Monday, 23 January 2012 11:01

2012 Season Preview

Written by Administrator

The 56th NAIA baseball season starts today, with defending champion Concordia-Irvine hosting Simpson, Palm Beach State at Saint Thomas (FL), and Point Loma Nazarene playing an exhibition game at UC San Diego. Simpson visits Point Loma on Jan. 25, and The Master's on Jan. 27. On January 26, Doane visits Texas-Brownsville. On January 27-29, Auburn-Montgomery hosts a four-team tournament with Embry-Riddle, Tennessee Wesleyan, and Southern Polytechnic. Also on the 27th, Belhaven hosts Blue Mountain, Brewton-Parker hosts South Carolina-Beaufort, and at least nine more games are scheduled. On January 28, Montreat visits Thomas (GA) and Warner visits Webber International.

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

#1 – Oklahoma City: The Stars are led by All-American C Chad Carman (.323), IF Miguel Beltran (.346), and LHP Rich Hawkins (10-5, 2.04 ERA). They've loaded up on talent with C Dane Phillips (transfer from Oklahoma State, batted .337 in 2010), RHP Blake Schwartz (transfer from Minnesota State-Mankato, 10-2, 2.11 ERA, 79 K), RHP Patrick Goelz (transfer from Bethune-Cookman, 8-3, 3.09 ERA, 75 K), IF Chris Munoz (transfer from Eastern Oklahoma State JC), OF Cody Ferrell (transfer from Seminole State JC, .367, 8 home runs), and LHP Ryan Gibson (transfer from Oklahoma, 48th round draft pick in 2009). Games to watch: Missouri Baptist Feb. 11-12, at Oklahoma Baptist March 22, 24, Oklahoma Baptist March 23, Rogers State April 5, at Rogers State April 7, at Lubbock Christian April 20-21.

#2 – Concordia-Irvine: The defending champions lost Matt Ivanoff to graduation, and John Hill and Bryan Nicholson to pro ball. They still have OF Kyle Konicek (.391), RHP Blake Harrison (8-1, 2.74 ERA), and LHP Josh White (2-1, 2.20 ERA). They've added a high-profile JUCO transfer, P/OF Ty Holm (Everett CC), and two Division I transfers, LHP/OF Aaron Gates (Pepperdine, 4-5, team-best 3.15 ERA) and IF Dave Peterson (Hawaii, .283). Games to watch: at Cal State-San Marcos March 9, Cal State-San Marcos March 10, at Point Loma Nazarene March 16, Point Loma Nazarene March 17, at Biola March 29-30, Biola March 31, at Cal Baptist April 5-6.

#3 – Lee: Coach Mark Brew, as usual, has gotten a couple of high-quality Division I transfers. This year, it's RHP Andrew Hillis (Tennessee), who was selected in the 49th round of the 2009 draft, and 2B Blake Barber (Cal State-Fullerton, .186). Hillis was a hot prospect out of high school, but never played for the Volunteers. The returnees include RHP Kris Hall (4-1, 3.46 ERA) and 1B Roberto Reyes (.321, 13 HR). They've added an impressive JUCO transfer: LHP Patrick Merkling (Chattanooga CC), drafted in the 44th round in 2011. To top it off, they have two impressive true freshmen: 1B Derek Murray and C/OF James Fowlkes. Coach Mark Brew has a record of 270-66, and the Flames have finished in the top three at the Baseball National Championship three of the last four seasons. Games to watch: Union C. (KY) Feb. 13, at Tennessee Wesleyan Feb. 15, at Cumberland April 3, Tennessee Wesleyan April 11, 17, Auburn-Montgomery April 13-14, at Belhaven April 20-21.

#4 – Lubbock Christian: Pre-Season All-American OF Richard Bohlken (.367, 23 home runs, 79 RBI) is a key returnee for the Chaparrals. Other returnees are 1B Karl Seiter (.333) and IF Ryan Burnaman (.408). IF/OF Ryan Gunhouse (Angelina College) and RHP Lester Lugo (Vernon College) are two key JUCO transfers. Games to watch: at Rogers State March 2-3, at Oklahoma Baptist April 13-14, Oklahoma City April 20-21

#5 – Embry-Riddle: The Eagles have most of their position players back, including SS Ben Kline (.368, 9 home runs), 1B Chris Page (.318), and OF/1B Keaton Stroud (.364, .500 on-base percentage). Almost all of their pitchers are new, but they've got some good ones. RHP Adam Paulencu, selected in the 13th round of the 2011 draft, will be playing for the Eagles instead of the Giants. They also have two good JUCO transfers: RHP/1B Matt Skipper (New Mexico JC) and RHP David Lidyard (Tacoma CC). Games to watch: at Auburn-Montgomery Jan. 27, at Savannah College of Art and Design March 3, Cumberland March 5-7, at Lewis-Clark State March 20-22, Daytona Cubs April 4, South Carolina-Beaufort April 6-7, at Tampa April 17.

#6 – LSU-Shreveport: Most of the Pilots' heavy hitters have graduated, but they will still have reliable pitching: RHP Jared Mortensen (one of five Canadians on the roster, 9-2, 4.13 ERA), RHP Drew Middleton (5-1, 4.63 ERA), RHP Ben Suit (5-2, 4.91 ERA), RHP Logan Norris (3-1, 1.48 ERA) and RHP Cade Bowen (2-0, 2.12 ERA) are returning. The returning position players include OF Cody Causey (.333) and IF Manny Estrada (.330). Games to watch: at Belhaven Feb. 10, Cumberland at Jackson, MS Feb. 10, at Centenary April 24

#7 – Cumberland: Coach Woody Hunt goes into his 31st season with Pre-Season All-American IF/RHP Mike Mandarino (5-3, 4.37 ERA, and .370, 18 home runs at the plate). Mandarino was an All-Star in the Cal Ripken league (3-3, 3.07 ERA, .308 at the plate). Other returnees for the Bulldogs include OF Richie Seaton (.244), OF Antonio Butler (.236), RHP Keith Kirby (4-4, 2.54 ERA), RHP Devin Stovall (3-1, 6.12 ERA), RHP Matt McFarland (0-0, 8.64 ERA), LHP Christian Jennings (1-0, 3.43 ERA), IF/LHP Cody Ferrell (2-1, 4.91 ERA; this is a different Cody Ferrell from the one at Oklahoma City), and LHP Logan Neal (0-2, 8.62 ERA). The Bulldogs also have a long list of transfers, including C Heath Holliday (Connors State CC), IF Sam Lind (Vanderbilt), 3B/C Tyler Wheeler (Connors State), IF Cory Urquhart (Bellevue CC), OF Craig Monson (Everett CC) OF Brodie Ross (Connors State), RHP Mitch Rainer (Hill CC), LHP Chipper Smith (College of Southern Nevada), and RHP Nick Conley (Ranger CC). Holliday is the cousin of Cardinals OF Matt Holliday. Games to watch: at Belhaven Feb. 9, LSU-Shreveport at Jackson, MS Feb. 10, at Embry-Riddle March 5-7, Missouri Baptist March 13-14, at Union U. (TN) March 30-31, Lee April 3, at Missouri Baptist April 24

#8 – Faulkner: The Eagles lost 14 wins with the graduation of R.L. Eisenbach. They'll try to replace him with RHP Damon Porter (4-3, 3.56 ERA), RHP Casey Wilson (3-1, 4.28 ERA), RHP Cory Hamilton (1-0, 0.50 ERA), RHP Andrew Harrison (4-0, 4.44 ERA), RHP Kyle Wyatt (3-0, 2.13 ERA). Their best returning position players are IF Daniel Cayton (.357), IF Brennan Olive (.329), OF Matt Parker (.343), and OF Tucker Willard (.384). Games to watch: Auburn-Montgomery Feb. 17-18, Belhaven March 16-17.

#9 – Oklahoma Baptist: The Bison are the third of four Sooner Athletic Conference teams in the top 25. (Rogers State is #19.) Their key returnees are Daniel Baptista (.386, 14 home runs) and RHP Chad Hardison (7-2, 2.76 ERA). They have a long list of transfers: CF Frankie Rivera (Texas Southern), C Dillon Usiak (Chico State), SS Yael Colon (Ranger College), IF Daniel Howell (Santa Barbara City College), LHP Steven Messner (College of the Canyons), RHP Jonathan Christensen (Cuesta College), RHP Chris Rogers (Cuesta College), and RHP Jesus Carlos (Eastern Arizona CC). Rivera has good speed, Messner is a power arm, and Colon is expect to be an offensive and defensive standout. Howell is the son of Roy Howell, who spent eleven years in the American League with the Rangers, Blue Jays, and Brewers. Games to watch: at Rogers State March 15, Rogers State March 17, Oklahoma City March 22, 24, at Oklahoma City March 23, Lubbock Christian April 13-14.

#10 – Biola: The Eagles (that's four flocks of Eagles in the top 10) return two starters from last season, RHP Kevin Ryan (7-0, 3.79 ERA) and RHP Nick Turner (5-4, 3.35 ERA, 80 K). They will have two more starters, RHP Jeff Grijalva and RHP Chris Baek, who missed the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery. They've added two JUCO transfers, LHP Javier Martinez (College of the Desert) and J.T. Mickelson (Long Beach CC). Offensively, they have All-American and Gold Glove IF Drake Fages (.364, 18 home runs). They also have Freshman LF Mike Chriss, C Nick Covyeau (transfer from Arizona Christian) and JUCO transfers DH Wes Cottier (San Bernandino CC), 2B Mike Annunziata (Suffolk County CC). This is John Verhoeven's 15th season as Head Coach of the Eagles. Games to watch: British Columbia at Redding, CA Feb. 16-17, at Cal State San Marcos March 15, Cal State San Marcos March 17, Concordia-Irvine March 29-30, at Concordia-Irvine March 31, at Point Loma Nazarene April 19-20, Point Loma Nazarene April 21.

The NAIA's National Championship Opening Round will take place at nine locations (to be announced in late April) May 10-14. The Baseball National Championship will, as usual, be in Lewiston, ID May 25-June 1.

Last modified on Thursday, 02 February 2012 12:29


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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