3. DELTA STATE STATESMEN (49-15)
Final 2012 Ranking: 2
The Statesmen fought their way to the NCAA South and College World Series Championships, both times requiring back-to-back wins over a team to reach their destination. While DSU was able to capture the South crown and reach Cary, they ultimately fell a game short of being the last team standing in the end. Both of DSU losses in North Carolina were shutouts and the Statesmen fell to 1-3 in NCAA DII title games. This season a return trip to Cary is a strong possibility for the Gulf South stalwart as their top two hitters from last season will be back in the lineup as well as two of three top starters. If Coach Mike Kinnison can successfully fill a few holes in the pitching staff look for buses to be bound from Cleveland to Cary once again.
Outfielders Jordan Chovanec and Michael Vinson are a pair of Tino Martinez Award candidates who have the ability to score early and often for the Statesmen. The speedy Chovanec led the team in batting at .351 and also paced the team with 30 stolen bases. Vinson outslugged his DSU teammates at a .507 clip which included 23 extra base hits. Both Chovanec and Vinson were named to the All College World Series Team, as was 2B Tyler Aldridge who hit .321 last season. Another talent back in the lineup is former Kentucky transfer OF Sam Kidd who was named Second Team All-GSC after batting .310 with 19 stolen bases. Carlos Leal is a transfer from East Central Mississippi CC who will have big cleats to fill as he takes over for catcher Jon Carnahan who was signed with the Houston Astros organization after the season.
Josh Branstetter and Colton Mitchell give Kinnison a righty/lefty one-two punch that will be difficult for most teams to contend with. Branstetter had a 3.01 ERA, 7-3 record and threw 125.1 innings with 104 strikeouts with only 24 walks. Mitchell had an 8-2 record, 3.50 ERA and fanned 88 batters in 97.2 innings. One pitcher in particular who is expected to step in 2013 is Ricky Winters. In 56 mixed-role innings last season Winters held opposition to a .222 batting average and was a perfect 5-0 with a 2.41 ERA. His 55 K’s to 11 BB’s was also a sign that the GSC All-Tournament Team hurler could be up to bigger and better things this season. Senior Jordan Moore will also be looking to end his college career by building on his breakout season. After missing most of 2011 due to injury, Moore threw nearly 50 innings and struckout 44 batters while only allowing 42 hits. For the season he went 8-1 with a 3.08 ERA.