Dallas Baptist baseball is in position to win another Missouri Valley Conference title after a 6-5 victory over Indiana State to advance to the Missouri Valley Conference Championship.
DBU Head Coach Dan Heefner has his team peaking at the right time, once again.
“That’s the goal is to be great at the end of the season. I think our guys are playing well right now,” he said. “They love competing and love competing for a championship.”
For the first time since joining the Missouri Valley Conference in 2014, DBU must win the MVC title game to make the NCAA tournament, with their resume just out of reach of a potential at-large bid. “It’s more do or die,” said Heefner. “The motto with our guys is that we want to be consistent. We want to be the same guys no matter who we are playing or where we are at in the game. The mentality is always going to be to go out and win, whether it’s the regular season or in the post-season.”
Dallas Baptist University baseball has created a winning culture, as both an NAIA member and Division 1 program (as an independent, one year in the Western Athletic Conference and current member of the Missouri Valley Conference). DBU qualified for 10 NAIA World Series tournaments between 1984-2002, ranking in the top 10 for 16 consecutive seasons.
Coach Heefner took the reigns as DBU Head coach in 2008 season, their third year as a Division I member. Heefner achieved immediate success, as DBU received an at-large berth as a No. 2 seed in the College Station NCAA Regional, becoming the first Independent team to make a NCAA Regional since Miami (Fla.) in 1992.
In 2011, the Patriots were again selected as an NCAA tournament at-large team, defeating Oklahoma, TCU, and Oral Roberts to win the Fort Worth Regional Championship. They came just short of a trip to the College World Series in Omaha, losing to the University of California in the Super Regional. The Patriots made more NCAA regional post-season appearances in 2012, 2014-2016.
The Patriots joined the elite Missouri Valley Conference in 2014, where they have had major success, including a regular season title 2016, and conference tournament titles in both 2014 and 2016. This run in the MVC has including hosting a regional and having an RPI as high as No. 1.
Dallas Baptist and MVC power Missouri State University have developed quite the rivalry, displayed in a memorable championship game last season, as DBU outlasted MSU 4-3 in 11 innings.
“That was a battle, wasn’t it?” DBU Junior Matt Duce reminisced after their Friday victory over Bradley. “That game was just a real battle. Both teams really wanted it.”
Prior to the 2017 campaign, Dallas Baptist lost reigning Conference player of the year, Darick Hall, to the MLB, as well as three other All-MVC players in that same draft.
Most teams would have to rebuild for a few seasons, but DBU was able to pick up where they’ve been since 2008 — in contention for an at-large birth into the NCAA tournament.
“Losing Darick (Hall) was a huge loss,” Duce said. “But Coach Heef always preaches the next man up mentality. He tells everyone that they are going to get their shot at some point and to be ready to go when that time comes. I think you have to trace it back to what we are all about that is and that is development. I think Coach Heef and the rest of the coaching staff they do a good job of getting good guys in, then developing them”
The success at the college level as ascended to the major league, with notable MLB stars such as Ryan Goins, Ben Zobrist and Freddy Sanchez, to name a few.
The DBU Baseball Program’s mission, more so than winning baseball games and conference championships, is creating a culture of servant-hood in developing their student athletes on and off the field.
Examples of this are providing free baseball clinics, volunteering at the Special Olympics of Texas State Track and Field Meet, The Feast of Sharing, North Texas Food Bank, Operation Christmas Child, Habitat for Humanity and missions trips overseas to needy cultures.
“Coach Heef is not only about developing talent on the field, but developing servant men off the field,” Duce said. “He wants are development to reach beyond the game of baseball.”
Coach Heefner stated in a recent interview posted on the school’s website about the importance of embracing serving the community via the platform of college baseball.
“We consider it a great privilege to play a part in the University’s mission of developing servant leaders by serving in our surrounding community. It is something we will continue to do on a consistent basis. We are extremely blessed, and it is easy to lose perspective as college athletes. Every time we serve, we have the opportunity to grow in humility as we put others’ needs ahead of our own. Growing in humility through serving others is one of the greatest lessons we want our players to learn as they go through our program.”