but he followed that up by hitting .432 in the summer Valley League. He slid to second base in the summer and could fit there or in the outfield (he’s an average runner) as a pro.
2. Troy Terzi, RHP, Keystone (Pa.): There aren’t many Division III pitchers who can get to the mid-90s, but Terzi has that potential. Terzi went 9-0, 2.45 last season with 94 strikeouts in 99 innings.
3. Brendan Meyer, RHP, Trinity (Texas): Meyer has very little track record, but he has a 91-94 mph fastball and flashes a breaking ball with a big physical frame. So if he puts it together, he could be an intriguing senior sign.
4. Mike Mateja, 3B, North Central (Ill.): Mateja is a solid defender at third base with an impressive resume as a hitter (.394/.473/.601) with 22 steals last year as a sophomore.
5. Scott Eisenmenger, 1B, St. John’s Fisher (N.Y.): Eisenmenger has the size (6-foot-4, 235 pounds), power (11 home runs last year) and production (.381/.480/.669) to be a senior sign.
6. Austin Jones, RHP, Wisconsin-Whitewater: Jones has been a steady performer and profiles as an excellent innings-eating senior sign.
7. Chris Zapata, C, Centenary (La.): Zapata hit .391/.455/.732 with 12 home runs last year. His bat is ahead of his glove but he has a chance to be a late-round pick.
8. Justin Meekins, OF, Salisbury (Md.): Meekins draws walks and hit-by-pitches in bushels, which explains his otherworldly .542 on-base percentage. He also runs well and is a solid defender in the outfield.
9. J.T. Morin, LHP, UMass Boston: Healthy again after missing much of 2017, Morin’s 88-92 mph gives him a chance to get noticed if he continues to fill out his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame.
10. Henry DeCaster, RHP, St. Thomas (Minn.): DeCaster may have to wait for next year to be a senior sign, but the righthander has just enough fastball (88-91 mph) and a pair of solid breaking ball. He’s coming off of an 8-3, 2.42 season with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings.