Dallas Baptist has become one of the very best mid-major programs in the entire country, and that didn’t happen by coincidence.
Head coach Dan Heefner has done a fantastic job of recruiting some quality talent from all around the state of Texas, particularly on the mound, and beyond that, he has instilled an attitude in the program that they will play, and more than likely beat, anyone, at any time, anywhere.
Some of that was a necessity in the early days of the Patriots’ time in Division I, when they were independent. Because they didn’t have the luxury of quality conference games, they had to go out and schedule aggressively, particularly with the other teams in their region. Certainly, through their years as a DI program, they haven’t been shy about playing the likes of Rice, Texas A&M, Texas, Baylor, TCU, and Houston, among others.
Now that they’re in the Missouri Valley Conference, their schedule is more stable and features more built-in quality games, but that hasn’t stopped them from doing all they can to put together a top-flight non-conference slate of games.
Their 2016 non-conference games are no exception.
Their season-opening series at home features a really good, if somewhat under-the-radar, three-game set against Iowa, one of college baseball’s biggest surprises from a year ago and a team that should be in good position to compete in the suddenly-rugged Big Ten again in 2016.
The weekend after that, the Patriots welcome in Oral Roberts, a program that joins DBU on the shortlist of most consistent mid-major programs in college baseball. They’ll certainly be a game opponent.
The very next weekend, they go on the road for a series against New Mexico. Ray Birmingham’s bunch would be tough regardless, the program has averaged 34 wins per season under his leadership, after all (and would average 36 if not for an outlier 20-win season in 2011), but doing so on the road, at altitude no less, is even tougher.
Two weeks after that, the Patriots take on Baylor in a split-location three-game series. The opener takes place in Waco, with the final two games of the series taking place in Dallas. A setup like this year-after-year could be a nice way to turn this into a big-time rivalry in the sport. Baylor has been down for a few years, but as we’ve discussed before, Steve Rodriguez seems like the right guy to get them turned around.
All of these weekend series are on top of some of DBU’s usual midweek games against Rice and TCU. Late in the season, they also have a midweek game against Oklahoma State, a rising Big 12 power under Josh Holliday.
The Patriots might be a little undermanned when compared to last season. With all they lost on the pitching staff, there are going to be some bumps in the road, and there will be a learning curve for the team. But don’t be surprised if they are right back in the thick of things come May, in large part thanks to the rigors of their competitive non-conference slate.