The Dallas Baptist University baseball program knows that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. That’s what the Patriots have been doing all season long.

DBU is the only independent team to receive a berth in the this year’s Division I Championship. The Patriots knew they had to work a little harder to earn their second invite in program history.

After being a national contender in the NAIA for many years, Dallas Baptist moved to NCAA Division I in 2006 and within a few years, the program made a splash on the national scene. The Patriots earned their first NCA

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A at-large bid in 2008, becoming the first independent other than Miami to receive a tournament invitation since 1992.  The Hurricanes, who joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2005, have advanced to an NCAA-record 39 consecutive NCAA Regionals.

But the feat is not exactly easy as an independent. There are no automatic bids for independents. Building a case for the NCAA Selection Committee is tough when there is no conference record to compare to other programs.  Even a strong run in a league tournament to get the committee’s attention isn’t possible for an independent.   The only way Dallas Baptist and other independents can earn an NCAA postseason bid is by playing a strong schedule … and winning those games.

“We know that the only thing we have to build our resume is that we have to play a great schedule,” DBU head coach Dan Heefner said.  “The RPI [Ratings Percentage Index] is really important to us, and also wins against top-25 or top-50 programs.  That’s our goal as an independent to play the best schedule we can.”

Fortunately for DBU, several top programs are within driving distance from campus in Dallas, Texas, and the Patriots put every last one of them on their schedule.  DBU has played Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Rice, TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, posting a 6-3 record against that formidable group of NCAA Tournament invitees.

That successful record helped the Patriots earn a No. 43 ranking in the RPI, and definitely boosted their credibility as a NCAA Tournament squad.

“Every single week we can play a top 25-type team and that’s what we try to do,” Heefner said.  “That’s what we have to do in order to get an at-large bid.”

Also this season, DBU has played Washington, Washington State, Atlantic 10 Conference champion Charlotte, Wichita State and Missouri State.

“The hardest part of scheduling as an independent is once conferences start up because we’re just looking for teams that have a bye week, and there are a lot of conferences that don’t have byes,” Heefer said.  “A lot of times if they have a bye in conference they don’t want to travel … they want to play at home.  In April and May, we’re on the road a lot.  It’s great to get quality programs that we can play.”

The Patriots field one of the top offensive clubs in the nation led by senior outfielder Jason Krizan and senior second baseman Tyler Robbins.  DBU ranks second in Division I in scoring, averaging 8.7 runs per game. The Patriots’ batting average (.316) ranks 12th in the nation.  Krizan recently set an NCAA single-season record for doubles with 37 and ranks fifth in the nation with a .431 batting average and fourth in RBI per game with 1.36, while Robbins paces Division I with 1.34 runs scored per game.

“I think our biggest strength is our experience,” said Heefner.  “We’ve got a number of senior players and guys that have been around.”

Experience is also the theme on the team’s pitching staff as senior starters Brandon Williamson and Jared Stafford have combined for 16 victories, while senior closer Chris Haney boasts a 2.59 ERA and 12 saves.

The Patriots’ senior leadership will certainly be tested when the DBU travels to the Fort Worth Regional as the No. 3 seed.  Top-seeded TCU and No. 2 Oklahoma both advanced to last year’s College World Series, while No. 4 seed Oral Roberts is making its 14th consecutive regional appearance.

“We go into those big environments and play the top teams, and they are unfazed by it,” Heefner said.  “They love playing them and we really feel like we play our best against those teams, and I feel a lot of that is because of the experience of the older guys.”

“Getting to play teams like that and see quality arms and play teams that are all over the internet and hear about all the time is exciting, and it’s even more exciting to try to beat them,” Jason Krizan said.

While DBU is used to playing big-name competition, the Patriots are especially familiar with two of the opponents in the Fort Worth Regional.  The Patriots defeated TCU twice this season – the second time thanks to a two-run, walk-off home run by Krizan – and edged Oklahoma on April 19.

“Sometimes, the unknown is the toughest thing about going to a regional,” Heefner said.  “We don’t have that this year.  We play at TCU every year.  We played Oklahoma this year.  We’re familiar with both programs and the surroundings and stadium.  We feel like it couldn’t be a better match for us.”

Dallas Baptist opens regional play against Oklahoma on June 3 at 2 p.m. CT.  TCU and Oral Roberts will follow at 7 p.m. CT.