By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Before leaving the ball park on Sunday afternoon, Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner had a couple of interesting takeaways from his team’s three-game sweep of the UTSA Roadrunners.
First of all, he praised his players for rising to the challenge and seizing the regular-season title in the program’s first year in Conference USA. Next, he said the Patriots helped themselves in regard to the merits on whether they deserve to be one of 16 hosts of an NCAA tournament regional.
But, most interesting, he said he believes the Roadrunners still belong in the discussion to reach the 64-team NCAAs even if they come up short of the C-USA tournament title.
“I think without a doubt they’re still in the mix,” he said Sunday after his team completed an 11-7, 11-9 and 9-6 weekend sweep at Roadrunner Field.
By Monday morning, it became apparent that the Roadrunners will need to play extremely well in their last four regular season games and in the conference tournament to gain an at-large bid.
And, quite possibly, the only sure way for the Roadrunners to play in an NCAA regional this season would be to win C-USA postseason title in Houston, which would yield an automatic bid.
UTSA’s precarious position became evident when the NCAA Division I baseball ratings percentage index was published overnight following last weekend’s games. The latest NCAA RPI has Dallas Baptist as the C-USA’s top-rated team at No. 15, which is up 10 spots. The latest listing for UTSA is at No. 60, which is down six spots.
Last year, UTSA was 37th after grinding all the way through to the C-USA postseason championship game, where it lost to Louisiana Tech. On the next day, a 38-win UTSA team was not in the 64-team NCAA field despite winning twice on the road in the C-USA tournament against the regular-season champion and top 15 Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
Right now, the Roadrunners can point to a 2-1 record this season against RPI top-50 programs. Namely, a road victory over RPI No. 39 Texas A&M and a 1-1 split against RPI No. 47 Texas State. Also, they have been as consistent in the regular season as anyone in the nation, going 11-1-1 in weekend series.
On top of that, they’re 36-15 and 19-7 in conference, failing to win on the weekend at Charlotte and Dallas Baptist at home. Moreover, they’ve been in the top 25 in various media polls since the first week of April.
Last week, the DI Baseball poll had them at No. 22. On Monday morning, the DI poll dropped UTSA out of the Top 25, while moving Dallas Baptist up one notch to No. 17.
Still looming on UTSA’s schedule are four road games, Tuesday at Abilene Christian and Thursday through Saturday at Louisiana Tech. The C-USA tournament is set for the following week, from May 24-28, at Reckling Park in Houston.
At present, Heefner insisted that UTSA still belongs in the discussion for an at-large bid.
“Yes, for an at large,” he said. “They’ve been really consistent all season long. Obviously, I feel like we have a really good team. (Also), they’ve still got their Tuesday game, they got next weekend (at LA Tech) and the conference tournament. They’re a talented team and they’ve put themselves in a really good position.
“I think if they finish well, they have a very deserving shot at an at=large bid.”
UTSA was 25-5 at home before Dallas Baptist arrived, making the Patriots’ sweep all the more noteworthy. Heefner said he hopes his team’s performance at Roadrunner Field will aid in its desire to host an NCAA regional.
“That’s a thing for the (NCAA) committee, but that’s a goal we have as a program. We’ve done it before, and we schedule in a way that we’re going to really challenge ourselves in a non-conference schedule standpoint, because we do want to put ourselves in that position. I think our guys have done a great job and have been pretty consistent.
“You know, we had one little stretch at the very beginning of the year, and then ever since then, we’ve played really well. I think we’ve played like a (first-weekend) host team.”