Wednesday, 22 January 2014 01:15

2014 Season Preview

Written by Administrator

The 58th NAIA baseball season is already under way, and six games were played in California last weekend. The Golden State Athletic Conference is already playing conference matchups, with #9 Concordia-Irvine at Arizona Christian, Biola at The Master's, and San Diego Christian at Westmont. Ave Maria and Southeastern play Edward Waters and Calumet College of Saint Joseph in Lakeland, FL, Bryan hosts Lindenwood, Cal State San Marcos visits Vanguard, Doane visits Houston-Victoria, and Warner visits Webber International.

Here is an evaluation of the top 10 teams according to the pre-season coaches' poll:

#1 – Faulkner: The defending champions will have returning position players OF Michael Cruz (.355, 13 HR, 68 RBI; he led the Eagles in all three categories, and is a Pre-season All-American), C/IF Sergio Sanchez (.363, 65 RBI), IF Luis Sanchez (.344) and IF Dauris Holguin (.291). Their returning pitchers are RHP Julian Esquibel (11-2, 2.71 ERA), LHP Labradford Griffis (5-0, 2.11 ERA), and RHP Jeremy Holcombe (4-0, 3.19 ERA). They will have three key transfers; OF Willie Allen (Western Oklahoma State), C T.C. Mark (Arizona), RHP Kurt Lipscomb (Jacksonville State), and OF Omar Gomez (New Mexico Junior College). Games to watch: Missouri Baptist Feb. 7-8, Lindsey Wilson Feb. 7, Cumberland Feb. 8, at Tennessee Wesleyan March 5 Live Video

#2 – Lewis-Clark State: The Warriors have Cody Lavalli (.373, 10 HR), who was drafted in 37th round by the Rangers, and is a Pre-season All-American. Other returnees are OF/C Jake Shirley (.340), RHP Michael Noteware (missed most of 2013 with a medical redshirt), RHP Steve Thompson (5-5, 2.49 ERA), and RHP Dave Murillo (5-0, 3.02 ERA, 38 K). Their most impressive recruit is IF Michael Sexton, a freshman drafted in the 38th round by the Mariners. They also have RHP Gunnar Swanson (transfer from Everett CC; he was 9-2, 1.63 ERA with 8 complete games and 88 K there) and OF Raymond Pedrina. Games to watch: British Columbia Feb. 7, Concordia-Portland Feb. 8 and April 4-6, Western Oregon Feb. 21-23, at British Columbia March 7-9, at Western Oregon May 2, 4, at Linfield (Division III champion) May 3 Live Audio

#3 – Embry-Riddle: The Eagles' returning position players include UTL Kevin Lindheim (.339, 54 RBI, 32 BB), IF Jordan Johnson (.318), OF Kyle Chastain (.265, 32 SB), and OF Liam Goodall (.253). Preseason All-American LHP Stetson Nelson (8-2, 2.21 ERA, 103 K in 122 1/3 IP) is a returning starter. They've added Division I transfer RHP Daniel Poncedeleon (7-5 in 15 starts, 4.47 ERA at Houston); he is a three-time MLB draftee. Two other transfers are RHP Tyler Cyr (Skyline College) and C Darryl Knight (Seminole State). Games to watch: South Carolina-Beaufort Feb. 14-15, at Division II Stillman Feb 22-23, Bellevue March 2-3, Cumberland March 11, at Cumberland March 17-18, at Lindsey Wilson March 19, Daytona Cubs April 2, at Tampa (Division II champion) April 15 Live Video ($7.95/game, $24.99 for the season)

#4 – Missouri Baptist: The Spartans didn't just make their first trip to the National Championship tournament last year; they won two games after they got there, good for fifth place. IF Pier Olivier-Dostaler (.315), C Joseph Stropp (.307) are back, but most of their pitchers from last year are gone. Games to watch: Faulkner Feb. 7-8, Lindsey Wilson Feb. 7, Cumberland Feb. 8

#5 – Oklahoma City: The Sooner Athletic Conference has lost Rogers State and Lubbock Christian, but gained two of the Red River Athletic Conference's top teams, Texas Wesleyan and Northwood (TX). Oklahoma Baptist and Northwood were predicted to give the Stars a fight for the pennant, and the Stars had trouble with Northwood last season. The Stars' returnees include 1B Forrest Smith (.296, 11 HR), OF Josh Dickey (.230), and RHP Shane Henderson (4-1, 1.33 ERA, 48 K). Their new guys are C Lazlo Horvath, and several Division I transfers: RHP Chris Pike (4-6, 4.48 ERA at Fordham), C Connor Lynch (.192 at Georgia Tech), and IF Josh Halbert (Wichita State). Games to watch: Bellevue Feb. 8-9, 15-16, at Oklahoma Baptist March 20-22, Oklahoma Baptist March 21, Texas Wesleyan March 28-29, at Northwood (TX) April 4-5 Live Video ($7.95/game, $59.95 for the season)

#6 York: The Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference had something last year that it had not had in a long time; a pennant race. #14 Bellevue won the pennant, but York played two fewer games. The Panthers and Bruins were 2-2 head-to-head in the regular season. The Panthers won the weather-shortened conference tournament (the Bruins were taken out by another team), and the Panthers ultimately made their first trip to the National Championship tournament.

This season promises to be more of the same. LHP Aaron Conyers (9-3, 2.05 ERA, 83 K) and RHP Tyler Molder (7-2, 2.50 ERA) are returning for the Panthers. They have loaded up with JUCO transfers: IF Pepe Marquez (.336 at Glendale CC), RHP Brad Lindsley (8-5, 2.89 ERA at Bakersfield CC), and RHP D.J. Jantz (1-2, 2.70 ERA at Merced CC). They have another transfer from Division II Armstrong Atlantic State, RHP Dylan Morrow (3-2, 5.20 ERA). Games to watch: at Oklahoma Baptist Feb. 7-8, at Northwood (TX) Feb. 21-22, Bellevue April 4-5

#7 Sterling: Like Missouri Baptist and York, the Warriors made their first trip to the National Championship tournament last year. Their top returnees are IF Joe Battaglia (.407, 10 HR, 63 RBI), IF Anthony Stewart (.323), RHP Steven Cazares (9-2, 0.88 ERA), and RHP Matt Jackson (7-0, 4.18 ERA). They have a long list of JUCO transfers, including five from Compton CC, led by 3B Juan Avena, who batted .385 there, OF Chris Jacobs, who hit eight home runs, and RHP Nick Sanchez, who was 10-3, 3.32 ERA. Games to watch: Bellevue Feb. 21-22

#8 – Tennessee Wesleyan: Pre-season All-American RHP Jarrod Jameson (14-0, 2.57 ERA) is the top returnee for the Bulldogs. Other significant returnees are SS Wes Minton (.318), 2B Brad Carpenter (.314), RHP Tyler Wilson (3-4, 3.51 ERA), and LHP Brent Adheen (2-4, 4.33 ERA). They have an impressive list of transfers: 1B Tim Kiene (.280 at Maryland, drafted in the 30th round out of high school), 3B K.J. Hockaday (.286 at Maryland, drafted in the 14th round out of high school), RHP Taylor Patterson (8-4, 2.18 ERA with 90 K at Walter State CC), LHP Josh Clemen (5-3, 2.52 ERA at Division II Montevallo), 2B James Boddicker (.346 at Division I New Orleans), CF Shell McCain (.340 at Spartanburg Methodist, made the JUCO World Series All-Tournament team), and RHP Alex Pridemore (4-3, 4.17 ERA at Spartanburg Methodist). Games to watch: Lindsey Wilson Feb. 26, Faulkner March 5, Cumberland March 25, at Lindsey Wilson April 9, at Cumberland April 15 Live Video

#9 Concordia-Irvine: The top returnees for the Eagles are 1B Bryan Garza (.296), OF Dillon Bryant (.244), OF Cody Smith (.341), and RHP Andrew Brooks (3-2, 2.19 ERA), who finished the 2013 season as the Eagles' ace. The Eagles have added transfers OF Mitch Esser (Loyola Marymount), RHP Jose Cardona (2-1, 3.38 ERA at Cal State Fullerton), and RHP Keegan Yuhl (4-1, 2.78 ERA, 55 K at Lee). They've also added C Nolan Clark. Games to watch: The Master's Feb. 7-8, at San Diego Christian Feb. 28-March 1, at Cal State San Marcos March 20, Cal State San Marcos March 22, at The Master's March 28-29, San Diego Christian April 16-17.

#10 Cumberland: Head Coach Woody Hunt goes into his 33nd season with Pre-season All-American Anthony Gomez (11-1, 1.16 ERA), and the top hitter from last season, OF Chris Hall (.395). Other returnees are OF Richie Seaton (.311), RHP Kevin P. Greene (4-3, 2.91 ERA) and LHP Kevin T. Greene (7-2, 3.33 ERA, 56 K). They've added one Division I transfer, IF Brady North (Jacksonville), and four JUCO transfers: OF Justin Byrd (San Jacinto JC), IF Ryan Simmons (SW Illinois), RHP Clint Meadows (Volunteer State CC), and RHP Stevie Smith (Volunteer State CC). Games to watch: Missouri Baptist Feb. 8, Faulkner Feb. 8, at Embry-Riddle March 11, Embry-Riddle March 17-18, at Tennessee Wesleyan March 25, at Lindsey Wilson March 28-29, Tennessee Wesleyan April 15 Live Video ($5/game, $80 for the season)

The NAIA's National Championship Opening Round will take place at nine locations (to be announced in late April) May 12-15. The Baseball National Championship will, as usual, be in Lewiston, ID May 23-30.

This article also appears at

Last modified on Friday, 31 January 2014 12:24


Bob Broughton started going to British Columbia home games in 2001, and was favorably impressed with the caliber of play. This led to annual trips to the NAIA Baseball National Championship in Lewiston, ID, a nine-hour drive from Vancouver. He retired in Guanajuato, Mexico in 2012.


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