25. MISSOURI WESTERN STATE GRIFFONS (34-17)
Final 2012 Ranking: Not Ranked
The Griffs finished second in the MIAA regular season standings, but after an early ouster in the conference tournament the club found themselves without a bid to the South Central Regional. Nonetheless, MWSU matched their highest win total in thirty years and will be looking to rewrite all sorts of records in 2013. Coach Buzz Verduzco returns an experienced lineup that should compete with Central Missouri for tops in the conference and has the potential to compete for a regional crown.
The offensive roster is highlighted by 1B Spencer Shockley who earned First Team All MIAA honors after leading the team with a .402 batting average. A solid swinger, Shockley almost had as many homeruns (6) as strikeouts (9) on the season. After Shockley, the Griffons also return their next top six hitters in batting average from last season. Michael Schulze hit .354 and led the team with 14 stolen bases while playing shortstop and Nate Ramler paced the school with ten homeruns and batted .314. Other big contributors back in St. Joe are Grant Fink and Bubba Dotson who hit .308 and .313 respectively. Incoming freshman Payton Scarbrough is a possible breakout player who could make an early impact on campus.
The pitching staff is led by Brandon Simmons who tied for third in the nation with 12 wins last season. He also threw an incredible ten complete games (tied for first nationally) and had a 1.94 ERA. Rejoining him in the starting rotation will be Ethan Ward who had a 3.00 ERA and finished with a 6-3 record. Closer Jake Jones will be back again as well after earning six saves in 18 adequate, but not entirely impressive outings. Aside from those three, there are no other returning Griffon pitchers back from last season who had an ERA under 5.50. Thus the Achilles Heel for Western is their pitching staff. If they can find consistent strike throwers and limit their number of walks they can go as far as their bats will take them. If they can control the plate they’ll control their destiny.