2015 NAIA Baseball Coaches? Preseason Top 25 Poll
By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Defending Avista-NAIA World Series champion Cumberland (Tenn.) holds down the No. 1 ranking in the 2015 NAIA Baseball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Tuesday. The Bulldogs collected 19-of-20 first-place votes and 560 total points en route to its sixth top billing since 2000.
Cumberland, which finished 2014 with a 49-20 record, won its third all-time championship with a 3-0 win against Lewis-Clark State (Idaho). With the victory, the Bulldogs became the first No. 10 seed to ever win the World Series since the current seeding format was established in 2003. NAIA Hall of Famer Woody Hunt is in his 34th season as the head coach of the Bulldogs. The legendary head coach is one-of-six coaches in NAIA history to register 1,000 career wins. Hunt heads into the 2015 season with a 1,451-608-5 overall record.
National runner-up Lewis-Clark State checks in at No. 2 for the fourth-straight edition with 535 points. Despite losing a pair of 2014 All-Americans in Cody Lavalli and Jake Shirley to graduation, the Warriors return a strong core led by junior pitcher/first baseman Ty Jackson. The Kennewick, Wash., native was 4-1 with a 2.73 earned run average last season, while also ranking third on the team in home runs (7) and fourth in RBIs (37).
The remainder of the top five held their positions from the 2014 Postseason Poll with No. 3 Oklahoma Wesleyan (one first-place vote and 524 points), No. 4 Oklahoma Baptist (503 points) and No. 5 Faulkner (Ala.) (490 points) making up the quintet.
Oklahoma Wesleyan enters the season fresh off a 2014 campaign that saw the club reach new heights. The Eagles fell one game short of playing for the banner in their first-ever World Series appearance and ended the season with a program record 58 wins.
No. 14 Belhaven (Miss.) recorded the largest positive movement in the poll, jumping up four spots from No. 18. The Blazers reached the championship game of the 2014 NAIA Baseball Opening Round in the Jackson Bracket, but fell to Oklahoma Wesleyan, 8-7.
Four newcomers joined the Top 25 – No. 18 Concordia (Calif.), No. 22 Point Park (Pa.), No. 23 Tennessee Wesleyan and No. 25 William Woods (Mo.). Concordia, Point Park and Tennessee Wesleyan were all ranked at some point during the 2013 season. The Top 25 mention is the first for William Woods since ranking No. 23 on April 21, 2009 – a string of 45-straight polls.
The Southern States Athletic Conference – Faulkner, Belhaven and No. 21 Brewton-Parker (Ga.) – leads all leagues with three programs represented in the preseason edition.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences, the Association of Independent Institutions and the NAIA West Group. The first regular-season edition will be released on March 10, 2015.
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Notes (all information dates back to 2000): Cumberland (Tenn.) is making its second-straight appearance at No. 1 and sixth all-time … the Bulldogs were one of three teams to top the poll in 2013 – Faulkner (Ala.) and Oklahoma Baptist being the other two … Ten different teams have held the No. 1 ranking since 2000 … No. 2 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) leads all programs with 53 top mentions, while Oklahoma City is second with 31 … Eight other teams have been ranked No. 1 in at least two polls: former member Lubbock Christian (Texas) (13), Embry-Riddle (Fla.) (11), LSU Shreveport (La.) (6), former member Lee (Tenn.) (6), Cumberland (6), Faulkner (5), Oklahoma Baptist (5) and Tennessee Wesleyan (2) … Lewis-Clark State has been ranked in a NAIA-best 137-straight polls … The next closest active streak is owned by Embry-Riddle (75) … No. 25 William Woods is making its first appearance since the 2009 season … The Southern States Athletic Conference leads all leagues with three ranked teams.2015 NAIA Baseball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll (Nov. 11)
|RANK||PRVS^||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||2014 RECORD*||TOTAL POINTS|
|1||1||Cumberland (Tenn.) (19)||49-20||560|
|2||2||Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)||47-9||535|
|3||3||Oklahoma Wesleyan (1)||58-8||524|
|10||11||LSU Shreveport (La.)||45-18||405|
|17||17||Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio)||44-12||287|
|20||20||The Master’s (Calif.)||37-18||175|
|22||RV||Point Park (Pa.)||40-18||155|
|25||RV||William Woods (Mo.)||39-12||102|
Others receiving votes: Jamestown (N.D.) 98; Sterling (Kan.) 92; MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) 67; Midland (Neb.) 51; Judson (Ill.) 49; Talladega (Ala.) 32; Spring Arbor (Mich.) 28; Westmont (Calif.) 17; Northwestern (Iowa) 15; Bryan (Tenn.) 13; Campbellsville (Ky.) 10; Fisher (Mass.) 10; Mayville State (N.D.) 9; Northwestern Ohio 7; Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) 4; Science & Arts (Okla.) 4.
^Previous ranking from 2014 Postseason Top 25 (June 4, 2014)
*2014 overall season record