2. MINNESOTA STATE MAVERICKS (51-12)
Final 2012 Ranking: 3
The Mavericks we up 5-0 in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Championships but were usurped by a late Delta State rally to conclude MSU’s season. Despite falling just short in their title run the Mavs did record a single-season win record and their third-place finish in the World Series matched the school’s best finish in a season with the 1980 edition of the club. With four starting pitchers who had a combined 35-6 record last year and their leading hitter back for another season in Mankato, MSU can be penciled in for another run to Cary and chance for a second northern team to take the title.
The Mavs will go as far as their pitching staff will taken them, and with Tino Martinez Award candidates Harvey Martin and Jason Hoppe on the hill that could be a long way. Martin went 10-0 with a 2.95 ERA in 2012 and was named to First Team All Central Region. Hoppe held opposition to 2.54 runs per nine innings, had an 8-1 record and earned All Tournament Team in both the NSIC Tournament and National Championships. Add in Tyler Ockuly’s 2.31 ERA and dainty .205 opponents’ batting average with Bryce Belin’s double digit wins (10-2) and Coach Matt Magers should once again have an easy time managing his rotation.
Last season the Mavs scored nearly two hundred more runs than opposition. With the loss of All-NSIC’ers Pat Dockendorf and Ben Kincaid such lopsided numbers aren’t likely to occur this year, but MSU is still in good shape when it comes to potential run production. OF Mike Eckhart’s .365 batting average and .612 slugging percentage led the team and he was MVP of the NSIC Tournament. He’ll be rejoined by gold gloved catcher Nolan Johnson who also contributed a .343 batting average, SS Connor McCallum who hit .320 and the speedy OF Lucas Skjefte who led the team with 16 stolen bases. The only regular offensive player who didn’t hit over .300 last season was returning IF Todd Standish; however Mager states he’s the team’s most improved player going into the new season.