Boasts Defending Champ,
D-II Prospect, But Tampa Still No. 1
NCAA Division II World Series was first contested in 1968, and it has
been dominated through the years largely by Sun Belt teams, with
Florida (16) and California (13) schools winning 29 championships
the 2012 series went very much against the grain as no Florida team
even advanced to the eight-team series, and California’s entry
(Chico State) went winless. And perhaps most noteworthy, a team from
Pennsylvania won the event for the first time as West Chester (46-10)
dominated from start to finish, beating Mississippi’s Delta State
9-0 in the final to go undefeated. The win marked Pennsylvania as the
northern-most state ever to produce a D-II champion.
the heels of that triumph, a Pennsylvania player, Seton Hill
lefthander Alex Haines, stands an excellent chance of becoming the
first Division II player to be selected in this year’s draft.
Haines ranks No. 1 on the accompanying list of Top 25 Division II
Prospects, as compiled by Perfect Game.
Pennsylvania has been a stronghold of Division II baseball for years,
it wasn’t until West Chester’s unexpected triumph a year ago that
the state has begun to get its due national recognition.
6-foot-4, 215-pound Haines could only help to perpetuate the state’s
growing reputation this spring if he can follow up on a strong season
last summer in the New England Collegiate League, where he led
one of the nation’s strongest summer leagues in both ERA (0.90, vs.
1.91 by his closest pursuer) and strikeouts (54), while going 5-2. In
40 innings, he allowed only 24 hits and six walks, and his .168
opponent batting average led the league by a wide margin.
Predictably, he was selected that league’s top professional
a fastball that sat at 90-95 mph, and peaked at 96 in a one-inning
stint at the league all-star game, Haines’ velocity was the equal
of any pitcher in the league. If he can maintain or even enhance that
velocity this spring as a junior at Seton Hill while improving his
secondary stuff, he could surge into the two 2-3 rounds in June.
a far cry from three years ago, when the unknown Haines had no
Division I teams courting his services and had little recourse but to
hook on with Seton Hill, a somewhat obscure Division II college
located little more than 15 miles from his home in Greensburg, Pa.
his freshman year at Seton Hill, Haines had worked his velocity up to
91 mph, and was mainly at 92-93 as a sophomore, when he posted a 7-2,
4.24 record with 38 walks and 108 strikeouts in 70 innings. He took
his game to yet another level on the summer.
Haines should carry the torch for Pennsylvania’s D-II ranks this
season, it might be a tall order for West Chester, with a depleted
roster, to repeat its success of a year ago, or for any other team
from Pennsylvania to contend again for a national title, although
Seton Hill (46-11), Mercyhurst (39-17) and Shippensburg (32-21), in
particular, should be among the contenders.
champion Tampa (38-10) ranks as a heavy early favorite to win the
D-II World Series, especially after bolstering its roster with a
number of Division I transfers while also bringing in several top
players from Florida’s rich junior-college ranks. (See Top 10
Division II teams).
Spartans, who haven’t had a losing season since their inaugural
season in 1977 and went a combined 106-17 in winning back-to-back
national titles in 2006 and 2007, appeared to be sailing along to
another championship a year ago after winning the highly-competitive
Sunshine State Conference. But their season came to a crashing halt
when they lost two straight one-run games in the South regional.
Tampa’s newcomers is 6-foot-5, 215-pound righthander Jon Keller, an
pick of the Mariners in the 2011 draft who went 4-1, 5.37 a year ago
at Nebraska. With a mid-90s fastball, he steps in as the No. 1
starter for the Spartans and ranks No. 3 on the accompanying list of
the Top 25 Prospects in the D-II ranks.
Troy lefthander Jimmy Hodgskin (No. 4), ex-Auburn middle infielder
Zach Alford (No. 15) and outfielder Michael Danner (No. 16), who hit
.365-10-69 at Polk State (Fla.) Junior College a year ago, also
cracked the list. All are new to the team.
join holdovers like junior outfielder Zach Gawrych (.365-3-14), the
team’s top hitter a year ago, former University of Miami catcher
Shane Rowland (.247-1-11), returning starters Ben Brown (7-2, 2.67)
and Eric Luksis (2-0, 3.55), and closer Preston Packrall (5-3, 2.53,
begins its 2013 season on Friday with the opener of a three-game
series against Bentley (Mass.) College.
D-II World Series returns to Cary, N.C., the home of USA Baseball’s
national training center, for the fifth year. The eight-team
tournament will run from May 25-June 1.
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