Oklahoma City University has been slated as the top-ranked team in NAIA baseball in the preseason coaches poll.
The Stars collected four first-place votes and 481 points to make their 28th appearance as the No. 1 team in the NAIA baseball rankings since 2000 to rank second behind Lewis-Clark State (Idaho). OCU has been listed in 25 consecutive polls and 57 of 59 rankings since the final 2005 ratings.
OCU has been favored to win the Sooner Athletic Conference by league coaches. The SAC boasts four ranked teams in Oklahoma City, fourth-ranked Lubbock Christian, No. 9 Oklahoma Baptist and No. 19 Rogers State.
The SAC placed a league-high three teams in the World Series last year – national runner-up Lubbock Christian, Oklahoma Baptist and Oklahoma City.
“I’ve never been more surprised in my 25 years coaching here,” OCU coach Denney Crabaugh said. “Obviously it’s a great honor and speaks volumes about the tradition of our program.”
The Stars return all-American catcher Chad Carman and left-handed pitcher Rich Hawkins and all-SAC infielder Miguel Beltran. OCU went 47-12 with its 13th NAIA World Series appearance, fourth consecutive World Series trip and 15th consecutive 45-win season.
The Stars won their third NAIA Championship Opening Round tournament and the SAC regular-season crown. Beltran, a senior from Long Beach, Calif., hit .346 with 18 doubles, 13 home runs and 66 RBIs last year for OCU.
Carman, a senior from Midwest City, Okla., had a .323 average, 16 doubles, four homers and 41 RBIs in 2011.
Hawkins, a senior from Edmond, Okla., went 10-5 with a 2.04 earned run average last season for the Stars. Hawkins struck out 61 in 84 innings while notching three complete games, two shutouts and a save.
The Stars led the NAIA with 12.2 hits per game and a .975 fielding percentage last year. OCU ranked second with 150 doubles, 717 hits, a .353 team batting average and 2.54 doubles a game and third with a .556 slugging percentage, 556 runs scored, 511 RBIs, 9.42 runs scored and 8.66 runs driven in a game.
OCU boasts of the most wins in college baseball since 1991 with 1,070.
In 2012, OCU has 40 games set for home among its 56 scheduled contests in 2012. The Stars begin the season against Hastings (Neb.) at 10 a.m. Feb. 4 at Jim Wade Stadium. The SAC Tournament will be jointly hosted by OCU and Oklahoma Baptist on May 2-5 with the championship happening at OBU’s Bison Field at Ford Park.
Stars stand atop NAIA baseball rankings
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