West Regional Preview

Cal Lutheran will be looking to pile it on as they attempt to repeat as National Champions.
d3photography.com photo by Larry Radloff

by Ralph Turner
for D3baseball.com

Winning is fun, and the West Region has been winning. Three teams from different conferences have claimed the Walnut and Bronze in the last five seasons. Cal Lutheran emphasized team spirit and family through the 2017 season. The chemistry worked for Coach Marty Slimak’s Kingsmen who swept the Tyler Regional and took two games on the final day to beat Washington and Jefferson to claim the 2017 title.

Preseason favorites to return to the Regional include Cal Lutheran, Redlands, La Verne and Chapman from the SCIAC, Pacific Lutheran, 2013 Champion Linfield and Whitworth from the Northwest Conference, Centenary, 2016 Champion Trinity (Texas), Texas Lutheran and Southwestern from the SCAC, and Texas-Tyler, Texas-Dallas and Concordia-Texas from the ASC. Baseball in the West is ready as George Fox opens in Austin, Texas against Concordia-Texas on February 1st!

New Faces

J.C. Bunch brings a wealth of experience to his
first year
with Southwestern.
Trinity(Texas) athletics photo

J. C. Bunch; Southwestern: Bunch arrives in Georgetown following 11 seasons as the assistant coach at SCAC rival Trinity. Bunch helped Trinity to seven SCAC championships during his tenure in San Antonio. While managing the offensive side of the program, he mentored 64 All-SCAC selections, including 54 first-teamers and three SCAC Players of the Year. A four-year letter winner at Trinity (1998-2001), Bunch earned All-SCAC honors four times and twice was named all-region. He hit .400 with 30 home runs while in the Alamo City. The .475 batting average posted during his freshman campaign ranks as the second-best in program annals. He also was named to the SCAC 15th Anniversary Baseball Team in 2006.

C. J. Perry; Whitworth: Perry takes over for Dan Ramsay, who guided the Whitworth program for the previous nine years and is leaving the school to become the manager of the Minnesota Twins’ minor league team in the Gulf Coast League. Perry was promoted after four seasons as Whitworth’s top assistant coach with responsibilities for pitchers, outfielders and strength and conditioning. Perry graduated from Whitworth in 2012 and was a starting pitcher for the Pirate squad that advanced to the Division III World Series. In 2016 Whitworth’s pitchers led all of NCAA Division III in walks per nine innings (2.07) and that staff posted the lowest team ERA (3.95) since the school became NCAA Division III members in 1998.

Matt Kosderska; Lewis and Clark: Kosderka, a long-time coach in the Portland area and Northwest Conference, has been selected to lead the Lewis & Clark Pioneers program, the 11th head coach in program history. Kosderka joins the Pioneers after four seasons with the Willamette Bearcats, his alma mater, where he served as an assistant coach following 10 seasons as the head coach at Wilsonville High School. "I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to be the next head coach of Lewis & Clark baseball," said Kosderka, who was a Northwest Conference Player of the Year and All-American while competing for Willamette in the 1990s. "Having coached in the conference for the past four seasons, I know the potential this program has to be successful."

Stan Manley; Linfield. Linfield alumnus and accomplished high school baseball coach Manley takes over the Linfield program from long-time manager Scott Carnahan, who retired following the 2017 season. Manley served as lead assistant coach under Carnahan over the past two seasons, helping Linfield capture the 2017 Northwest Conference regular-season and tournament championships. Manley boasts extensive coaching experience at the high school level. In 14 seasons (1991-99 and 2011-15) as head coach at Sheldon High School in Eugene, he guided Sheldon to five league titles, two state championships and an overall record of 241-140. Manley was a three-year baseball letter winner at Linfield and helped the Wildcats capture the NWC championship his senior season. He graduated in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in business.

Games to Watch in 2018

February 1-4: George Fox, Rhodes, and Pacific Lutheran visit Concordia-Texas in the Concordia Classic.
February 2,3: Linfield visits Cal Lutheran in the opening weekend for both teams.
February 9: Chapman plays Texas-Dallas in the Tucson Cactus Classic.
February 16-18: Texas-Tyler hosts Whitworth, Concordia-Texas, and Trinity (Texas).
March 8-11: Centenary (La.) travels to Southern California for three games with Chapman, Cal Lutheran, and Redlands.
March 30-31: Cal Lutheran and Chapman meet for a key SCIAC matchup.
April 28-29: Trinity (Texas) takes on Centenary (La.) that could decide the SCAC title.

Conference Previews

Ryan Cheatham was a standout in his first
with the Patriots, pitching in 15 games
and being elected to the D3Baseball.com
All-Region team.

Texas-Tyler athletics photo

American Southwest Conference: No. 16 Texas-Tyler went 39-9 in 2017 won the 2017 regular season and tourney, earning a Pool A bid to the Regional held on their home field. In his second season for the Texas-Tyler Patriots Coach Brent Porche hopes to improve on that performance. He returns six starters and 24 overall to replace seven All-ASC players who graduated. Outfielder Ben Romines (.329, 34R, 47H; 20 RBI, FA .986), first baseman Alex Bishop (.339, 26R, 41H, 25 RBI, FA .990) and starting pitcher Ryan Cheatham (9-0, 3.33 ERA, 81.0 IP, 43 BB, 52 K) should take the lead for the three-time defending champions. The 2018 ASC conference tourney is the top 8 teams in two brackets, double elimination on May 4-6 with the winners meeting on May 11-12 for a best-of-3 for the Pool A bid.

The No. 22 Texas-Dallas Comets went 33-11 in 2017 and won most of the 2017 ASC postseason honors. Coach Shane Shewmake was Coach of the Year. Starting pitcher Jamie Androit (10-0, 2.70 ERA, 83.1 IP, 80 K, 20 BB) was ASC Pitcher of the Year. First baseman Barry Casey (.405, 46R, 75H, 8 HR, 54 RBI, FA .992) was Newcomer of the Year. Shortstop Isaiah Swann (BA .395; 43R; 60H; 10 doubles) was Freshman of the Year. UT-D returns Pre-season All American OF Josh Covey (BA .414; 67R; 76H; 24 RBI) and four other All-ASC players including 2B Ryan Burciaga (29 games before injury; BA .402; 35R; 49H; 15 doubles; 38 RBI FA .971), Third baseman Connor Scruggs (.381, 37R, 64H, 14 doubles, 50 RBI), Outfielder Luke Richter (.385, 37R, 65H, 12 doubles, 38 RBI), and starting pitcher Ruben Renteria (9-1, 2.45 ERA, 6 CG, 77.0 IP, 25 BB. 54 K). Newcomers include C/DH Dylan Palmer; 1B/OF Matt Gonzalez from Stephen F Austin and reliever Justin Garrett. UT-D returns starting pitching with a cumulative 33-1 record. The Comets seem primed to make a deep run in May.

Coach Tommy Boggs’ Concordia-Texas Tornados went 31-18 and earned a Pool C bid to the 2017 West Regional and were eliminated by Cal Lutheran by a bases-loaded grounder to first base. Just how they earned their Pool C bid came down to a pair of wins against a regionally ranked Concordia-Chicago in February 2017 and the Tornados have the Cougars on their schedule again. In addition to Concordia-Chicago, the Tornados have a stellar non-conference slate against George Fox, Pacific Lutheran, Rhodes, Cal Lutheran, Redlands, Chapman, Washington (Mo.), Concordia-Chicago, Webster and Trinity. Every team in that list has made the NCAA playoffs in the last 10 seasons. Key returners for the Tornados include outfielder Caleb Maddox (.331, 20R, 51H, 12 doubles, 26 RBI), outfielder Michael Evan (.371, 38R, 62H 14 doubles; 43 RBI), first baseman Bret Leiferman (.390) and reliever Justin Traxler (4-4, 3.31 ERA, 73.1 IP, 13 BB, 60 K, 3 saves).

East Texas Baptist took Texas-Tyler to extra innings in the ASC Championship tourney. The Tigers lost ASC Player of the Year and All-American Connor Combs to graduation following the 2017 season. The Tigers return 10 starters and 24 lettermen including catcher Casey Combs (.319, 37H, 23 R, 28 RBI), outfielder Zach Gartner (.362, 55H, 52R, 10 HR, 50 RBI), second baseman Dylan Sumpter (.278, 39R, 35 H, FA .950), and righthanded starter Blake Corbin (3-1, 4.56 ERA, 47.1 IP, 12 BB, 20 K). Newcomer/JUCO transfer Seth Mikeska should find a starting spot at third for head coach Jared Hood.

Jared Evans will be the starting right fielder
when Linfield takes the field in their season
opener with No. 2 Cal Lutheran.

Linfield athleics photo

Howard Payne Coach Stephen Lynn has taken the Yellow Jackets to the ASC post-season tourney the last four seasons. He counts on eight starters and 30 returners including third baseman David Groves (.337, 31H, 27R, 18 RBI) and outfielder Zach Gartner (.362, 55H, 52R, 10 HR, 50 RBI) to continue the progress of the program.

TEAM TO BEAT: Texas-Tyler

Northwest Conference: There were three coaching changes in the NWC this year and for two, Linfield and Whitworth have gone to the NCAA postseason in this decade. The NWC tourney is early, April 20-22, so we find out one of the playoff bids early. Defending champion Linfield hired an alumnus to replace Scott Carnahan as head coach. Stan Manley greets 10 starters and 21 lettermen. The Wildcats will be led by All-American Cason Cunningham (5-1, 2.13 ERA, 84.1 IP, 39 BB, 104 K) and pitcher Cal Neely (6-1, 3.00 ERA, 60 IP, 28 BB, 40 K, 2 saves). In 2017, reliever Matt Strang went 5-3 with 43.1 IP; 34K; 12 BB; 2 saves and an ERA of 3.95. Position players to watch include infielder Colton Robinson (.327, 12R, 18 H), second baseman Brady Rediger (.361, 46R, 69H, 8 doubles, 4 HR, 22 RBI, FA .971) and all-NWC Sophomore designated hitter Levi Horner-Villa (.286, 24H, 11R, 13 RBI).

Whitworth Pirates Coach C.J. Perry will take over a Pirate squad that finished 24-17 in 2017. Perry finds 23 returners including three starting pitchers and four position players back for 2018 plus a strong recruiting class. This may be the deepest pitching staff Whitworth has had in recent memory. Righty Hugh Smith, all-NWC in 2016 as a freshman, was dominant for the wooden bat summer league Wenatchee Applesox last summer (2016 stats: 6-1, 2.57 ERA, 77 IP, 48 K). Righthanded starter Matthew Young (5-2, 3.06 ERA, 79.1 IP, 71H, 11 BB, 44 K) was second team all-NWC as a freshman last year. Freshmen expected to help in the rotation this spring include Austin Rice (LHP) and Jake Briones (RHP). Other players to watch include second team All-NWC shortstop Joel Condreay (.326, 26R, 44H, 7 doubles, 14 RBI) and outfielder JT Phelan (.278, 18R, 25H, 7 doubles, 15 RBI).

Willamette could a dark horse for the NWC title. The Bearcats were 28-14 in 2017, for head coach Aaron Swick, a turnarround from their .500 record in his previous 8 seasons. The Bearcats return virtually everyone from a team that lost to Linfield in the NWC Conference finals. Their top returners are starting pitcher Matt Steindorf (8-2, 3.87 ERA, IP 88.1) and outfielder Connor Bailey OF (.351, 11 doubles, 26 HR).

Pacific Lutheran (25-14) is always considered a contender going into the 2018 season. Coach Nolan Soete needs good performances from third baseman Anthony Gosline (.357, 46H, 16 doubles, 22 RBI), outfielder Connor Cantu (.283, 31R, 32H, 16 RBI) and first baseman Jacob Bockelie (.333, 20R, 41H, 8 doubles, 19 RBI). On the mound, watch for starter Chad Gideon (5-2, 2.97 ERA, 69.2 IP, 59H, 26 BB, 40 K) and reliever Andrew Curran (5-2, 1.90 ERA, 1 save, 23.2 IP, 9 BB, 18 K).

Lewis and Clark’s head coach Matt Kosderka has a good foundation upon which to build his program. Of the 11 student-athletes who played in the most games last season, six position players were juniors or younger and are scheduled to be back next season. All six pitchers who made the most appearances in 2017 are expected to return as well. Look for outfielder Sean Shepherd (.322, 23R, 49H, 5 HR, 21 RBI) and starting pitcher Robert Reaser (3-5, 4.40 ERA, 75.2 IP, 29 BB, 66 K) to lead the Pioneers in 2018.

TEAM TO BEAT: Linfield

Outfielder Rafe Chaumette stole 10 bases for the
Trinity (Texas) Tigers in 2017
Trinity (Texas) athletics photo

Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference: After years of knocking on the SCAC’s title room door, No. 20 Centenary defeated Trinity (Texas) in the SCAC tourney to win the 2017 title. In the West Regional they finished third behind eventual National Champion Cal Lutheran and Concordia-Texas. Observers may speculate that the three-week layoff after the conference tourney may have hurt their momentum and the layoff will be shorter as the conference tourney is a week later this year. D3baseball.com 2017 West Region Coach of the Year, Mike Diaz has two preseason All-Americans returning for Gents. Behind the plate is workhorse first team catcher Chris Zapata (.391, 70 H, 37R, 17 doubles, 12 HR, FA .991) who started 45 games last season. Designated hitter Cody Crowder (.382, 45R, 65H, 14 doubles, 5 triples, 41 RBI) earned second team honors in the preseason D3baseball.com honor role. They will be joined by second baseman Andrew Russell (.347, 38R, 52H, 22 RBI, FA .973), starting pitcher Kaleb Kirk (11-3, 2.83 ERA, IP 95.1, 85H, 28 BB, 90K, OBA .239) and starting pitcher Mathew Devillier (11-1, 2.98 ERA, 87.2 IP, 21 BB, 59 K, OBA .284).

No. 21 Trinity (Texas) graduated most of the 2016 National Championship team, so the 2017 rebuilding year went (28-16) for a second-place finish in the SCAC. The Tigers took Centenary to the final game of the SCAC tournament and have nine starters and 35 letterwinners from the 2017 team. The Tigers have an unproven defense but are deep elsewhere. Following a strong performance with a young team, Coach Scannell is poised to return the team to national prominence. He will be looking for leadership from outfielders Rafe Chaumette (.344, 29R, 56H, 12 doubles, 4 triples, 38 RBI) and Jake Martin (.350, 41R, 63H, 11 doubles, 4 HR, 33 RBI). In the 2017 season, Coach Scannell had 13 pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched. From that depth, look for Kevin Flores (7-3, 2.03 ERA, 57.2IP, 20 BB, 46 K, 2 saves) and James Nittoli (2-1, 47.2 IP, 20 BB, 40 K) to lead.

Texas Lutheran went 21-19 to tie Trinity (Texas) for second in the regular season. A young team that garnered considerable all-conference selections, TLU seems poised to contend for the SCAC title in 2018. Coach Greg Burnett returns several experienced players who seemed to improve nicely throughout the 2017 season. The Bulldogs will be led by first baseman Tyler Cauley (.296, 19R, 24H, 18 RBI), outfielder Riley Schaefer (.343, 33R, 58H, 7 doubles, 26 RBI), outfielder Matthew Lemon (.351, 30Rm 42H, 8 doubles, 22 RBI), second baseman Ben Marvin (.327, 35R, 49H, 8 doubles, 25 RBI, FA .959) and third baseman Thomas Varner (.327, 35R, 49 H, 8 doubles, 25 RBI, FA .959). On the mound, the Bulldogs will have starters Dylan Drgac (6-4, 2.54 ERA, 71 IP, 55, 15 BB, 48 K, OBA .212) and 2017 Preseason All-American selection Nathan Malinovsky (5-5, 3.86 ERA, 86.1 IP, 91 H, 29 BB, 88 K, OBA .271). Malinovsky was 9-1 with a 1.97 ERA in 87.0 IP in 2016. If he can regain his 2016 form, the Bulldogs have a go-to guy on the mound.

TEAM TO BEAT: Centenary (La.)

Jared Love starts the season with 151 hits and
is on pace
to reach the 200 hit mark in his senior
Chapman athletics photo

Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: No. 2 Cal Lutheran finally won the National Championship in its third try in the Championship game. After an 8-6 start, Coach Marty Slimak saw the Kingsmen go 32-5 for the rest of the season. Chemistry and family were to two common words that CLU fan used to describe the season. The Kingsmen, who have won the SCIAC title four times in the last five years, return five starters and 18 contributors from the 2017 Champs. Workhorse Nate Wehner will always be remembered for 16.1 IP in the 2017 Championship Series including a must-need complete game win against Washington & Jefferson. His 2017 stats include 22 appearances; a 10-3 record with 3 saves and a 2.68 ERA. Also on the mound are Scott Roberts (6-1, 3.69 ERA, 63.1 IP, 71 H, 18 BB, 45 K), who came back from an early season injury, and reliever Troy Frazier (20 App; 3-0, 1 save, 2.53 ERA, 37 K). Position players include senior second baseman and D3baseball.com Preseason All-American Max Weinstein (.384, 41R, 84H, 13 doubles, 5 HR, 35 RBI) and first baseman Weston Clark (.320, 25R, 55H, 18 doubles, 34 RBI).

It is has been seven years since D-3 Independent Chapman lost to Marietta in the Finals of the 2011 Championship and the Panthers are ready to return to the national spotlight, this time in the SCIAC. In his 6th season at Chapman, Coach Scott Laverty returns 10 starters and 23 veterans to make a run at CLU with a determined, focused, veteran squad. Key players include first baseman Jared Love (.385, 39R, 55H, 18 doubles, 7 HR, 45 RBI, FA. 998), centerfielder Connor Larkin (.310, 40H, 26R, 7 doubles, 3 HR, 16 RBI), and second baseman Aaron Wong, who returns from an injury in early 2017. On the mound, the Panthers look for Matt Mogollon (5-1, 4.50 ERA, 62.0 IP, 22 BB, 73 K), Joey Harmon (3-3, 3.43 ERA, 60.1IP, 37 BB, 53 K) and Tyler Peck (2-1, 6.30 ERA, IP 43.2, 33 BB, 36 K) to be in the starting rotation with Mason Collins (18 App, 4-2, 1 save, 42.2 IP, 15 BB, 35 K) in relief.

After two one-run losses to CLU in the 2017 SCIAC tourney finals, Coach Aaron Holley’s Redlands Bulldogs (27-16) are ready the 2018 season with two Preseason D3baseball.com All-Americans. Starting pitcher Felix Minjares (12-2, 2.30 ERA, 94 IP, 25 BB, 105 K) had 16 appearances in 2017 with 13 starts. His battery mate is 2017 D3 Gold Glove Winner Rainier Aguilar (.424, 25R, 59H, 9 doubles, 2 HR, 39 RBI, FA 1.000). Among the nine starters and 16 returnees, watch for second baseman Will Hall (.325, 31R, 39H, 5 doubles, 21 RBI), shortstop Aaron Singh (.364, 28R, 43H, 12 doubles, 23 RBI, 10 SB), and third baseman Brendan Gardiner (25 Games, 16 R, 24H, 15 RBI).

Coach Scott Winterburn’s University of La Verne Leopards won the SCIAC in 2015 and six starters are among the 29 returning players. Christopher Peres is Honorable Mention D3baseball.com Preseason as utility player. As the staff ace (6-2, 3.04 ERA, 67.2IP, 68H, 26 BB, 64 K) and batting in the middle of the order, Peres put up impressive numbers (.336, 18R, 47H, 5 doubles, 35 RBI). The Leopards will need production from outfielders Christopher Ligot (.337, 18R, 32H, 14 RBI) and Isaiah Cruz (.274, 17R, 32H, 14 RBI). Also helping with the pitching duties will be Christopher Arcos (4-4, 4.96 ERA, 65.1IP, 16 BB, 35 K)

TEAM TO BEAT: Cal Lutheran