Welcome to March. While this is a time of year that most basketball fans rejoice, it's equally as big in DII baseball. Finally, after the rolling start, every team has finally played at least a handful of games that we can return to the Power 10 rankings.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. While several teams from the preseason Power 10 are off to slower starts than expected and fell out, four of the preseason top five are still going strong. A couple of teams are making their debuts and some, like Cal State San Bernardino, are off to surprisingly strong starts. That said, there haven't been many Power 10 rankings over the years that heavyweights like Central Missouri, Colorado Mesa, Wingate, and Minnesota State aren't part of the conversation.
Here's a little spoiler. Don't think it's the last we've heard from either of those four teams. But for now, here's a look at where we stand through one month of baseball.
PRESEASON POWER: Look back at the initial Power 10 rankings
(Note: These will come out every Wednesday until the DII baseball championship begins).
The first DII baseball Power 10 rankings of 2023 season
(All games through March 8)
No. 1 North Greenville: The Crusaders are off to a 17-2 start and are defending their crown quite strongly. They are hitting .340 as a team and have slugged 26 home runs. While they haven't played the toughest schedule in these rankings, they are handling business as expected. It appears all they need is a small lead because the bullpen has been nasty. Dawson Taylor, Nate Roof, and Mike "Nightmare" Rodriguez are all touching the 90s with their fastball, have struck out 46 batters in 30.1 innings, and have allowed four earned runs so far.
No. 2 Tampa: Tampa is off to a 14-3 start and two of those losses came to Quincy in the second series of the season. So, the Spartans are once again cruising, winners of eight of their last 10. Tampa hasn't played a top-50 schedule, but it is 5-1 in one of DII baseball's toughest regions, so that's a promising start. The offense is hitting an impressive .332, but the .415 team on-base percentage shows this team is smart and disciplined at the plate. Eli Thurmond has been a welcome addition in the rotation, going 2-0 with a 0.99 ERA in his first five DII starts.
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No. 3 Angelo State: The Rams are 17-3 and all wins have come in region, so they are already building quite the postseason resume. It is worth noting that they have played just one would-be regionally ranked team (UT Tyler) and have split the season series so far. The Rams are in the top 5 in hitting, batting a combined .367 and are third in the division with 204 runs scored. Jacob Guerrero, who saw limited action with Sam Houston State last year, is exploding on the DII baseball scene, hitting .500 with seven doubles and two home runs in his first 15 games. It's early, but the starting pitching looks vastly improved from last year, and that's dangerous for the entire South Central region.
No. 4 Columbus State: This spot was close, but a mid-week shutout of (spoiler) fellow Power-10er Montevallo secured the spot. The Cougars needed that having played a relatively soft schedule so far, and although they have lit it up to a 14-3 record, the victory over the nationally ranked Falcons show that the Cougars are very much for real. You'd think losing the program's all-time leader in home runs would leave a hole to fill, but Derek Wylie (seven) and Matt McDade (six) are doing just fine filling the homer void. Most importantly, the Cougars three key starters — Noah Windhorst, Colton Joyner, and Peyton Burton — are pitching extremely well.
No. 5 Southern Arkansas: The 13-5 record doesn't speak to how good this team is. The Muleriders could still very well be the top seed in the Central, despite a hot start from Central Oklahoma. This lineup is so deep and having the experience of a trio like Riley Orr, Brandon Nicoll, and Brett McGee is almost unfair. Here's a fun little tidbit. Jeremy Adorno, last year's pitcher of the year, is now 3-0. The sophomore has never lost a DII baseball game. Having that as your ace will certainly do the trick.
No. 6 Montevallo: The Falcons were one of my preseason sleeper teams because of the absurd number of returners, and thus far, they have been sharp. The loss to the Cougars stings, but a 15-3 start is still worthy of a spot here. Sam Kuchinski, the reigning GSC co-player of the year, is off to a torrid start, hitting .435 with a 1.356 OPS and six homers in 18 games. Righty Logan Samuels, who had some MLB draft preseason buzz thanks to low-90s fastball, is showing why, already 3-0 with 33 strikeouts in 23.2 innings.
No. 7 Millersville: If brackets were made today, I have the Marauders the top seed in the Atlantic, and that makes them worthy of a Power 10 spot. Now 16-4, the only ding to their resume is a series loss to Molloy, but they have won nine of 10 since. Bren Taylor is off to a sensational start (as expected), hitting .423 with seven doubles, two triples, two home runs, and eight stolen bases and the pitching staff has a combined 2.79 ERA. That will work.
No. 8 Cal State San Bernardino: The Coyotes are sure checking off a lot of boxes early on their 13-1 start. A series win against nationally ranked Point Loma, the early West favorites, not only gives them a bump but helps their strength of schedule. The Yotes were a .500 team last year, and I am typically hesitant to jump on a team this highly so early based on a hot start, but the metrics make them deserving for now (and remember, the Power 10 aren't a projection, but the hottest teams to date this season). DeShawn Johnson is hitting .521 with three home runs through 14 games and looks like a real strong player to watch out West.
No. 9 Illinois Springfield: Despite an opening weekend series loss to Lenoir-Rhyne, the Prairie Stars have gone on a 9-1 run since. This is a team that lost two of the best hitters in baseball, so an adjustment period was expected. While the offense is coming around, the starting pitching has been impressive. Ryan Carmack should be on everyone's radar. The transfer has a nice fastball that hits the low 90s and a hard breaking slider, but he's also been nearly unhittable. His numbers are insane: a 0.95 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 42 strikeouts in 19 innings through four starts. A big matchup against Drury this weekend could affect where we see UIS next week.
10. MSU Denver: I had Colorado School of Mines as the team to watch in the RMAC, but the Roadrunners have stolen the show. While they haven't had that signature series win yet, a huge one awaits against Colorado Mesa this weekend. The team is hitting .363 with 35 home runs. There are six players with at least five home runs through 18 games, so unless you have a young Greg Maddux reincarnated on a DII mound, expect to see a ton of runs scored when the Roadrunners come to town.
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The next 16 (in alphabetical order):
Yes, this is traditionally the "First five out," but it's early and there are just too many teams to discuss this early in the season.
- Arkansas Tech: The Wonder Boys hung with North Greenville and then got smoked by Montevallo in Houston to open the season. But they also have a win against Southern Arkansas and sweep of Henderson State, so we're seeing a team really proving it belongs.
- Central Oklahoma: The hot start is impressive, especially when you add to it that it has also come against a very tough schedule. I'd like to see how the Bronchos fare against ranked competition before putting them in the top 10, but a big series win against Missouri Southern this weekend would be a statement.
- East Stroudsburg: A huge sweep of Southern New Hampshire has the Warriors at 12-2 and amid a 10-game winning streak. East Stroudsburg was just outside the preseason rankings, and it is quickly showing that it belongs in the conversation. The starting pitching has been pretty much filthy.
- Florida Southern: The Mocs are 13-4 and have a nice little squad. I watched this squad earlier in the season on the road, and they overcame a huge deficit to win in the ninth. You have to love that kind of poise. There is depth both in the pitching and lineup.
- Hawaii Hilo: Why are more people not talking about the Vulcans? Yes, this is somewhat an impulse ranking, one very much in the moment, but holy cow is Hawaii Hilo hot. The Vulcans started the season taking four of five from Augustana (SD), swept Northwest Nazarene, and just took three of four from Point Loma. They have another tough series against Azusa Pacific this weekend, and if they come out winners of that series against another projected bracket team, then we're looking at a Power 10 team next week.
- Lenoir-Rhyne: Now 17-5, the Bears have that big series win against UIS and are 10-2 over their last 12 games. Blake Bean, a former DIII All-American, is having little trouble adapting to DII, leading this offense with a .358 average, four doubles, two triples, six home runs, and eight stolen bases.
- Mount Olive: It feels like the Trojans are never bad and consistently fly under the radar and seem to like it that way. Now 13-4, Mount Olive is coming off a huge midweek win against Wingate. Vito Patierno has been impressive, hitting .422 with 10 stolen bases so far.
- Point Loma: It's not the start they wanted, but the Sea Lions have played the fifth-toughest schedule and still have a winning record. They are also crushing the baseball so when the pitching catches up, they could go on one of those runs.
- Quincy: Quincy went out and tested itself with a ridiculous non-conference schedule and are 8-3 to show for it. That includes a series win against Tampa and a four-game sweep of Northwood, a projected bracket team this preseason. The Hawks have some real hitters in the lineup, so once the pitching catches up, watch out.
- Rollins: The Tars are 14-4 and have big series wins against Quincy and Nova Southeastern to start the season. They knew there would be an adjustment in the pitching department, but thus far, it has been steady, albeit not as dominant as last year. As long as the offense keeps scoring, they'll have time to be in top form to defend their South Region crown.
- Southern New Hampshire: The Penmen were in the Power 10, but a sweep by East Stroudsburg has them now on the outside looking in. I'll give Southern New Hampshire another week to see how they respond with how consistent they have played the past few seasons.
- St. Edward's: The Hilltoppers are 12-5, which includes a big sweep of Texas A&M-Kingsville and a series split with West Texas A&M, two teams they will have to contend with for an LSC title. Luke Short is having a breakout season on the mound, already 4-0 with 46 strikeouts in 28 innings.
- Valdosta State: I watched the Blazers last week and they are impressive. Jacob Harper is one of the best catchers in the division and JP Gates may be one of the best two-way players out there. The pitching is steady, but if it becomes consistent, Valdosta State could mean trouble for the South region.
- Wayne State (MI): The Warriors are off to a 7-2 start against the 10th-toughest schedule in DII baseball. They are hitting .314 as a team and pitching to a 3.57 ERA, so have a nice balance. This weekend they play the Wildcats, which means Wayne State plays Wayne State, making this Wayne very happy.
- West Chester: The Golden Rams rebounded with a doubleheader sweep of Shippensburg after a split at the DII Baseball Challenge in Cary, NC last weekend. Now 10-3, West Chester has a favorable schedule until late April to build momentum heading into back-to-back weekend clashes with East Stroudsburg and Millersville.
- West Georgia: I've also seen this team play in person and the Wolves are impressive. They have a huge matchup against Valdosta State this weekend which could boost them into the top-10 conversation. Anthony Calabro is one of the best players in DII baseball.