Jan. 25, 2008
WACO, Texas -- Baylor baseball received its sixth preseason ranking Friday, landing at No. 24 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. The ranking is Baylor's first preseason ranking in the coaches poll since the Bears were tabbed 21st prior to the 2005 season. The Bears ranked no lower than 28th in this year's six preseason polls.
Arizona State earned top ranking, garnering 12 of 31 first-place votes. The Sun Devils were followed by North Carolina, South Carolina, Rice, Arizona and Vanderbilt. Texas' ranking of seventh was highest among Big 12 Conference teams, while Mississippi, San Diego and Wichita State rounded out the top 10. Missouri came in at 13th, and Texas A&M ranked 21st, making Baylor the fourth highest-ranked Big 12 team.
Mississippi State, the Bears' lone ranked non-conference opponent, was No. 23. Baylor travels to Starkville, Miss., to take on the Bulldogs in a three-game series March 7-9 as part of a season-long, five-game road trip.
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 ranked 15th in the Baseball America Preseason Top 25, 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 PRESEASON USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
1. Arizona State
2. North Carolina
3. South Carolina
9. San Diego
10. Wichita State
11. Oregon State
12. Florida State
14. Miami, Fla.
15. Cal State-Fullerton
19. Long Beach State
21. Texas A&M
22. UC Irvine
23. Mississippi State