Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

November 16, 2012

Diamond 'Cats tabbed No. 5 in NAIA preseason baseball poll

CLAREMORE — The Rogers State baseball team is slated fifth in the 2012-13 NAIA Baseball Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Tuesday.

It's just the second-ever top-five mention for RSU. The ninth-seeded Hillcats played Cinderella at last year's national championship by unexpectedly reaching the title game. The Hillcats jumped 21 spots in the final poll in 2012 to come in at No. 2. Head Coach Ron Bradley returns 25 players from last season’s squad, including all three starting pitchers from last year’s conference rotation and World Series Gold Glove award winner Eric Baker.  

Defending national champion Tennessee Wesleyan topped the poll. The Bulldogs, who outscored their opponents 68-32 over six games en route to the program's first-ever Avista-NAIA World Series title last season, were awarded 17 first-place votes and 528 points. It's the second No. 1-ranking for Tennessee Wesleyan since the 2000 season.

LSU Shreveport (La.), who reached the semifinals of the NAIA World Series last season before falling to Tennessee Wesleyan, jumped one position from the 2012 postseason poll to No. 2 with 501 points. Third-ranked Lee (Tenn.) tallied the two remaining first-place votes and 493 points.

Three Sooner Athletic Conference opponents joined the Hillcats in the poll. Oklahoma City entered the poll at No. 4 after being picked to win the league in 2013 while Oklahoma Baptist rounded out the top 10. The Bison won the SAC Tournament Championship a season ago. Lubbock Christian is ranked No. 16 to complete the SAC teams in the poll.

No. 11 Concordia (Calif.) and No. 15 Sterling (Kan.) boast the best improvement amongst ranked teams with each program advancing five spots.

Ranked seventh in last year's postseason poll, South Carolina Beaufort dropped a poll-high 14 places to No. 21. The Sand Sharks finished 2012 with a 41-18 record and made the program's first-ever appearance in the Avista-NAIA World Series after winning the title at the Hardeeville Bracket of the National Championship Opening Round.

Five newcomers join the ranks: No. 17 Bellevue (Neb.), No. 19 St. Francis (Ill.), No. 22 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), No. 23 Doane (Neb.) and No. 24 Madonna (Mich.). Of the quintet, only St. Francis and Doane were not ranked last season.

Sixteen of the 21 baseball conferences/independents/unaffiliated groups are represented throughout the Top 25, led by four squads from the SAC. The Southern States Athletic Conference and The Sun Conference are second with three teams each.

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