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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | April 15, 2021

9 pitchers you should keep your eye on down the stretch in DII baseball

2021 DII college baseball power rankings and season preview

The DII baseball season is in full swing. However, for some pitchers, it has been more full swings and misses. As we head to the home stretch, let's take a look at some pitchers who will be key to their teams' success and possible tournament runs.

RANKINGS: Central Missouri moves up to No. 2 in latest Power 10

You can have all the offense in the world, but if you don't have that stopper — a veteran ace that starts the weekend or puts an end to losing ways — the road to Cary, N.C. will be a tough one to travel. So, let's keep in mind, we aren't not saying these are the best pitchers in DII — although some are in the conversation — or even the hottest. These are simply pitchers who are performing well, have shown improvements as the year has progressed and will be pivotal to their teams' late-season success.

Keep an eye on these DII baseball pitchers down the stretch

Riley Martin, LHP, Quincy - 6’1, 215
If you watched our preseason preview, you know I was high on Quincy, calling them a sleeper for Cary. Martin is a big reason why. Now, his ERA is an unattractive 4.14 but it's important to note that he let up eight runs in a brief two-inning start that inflated the numbers. He hasn't allowed more than three runs in any other start this season.

What stands out is his 66 strikeouts in 37 innings. Quincy play-by-play man Will Conerly said that he added a lot of strength this offseason, which has resulted in a big uptick in his velocity. This hasn't been a natural rise for Martin, as he's worked hard and refined his mechanics to get to where he is as an ace. Add in a big curveball that Conerly calls "effectively wild" even when Martin is a bit off the mark, and GLVC hitters are missing his pitches at a 16.05 strikeout-per-nine rate. That's pretty darn effective.

WHAT ABOUT HITTERS? The 9 hottest hitters in DII... so far

Jon Ludwig, RHP, Minnesota State - 6’6, 215
Ludwig is an interesting story. His first year with the Mavericks was way back in 2017, but due to Tommy John surgery and then the pandemic, Ludwig is still going strong, now in his seventh year on the roster. He just picked up his first loss of the year, despite allowing just one run and striking out 11 over six. 

At 6'6, Ludwig is long and lanky, but doesn't seem to have the command issues sometimes associated with such a large frame. He pounds the zone and while his 59 strikeouts in 33 innings are impressive, his three walks allowed over the same span is ridiculous. His velocity continues to improve, clocked as high as 94 this year. But he also commands his secondaries very well, and has the confidence to throw them any time in a hitting count. If Minnesota State wants to make a run in a loaded NSIC, Ludwig will have to be the veteran ace down the stretch.

Logan Workman, RHP, Lee - 6'4, 215
Workman hasn't picked up a loss in two seasons. We can end this conversation right there and we already know everything we need to about his importance to the Flames. He also has posted a 2.04 ERA over his career, and has been simply phenomenal since becoming a full-time starter.

Workman may be one of the first DII players off the board in this summer's MLB draft. He pumps a mid-90s fastball, but he fills the strike zone with three pitches, commanding all three equally well. Thus far in 2021, Workman is 4-0, posting a 1.21 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 44.2 innings pitched all while holding opponents to a .142 batting average. The name is appropriate as well, as he works deep into ball games going seven innings in each of his last four starts.

Trent Baker, RHP, Angelo State - 6’3, 240
Baker is the ace for a Rams team that is always in the hunt for Cary. Though he is coming off his roughest start of the season, Baker is still one of the premier pitchers in DII for a few years running. He's big and he uses his frame to pump his fastball and litter the strike zone with tough pitches to hit.

He was effectively wild in his first start of the season, walking three batters while striking out 12. In his seven starts since, he has walked a total of three batters while striking out 47. His fastball lights up the radar gun, touching 97, but he commands a slider and change obviously very well. There's no shortage of offense at Angelo State, so Baker will be key for the Rams playing well into May.

Andrew Morris, RHP, Colorado Mesa - 6'0, 170
The crazy part about Morris is we have been talking about his potential since his freshman debut in 2019... and he's still only 19. He is playing the best baseball of his career and has become the ace for the No. 1 team in our power rankings.

Morris has a fastball that is seemingly increasing in velocity every year and a hard slider that makes him tough to hit. How tough? He has 13, 14, 10 and 15 strikeouts in his last four starts. The velocity is building, and he is improving with every start the more comfortable he gets. Still not even 20, he can possibly even add more bulk to his frame and become even more of a power pitcher over time. Lately, he has been his toughest opponent, as he has walked eight batters in his last two starts, but that is not typical, so worth keeping an eye on as a possible blip. Morris is also posting a 1.93 ERA, so not only is it hard to hit him, it's hard to score on him if you do. 

Mason Green, LHP, Central Missouri - 6'1, 195
We've talked a lot about the Mules offense of late, and rightfully so. As a team they are hitting .349 with a combined 1.048 OPS and 52 home runs. While their bullpen has been a tremendous strength, having Mason Green atop the rotation will be key to a return to the final eight.

Green is currently 7-0 on the season, with impressive peripherals: he has a 2.55 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 52 strikeouts in 49.1 innings pitched. This is no breakout either, as scouts have been on Green for the past couple of seasons. He works in the low-90s and has a slider and change that he obviously commands well. He's very athletic with a strong lower half that allows him to be the workhorse Central Missouri needs. 

Zach Parish, LHP, Missouri Southern - 6'2, 180
The Lions ace has a been a model of consistency since he transferred to Missouri Southern. Parish was the MIAA pitcher of the year in 2019 and was 4-0 when play halted last season. Simply put, Parish is a huge reason the Lions are always in the hunt.

This year is no different. Parish sits at 7-1 with a 1.54 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP. As usual, Parish is one of DII's elite strikeout artists, currently with 86 through 58.1 innings pitched in 2021. He's also limited hitters to a .167 batting average while walking 1.85 batters per nine. What's impressive is that he has a four-pitch arsenal, featuring a change his coach calls excellent. That's rare at this level. While he isn't mowing down hitters with triple-digit heat, he has a smooth, effortless delivery and clean mechanics. You'll be able to see him in the MLB Draft League this summer. 

Kyle Hentis, RHP, Lindenwood - 6’3, 215
Hentis picked up his first loss in two years in his last start, but that doesn't take away how important he'll be for the Lions. Lindenwood jumped out to a 12-0 start, and if they plan on winning a loaded GLVC, their ace will need to shine.

Hentis is a dude, and another pitcher with a four-pitch mix. While he can run his fastball up to the lower-90s, his pitching coach Zac Pearman describes his slider as a plus pitch. Adding two new pitches — with a clean delivery none the less — to his arsenal makes him a weapon atop the rotation, able to throw any pitch anywhere in the count effectively (Pearman calls him an "elite strike thrower"). He makes Lindenwood very dangerous.

Dylan Heid, RHP, Pittsburgh-Johnstown, 6'2, 205
The Mountain Cats are 12-8 so will need a big run in the stacked PSAC. Heid is equipped with the arsenal to provide the spark. He has been nearly untouchable thus far in 2021 pitching to a 0.63 ERA behind a 0.54 WHIP and 15.47 strikeout-per-nine rate with just eight walks over 33.1 innings. He's a bulldog with three complete games in five starts, and thanks to his loose arm, he holds his velocity on his fastball (low 90s, if you're curious) and command on his secondaries throughout games. MLB scouts have their eyes on him, and so does the PSAC. You should, too.

For your consideration:

Ricky Mineo, RHP and Luke Trueman, RHP, Slippery Rock
OK, so we have more than nine. But this combo that has both surprised and impressed me thus far can't be overlooked. While the PSAC is known for pitching, especially with perennial top-25 schools like Millersville and Mercyhurst, The Rock's duo has them sitting at 14-5 and very much in contention to make some noise. 

Mineo is big, listed at 6'5 and the fact that he throws downhill — giving his fastball the appearance of being even, well,  faster — makes it even harder for hitters to hone in on him. Described as having an "electric arm," he not only generates strikes, but a lot of swings and misses, which is clearly a sign his stuff is sharp. He has 48 strikeouts with just eight walks in 26.1 innings. Trueman is a two-way star, but has really focused on his pitching recently and it shows. His velocity and control have improved, and so has his confidence. He is aggressive and pounds the zone as a strike-thrower.

Chad Patrick, RHP, Purdue Northwest
I'm not sure how far Purdue Northwest will go, sitting at 7-10 as of this writing, but man, Patrick has been unreal thus far. He's made five starts and has gone seven innings in each of them. Over his first three starts, he allowed just six hits and no runs while striking out 27. On the year, the senior is 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and 13.6 strikeout-per-nine rate.

Hunter Stevens, RHP and Reed Parris, RHP, Mount Olive
The Southeast region is no joke, with a handful of the best teams in the entire nation set to go toe-to-toe this spring. Having Stevens and Parris atop the rotation could give Mount Olive the edge. Combined they are 13-1 with a 2.10 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 94.1 innings pitched. Imagine trying to win a weekend series facing those two on Friday and Saturday?

Tanner Brown, LHP, Augustana (SD)
I'm not leaving a guy who threw a perfect game this season off the list. Brown, Max Steffens and Ryan Jares are a tough rotation and why the Vikings made their debut in our Power 10 this past week. You can make the argument that it is the deepest weekend rotation in DII at the present moment with a combined 10-0 record, a 1.89 ERA and nary a one of them with a WHIP over 0.95. Brown gets the shoutout, again, for the perfecto he threw on March 27, that also saw him strikeout a season-high 11. 

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