Surprising Patriots could clinch Super Regional berth tonight

The Dallas Baptist Patriots have emerged as the story of the weekend in terms of the three NCAA baseball tournament regionals being contested in the state of Texas.

Dallas Baptist is a story unique in itself because the university sponsors only baseball at the Division I level, with the rest of its sports teams in NCAA Division II.

Now, the Patriots have distinguished themselves further by taking control of the regional in Fort Worth, beating the Oregon State Beavers and the host TCU Horned Frogs in the past few days.

Of the four teams that started the weekend double-elimination tournament at TCU’s Lupton Stadium, McNeese State (0-2) was the first to be eliminated.

Oregon State and TCU (both 1-1) will play for survival today at 1 p.m. The winner will move on to face Dallas Baptist tonight at 6.

If the the Frogs lose to the Beavers, it would be a shocker felt nationwide. TCU won a share of the Big 12 regular-season title and the Big 12 tournament. It entered the postseason seeded sixth nationally.

Whatever happens, either team from the loser’s bracket will have its hands full, needing a win tonight and Monday to stay alive. That might not be too easy, all things considered.

Coach Dan Heefner’s Patriots, the Missouri Valley Conference champions, are a hot team right now. They’ve won six in a row in a playoff setting.

In addition, Dallas Baptist has won five of six meetings this season against power conference opponents and eight of 10 against the Top 25. On Saturday, the Patriots stunned the Frogs. Down by four runs late in the game, they rallied for five in the seventh inning and one in the eighth to win it.

Christian Boulware, a Dallas-area player in high school, sparked the five-run uprising with a three-run double.

“Our dugout is awesome,” Boulware told reporters. “We are never out of a game. Coach Heefner told us, ‘You have nine outs to make this happen.’ Early on in my at bat, I was just trying to get a pitch I could hit. I knew he had to come at me with a fastball and he did. I was just able to get my barrel to it.

“Everyone is so prepared on our team and that was big time.”

Historically, the Patriots have been a fixture in NCAA tournament first-weekend competition. They’ve played in regionals in nine of their past 10 completed seasons.

Moreover, they’ve reached regional finals in six straight seasons (2014-19). The last time they failed to make a regional final, they missed the NCAA playoffs altogether, in 2013, when the UTSA Roadrunners knocked them out of the Western Athletic Conference tournament in Grand Prairie.

NCAA schedule in Texas

Austin Regional — Arizona State vs. Fairfield, 1 p.m. (elimination game). Winner faces Texas, 8 p.m.

Lubbock Regional — North Carolina vs. UCLA, 2 p.m. (elimination game). Winner faces Texas Tech, 6 p.m.

Fort Worth Regional — Oregon State vs. TCU, 1 p.m. (elimination game). Winner faces Dallas Baptist, 6 p.m.

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