As others have pointed out, it could be a possibility that your son gets picked up his senior year after a D1 committed recruit decommits or fails to get admitted. It does happen and nearly happened to my son his junior year with an SEC school. However, the big difference is the SEC school had seen my son play a dozen times over the spring and summer…they knew who he was and what he was capable of. Your senior son is an unknown quantity to a lot of these D1 schools in the middle of January 2016. His exposure level was not high for his baseball talent, but the academic D3s were drawn to his ACT score and athleticism. It is going to be a long, long shot if he is going to find a D1 school, and it is going to take considerable effort starting right now. The clock is ticking.
From my baseball viewpoint, you’ve got nothing to lose in approaching these D1 schools. I say go for it. You are playing with house money. But there is something I want you to think about. As you are looking & comparing all these D1/D3 schools…. where/when do you see your son cracking that starting lineup or getting some playing time? I really want your son to be honest with himself. Again, he’s an unknown and he’s competing against known recruits, last years starters, existing rostered players and possibly JUCO transfers. Also give some thought to summer college baseball exposure. This is where D3 players can (and do) compete with D1 players and can get exposure to the next level if he is thinking about that. The college coach will be instrumental in placing him with a summer college team whether it is D1 or D3.
From my academic viewpoint, I don’t know enough about what your son wants to study and what schools may be a best fit. Heck, it took my son, wife and I about 20 recruiting months to figure out our best fit. Some kids know what they want to study and get right to it. Others don’t know what they want to study, and try to figure it out while in college. So, depending on which kind of kid you’ve got I’d gravitate toward the one that best fits him. In my son’s case he wanted as deep and as wide of a reputable engineering school as he could find. He knew he wanted to study engineering but didn’t exactly know which discipline. You son has an extremely good ACT score, and it possible he could use that for an academic scholarship to one of these D1s if they like what they see, and they have an opening. Elite D3s tend to be more need-based financial aid (household income based) while offering very few merit based awards (everyone is pretty smart).
Not to worry, the US News and World Report is one of many lists that has at best a little meaning but is by no means the end all be all. Use it if it works for you. But more importantly understand where your son fits academically and athletically in the grand scheme of things. Your list trumps the US News and World report list every time.
As always, this is just my opinion based on what you’ve shared.