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Rick Houston | | May 26, 2016

Nine players to track in DII baseball nationals

  Paxton DeLaGarza is hitting .344 with nine big flies on the season.

The Division II Baseball nationals have plenty of worthwhile players to watch, but these nine top the list.

Paxton DeLaGarza, Angelo State

The senior shortstop/pitcher had a whale of a season for the Rams. Named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Co-Player of the Year and the Lone Star Conference’s Player of the Year for the second season in a row, DeLaGarza has pounded out 73 hits.

He’s got some power, too, as evidenced by his eighteen doubles, two triples and nine home runs. All in all, it’s been good enough for a slick .344 batting average.

In the field, he’s helped turn 27 double plays. DeLaGarza has also made six appearances on the mound this season, with three wins, two losses, 14 strikeouts and a 3.86 ERA to his credit.

Brandon Miller, Millersville

Here’s how dominant Miller has been this year on the hill for the Marauders. In 13 starts, he’s put up a record of 11 wins versus just one loss. His smoking-hot ERA of 1.61 is sixth amongst all NCAA Division II pitchers.

What’s more, he has struck out an even 100 batters and walked just 10 over the course of 89 2/3 innings. In his most recent outing, Miller went nine strong innings May 20 against Seton Hill in the Atlantic Regionals. He struck out 11, and bested the Griffins 2-1.

RELATED: DII Men's Baseball interactive bracket

Miller was named the consensus Atlantic Region Pitcher of the Year. He was also recently named a top-10 finalist for D2 Baseball News’ Brett Tomko Award for the NCAA Division II’s best pitcher.

Jacob Bernardy, Cal Poly Pomona

This is the stuff of every little kid’s baseball dreams.

With his team’s season on the line, Bernardy stepped to the plate May 23 against California Baptist in the DII West Regionals. The bases were full of Broncos, the score 6-3 the other way. Bernardy sent the pitch sailing over the fence in left field to plate teammates Michael Zidek, Cody Martin and Nic Hernandez and put Cal Poly Pomona up 7-6.

A .301 hitter, the monster shot is his only home run of the 2016 season.

Kyle Kempf, Southern Indiana

  Southern Indiana will lean on right fielder Kyle Kempf's senior leadership during nationals.

A senior rightfielder, Kempf is the Screaming Eagles’ all-time leader in hits, total bases and at bats. He’s currently tied for first in games played and games started – a mark he should break in this week’s NCAA Division II national championships.

Finally, Kempf is just three doubles short of the school record.

This year, he’s hitting a cool .358, with 48 RBI, 48 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. Southern Indiana is just two years removed from its first DII national championship, and Kempf was a key member of that squad as well.

In the field, Kempf was the 2014 national Gold Glove winner. He hasn’t forgotten anything, either. With only one error in 94 total chances, his .989 fielding percentage made him a shoo-in for the American Baseball Coaches Association’s All-Midwest Region Gold Glove.

Devin Raftery, Nova Southeastern

How do you spell relief?

At Nova Southeastern, they spell it R-A-F-T-E-R-Y. The redshirt senior posted 16 strikeouts in just 7 2/3 innings of work in the South Regional, earning him the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honor.

Here’s a remarkable record – in 46 innings of relief work this year, he fanned 82 batters. His 14 saves are a single-season program record, and his 1.17 ERA is the lowest in school history among pitchers with at least 30 innings of work.

Raftery has collected at least one strikeout in 44 straight appearances.
Jay Jabs, Franklin Pierce

Last year was no fluke.

Jabs was named the consensus East Region Player of the Year in 2015, and all he did this season was get better. The kid’s got some game.

A .363 batting average.

Seventy-four hits.

Sixty-nine RBI.

Forty-one walks.

Thirteen doubles.

Three triples.

Fourteen home runs.

Sixteen stolen bases.

Sixty runs scored.

That’s not all. Jabs, who normally plays third base, has also made six relief appearances on the mound, with one save, a 2.84 ERA and a 2-1 record to his credit. It all combined to give the junior a well-deserved second straight East Region Player of the Year honor.

Colby Lusignan, Lander

Lusignan’s stat line is almost obscene. Nobody should be that good.

.402 batting average … 60 runs … 90 hits … 19 doubles … 13 home runs … 66 RBI.

Even more importantly, Lusignan stood tall when it counted most – in the Southeast Regional. He poked a grand slam against Belmont Abbey on May 21, and then went three-for-five off South Carolina Aiken two days later to put Lander into a title-game matchup with the same team.

Bennett Oliver, Central Missouri

Oliver went deep 24 times this year, setting new school and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association records. He’s got a .349 mark at the plate, and his 57 RBI are tops on the team.

At first base, he’s just seven put outs away from the Mules’ single-season record of 502.

Grant Gavin, Central Missouri
Only Nova Southeastern fireman Devin Raftery has more saves this season than Gavin’s 13. He’s rang up 34 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings, and limited opposing batters to a paltry .185 batting average.

Three times, Gavin was called upon in the Central Regionals and three times, he came away with the save. In a NCAA DII national championship stacked with big bats, the Mules are likely to need that kind of consistency from its big arm in the bullpen.

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