June 8, 2011
Dallas Baptist Relishes Trip to Super
By Sean Ryan
up in Iowa City, Dan Heefner (left) knows a thing or two about
He remembers watching the College World Series on
TV, back when Oklahoma State and Wichita State were frequent
visitors to Rosenblatt Stadium. He remembers making his first
trip to Rosenblatt when he was 14 and going back several more
times during his high school years. And he remembers 2004, when
he was an assistant baseball coach at Creighton, coaching games
at Rosenblatt and working all the games of the College World
Series as Cal State Fullerton claimed a national title.
Now the coach at Dallas Baptist, Heefner and his
Patriots are one of 16 teams remaining in pursuit of the College
World Series. Two wins against California this weekend in Santa
Clara, Calif., and Dallas Baptist – a Christian school of about
5,500 students – will go to Omaha to play for a national
“Not really,” Heefner said Tuesday night when
asked if the Patriots’ Regional win in Fort Worth had sunk in
yet. “It seems pretty unreal.”
A day after Dallas Baptist held on for an 11-9
win over Oral Roberts to reach the Super Regionals for the first
time, the Patriots were eating lunch together at a restaurant
when they saw the logos of all the teams in the Super Regionals
on the TV.
“It’s a who’s who of college baseball,” Heefner
said. “Virginia, Vanderbilt and all those guys. And you see our
logo up there. I think that’s when it started to sink in. This
is the real deal.”
The same can be said for Dallas Baptist.
The Patriots (42-18) were one of the final teams
selected for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. An
independent – a team without a conference – in its sixth year of
Division-I play, Dallas Baptist had to wait until the final
Regional was revealed to find out it had reached the tournament
for the second time.
The Patriots responded by beating Oklahoma and
ace Michael Rocha 3-2 on Friday. They came back and beat Matt
Purke and TCU by the same score – their third win over the
Horned Frogs. And after dropping a game to Oral Roberts, they
scored eight runs in the first inning and held off Oral Roberts
11-9 Monday night to set up the most unlikely Super Regional
matchup: a newbie to Division I against a Pac-10 program that
was dropped, only to be saved from the chopping block.
“Honestly, I know a lot of teams talk about going
to Omaha,” Heefner said. “That’s something we never talk about.”
Heefner stresses the
importance of the game right in front of his team. With no
conference tournament, the Patriots have no shot at an automatic
bid. Without a conference, scheduling can be near impossible.
So midweek games against the likes of TCU and
Rice become critical to DBU’s chances at qualifying for a
Regional. The Patriots kept that mindset in Fort Worth over the
weekend, focusing on “this game right now,” according to Heefner.
“Did I ever think about it [Omaha]? No, that’s
probably because we’ve had to be so focused on what’s right in
front of us,” he added.
pitchers Brandon Williamson and Jared Stafford, under the
guidance of respected former Michigan pitching coach Bob Keller,
combined to allow four runs in 17.1 innings against the Sooners
and Horned Frogs. And closer Chris Haney (right) saved all three
games in Fort Worth, striking out TCU’s 5-hole hitter Josh
Elander to end that game with the tying run on third base and
stranding runners on second and third against Oral Roberts with
strikeouts of middle-of-the-order hitters Chris Elder and
Brandon King (both of whom had homered in the game).
“It probably wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to
say that those strikeouts were probably the biggest two at-bats
in the history of Dallas Baptist baseball,” Heefner said.
Offensively, the Patriots are aggressive and
pound the ball, something Heefner did plenty of at NAIA Olivet
Nazarene (Kan.) University where he led the nation with 22
homers and 102 RBI in 2000. Dallas Baptist entered the
tournament ranking 12th in the country in average (.316), sixth
in homers (60) and third in slugging percentage (.495).
Krizan and Landon Anderson had game-winning hits against
Oklahoma (Austin Elkins tied the OU game in the ninth to force
extra innings) and TCU, and along with Ryan Behmanesh (left) had
huge games in the Regional final.
“Our goal and what we’ve thrived on is that we do
drive the ball,” Heefner said.
The Patriots were hoping that QuikTrip Park about
15 minutes from campus in Grand Prairie would be suitable for
the NCAA, which chose Santa Clara University instead. Dallas
Baptist also looked into using Dr. Pepper Ballpark, home of the
Frisco RoughRiders, but Frisco has a night game Saturday and the
NCAA scheduled all night games for the Golden Bears and
“It was up in the air for a while,” Heefner said.
“Our administration worked all day on that. It [QuikTrip Park]
would have been a really good place to play at, but we’re
excited to go to Santa Clara.”
As is the entire Dallas Baptist faithful.
As of Tuesday night, Heefner was still trying to
catch up on messages, e-mails and text messages from
well-wishers. Former DBU star Ben Zobrist, now of the Tampa Bay
Rays, checked in, as did J.J. Trujillo, a former Patriot who
made it to the big leagues with the Padres in 2002. Other
Patriots major leaguers like Freddy Sanchez, Jason LaRue and Lew
Ford surely were proud of the Super Regionals’ biggest surprise.
“We’re definitely in a unique position at DBU,
but I think it allows us to do some special things,” Heefner
said about being a baseball independent that plays a great
schedule. “To have the faith side of it as well. It’s not just a
school thing, it’s a huge part of our baseball team as
well…Unique is the only way I can describe it, and it’s
something very special.”
(photos courtesy of DBU)