17. SAINT LEO LIONS (35-14-1)

SAINT LEO LIONS (35-14-1)
The Lions needed an impressive close to their 2013 regular season if they were going to receive an at large bid to the NCAAs. The green and gold did their part, impressively tallying double-digit runs in their last five games and outscoring Florida Southern 33-6 in their regular season finale; however it wasn’t deemed quite good enough and the Lions were left at home for the extended postseason. This season the Lions are planning on taking fate into their own hands and leaving little doubt they deserve to advance to the South Regional. A solid core of everyday starters and impressive pitchers should keep St. Leo from being on the outside looking in when the NCAA pairings are announced.

St. Leo's Cole Stancil

St. Leo’s Cole Stancil

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18. LEWIS FLYERS (33-18)

LEWIS FLYERS (33-18)
It wasn’t long ago the Lewis Flyers were just plain horrible; like the series finale of “Dexter” awful. If you didn’t see it take my word for it. That’s pretty bad. In 2007 the Flyers were an abysmal 8-47 and in the preceding years reaching double-digit wins was an accomplishment.  The program has come along way in a few years. Since taking over as the head coach in 2008, Tim McDonough has led the team to unprecedented school success and transformed the perennial doormat into a rising national contender. Last season the Flyers won the GLVC East Division title and earned an invite to the Midwest Regional. LU went 2-2 and fared well in the tournament, but just as they were in the GLVC tournament, the Flyers were upset by a determined Bellarmine club to come short of adding extra hardware to the trophy case. A solid lineup with quality arms returns in 2014 and the team could be a breakout player or two away from advancing to Cary.

Lewis' Tom Helwich

Lewis’ Tom Helwich

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19. ALABAMA HUNTSVILLE CHARGERS (33-15-1)

ALABAMA HUNTSVILLE CHARGERS (33-15-1)
Despite having an accomplished season and finishing the year second in the conference standings, the Chargers finished the season losing four of their last five games, including two-and-out in the Gulf South Conference Tournament. The subsequent slip in the South Region rankings required rooting for Delta State to win the GSC’s automatic bid to keep the Chargers’ extended postseason hopes alive. It didn’t happen as Valdosta State upset DSU and took the conference’s automatic bid. This season the Chargers may not need a nail-biting watch-and-hope final day as they could wrap up a bid early and not have to sweat out the selections. Head Coach Hunter Royer will have GSC Player of the Year and three time All American Chandler Brock back in the lineup along with a number of other highly productive bats as well as half of last year’s starting rotation and a handful of other experienced arms.

Alabama Huntsville's Chandler Brock

Alabama Huntsville’s Chandler Brock

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20. MONTEVALLO FALCONS (34-20)

MONTEVALLO FALCONS (34-20)
Despite not getting a whole bunch of traction in the rankings last season the Falcons were easily one of the most dangerous teams on the diamond. UM won games over top teams such as St. Leo, UNC Pembroke, Alabama-Huntsville, Lander and USC Aiken. Despite the impressive list of wins, as well as reaching the PBC Championship game, the Falcons were denied an opportunity to play in the extended NCAA postseason.  It’s not going to be any easier this season as the Falcons still play in one of the toughest conferences and will once again have to fight for a spot in a crowded Southeast Region; however Head Coach Chandler Rose can use the snub to help fuel an all ready talented team to go even further this season. Continue reading

21. COLORADO MESA MAVERICKS (45-11)

COLORADO MESA MAVERICKS (45-11)
Despite not advancing to Cary, the Mavericks had an incredible season in 2013. In addition establishing a new school record for wins at 45-11, CMU won the RMAC title for the 19th time in school history, broke the conference record for winning percentage at .921 (35-3) and spent a good portion of the season in the top ten of the national rankings. Unfortunately for the Mavs however most of the season’s success came in the regular season instead of the postseason. In addition to being upset in the RMAC Tournament championship, Mesa went 1-2 in the South Central Regional after losing a late lead in one game and getting shutout in another.  Some big names will be missing from this season’s roster, including two-time All American Braden Box and Nolan Snell, who finished his Maverick career as the leader in wins and strikeouts, but Head Coach Chris Hanks still has plenty of talent returning on both side of the ball which should make CMU a national contender once again. Continue reading

22. ANGELO STATE RAMS (37-12)

ANGELO STATE RAMS (37-12)
It incredible that the Rams have been only playing DII baseball for less than ten seasons. Despite not having program rich in tradition ASU has been able to win four conference championships and has already made an appearance in the DII CWS. The team looked like they could make their second appearance in the final eight last year, but despite a strong run, had trouble winning some crucial close games. In the Rams’ tenth season the goal will once again be a national championship. Head Coach Kevin Brooks, who has been the ASU skipper since day one, believes that the returning roster is just as formable as any he’s had in San Angelo and if they can stay healthy they could be dog-piling in Cary. Continue reading

23. CENTRAL MISSOURI MULES (36-13)

CENTRAL MISSOURI MULES (36-13)
The Mules of Central Missouri are one of a few teams that can be penciled in every year for a spot in the preseason rankings. The program is repeatedly one of the most dominant in the nation and each season reloads with top talent. This year won’t be any different for the boys from Warrensburg. UCM has retained several top hitters along with a cache of impressive arms which make the Mules contenders once again. Continue reading

24. DELTA STATE STATESMEN (44-11-1)

DELTA STATE STATESMEN (44-11-1)
Delta State may have been DII baseball’s best team last season. They spent all most the spring at top of the national rankings and felled opposition weekly by lopsided scores. Nevertheless when the postseason arrived DSU fell short in both the Gulf South Conference Tournament and the NCAA South Regionals and were sent home for the season without capturing their second national championship in ten years.  The setback in the GSC finale was particularly tough because it may have cost the Statesmen an opportunity to host the South Regional. Overcoming last season’s late season shortcomings will be a daunting task for Head Coach Mike Kinnison. Eleven seniors from last year’s elite squad need to be replaced which could make the season a rebuilding year. That’s not to say there are not still plenty of tools in the shed. DSU still returns a competitive squad and will compete once again for conference and national supremacy. Continue reading

25. GEORGIA COLLEGE BOBCATS (36-19)

GEORGIA COLLEGE BOBCATS (36-19)
The Bobcats came on strong at the end of the season to capture their first Peach Belt Tournament Championship and national ranking consideration.  The PBC title gave GC a Southeast regional bid and the surging Bobcats made some noise in the extended NCAA postseason, winning three elimination games before getting eventually knocked out by Coker. Much of last year’s lineup returns, including Tino Martinez Award candidate Daniel Bick, in what could be a continuation of last spring’s late success. The pitching staff could use some increased depth and consistency, but if some arms develop the Bobcats could scratch their way to additional titles in 2014. Continue reading

26. SOUTHERN ARKANSAS MULERIDERS (42-17)

SOUTHERN ARKANSAS MULERIDERS (42-17)
The Muleriders mauled opposition much of last season, spending most of the season in the thick of the national rankings and atop the Great American Conference standings. After SAU won their third consecutive conference championship and fourth in the last five seasons, their prospects of heading to Cary were looking good.  SAU started 2-1 in the Central Region and were rallying late with an opportunity to advance to the championship game, but a play at the plate for the final out of the game and the season stopped the team short of advancing to the final eight. While similar success is anticipated in Magnolia in 2014, earning wins may be a little harder as a number of top hitters and arms won’t be back on campus this spring. Head Coach Steve Browning will once again field a top shelf team, but more than one player will have to elevate their game if the big blue is going to reach 40 wins for the third time since 2010. Continue reading