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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | April 13, 2018

5 pitchers to watch in the second half as the DII baseball postseason race heats up

  Chris Vallimont leads a dangerous Mercyhurst rotation in 2018.

While timely hitting and big home runs will get you far in the DII Baseball Championship, it is lockdown pitching that propels a team to the title. Last week, we took a look at Le Moyne’s ace Josiah Gray who, at 7-0, has the Dolphins off to one of their best starts in some time.

RELATED:  How Josiah Gray went from Le Moyne's best shortstop to ace

While Gray will be key in just how far the Dolphins go, let’s take a look at a few other pitchers who will have to be atop their game in the second half if their teams want to make a run at the championship in Cary, N.C.

Chris Vallimont, RHP, Mercyhurst

For the second-straight season, the Lakers have a deep pitching staff with its 3.48 ERA a top-20 mark in DII baseball. Vallimont may be the best of the bunch.

Vallimont is 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA. His 18.18 strikeouts-per-nine are best in the nation, topping Shane McClanahan in Division I (15.40) and Greg Schneider in DIII (16.39) by nearly two strikeouts-per-nine. Vallimont’s most recent start saw him strike out 14 of the 20 outs he recorded. Most impressive, however, is that he has walked just eight batters thus far, a better than 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The Lakers are in one of the toughest regions in DII baseball, with defending champion West Chester starting to make its climb back up the rankings. Vallimont and the Mercyhurst staff will be key in keeping the Lakers in the hunt.

David Lebron, RHP, Tampa

Head coach Joe Urso always seems to have the Spartans in the hunt, and his top assistant Sam Militello always had a solid pitching staff. The two are back at it, as the Spartans post the fifth-best ERA in DII baseball with a combined 2.87 mark.

Lebron is a key reason why. The junior college transfer left his mark in his 2017 debut season, taking home Sunshine State Conference pitcher of the year honors. Despite coming off his worst start of the season, Lebron is having another big year in Tampa. The senior righty is undefeated at 6-0 with a 2.53 ERA and an 88-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57 innings pitched.

He is the leader amongst a rotation filled with some solid DI transfers like Cole Aker (North Carolina) and Keven Pimentel (Miami). Lebron will be the glue that will hold Tampa together when the Spartans go to battle in the rugged South Region.

David Palmer, RHP, New Haven

Winning the East Region is no easy task, having to get through St. Thomas Aquinas, Southern New Hampshire, and Le Moyne amongst others just to get to Cary for the championship. If Palmer keeps putting up zeroes, it will surely help the Chargers keep up with the pace.

Palmer went his first six appearances of the season before allowing an earned run this season. He went a combined total of 35 innings during that run, allowing just 14 hits. Palmer has allowed a mere three earned runs in his 16 innings since, striking out 11 and walking two. The senior was dominant last season, posting a 1.51 ERA, but this year he is even better. His 0.53 ERA is the best in DII baseball.

Frankie Moscatiello RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas

The Spartans have two of the best offensive powers in DII with Giovanni Dingcong and Joseph Pena, but it was pitching that got them to the national semifinals in Dallas, Tx. last year. Moscatiello is the leader of the staff.

The senior right-hander is having another phenomenal season. He leads the Spartans in wins (5), strikeouts (52) and ERA, his 0.84 mark fifth-best in DII baseball. He’s versatile as well, picking up a save in one of his two relief appearances on the season. It seems like Moscatiello is just heating up, striking out 21 while allowing just one earned run over his past two starts.

Tyler Jandron, LHP, Northwood

Northwood came out of nowhere last season, capturing its first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title. Despite a slow start this season, the Timberwolves are back in the Top 25, sitting at No. 22 and winners of 12 of their last 13 games.

The senior southpaw set the school mark for wins in his last appearance, now 19-2 in his two seasons with Northwood. He was outstanding in his 2017 GLIAC debut, taking home Midwest Region pitcher of the year honors. Jandron has taken it to a new level this season.

He is now 7-1 on the season, amongst DII baseball’s best in complete games (4) and ERA (0.99). His 11.20 strikeouts-per-nine is impressive as is the fact that he walks less than three batters per game. The clear-cut ace of a solid rotation, the Timberwolves will go as far as Jandron takes them.

Others to watch:

Justin Revels, Illinois-Springfield: We knew the Prairie Stars offense would be just fine with the 2017 DII home run king Michael Rothmund leading the charge. But it has been Revels and the pitching staff that has UIS a top-10 team. The junior righty is 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 42 innings.

Gus Varland, Concordia-St. Paul: What’s better than one Varland? Two, obviously. The Golden Bears’ ace is joined by his brother Louie to form one of the better staffs in DII. Gus Varland is fourth in DII with a 0.87 ERA, while Louie has a 0.39 ERA splitting time as a reliever and starter.

Jacob Blank, Augustana (SD): It was going to take a lot for Blank to repeat his sensational 2017 NCBWA pitcher of the year performance, one in which he led the division with a 0.78 ERA. While he is having a more human season this year (5-0, 2.09 ERA, 49-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio) and the Vikings staff is a bit deeper this season, Blank can help take the No. 3 team in DII far with a strong second half.

Kyle Leahy, Colorado Mesa: The big, junior righty is having a down year by his measures but still shows excellent command and can strikeout people in bunches. This rotation, despite a few new faces, has a lot of experience from its deep run in the DII Baseball Championship last season. Leahy can be the leader of that bunch.

Eli Nabholz, Millersville: The Marauders have been hanging around the Top 25 for most of the season, and despite playing in the tough Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, they should remain in contention. Nabholz is their ace and has had a decent run so far in 2018. If he can reach top form down the stretch, Millersville becomes dangerous.

J.T Hintzen, Florida Southern: While two-way superstar Logan Browning is stealing some of the headlines as a midseason Golden Spikes Award candidate, Hintzen has done his part in keeping the Mocs near the top of the rankings. Hintzen is 8-0 with a 2.11 ERA and an impressive 72-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 47 innings.