As the spring semester wound to a close, so did the seasons for the three Rogers State University athletic programs.

The Hillcat baseball and softball teams completed their inaugural seasons as members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

The RSU rodeo team has been riding the competition trail since 2001.

The results for the teams were mixed, but all the coaches agreed that this year’s efforts will help build the foundation for future improvements.



Softball

Hillcat coach Dawn Reed called her team’s first season “positive and productive” and noted the team’s performance will set the stage for future success.

The Hillcats finished with a 29-17 record, and late in the season were among the top 30 teams in winning percentage among the 170 teams competing in the NAIA.

The Hillcats should return most of the starters for next season. In addition, Reed has signed five Oklahoma recruits who are expected to join the team in the fall.

“Right now, we have the talent and capability to play with some of the best teams in the NAIA,” Reed said. “I think our program is on the verge of greatness, and I expect that we will be ranked in the Top 25 to start next season.”

Reed bases that optimism on her team’s performances against nationally ranked Oklahoma City University (No. 3), St. Gregory’s University (No. 5) and Evangel University (No. 10).

“In the games against our toughest opponents, our team competed fearlessly with determination and a strong mind set, and other coaches and programs took notice of our performance,” she said.

“Although we lost to more seasoned programs toward the conclusion of the season, we competed with maturity and stamina, never losing sight of our team goals. With a little more experience and another recruiting class, we will be right where we need to be.”

Reed also is excited about the opportunity to play the fall home schedule on campus at the university’s new softball field.

“Our facility will be among the best in the state, especially when compared with other NAIA schools,” she said. “Once parents, players and prospective recruits are able to see our facilities first-hand, I think it will definitely enhance our program’s reputation and allow us to attract top student-athletes.”



Baseball

“We played a high-quality schedule against some tough opponents, and our team played competitively throughout the season,” coach Ron Bradley said after his team finished 12-24.

“For the most part, we played well, but as happens with a young program, we just couldn’t finish teams off in the late innings when we needed to,” he said.

Included were losses to nationally ranked NAIA teams, including defending champion Oklahoma City University (No. 2) and Oklahoma Baptist University (No. 3). The Hillcats did earn victories against Top 25 teams, including William Jewell and College of the Ozarks, which had been ranked as high as No. 10 during the season.

“We lost eight or nine games that were decided by one or two runs,” Bradley said. “I think that shows we’re competitive and on the verge of being where we need to be.”

With the completion of RSU’s on-campus baseball park, Bradley said the team will benefit from having its own permanent practice facility and home field.

“There hasn’t been a time this season that our players have practiced on the same field two times in a row, and we’ve played our ‘home’ games in several different ballparks in the area,” he said. “I think that really does have an impact on how the players are able to prepare themselves for games, especially close games.”

Bradley said he expects the new facilities to strengthen the program’s ability to recruit and attract players.

“Everyone we’ve played has been very complimentary of our quality of play during our first year in NAIA,” Bradley said. “And because of the recruiting base available in the area, combined with our new high-quality facilities, I firmly believe that RSU baseball will be a force to be reckoned with.”



Rodeo

Several members of RSU’s rodeo team had short-round (top 10) finishes during its slate of intercollegiate rodeos during the fall and spring semesters, coach Mack Alford said.

RSU competitors were able to make the short round in team roping and barrel racing at several rodeos, including the Kansas State University Rodeo. There were several other times during the year where RSU team members earned top 15 finishes, which would have placed them just outside qualification for short-round competition.

The rodeo team included 20 students from across Oklahoma and Texas who competed in three fall events and seven spring events. Alford, who just completed his first full season with the team, said the team was young, with only two upper classmen. Next year, he expects continued development from the returning underclassmen, plus his recruiting has yielded commitments from several junior college and and high school competitors.

The most significant development for the team will be the completion of RSU’s Equestrian Center, south of Oologah, which will provide the team with facilities. The RSU Equestrian Center also will house the university’s Bit by Bit Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program.

“Having our own rodeo facilities where we can practice and hold events will be invaluable for building a strong rodeo program that the university and the community can be proud of,” Alford said.

RSU has been competing in the Central Plains region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association events since 2001.