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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | April 5, 2019

9 DII baseball home run hitters to watch down the final stretch of 2019

MSU Denver Athletics Matt Malkin of MSU Denver leads DII baseball in home runs.

The DII baseball season is entering the home stretch. With the bats getting hotter, here are some of the best home run hitters to keep your eye on as the NCAA DII tournament approaches.

Matt Malkin, MSU Denver, Catcher

Malkin is DII baseball’s leading home run hitter. He’s slugged 18 so far in just 27 games. The senior transfer, who played a year at Alabama, is a beast, listed at 6-3 and 220 pounds. Once a defensive-minded, line-drive hitting catcher, Malkin is quickly proving he’s no one-trick pony. He's also hitting .433, a top 25 rank in DII.

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“For a big guy with a lot of power, he has a pretty solid swing,” head coach Ryan Strain said. “There’s not a lot of holes in it. It allows him to hit home runs, and also in the gaps and put balls in play. 

“The strikeouts have not been high for a guy hitting with his slugging percentage. A lot of that is because his swing is sound; it allows him to be a successful hitter average-wise and power-wise.”

Malkin’s rise to the top of DII baseball’s home run list was powered by an impressive 14-game run in which Malkin homered in 12 games. Amid that stretch, he homered in seven straight games, two shy of the DII record. He can hit them alone or in bunches, with four multi-home run games on the season.

“He’s trying to be a complete hitter, which is a unique thing for somebody that’s hit as many home runs as he has so far,” Strain said. “You’d think he’d go out there looking to hit home runs, but he really hasn’t.”

John Michael Faile, North Greenville, Catcher

We were told to keep an eye on Faile early in the preseason, making him one of our DII baseball freshmen to watch at the beginning of the season. Boy, has he delivered.

Faile leads the Crusaders with a .442 batting average and is tied for fifth in DII with 13 home runs. He posted the second multi-home run game of his young career just last week, and has yet to make an error this season, so we are looking at another well-rounded hitter. Paired with Adam Sasser in that lineup (15 home runs), the Crusaders are a nightmare for opposing pitchers.

Derek Daly, Colorado School of Mines, Infielder

Mikey Gangwish was the guy we had eyes on coming into 2019 coming off a 24-homer 2018. But it’s the junior shortstop Daly that has stolen the show, from pretty much right out of the gate. 

Daly started the season red-hot, homering in each of his first four games of the year. On March 29, Daly logged his second multi-home run game of the season, a 3-for-5 day with all three hits leaving the yard. 

Ethan Baucom, UNC Pembroke, Outfielder

The junior centerfielder is posting a sizzling hot 1.090 OPS 34 games into the season. He’s also making the most out of every one of his 13 home runs, leading DII baseball with 54 RBI. He hits the ball well but has been a bit streaky with the home runs. He hit home runs in six of seven games at the beginning of March but has hit just one in the eight games since. Still, that power can’t be denied. Baucom is still a run-producing machine with nine RBI in his last six games. 

Mason Dodd, Belmont Abbey, infield

Speaking of run-producing machines, take a look at Dodd, a junior second baseman for the Crusaders. His 53 RBI are second to Baucom and his 13 home runs are tied for fifth. The transfer from Lander appears to be a nice addition to the heart of Belmont Abbey’s lineup.

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Jed Bryant, Wingate, catcher

Bryant is having a breakthrough season for the Bulldogs. After making just four starts and hitting .227 with two home runs in his freshman campaign, the sophomore backstop has improved across the board. Bryant is hitting .299 with 14 home runs and 44 RBI to pace the Wingate offense. He homered in four-straight games from March 19-23.

Marquise Lanier, Chowan, outfield

The redshirt-senior had just four home runs halfway through March. Then on March 15, he hit one and followed it two games later with a two-home run performance. The very next game, he slugged two more. Lanier homered in four-straight games at the end of March and now has 11 on the season. He is hitting a paltry .441, so he may be streaking at the right time.

Two more of note:

Big Game Brody

Brody Clifford, Dixie State, outfield

Clifford only has six home runs on the season, so it may be surprising to see his name on a top home run hitters list. Of course, four of those six home runs came in the same game in a March 10 onslaught at Adams State. Clifford finished the day 5-for-7 with those four home runs to go with six runs scored and nine RBI. It is the best single-game performance of the season. 

One to watch

Haydn McGeary, Colorado Mesa, designated hitter

The right-handed hitting freshman is listed as a first baseman or catcher but has been playing primarily at DH of late. McGeary has been red-hot, too, amid a five-game hitting streak, all of which have been multi-hit performances. What’s more is three of his six home runs have come during that span, so the freshman may be just be getting into his groove. 

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