By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Defending national champion Faulkner tops the first regular season edition of the 2014 NAIA Baseball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Tuesday. The Eagles, who went 5-0 at the 2013 Avista-NAIA World Series en route to the banner, received 19-of-20 first-place votes and 560 points in their fourth-straight edition at No. 1.
Faulkner has won 11 of its last 12 games en route to a 29-6 record. The Eagles are led by a talented pitching staff that ranks among the top 12 nationally in total strikeouts (4th; 265), opponent batting average (9th; .219), innings pitched (11th; 279.0) and earned run average (12th; 2.68).
Checking in at No. 2 is Oklahoma Baptist with one first-place vote and 528 total points. The Bison, who ranked No. 11 in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll, are 24-5 on the season, including a series win against perennial powerhouse and then-No. 5 ranked Oklahoma City March 20 – 22. The ranking is the highest for Oklahoma Baptist since garnering the No. 2 position on April 12, 2006. Defending NAIA Player of the Year Matt Page continues to terrorize opposing pitchers, ranking among the top 10 nationally in total bases per game (1st; 2.9), RBI per game (2nd; 1.4), total doubles (2nd; 14), total bases (2nd; 84), slugging percentage (2nd; .866), total RBI (3rd; 41), home runs (6th; 7), doubles per game (8th; 0.5), home runs per game (10th; 0.2) and batting average (10th; .464).
National runner-up Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) dropped one spot this edition to No. 3 with 514 points. The Warriors entered the week with eight wins in their last 10 games en route to an 18-5 overall record. Jake Shirley leads the offense with a .405 batting average and 23 RBI in 21 starts.
No. 4 Missouri Baptist and No. 5 San Diego Christian (Calif.) round out the top five with 505 points and 487 points, respectively. The Spartans, who are 22-4 on the season, are making their second-straight appearance at No. 4, while San Diego Christian was previously ranked No. 22. The Hawks are 25-9 on the year.
In total 12 newcomers joined the Top 25, highlighted by No. 6 Georgia Gwinnett. The Grizzlies are making their first-ever appearance in the Coaches’ Poll. Georgia Gwinnett boasts 29 victories on the season, which is tied with Faulkner for the most in the NAIA.
Other newcomers include: No. 8 Belhaven (Miss.), No. 14 Tabor (Kan.), No. 16 Oklahoma Wesleyan, No. 17 Brewton-Parker (Ga.), No. 18 Northwestern (Iowa), No. 19 Union (Ky.), No. 20 Wayland Baptist (Texas), No. 22 Friends (Kan.), No. 23 LSU Alexandria (La.), No. 24 Southeastern (Fla.) and No. 25 Vanguard (Calif.).
Thirteen of the 21 baseball conferences/independents/unaffiliated groups are represented throughout the Top 25, led by four programs from the Golden State Athletic Conference – San Diego Christian, No. 7 The Master’s (Calif.), No. 12 Concordia (Calif.) and No. 25 Vanguard (Calif.).
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups. The second regular-season Top 25 will be announced on April 1.
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Notes (all information dates back to 2000): Defending national champion Faulkner (Ala.) is making its fourth-straight appearance at No. 1 … Four teams held the No. 1 ranking in 2013: Faulkner, Oklahoma City, Tennessee Wesleyan and former-member Lee (Tenn.) … Nine different teams have held the No. 1 ranking since 2000 … No. 3 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) leads all programs with 53 top mentions, while Oklahoma City is second with 31 … Seven other teams have been ranked No. 1 in at least two polls: former member Lubbock Christian (Texas) (13), Embry-Riddle (11), LSU Shreveport (La.) (6), Lee (6), Cumberland (Tenn.) (4), Faulkner (4), and Tennessee Wesleyan (2) … Lewis-Clark State has been ranked in a NAIA-best 130-straight polls … The next closest active streak is owned by Embry-Riddle, who has received Top 25 mentions in 68-straight … Thirty-seven programs received Top 25 recognition in 2013 … No. 6 Georgia Gwinnett, which opened the year unranked, is making its first-ever appearance in the Top 25 … The Golden State Athletic Conference leads all leagues with four ranked teams.2014 NAIA Baseball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll – No. 1 (March. 25)
|RANK||LAST TIME||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||2014 RECORD*||TOTAL POINTS|
|1||1||Faulkner (Ala.) (19)||29-6||560|
|2||11||Oklahoma Baptist (1)||25-4||528|
|3||2||Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)||18-5||514|
|5||22||San Diego Christian (Calif.)||25-9||487|
|7||12||The Master’s (Calif.)||26-8||433|
|9||21||LSU Shreveport (La.)||26-7||419|
|T20||NR||Wayland Baptist (Texas)||24-6||180|
|23||RV||LSU Alexandria (La.)||21-10||142|
Others receiving votes: British Columbia 125; Mobile (Ala.) 91; Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio) 89; Sterling (Kan.) 82; Southern Poly 68; Reinhardt (Ga.) 39; Judson (Ill.) 29; William Penn (Iowa) 28; Jamestown (N.D.) 24; St. Thomas (Fla.) 11; Brescia (Ky.) 9; Westmont (Calif.) 7; Doane (Neb.) 7; Davenport (Mich.) 3; Bryan (Tenn.) 3; York (Neb.) 3.
*Record as of games played through March 23