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Bo's Baseball Bites 03/10/23

Updated: Feb 2


Recalling Contests of D1 vs D2/NAIA Schools, Who Still Send Players To D1, MLB


DALLAS – Ahh, those were the days in my early career when my first employer, Mississippi State, played the likes of Mississippi College, Union (TN), Missouri Baptist, Birmingham-Southern, William Carey, and others.


Those days ended in the late 1990s, though, when the NCAA more or less demanded that Division 1 conferences play an all-D1 group of opponents, or risk losing valuable NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) points if one of those lower level, but high potency, teams knocked off a Southeastern Conference, Big 12 or other powerful league opponent.


Incidentally, other power conference schools like Alabama, Ole Miss, and Nebraska also slated opponents such as Birmingham-Southern, Union, Freed-Hardeman, Christian Brothers, and others, not simply as “warmup” games before the conference portions of the season but as legitimate non-loop opponents to test team strengths and progress in the early season.


MSU even went on the road to meet Mississippi College in Clinton and William Carey in Hattiesburg, drawing great crowds in Central and South Mississippi and winning some hard-fought road decisions during the Ron Polk era. MC also threw cold water on the 1980 season-opening celebration for the Bulldogs with a 9-8 road win over the defending SEC champion and 1979 NCAA World Series participant. If you read my last column, you learned the Choctaws’ starting pitcher was none other than future Baylor and Tennessee Tech head coach Steve Smith, who also logged time on the staff at MSU.


And a certain MC first baseman by the name of Richie Hines wreaked havoc in Jackson, MS, on the 1985 CWS-bound team of Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, et al, years before sending his son, Hunter, to Starkville to play for the current Bulldogs team.


Besides some of the large group of Major League players from these DII-III and NAIA programs, several successful head coaches came from the small school ranks as well.


In addition to Smith, ABCA Hall of Fame coach Brian Shoop played at Malone (OH) before working as a graduate assistant at MSU and then guiding Birmingham-Southern and UAB to 1,058 victories over 31 seasons. And another household college baseball name, fellow ABCA and College Baseball Hall of Fame coach, Polk played at then-NAIA (now NCAA Division 1) power Grand Canyon (College) in Phoenix, AZ, before initiating his 35-year head coaching career at Georgia Southern, MSU (two terms) and Georgia with 1,373 victories, the most of any coach in any sport in the Southeastern Conference.


Players who have ascended from these solid small college programs to the Major Leagues (just to name a few) have been Collin McHugh of Berry (GA), Tim Locastro of Ithaca (NY), Josh Fleming of Webster (MO), Kevin Herget of Kean, Casey Albrihgt of Lawrence, Stephen Ridings of Haverford, Billy Wagner of Ferrum (VA), Joe Nathan of then-D3 (now D1) Stony Brook, Erik Kratz of Eastern Mennonite, Jordan Zimmerman of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and Tony Womack of Guilford (NC).


And look at the current World Baseball Classic rosters, with the likes of Jake Fishman of Union (NY), Shlomo Lipetz of then-D2 (starting DI in 2023) UC San Diego, Bubby Rossman of Cal State-Dominguez Hills, Assaf Lowengart of Mansfield (OH), Noah Mendlinger of Georgia College, Michael Wielansky of Wooster (OH), Michael Stumpo of Guillory, Malik Binns of Benedictine (KS), Richard Brerrton of Emory, Ryan Long of Pomona-Pitzer, Miles Mikolas of Nova Southeastern, Willie Escala of Barry (FL), and active standout OF Marek Chlup of North Greenville who is getting a “pass” on his No. 1-rated D2 squad to compete for the Czech Republic in the WBC.


And, look at some of the D2-3 and NAIA powerhouses today: No. 1 ranked North Greenville, University of Tampa, Angelo State, Southern Arkansas, among others, in D2; D3 powers Birmingham-Southern, North Central, Marietta (OH), Eastern Connecticut State, among others; and NAIA annual national stalwarts Southeastern (FL, former Southeastern Assemblies of God), Lewis-Clark (ID), LSU-Shreveport, Birmingham-Southern, Texas Wesleyan, and Faulkner (AL).


A number of players who began their college playing career at a smaller school level are also now competing in D1 competition, including Paul Skenes (D3) and Brayden Jobert (Delgado CC) of top-ranked powerhouse LSU.


Sure, it might take a little time and possibly a Google search to find the ballparks, but it might be well worth college baseball fans’ time and effort to check out these programs and the wide variety of talented players competing – some of whom just might be in Omaha, a future MLB contest, or even in the World Baseball Classic.


Trivia Questions taken from the COLLEGE BASEBALL CENTRAL LIBRARY (answers below):

  1. Ole Miss won the D1 college baseball championship in 2022, but who won the D2 championship?

  2. The most runs scored by a D2 school in one inning (16) happened just last year. Who did it, and what was the final score?

  3. D3 Birmingham-Southern has had a player make the ABCA D3 All-American team five times, including 2022. Who was it last year?

Bo Carter is the Executive Director of the National College Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and is a long time professional in sports media and information. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and has plied his trade in the Southeastern Conference, the Southwest Conference, and the Big 12 Conference. In addition to his NCBWA duties, he also serves as a consultant and columnist for the National Football Foundation. Follow the NCBWA, which produces ranking polls for D1, D2, and D3, as well as naming All America teams at both the D1 and D2 levels and the Dick Howser Trophy (presented each year in Omaha at the Men’s College World Series) at @NCBWA. And, if you’re a college baseball fan, you don’t have to be media to be a member, check them out at ncbwa.com and join today!


Trivia Answers

1. North Greenville (54-10), 5-3 over Point Loma (51-10)

2. Tampa, in a 35-4 win against Spring Hill on May 19

3. Ian Hancock, as Designated Hitter


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