DII baseball: A look at some of the best home-run hitters
Who doesn’t love home runs?
The long ball is easily the most exciting part of any baseball game. Sometimes teams have players who do it in bunches, while other times, a clean up hitter may be the biggest punch a lineup has.
Here’s a look at some of the more power-happy hitters in Division II:
THE SOLO ACTS:
Andrew Webster, Barton
The Bulldogs senior catcher had a fine junior campaign in 2016. He hit .401 with 10 home runs.
That’s nothing compared to what he’s done to the baseball this season.
Barton's Webster tabbed NCBWA National Hitter of the Week https://t.co/NykkRTMaqP— Barton Athletics (@BartonAthletics) March 24, 2017
Webster hit .400 this season. He mashed 21 home runs, currently tied for best in DII. To put it into perspective, Barton hit 56 home runs as a team, with Webster accounting for 38 percent of all of the team's long balls. He also added a career-best 15 doubles and 57 runs scored. His 55 RBI are seven short of his career high, but if Barton plans on going any further, they’ll have to win the Conference Carolinas tourney to do so.
If they are going to do that, expect to see a lot more from Webster.
Jake Kennedy, Shippensburg
Kennedy had a breakthrough sophomore campaign, establishing himself as one of DII's best power hitters. An injury-plagued 2016 limited him to just 63 at bats, and people may have forgotten about him.
As a team, Shippensburg leads the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in home runs with 44. That's because Kennedy has bounced back with a league best 18 home runs. The number has him amongst the Top 5 in DII with nine regular season games remaining, so his career-high of 19 is all but sure to be broken. Overall, the senior is hitting .316 with a career-high 59 RBI.
The PSAC is stacked, and Shippensburg is still very much alive in the hunt for a regional birth. They are going to need every last bit of Kennedy's pop to get there, especially with a final series against Millersville looming.
THE DYNAMIC DUOS:
Brandon Benson and Logan Mattix, Georgia College
The Peach Belt Conference has been a run-producing, home run launching pad in 2017. Five teams have already scored over 400 runs finding themselves in DII’s Top 10 in run production (Georgia College, UNC Pembroke, North Georgia, USC Aiken, Montevallo).
It’s tough to pick just one power-combo from the lot. But, Georgia College has the PBC’s home run king, so they get the nod.
Senior Brandon Benson is simply having a monster season. He is hitting .373 with team-bests in 20 home runs, 66 runs scored and 68 RBI. Junior outfielder Logan Mattix, who bats in the three-hole behind Benson, has hit .382 with 12 home runs, while scoring and driving in 53 runs. When you have freshman Cal Gentry setting the tone with a .438 batting average atop the order, exciting things are bound to happen.
Zach Almond and Luke Setzer, Catawba
Catawba certainly has an eye for power hitting catchers. Will Albertson — who recently was on the catching end of a record-setting perfect game in the minor leagues — led Catawba to their first DII championship series two years ago.
Now, hard-hitting catcher Zach Almond hopes he can get No. 15 Catawba back for another chance.
Juniors Almond and South Atlantic Player of the Year Luke Setzer lead one of the most power-happy lineups in Division II. Almond is batting .390 with team-bests 17 home runs, 18 doubles and 59 RBI. Setzer is hitting a team-best .429 with 17 doubles and 15 home runs.
Senior Malachi Hanes joined the homer barrage by hitting .307 with ten home runs. Sophomore Nick Coble blasted ten more of his own. Junior Chance Bowden just missed out on double-digit homers with nine but is amongst DII’s best with 17 doubles.
Catawba’s offense is arguably the most potent in DII. They are in the top five in batting average, doubles and runs while their 80 home runs are tied for first. They will be tough to beat in the SAC Tournament and make for an exciting Regional if they advance.
Michael Rothmund and Cole Taylor, Illinois Springfield
Rothmund is the Prairie Stars monster first baseman, standing at 6-foot-6. He had a nice freshman season before being sidelined in his second season.
Now he has put it all together, leading the Prairie Stars to their first ever regional ranking (10th in the Midwest).
Rothmund is back on track, hitting .369 with 20 jacks, second best in DII. He also has a team best 55 RBI.
He isn't alone in the home run department, however. Junior community college transfer Cole Taylor stands six inches shorter than his enormous teammate, but he packs a big punch. He's batting a team-best .395 with 10 home runs while adding the most doubles on the team (19), landing him in the Top 10 in DII in that category.
The Prairie Stars are having a monumental season and have blasted a team total 58 home runs. Rothmund and Taylor have accounted for more than half of that alone.
Nick Beinlich and Kayden Krause, Belmont Abbey
The Crusaders are one of the most homer-happy teams in DII, blasting a team total of 72 on the season.
Beinlich's 19 blasts lead the way.
The junior outfielder is actually one of the most dangerous all-around players in DII. He is hitting .377 to go along with all of those home runs, leading his team in runs (59) and RBI (46). He's also added 27 stolen bases from the leadoff spot, looking to become DII's 2017 20-20 club member.
Krause is the only other member of this balanced home run brigade to reach double-digit in homers with 11.
The Crusaders are clinging to the last regional spot in a tricky Southeast Region. They will need the help of their power bats to stay locked in.
THE BASH BROTHERS
Garrett Lowery, Zach Piazza and Chase Allen, Limestone
Limestone saw a three-game improvement from their 2016 season, finishing at 22-25. While they may have not reached the postseason, they certainly made their games fun to watch.
In the early 1990s Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco were coined the Bash Brothers. That could have been the Limestone Saints alternate moniker for the 2017 season. Garrett Lowery, Zach Piazza and Chase Allen raked home runs at an astounding pace for Limestone’s lineup.
Senior Garrett Lowery did it from the leadoff spot. He led the team in batting at .362 and RBI with 52, while hitting 18 home runs and 11 doubles.
Allen Blasts Two Homeruns to Lift Limestone in Extras https://t.co/3SZ52aCp4Q— Limestone Saints (@LimestoneSaints) April 13, 2017
Sophomores Zach Piazza and Chase Allen rounded out their potent trio, batting in the heart of the lineup. Piazza hit .345 with 18 home runs and 11 doubles, driving in 44 while Allen hit .343 with 17 home runs and 14 doubles, batting in 47.
The good news for Limestone is that Piazza and Allen will presumably be back for 2018. If they find some pitching this fall, they will be a tough team to beat.