Which eight will be the last standing and see their flags rise at the USA Baseball National Training Complex this June?
It’s tough any year to predict, but this year may be even tougher. First, let’s remember the committee’s recommendation to reduce the field from the traditional 56 to 42 teams entering the bracket. Then, we have to consider the temporary regional realignment that we will see this March in the DII men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. With the CCAA out of the West Region for 2021, will there be another regional shift?
We can’t answer that now, but we can make some completely early — and likely incorrect — predictions for who will head to the DII baseball championship. For now, I will look at the winner of each region how it traditionally exists. Should temporary realignment occur, I will revisit this piece down the road.
Without further ado:
DII baseball championship: 8 for Cary
Contenders: East Stroudsburg, Gannon, Mercyhurst, Millersville
Prediction: Millersville — While it’s very much a PSAC party in the Atlantic Region (and I didn’t even mention teams like Bloomsburg, Shepherd and West Chester who always seemingly find themselves in the mix), I think this is the year the Marauders return to the final eight. They have two big arms atop the rotation and four of their top five hitters back in the lineup. No one in this region has really started playing yet, so this is all based on projections.
Contenders: Augustana (SD), Central Missouri, Minnesota State, Southern Arkansas
Winner: Central Missouri — Talk about stacked. If you read the NCAA.com preseason top 25, you’ll notice three of those contenders are in the top 10 and four are in the top 20. Central Missouri just lost a tough series to Davenport, but you’ll also remember we think very highly of the Panthers and they showed just why on the road in Warrensburg. Baseball is different from other sports, and it is a slow churn with teams rarely playing their best ball in February. The Mules are just too good both in the bullpen and lineup.
RANKINGS: Our full preseason top 25
Contenders: Adelphi, Franklin Pierce, Le Moyne, Southern New Hampshire
Winner: SNHU — If you’re looking for some sort of pattern or consistency in the winner of this region, good luck. The last time we met for the DII baseball championship, it was the New York Tech Bears that advanced. They have since put their program on hold, so we will have a new winner. The Penmen return just about everyone and appeared to be on the cusp of something special last year until things shut down. Perhaps they get to show us in ’21.
Contenders: Ashland, Davenport, Quincy, Wayne State (MI)
Winner: Quincy — The Midwest always has a bit of the unexpected. A big weekend series March 5-7 between Quincy and Davenport could be a preview of this region’s finals in May. Davenport and Ashland are loaded with experienced returners, but this could be Quincy’s year to return to the finals. They were a young team last season and should take a step forward. Lance Logsdon is a beast — .458 with eight doubles and four home runs in just 16 games last year — and should lead this intriguing offense.
Contenders: Everyone that plays
Winner: Tampa — The defending champs returned to the diamond this past weekend and split their opening series with Saint Leo. This region is loaded with talent, but I’m sticking with Tampa in the early going. If I were to pick a sleeper in this region, I’d say keep an eye on Barry. With seven returning starters, two big transfers and a deep pitching staff, the Buccaneers could be a top team in DII baseball by season’s end.
Contenders: Angelo State, Colorado Mesa
Winner: Colorado Mesa — I think Texas-Tyler and West Texas A&M are two of many talented teams in this region, but the Rams and Mavericks are two of the best in the country. Now remember, in basketball, the RMAC shifted to the West Region and if that Covid realignment happens again in baseball, fans could see a DII baseball championship with both Angelo State and Colorado Mesa, and you won’t hear any complaints over here should that happen.
Contenders: Catawba, Columbus State, Georgia College, Lee, Mount Olive, Newberry, North Georgia, North Greenville, Wingate
Winner: North Greenville — That is a boatload of contenders, four of which resided in our preseason top 10. Whoever survives this region will deserve to be in Cary, but could be pretty beat up just making it there. The Crusaders have one of the most potent offenses in the nation and an experienced pitching staff returning. I really like the Cougars chances, but this just feels like North Greenville’s year.
Contenders: Azusa Pacific, Biola, Montana State Billings, Point Loma
Winner: Azusa Pacific — The Kings of the West — UC San Diego — are now in Division I, which means for the first time since 2016 there will be a new winner out West. With no CCAA (and currently no RMAC) to contend with, this could be Azusa Pacific’s region to lose. They have a bevy of returning talent and opened the season 2-1 after its lengthy layoff. They will be tested with two of the top contenders in the PacWest in their own pod, but the Cougars should prevail.