Jan. 22, 2008
WACO, Texas -- Baylor baseball will open the 2008 season ranked 15th nationally, according to the Baseball America Preseason Top 25 released Tuesday. This is Baylor's first Baseball America preseason ranking since the Bears started the 2005 season ranked 11th; that team won a share of the Big 12 Conference title and reached the national semifinals at the College World Series.
UCLA earned Baseball America's top ranking, followed by Arizona, Vanderbilt, Mississippi and North Carolina. Missouri was the highest-ranked Big 12 team, landing at No. 6. Oregon State, Michigan, Arizona State and Miami, Fla., rounded out the top 10 in that order. Baylor was the second highest-ranked Big 12 team, followed by No. 16 Texas and No. 21 Texas A&M.
This is the seventh time since 2000 and the ninth time in the 28-year history of the Baseball America rankings that Baylor has appeared in the publication's preseason rankings. The Bears also earned preseason rankings in 1987 (21st), 1998 (13th), 2000 (10th), 2001 (20th), 2002 (16th), 2003 (10th), 2004 (13th) and 2005 (11th).
One of only 15 Division I programs with at least nine NCAA Regional appearances in the past 10 years, Baylor was 35-27 last season. The Bears reached the title game of the Big 12 Conference Championship and participated in the NCAA Houston Regional for the second consecutive season.
Baylor returns six of nine position starters from 2007 and a seventh player, senior co-captain Paul Miles, made 27 starts last season. Included in that group are all four infield starters: two-time All-Big 12 Conference shortstop and 2008 Preseason All-American Beamer Weems, 2007 Freshman All-American Raynor Campbell, Shaver Hansen and Dustin Dickerson. Ben Booker, a 2007 honorable mention All-Big 12 honoree, returns in left field, while Aaron Miller returns in right.
Eight of 11 letter-winning pitchers from last season return, including co-captain and Preseason All-America closer Nick Cassavechia. The Bears also return sophomore right-hander Kendal Volz, a 2007 honorable mention All-Big 12, and sophomore right-handers Willie Kempf and Wade Mackey, both of whom were fixtures on the mound last season. Senior right-handers Randall Linebaugh and Tim Matthews also return along with southpaws William Draper and Drew Jeffcoat, while the Bears add redshirt freshmen right-handers Craig Fritsch and Shawn Tolleson to the fray.
Earlier during the preseason, Baylor was slotted 17th in the Perfect Game Crosschecker Top 100 teams for 2008, 26th in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Preseason Top 35, 28th in the Collegiate Baseball Preseason Top 40 and 18th in the Rivals.com preseason rankings.
Baylor opens its 2008 season Feb. 22-24, hosting Purdue for a three-game series at Baylor Ballpark.
2008 BASEBALL AMERICA PRESEASON TOP 25
5. North Carolina
7. Oregon State
9. Arizona State
10. Miami, Fla.
11. San Diego
12. South Carolina
13. Long Beach State
18. Fresno State
20. Wichita State
21. Texas A&M
24. East Carolina
25. Old Dominion