Ten Dangerous Mid-Major Teams to Watch in 2022
Each June, there are mid-major teams that show up in regionals not just to compete well or prove themselves, but to win. These teams are often fun to watch, play with a nothing-to-lose attitude and put fear in the hearts of the host team.
Call them underdogs if you must, but they would probably much rather be referred to as dangerous. These are 10 talented, dangerous mid-major teams that could have what it takes to win a regional in 2022.
Abilene Christian won the Southland Conference regular-season title last season after going 36-21 overall and 25-13 in conference play. Now in the WAC, the Wildcats look capable of not only breaking through to their first regional since joining the Division I ranks, but also making some noise along the way. The lineup returns most of the key pieces from a unit that hit .297/.397/.457 and three weekend starters return to the fold. ACU can win games in different ways, but it will be particularly dangerous if it ends up in a regional in an offensive environment, where its hitters can shine.
Campbell is among the most talented mid-major teams in college baseball. Shortstop Zach Neto is coming off of a monster season and will be a high-round draft pick this summer. The same is true of Friday starter Thomas Harrington, a righthander with a mid-90s fastball who leads a staff stocked with big-time stuff, including from righthander Cade Kuehler and his fastball that reaches the high 90s, righthander Cade Boxrucker, who works with a mid-90s sinker, and the bullpen duo of Ty Cummings and Aaron Rund, who both have low-90s fastballs with a ton of movement. The Camels also have the benefit of being no strangers to high-intensity regional atmospheres. Last season, they advanced to the final of the Starkville Regional.
One thing that almost always makes for a dangerous mid-major team is a Friday starter who can shut down any lineup, and CMU has one in righthander Andrew Taylor, statistically one of the best pitchers in the country last season. For that matter, the Chippewas might have two such pitchers, as righthander Jordan Patty is extremely good in his own right. CMU is also a team that has the benefit of experience, as it made it to the final of the South Bend Regional as a four seed last season and played in the Starkville Regional in 2019.
At this point, Dallas Baptist is a given on a list like this. Although it hasn’t happened yet, many assume that DBU will eventually get to the College World Series and that it’s just a matter of time. Last season, it came up one win short against Virginia in a super regional. The 2022 DBU team will hit, as it always does, led by outfielder Jace Grady, third baseman Andrew Benefield and Texas Tech transfer Nate Rombach. There are more questions about the Patriots’ pitching staff, but in Texas Christian transfer Jacob Meador and Tennessee transfer Elijah Pleasants, they have a one-two punch in the rotation that can compete against just about anyone talent-wise.
Fairfield went on a wild ride last season, flirting with going undefeated in the regular season along the way, and much of that team returns in 2022, including returning MAAC player of the year Mike Caruso and the co-ace tandem of lefthander Michael Sansone and righthander Jake Noviello. The Stags last season learned their success was not just limited to MAAC play, as they also beat Arizona State on the way to the Austin Regional final, so there’s little reason to believe that they can’t do something similar this time around.
Gonzaga seems to have found a new level of consistency. It has finished first or second in the WCC in each of the last five full seasons and has made it to three regionals in that time, including last season. Optimism about this particular Zags team begins on the mound, with Collegiate National Team alum Gabriel Hughes leading a group of pitchers with high-end stuff. Hughes himself has a fastball that reaches the mid 90s as part of a four-pitch repertoire, but William Kempner can run his fastball up to 98 mph from a low slot, Trystan Vrieling touches 97 mph with a plus curveball and projected closer Brody Jessee has been up to 99 mph. The depth of stuff on the staff illustrates how dangerous Gonzaga could be in a regional setting.
The Flames dominated the ASUN last season, going 19-2 in league play and 41-16 overall, and they reached the final of the Knoxville Regional. Much of the core of that team is back for 2022, and that gives Liberty one of the most well-balanced mid-major programs in the country. Staff ace Trey Gibson is capable of beating any team on a given night, and an offense led by outfielder Aaron Anderson, catcher Gray Betts and DH Brady Gulakowski can score runs in bunches, and that was true before adding to the lineup a standout freshman in Cameron Foster and productive transfers in former Morehead State third baseman Stephen Hill and Division II Seton Hill (Pa.) slugger Derek Orndorff. This group knows how to win big and that should continue into 2022.
2023 Southeastern Conference College Baseball Preview
2023 is shaping up to be another exciting season in the SEC with plenty to watch around the conference.
Nevada looks ready to repeat after winning the Mountain West last season, and its offense makes it an extremely dangerous postseason team if it can get there again. Tyler Bosetti, Joshua Zamora, Dario Gomez and Jacob Stinson—four of the top five hitters from last season—are all coming off of big years and now return to a lineup that hit .314/.390/.520 in 2021. The offense will be good enough to give the Wolf Pack a chance against any team it faces. If top returning starting pitcher Cam Walty and workhorse reliever Tyler Cochran can be the building blocks of a solid pitching staff, it would raise the ceiling for what Nevada is capable of.
In Cam Schlittler and Sebastian Keane, Northeastern has not one but two legitimate high-round draft prospects at the front of its rotation, and both are coming off of good years for the Huskies, especially Schlittler, who had a 1.88 ERA last season. Their third starter, Wyatt Scotti, isn’t out of place in a talented weekend rotation, either, and with the addition of freshman righthander Dennis Colleran, who runs his fastball up to 97 mph, the rich have gotten richer in terms of pitching depth. The Northeastern lineup should be plenty good as well, but with the talent on the mound, it won’t have to do anything otherworldly to put the team in position to win postseason games.
VCU battled it out last season with another team on this list, Campbell, in the Starkville Regional, and like the Camels, the Rams are in good shape to not just return to the postseason but thrive once they’re there. Third baseman Tyler Locklear is one of the best hitters in college baseball, period, and he’ll have help from returning first baseman Michael Haydak, another all-conference-type performer. On the mound, all three members of VCU’s projected weekend rotation held important roles on the staff last season. Not unlike Campbell, Liberty and Northeastern on this list, VCU is in a position where it feels like the class of its league, and as a result, its players are getting very comfortable and confident playing in big games.