The 2014 college baseball season begins this week for Southwestern Assemblies of God University and teams across the country. As a new member in the Sooner Athletic Conference they evidently have their work cut out for them.
The preseason poll of the SAC coaches reveals that Oklahoma City University, 49-13 a year ago, is once again the team to beat. The Stars, who finished No. 2 in 2013, begins at No. 5 in the NAIA.
In fact, of the 10 schools who field baseball programs in the Sooner, half of them appear in the NAIA Top 25 Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
SAGU has finished last in the Red River Athletic Conference during each of the past four seasons, but are picked to come in eighth in 2014, its first year in the SAC.
A year ago, the Lions were 13-16 March 9 before tailing off at 14-34.
Under new head coach Sam Blackmon, the Lions will field a younger, rebuilt squad this season.
The 29-man roster for the Lions includes 19 newcomers.
SAGU opens the season at home this weekend when they welcome Hillsdale College to town for a four-game series. Today the teams will play a twi-light doubleheader at 4 p.m. at the Waxahachie Sports Complex.
The Lions and Saints meet again at noon Saturday for a twinbill on campus.
Admission is free at both playing sites for all four games.
The Sooner Athletic Conference is considered a premier league in the NAIA and has a long history of numerous perennial powers. The addition of Texas Wesleyan University and Northwood University from the RRAC only solidifies its stature.
Overall, three teams received first-place votes according to the vote of the conference coaches.
The Stars picked up five of the 10 first-place votes and was no lower than second on any poll, capturing 77 points of a possible 90. Coaches did not rank their own teams.
“It’s an honor and a credit to the tradition of the OCU baseball program,” said Stars Head Coach Denny Crabaugh. “It’s up to this team to earn that honor for themselves in the spring.”
The depth and strength of the league is reflected in the fact the Stars are just one of five current SAC schools to win 40 or more games last year.
Oklahoma Baptist (44-19) is second in the poll, getting two first-place votes and 71 points overall, while SAC newcomer Northwood (44-13) got three first-place votes and 69 poll points.
Texas Wesleyan (42-18) is fourth with 58 points and University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma (USAO) (41-19) rounds out the top half of the poll in fifth with 46 points.
Wayland Baptist University is sixth at 44, followed by St. Gregory’s University at 34, SAGU at 21, Mid-America Christian University at 20 and Southwestern Christian University, in their first season, with nine points.