By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Defending national champion Tennessee Wesleyan tops the 2012-13 NAIA Baseball Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Tuesday. 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. The Pilots return NAIA First Team All-America selection Kyle Pearson, who ended last season ranked amongst the top 15 nationally in doubles (22), runs scored (66), total bases (151), home runs (14), slugging percentage (.712) and RBIs (66). He also boasted a perfect (1.000) fielding percentage en route to a mention on the Rawlings-NAIA Gold Glove Team.
Third-ranked Lee (Tenn.) tallied the two remaining first-place votes and 493 points, while No. 4 Oklahoma City and No. 5 Rogers State (Okla.) garnered 486 points and 454 points, respectively, to round out the top five. It's just the second-ever top-five mention for Rogers State. The ninth-seeded Hillcats played Cinderella at last year's national championship by unexpectedly reaching the title game.
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 Sooner Athletic Conference - Oklahoma City, Rogers State, No. 10 Oklahoma Baptist and No. 16 Lubbock Christian (Texas). The Southern States Athletic Conference and The Sun Conference are second with three teams each.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences/independents/unaffiliated groups. The first regular-season Top 25 will be announced on March 26, 2013.
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Notes (All information dates back to 2000 season): Tennessee Wesleyan earned the No. 1 ranking for the second time in school history ... The Bulldogs are the fifth different team to claim the No. 1 preseason ranking, dating back to 2000 ... Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) boasts the most preseason No. 1 rankings with eight, while Oklahoma City and Cumberland (Tenn.) have held it twice ... Lee (Tenn.) has now been ranked for 63-consecutive polls ... The last time the Flames went unranked was March 22, 2006 ... Lewis-Clark State leads all teams with 53 all-time No. 1 mentions, followed by Oklahoma City (28), Lubbock Christian (13), Embry-Riddle (Fla.) (11), LSU Shreveport (La.) (6), Cumberland (4) and Lee (3) ... Oklahoma City last went unranked in the 2009 preseason poll, but has been rated no lower than seventh since ... No. 5 Rogers State (Okla.) receives its second all-time top five ranking ... No. 23 Doane (Neb.) is ranked for the first time.