15. SOUTHERN ARKANSAS MULERIDERS (37-17)
Final 2012 Ranking: 18
The Muleriders won the inaugural Great American Conference regular season and tournament championships and made their fifth consecutive NCAA regional appearance. The tournament title came via one of the season’s most memorable moments when OF Jason Dahl hit an 11th inning walk-off home run to deep right-center to give SAU the win over Ouachita Baptist. SAU has reached the 30-win plateau for 12th consecutive seasons and for the 21 out of the past 22 years. Increasing those streaks shouldn’t be a chore for the ‘Riders as they bring back a well-balanced bunch with high expectations and potential.
Head Coach Steve Browning is fortunate to have two of his three top pitchers back on the mound in 2013. SAU will be without Doug Shields who let the team in wins and K’s, but a pair of potential Tino Award candidates will be back on the mound in Magnolia. James Baune posted a 7-1 record with a tiny 2.06 ERA last season and Justin Thomas had a 0.67 ERA with 11 saves while holding opposition to a .146 batting average out of the bullpen. They’ll be reunited with Janson Carr who was named the Valley Baseball League pitcher of the year over the summer after going 6-2 with 69 strikeouts in 60 innings and walking only eight batters. LA Tech transfer Philip Menou will return to Southern Arkansas for his senior season as well after playing in the Ohio Valley League where he went 6-1 with a 1.46 ERA. Menuou, whose game improved over the summer, is also a contributor at the plate as he batted .303 in limited action last season.
The GAC Tournament hero, Dahl had a breakout season in 2012. He started all 54 games and led the ‘Riders in hitting .377. He also stole 13 bases and committed only a single error. 3B Brady Capshaw may inherit the cleanup role in the batting order after sharing time there last year. Capshaw hit .349 and was second on the team with 46 RBI. Also look for veteran catcher Ryan Dardenne to contribute as well as Lamar transfer David Harris who started 30 games for the Cardinals and transfer Jackson McCurdy who earned First Team All Conference honors for the Panola College Ponies.