Unique Challenges for
by Andrew Finley
Independents face unique challenges in college
Many of the top teams are Division I in baseball
only. Although they are good enough to compete with good teams,
many conferences are not interested.
Dallas Baptist University, for example, recently
was close to joining the Western Athletic Conference, but the
WAC decided having a school that was only Division I in baseball
was against its overall philosophy, according to Patriots coach
Independents also have to be strong immediately
because every game counts equally, and most of their games
against top competition are before other teams begin conference
“Most teams can kind of start over in conference
play,” Heefner said.
That’s not an option for independents.
Here’s a look at one of the top independent teams
in the country – and a newcomer to the independent ranks.
From its location in the middle of one of college
baseball’s hotbeds, longtime NAIA power Dallas Baptist has
forged a successful Division I program. DBU arrived in Division
I four years ago and became an active member in 2005. Each of
the first three seasons of active membership has seen the
Patriots win at least 30 games.
Dallas Baptist takes advantage of its location to
schedule most of the top teams in Texas.
“We’ve got a shot to be a pretty good team, but
we have a tough schedule, especially in our area,” Heefner said.
This year’s schedule includes a pair of dates
with Rice, three games with TCU and a visit to Austin to play
Texas. In addition, there are series against Texas Tech and
The Patriots will be led by ace junior Jordan
Meaker. The 6-6 right-hander was a ninth-round pick out of high
school who throws in the low- to mid-90s. The top offensive
player will be junior outfielder Evan Bigley. Bigley, the
younger brother of former Oral Roberts star Dennis Bigley, is
coming off a season in which he hit .329 with 10 home runs and
61 RBI. He has been named to the Wallace Award Watch List.
Le Moyne is a newcomer to the ranks of the
independents. This will be the first season for the small New
York college as an independent after it was dropped from the
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference after 18 years in the
“We were told that our associate membership for
2008 was denied,” coach Steve Owens said.
The Dolphins had been one of the top teams in the
MAAC, advancing to the NCAA tournament in three of the past four
years and posting the 24th best winning percentage in
college baseball so far this decade.
The MAAC let Le Moyne keep its schedule for this
season, so it will play a slate of familiar MAAC foes. Next
season, however, Tulane, Georgia, Troy and others will appear on
the schedule, and there will be no games against the MAAC, Owens
said. This season Le Moyne will travel to play Wichita State,
Kansas and a series against Kansas State.
The team hopes to reach 40 wins. The squad
returns seven of last year’s starting position players.
“It’s a good solid team,” Owens said. “We have a
lot of good players rather than one superstar. We’re not
treating it any different than in the past.”
Mid-week games no longer will be time for
experimenting and giving younger players developmental playing
time. Every game counts now, right from the start, Owens said.
“We’re used to overcoming obstacles; this is just
another obstacle for our players to overcome, and I’m confident
they’ll rise to the challenge,” Owens said.