The DII Report: LSC baseball fall report
Angelo State made it to Cary, N.C. last season. What can you expect from the loaded Lone Star Conference in 2022?
Welcome back to The DII Report newsletter. Each week, we will delve into the world of NCAA Division II sports, focusing on the teams and student-athletes to watch. Be sure to check out the DII Nation Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube for more insight on the world of DII sports.
THE DII REPORT
(Note: Thank you to UT Tyler’s head coach Brent Porche for new insight on his team. This article was update with the Patriots info on Saturday, Dec. 11.)
Welcome back to the DII Report newsletter. We took a two-week hiatus due to the Thanksgiving holiday and the start of the DII football, men’s and women’s soccer AND women’s volleyball tournaments. While yours truly likes to think he can handle it all in the world of DII, sometimes there is simply too much. So, I greatly appreciate your patience and gratefully welcome you back.
Let’s continue our look at fall ball this week with the Lone Star Conference. The LSC has become known for quality baseball over the years. Whether it was Angelo State’s Josh Elvir tearing the cover off the ball for three years or the high-velocity fireballers seemingly every team has, a true contender for Cary usually emerges from the pack.
Today, let’s break down the LSC in our look around to world of DII baseball.
DII baseball fall report: The LSC
The LSC was another battle in 2021. West Texas A&M and Angelo State fought atop the LSC regular-season standings and then again in the South Central Regional final. Along the way there were some pleasant surprises, like Lubbock Christian’s run to the LSC tournament finals and Oklahoma Christian’s impressive 15-win turnaround from 2020.
Here’s a few players that stood out this fall to keep an eye on as 2022 approaches.
West Texas A&M
Head coach: Matt Vanderburg | 2021 record: 34-9
Hitter to watch: Kennedy Badgett, C — Badgett hit in the middle of the order last year and has put on about 15 pounds of muscle. He has the ability to not only hit for average but will show some power to all fields.
Pitcher to watch: Jack Eagan, LHP — The transfer from Mississippi State sits 88-92 mph with his fastball and has electric secondary stuff. Any southpaw with a really good four-pitch mix — with all four pitches potentially being swing-and-miss pitches— should be on your radar.
Newcomers to watch: Nick Marshall, RHP (Indian Hills CC) and Adam Becker, 3B (Houston)
What Coach Vanderburg says: “We are younger than we have been the past few seasons and could start a couple true freshmen offensively. But if the freshmen play as we expect, and the older guys bring them along by the end of the year, this could be our best offensive team. On the pitching side of things, we lost most of our innings from last year, but with a lot of talented transfers we believe this staff will still be at the top of the league.”
Head coach: Kevin Brooks | 2021 record: 44-9
Hitter to watch: Aaron Walters, 1B — Walters had a fantastic 2021 (.410, 17 doubles, nine home runs and 67 RBI) and is a proven left-handed hitter in the middle of the lineup and returning All-American. He’s a great hitter who handles the bat well and has the ability to hit the ball to all fields with power.
Pitcher to watch: Carson Childers, RHP — Childers has been one of the best pitchers in Rams’ program history. He was used out of the bullpen the last two years but could return to a starting role this year, which he did as a freshman. He is durable and led DII in appearances last year going 9-0. In fact, he has never lost a game in his collegiate career and has one of the lowest batting-average-against of current DII pitchers. Childers attacks the strike zone with a good four-pitch mix and isn’t afraid of the spotlight.
Newcomer to watch: Austin Beck, 2B/SS — Beck hails from Allen High School in Texas. He has great speed and the ability to be a very good table setter at the plate.
What Coach Brooks says: “We return six of nine starters from one of the top offenses and defenses in the country last year. Overall offensively, we have a chance to be as good as we were but the new additions must step up and fulfill their roles. On the mound four of six arms return from the staff that finished second in DII in ERA last year. If everything falls right, we have a chance to return to Cary and hopefully have a chance to compete for the national championship.”
Head coach: Lonny Coble | 2021 record: 24-16
Hitters to watch: Chance Westervelt, DH and Michael DiFiore, 1B — Westervelt was last season's top hitter (.440) in the conference and DiFiore was the LSC's leader in both home runs (19) and slugging percentage (.783). DiFiore has a shot at becoming the Lone Star's top career home run hitter this season. That’s an impressive young combo to have back in the lineup. It’s worth noting that most of the Eagles’ top guys had the chance a couple of years ago to work with former MLB standout Mickey Tettleton, who spent a couple of years as an assistant coach with the team and the hitting numbers shot up almost as soon as he arrived.
Pitcher to watch: Isaiah Alvarenga, RHP — The key to the Eagles’ turnaround was improved pitching and the transfer from East Texas Baptist should only continue that trend. He was a First Team All-American Southwest Conference selection last year and was named as the ABCA's Division III West Region co-pitcher of the year.
Newcomer to watch: Preston King, IF — King is transferring from Hill College in Texas after starting his collegiate career at Division I Texas-Rio Grande Valley.
What Murray Evans (the Eagles SID) said: “I'd think that we'd be in the top four in the LSC this season, along with West Texas A&M, Angelo State and Texas A&M-Kingsville. We need to have more consistent pitching to supplement our offense and our defense. We have more depth at all positions, so a random injury or two hopefully won't sidetrack us too much.”
Head coach: Brent Porche | 2021 record: 25-15
Hitters to watch: Tommy van de Sanden, IF — The transfer from South Alabama is a complete hitter, has some pop, great plate discipline and is really good with two strikes. He should make an immediate impact in the heart of the order.
Pitcher to watch: Dylan Blomquist, LHP — The transfer from Temple College is an athlete playing outfield as well earlier in his career. He sits 86-89 mph and pounds the zone with good off-speed stuff. He is going to be the Friday guy. Said Porche, “Dylan is a kid that comes from a family of coaches and really enjoys working and getting better. He has a frat chance to become one of the best we’ve ever had.”
Newcomer to watch: Mitchell Lee, RHP — Transfer from Lamar University.
What Coach Porche said: “We have some real depth in our pitching staff this year. That was a weakness for us last year, and Coach [Taylor] White and [Ryan] Vruggink did a tremendous job of going out and filling that weakness. We have a very veteran offensive group, and team in general. We are looking forward to a great season in the most competitive conference in Division II baseball.”
Head coach: Nathan Blackwood | 2021 record: 23-24
Hitter to watch: Luis Navarro, C — Navarro led the team with a .405 batting average and showed improved patience with 33 walks for a .509 on-base percentage in 46 games. He had a hitting streak of 30 games during the 2021 season and reached base in the final 38 games. Navarro was also a force behind the plate, throwing out 25 would-be base stealers, which led the Lone Star Conference by 11.
Pitcher to watch: Ethan Coombes, RHP — Coombes transferred from Howard College, but prior to that he played for LSC opponent Eastern New Mexico. With a fastball in the mid-90s, he struck out 82 batters in 55.2 innings pitched while limiting the long ball, allowing just three home runs all season.
Newcomer to watch: Carson Ogilvie, SS — A transfer from Hill College, Ogilvie is penciled in as the Chap shortstop for the 2022 season. In 50 games last year, he hit .396 with a .563 on-base percentage with both marks leading the team. He was good for 10 doubles and 14 homers on the year as well.
What Everett Corder (the Chaps’ SID said): “The Chaps return nearly all their team from a season ago, when they made a late-season run all the way to the Lone Star Conference championship game. They have added some much-needed pitching depth and will also see the return of Ty Stephenson, who was the ace of the 2020 staff but was injured most of last season.”
Head coach: Philip Middleton | 2021 record: 91-26
Hitter to watch: Daniel Hernandez, IF – The righty is a grad transfer from Rice. He should be one of the better hitters in the LSC who will hit for average with a lot of doubles and be a very good defender.
Pitcher to watch: Abanny Garcia, RHP — Garcia was the best arm for the Dustdevils last season and will anchor the rotation again this year. He sits 87-91 mph and throws four pitches for strikes.
Newcomer to watch: Jan Cabrera, RHP – The transfer from Midland College has a ton of JUCO innings under his belt and will step into the rotation. His fastball can range from 90-92 mph and has a ton of life. He also has a slider that is a legitimate strikeout pitch and he’s a workhorse.
What Coach Middleton says: “We will be much improved over last season. Our coaching staff will be in our second year here and had a great recruiting class leading to a much deeper and competitive roster. The Lone Star Conference is arguably the best in the country, and I expect us to compete for a spot in the conference tournament.”
More to watch:
Giancarlo Servin, IF, Texas A&M-Kingsville – Servin is the Javelinas top returning hitter with a career .335 average, 147 hits, 25 doubles, nine home runs, 106 RBI and 30 stolen bases. He was a 2019 First-Team All-LSC, 2021 All-LSC honorable mention.
Brooks Sunny, 3B, Arkansas-Fort Smith - Hit .324 AVG with seven home runs and 24 RBI in 2021. He’s a sure-handed third baseman that added power last season.
Brayden Johnson, RHP, UAFS – Johnson is returning from elbow injury and sits 86-89 mph. He’s an athlete — Johnson was a former wide receiver at Ouachita Baptist.
Logan Garza, LHP, TAMU-Kingsville– Garza is the Javelinas’ top returning pitcher and was the 2021 LSC newcomer of the year, striking out 101 in 61 innings pitched last year.
Mac Moody, INF, UAFS - Hit .390 with 17 home runs and 51 RBIs and was All-Region II at Carl Albert State.
DII football playoff heroes featured on the DII Nation Podcast
Be sure to keep up with the DII Nation Podcast and subscribe and follow wherever your preferred listening or watching pleasure is. The past two episodes have featured Harlon Hill finalist and Shepherd quarterback Tyson Bagent and Colorado School of Mines’ quarterback John Matocha.
Both quarterbacks will be leading their teams in the DII football semifinals this weekend.