The top teams in the DII Power 10 baseball rankings kept winning the past week, but it was a two-way player that stole the show.
Perhaps the single greatest feat in DII baseball history, UIndy's Brady Ware threw a seven-inning no hitter while hitting for the cycle in the same game. He reached the cycle by the fifth inning, going in reverse order with a home run and a triple in an eight-run third inning, before doubling in the fourth, and singling in the fifth.
So, what can you watch this weekend?
5 things to watch this weekend on the DII baseball diamond
1. Can Central Missouri keep rolling? The Mules had a lot of roster turnover this past season and the season-opening Houston Winter Invitational was a bit rocky. They have been on fire since, having not lost a weekend series in the MIAA, most recently taking down former Power-10er Missouri Southern. Along the way, the Mules have racked up resume-building wins against tournament hopefuls Quincy, Drury and Maryville. Things do not get any easier this weekend, however. Pittsburg State, which is third place in the MIAA and arguably a tournament team if selections were made today, awaits. Another series win there and the Mules will have a lot of momentum heading into a tough final stretch.
2. Series of the weekend: Colorado Mesa vs. Rollins. Rollins has steadily climbed the Power 10 rankings and have been utterly dominant the past few weeks. The Tars took series from Florida Tech, a Barry team receiving votes in the national poll, and Tampa. This week, they head to Grand Junction to face a red-hot Colorado Mesa team. Like the Mules, the Mavs lost a lot of talent last year and were somewhat an enigma heading into 2023. They have responded with a 18-2 romp through the RMAC thus far. They have a couple big series wins against Azusa Pacific and MSU Denver, but taking down the steamroller that is Rollins could very well boost them in the Power 10 next week.
3. The best in the West? Cal State San Bernardino and Cal State Monterey Bay are arguably No. 1 and 2 in the West Region should the DII tournament open today. This weekend series is enormous with so little regular-season games remaining. The Otters took a bit to get rolling, splitting a series with Azusa Pacific before losing one to Point Loma and Cal Poly Pomona a few weeks later. They have certainly righted the ship, winning their last 12 in a row, including a huge four-game sweep of Chico State. The Coyotes were the opposite, coming out of the gates scorching hot and making their first-ever appearance in the DII baseball Power 10 rankings. They have yet to really cool off, but a huge signature win against the Otters could seal the deal atop the West Region.
4. Is the real Newberry about to take over the Southeast? The Wolves are one of the best teams in baseball statistically speaking with a 31-6 overall record. However, as I pointed out last week, the Wolves have a lower RPI primarily due to their strength of schedule thus far (roughly .468). This weekend is when Newberry can make a real statement, starting with a three-game series at home against Wingate, then playing Mount Olive in a midweek matchup before heading to Lenoir-Rhyne the following weekend as a tune-up for a trip by Tampa to South Carolina in the season finale. If you aren't a DII baseball fan, let me explain that stretch of games in one single word: ridiculous. If the Wolves come out of that well-above water and North Greenville stumbles at all, we are looking at the potential No. 1 seed in the Southeast.
5. Is West Florida the ultimate giant killers? West Florida is 22-14. That's a nice record when you look at it, but doesn't pop off the page as one of the best in the land. That is until you break down those wins: The Argos took two of three from Florida Southern to open the season, followed by a series win over Rollins. They have a series win against Florida Tech, the defending GSC champs Delta State, took two of three from Power 10 Montevallo and just swept West Georgia this past weekend. West Florida is proving it's not quantity but quality. Closing the season in a few weeks against Valdosta State will be very interesting.
The sixth DII baseball Power 10 rankings of 2023 season
(All games through April 9)
No. 1 North Greenville | Previous: 1: The Crusaders responded from last weekend's series loss to Mount Olive by defeating Young Harris and thumping Chowan in a three-game sweep. Right now, you can make a case that any of the top five can be No. 1, and I would listen, but North Greenville continues to hold the spot. A tough series against a sneaky good Belmont Abbey team awaits this weekend that North Greenville has to win to keep its spot.
No. 2 Quincy | Previous: 4: The Hawks took a beating from Central Missouri in a midweek game, but responded with a 3-1 series win over a Maryville team that was in the tournament hunt heading into that series. It's just another signature series win for the team that has played arguably the toughest schedule in the land. To be 23-8 with the highest RPI in the Power 10 says all you need to know about this squad.
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No. 3 Angelo State | Previous: 3: The Rams actually lost a game this weekend, but still won the four-game series by a score of 26-6. Their SOS is the only thing holding them from climbing the rankings. They are arguably the most balanced team in the nation with hitters that can barrel up and make contact up and down their lineup, strong starting pitching, and enough quality bullpen arms to make things difficult late in games. This team is tough.
No. 4 Rollins | Previous: 4: I already talked about Rollins above, but this team is staying hot, winners of 10 of their last 13 during that tough, tough stretch. It is a not an easy couple of weeks for the Tars with Colorado Mesa and then Florida Southern two weeks later, but Rollins just keeps finding ways to win. It's truly a balanced attack at the plate: Six everyday starters are hitting at least .300 and no one has more than 34 RBIs in the lineup (but six have at least 22).
No. 5 Tampa| Previous: 6: The Spartans dropped another midweek-er to Valdosta State but rebounded with a dominant series over Florida Tech. Tampa is a top-five team in RPI and ERA, so it seems like the right place for the Spartans is the top five in the Power 10. Tampa has a pretty nice starting three in Eli Thurmond, Michael Paul, and Alex Canney but have multiple weapons in the bullpen to back them up. On offense, the team is hitting a combined .338 with a .437 on base percentage, which is also pretty darn good.
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No. 6 East Stroudsburg| Previous: 8: The Warriors and Millersville are so close in so many statistics. They are both top-10 in RPI (with Millersville slightly ahead), and Millersville has played an ever-so slightly tougher schedule. The two are among the top-five pitching staffs in DII baseball, with Millersville slightly ahead of the Warriors for the ERA lead. However, when the two squared off this past weekend, it was ESU that rose victorious. Chase Nowak was phenomenal in a series opening complete game shutout and set the tone for the weekend. Because the metrics are so close, East Stroudsburg not only surpasses Millersville in the Power 10, but could move into the top spot in this Friday's Field of 56.
No. 7 Millersville | Previous: 6: I already said plenty about Millersville above, and since the Marauders showed they could utterly dominate East Stroudsburg in the one win they did get, they don't fall too far. Ben Wilchacky was solid in his start, before turning it over to the bullpen that helped shutout the Warriors. This team does so many things well, from hitting to stealing bases, and Bren Taylor is the epitome of that, hitting .415 with a 1.074 OPS, 14 extra base hits, 13 stolen bases and walking more than three times as much as he strikes out.
No. 8 Illinois Springfield | Previous: 8: The Prairie Stars came off that series split with Quincy and absolutely rocked McKendree in a four-game sweep, outscoring it 41-11. The scary thing about the Prairie Stars is they have four quality starters (Ryan Carmack, Chad Saner, Connor McKenna, and Adam Brouwer) which is a nightmare in tournament-style play. At the plate, Asher Bradd continues to lead the offense, hitting a sizzling .464 through 34 games.
No. 9 Central Missouri | Previous: First five out: All that stuff I typed about the Mules in the preview above is why they continue to climb the rankings. A series win against Pittsburg State will justify the lofty ranking, but the Mules have a long way to go with a series against Central Oklahoma and midweek-ers against Quincy and Drury. But to knock off two Power 10 teams in the same week says what you need to know about how well this team is playing.
No. 10 Colorado Mesa| Previous: First five out: This may be a little high, and we'll find out right away with how well the Mavs perform against Rollins. But this may be head coach Chris Hanks (who recently joined college baseball's 1,000-win club) best job in recent years. Remember, his teams were seemingly locks for 40-win seasons, but he lost so much and hasn't missed a beat. Julian Boyd and Robert Sharrar are both hitting above .400 for an offense that leads the way. The pitching will have to come together in the postseason to get through Angelo State, but we could have another classic Mavs/Rams May showdown coming soon.
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First five out (in alphabetical order):
- Cal State Monterey Bay: After a slow start, this may very well be the team to beat in the West.
- Florida Southern: This week's weekend tilt against Nova Southeastern is yet another winnable series for the Mocs.
- Montevallo: Time to hit the panic button? No, but back-to-back weekend losses to West Florida and Lee ding the Falcons a bit.
- Southern Arkansas: The Muleriders are trending back to where they opened the season, and this past weekend's sweep of Arkansas Tech was huge on many levels.
- St. Edward's: Just keep winning. The Hilltoppers did see their 12-game winning streak come to an end, but still won yet another weekend series.
In the conversation
This is the best of the rest. The 2023 DII baseball season has been a great one thus far, and the top of the heap isn't that far apart. This list will remain for the rest of the season, in alphabetical order, and rounds out what would be a top 35.
- Arkansas Tech
- Azusa Pacific
- Belmont Abbey
- Cal State San Bernardino
- Columbus State
- Mount Olive
- Minnesota State
- MSU Denver
- New Haven
- Point Loma
- Seton Hill
- Southern New Hampshire
- Valdosta State
- Wayne State (MI)
- West Chester
- West Georgia
- West Florida