Welcome to the Neighborhood
Publication Date: December 13, 2005
The New Guys
For the 2006 season, there will be 293 teams counted in the Division I
baseball RPI. For my purposes, that means there are effectively 293 teams
in Division I, although I suppose it's significant that only 285 of those
are eligible for the postseason, if I'm counting right. Most times that
doesn't really matter, since the newcomers would rarely qualify even if
they could, but the recent cases of Dallas Baptist (who is eligible this
year for the first time) and Birmingham-Southern show that it can be a
close thing some times.
Even I, frankly, have trouble keeping up with that many teams. If pressed,
I could probably give you at least a one- or two-sentence synopsis on every
team, but giving you more than that on some of them would be tough (quick,
differentiate between Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac), and I actually care
about this stuff. I can't fix that problem today, but I thought I'd take
one tiny step by introducing you to the three new members of Division I for
this year, all of whom are likely to make noise sooner rather than later.
- Kennesaw State
University is a mid-sized state university located just outside Atlanta.
They'll move from Division II to Division I starting this year; they'll be
postseason-eligible in 2010. They may play spoiler well before that -- the
team has been a reasonable power in Division II, never winning a title but
finishing as the CWS runner-up in '98 and '99, which means they've been
among the best 100 teams in the country some years. Last year they lost in
a regional final to the next team on the list. They'll compete in the
newly-refurbished Atlantic Sun right off the bat and should have a decent
shot at the regular season conference title each of the next four years, much
as Birmingham-Southern was a factor in the Big South from Day One. Of
possible significance is that they are fully able to take advantage of the
Hope Scholarship program; which will give us another data point in trying
to prove whether that helps.
This year's schedule for the Owls opens with single games against
Washington State and Missouri followed by a three-game set against Georgia
Tech, so they're definitely not ducking anyone.
The University of North Florida is, again, a mid-sized state
university, this time set in Jacksonville. They, too, will move from
Division II into the Atlantic Sun and be postseason-eligible in 2010.
They've actually been slightly stronger than Kennesaw State in recent
years, finishing as the national runnerup last year. It's going to be
interesting to see what the effect will be of the presence of these two on
the number of bids the A-Sun gets until 2009 -- the new lineup is weakened
by the UCF departure, and there may be a psychological effect on the
committee if a bubble team finishes, say, fourth behind KSU and UNF instead
of second in the regular season.
The Ospreys' schedule includes three games at LSU and singles with all of
Miami, Florida, and Florida State; again, they're trying to come in with a
Stephen F. Austin State University dropped baseball after the 1995
season, when they went 2-40 including 0-24 in the Southland. They'll start
the program back up this year playing an aggressive slate including Baylor,
Houston, Arkansas, and Tulane. They're being coached by former TCU
assistant Donnie Watson. The Lumberjacks' prospects are probably the
dimmest of the new pack, because of the hazards inherent in essentially
starting from scratch, but they are eligible for the postseason immediately
because it's a new start rather than a reclassification, and the roster is
heavy with JuCo transfers, so anything is possible, and there are no
inherent reasons that they can't compete in the Southland in the long run.
SFA is a, you guessed it, mid-sized state university located in
Nacogdoches, in East Texas.
By the way, Sacred Heart is the one in Fairfield, while Quinnipiac is
the only one that starts with 'Q', silly.
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