Cal Baptist Still On Top; No New Teams Join NAIA Poll
By Johnny Miller
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – California Baptist continues to sit on top in the seventh regular-season edition of the 2011 NAIA Softball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Tuesday. The Lancers have been the No. 1 team for 23-straight polls and the unanimous choice in all seven regular-season editions in 2011. No. 2 California State-San Marcos and No. 3 William Carey (Miss.) swap positions, while No. 4 Central Baptist (Ark.) and No. 5 Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) have a lockdown on their spots.
The final Coaches’ Top 25 Poll and 32 National Championship qualifiers will be announced on May 10 by 3:00 p.m. CDT. The National Championship pool play assignments and schedule will be announced on May 11 by 3 p.m.
The biggest positive movement occurred with No. 8 Azusa Pacific (Calif.), who improved four spots from last week. With 522 total points, the Cougars are sitting in their best position this season. Fellow conference member No. 10 Concordia (Calif.) was hit with the biggest drop. The Eagles fell five spots after five-straight losses in the last two weeks. Four of those setbacks came at the hands of nationally ranked Azusa Pacific and No. 1 California Baptist.
California Baptist boasts 684 total points and all 24 first-place votes this week. The Lancers finished off t he regular season with a doubleheader sweep of then-No. 5 Concordia on April 28 and finished with a NAIA-best 55-3 mark. They head into the GSAC Tournament as the No .1 seed and unprecedented champions of the regular season for eight-consecutive years. On Tuesday, California Baptist hosts either Vanguard (Calif.) or Biola (Calif.) in the first round of the tournament. Since the Lancers were ranked No. 1 starting on March 24, 2009, they hold a 150-10 (.938) overall record.
Achieving its highest position this year, No. 2 California State-San Marcos has been in the top 10 in each poll this year. The Cougars collected 648 total points and finished the regular season at 39-7. Starting on Thursday, California State-San Marcos hosts the Association of Independent Institutions (AII) Tournament and will play as the No. 1 seed.
Third-ranked William Carey finished with 643 total points and fell one spot. The Lady Crusaders dropped a decision to No. 16 Shorter (Ga.) on April 29 in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Championship. With a 50-6 overall record, William Carey will await to see who their opponent will be in the National Championship, to be played from May 19-25 in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Behind a 14-game winning streak, No. 4 Central Baptist holds its spot this week. The Mustangs posted 619 total points and will participate in the AII Championship, starting on Thursday. Central Baptist has the best winning percentage in the country with a 49-2 record (.961).
One week after its first top-five ranking, Trevecca Nazarene continues to be included in the fifth spot. The Trojans have won 14-straight games and hold the No. 1 seed in the upcoming TranSouth Athletic Conference tournament, which begins on Tuesday in Henderson, Tenn. Trevecca Nazarene earned 595 total points in the poll and takes a 42-3 mark into the postseason.
Thirteen conferences and unaffiliated groupings are represented in the poll. The SSAC continues to dominate with the most ranked clubs in five: William Carey, No. 7 Belhaven (Miss.), No. 12 Brenau (Ga.), No. 16 Shorter (Ga.) and No. 20 Mobile (Ala.). The AII, GSAC and SAC each claim three teams in the Top 25. The American Midwest Conference and Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference each land a pair of teams in the poll.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conference/independent/unaffiliated groupings.