KANSAS CITY - The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) released the 2014 NAIA Baseball Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll today with the LSU Shreveport Pilots at no. 21. LSUS was picked by the Red River Athletic Conference Coaches' as the preseason favorite to win the 2014 regular season title.
The Pilots are back in the top 25 after only receiving votes in the final poll on the heels of a season with an overall record of 40-18 after beginning the year at no. 2 in 2013's preseason poll.
The 2014 Pilots will be under new leadership as Coach Al Cantwell takes over the reigns as the program's skipper, "Being in the top 25 says a lot about our university and gives credit to what has been done in the past. We look forward to continuing the winning tradition at this great university and seeing what spot in the next top 25 poll this team earns when the next poll is release," said Coach Cantwell. The next NAIA Top 25 will be released on March 25, 2014.
The 2014 squad will be put to the test early and have a chance to improve their stock before the next poll comes out with some stiff competition, especially during the month of February. Coach Cantwell and the Pilots will embark on the 2014 season with a home-opening series against 13th-ranked Northwood University with a four game series consisting of a double-header on Friday, January 31st, beginning at 4 p.m. and first pitch of Saturday's, February 1st, twin bill at 1 p.m. at Pilots Field.
The schedule continues the next weekend on Friday, February 7th, at the LSU Alexandria Generals for a 6:30 p.m. start and then a 1 p.m. first pitch for Saturday's double-header. The Generals will be joining the Red River Athletic Conference beginning for the 2014-15 season and they are also led by a former Pilot, Head Coach Brent Porche.
The tough pre-conference schedule keeps going with the Pilots heading to Cedar Hill, Texas, for a four-game set with 13th ranked Northwood with double-headers beginning at noon on Friday (Feb. 14) and Saturday (Feb. 15).
The next weekend series doesn't get any easier but at least it's at the friendly confines of Pilots Field as the Pilots host for RRAC foe, the 20th ranked Texas Wesleyan Rams for a three-game series. Friday's (Feb. 21) first pitch is set for 6 p.m. while the double-header begins Saturday (Feb. 22) at 1 p.m.
The month concludes with a three-game series as the Pilots host the 24th ranked William Carey Crusaders with a single game on Friday (Feb. 28) at 6 p.m. and a double-header on Saturday (March 1) at 1 p.m.
During the first month of the season the Pilots will also be put to the test with some tough mid-week games that will include the likes of the always competitive NCAA Division III opponent Louisiana College Wildcats (Feb. 12), a national power at NCAA's Division II level-the Southern Arkansas Muleriders (Feb. 18), and cross-town foe-the Centenary Gents who are a force to be reckoned with in the NCAA Division III.
Another hurdle Coach Cantwell will face in his first season as a Head Coach at the collegiate level is that the RRAC is moving from a three-game weekend series to a four-game series which will put the pitching limits to the test. "It seems that finding enough quality of pitching is always the key. I think that the four-game series will help us develop our guys to be ready come playoff time," said Coach Cantwell.