Sam Houston notches first preseason top-25 ranking in team lore

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas – When Sam Houston State baseball opens the 2017 season in February, it will come as a historic beginning for a team not unfamiliar to success.

For the first time in program history, the Bearkats are preseason top-25 nationally ranked, checking in at No. 23 according to Collegiate Baseball newspaper, the publication announced Tuesday.

Sam Houston returns eight positional players from a team that went 42-22 a season ago, capturing the Southland Conference regular season and tournament title in route to an appearance in the NCAA Lafayette Regional.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized nationally,” third-year head coach Matt Deggs said. “This program is steeped in tradition and history. It’s a great university with a great fan base. That’s the expectation here. At the same time, preseason polls are nice and fun for the fans but really and truly the only poll that matters is the last one.”

The preseason poll marks the first time Sam Houston has appeared in the top-25 since the Bearkats entered the 2014 Fort Worth Regional as the No. 25 squad. That season, the team broke into the polls at No. 20 and climbed as high as No. 16 in late March.

According to Deggs, whose career path has included tenures with three programs who have reached top-5 national rankings (Louisiana, Texas A&M and Arkansas), the poll is just the first step in where the Bearkats want to be at season’s end.

“There is a lot of blood, sweat and hard work between a preseason poll and the last one,” Deggs said. “It’s part of our standard, expectation and vision. We want to be a top-25 RPI team in the country. We want to be in the best regional possible and one day host. Where we are located geographically gives us a chance to do that. I think we have as good of a schedule as anyone in the country.”

Sam Houston will play 23 of its first 25 games at home beginning with the weekend opener, Feb. 17-19, against Nevada. The 34 total home games are the most for Sam Houston since 2009 and will include a highly-anticipated three-game set, Feb. 24-26, at Don Sanders Stadium against Louisiana, who appears at No. 14 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll.

The Bearkats, who are the third-highest ranked team in Texas in the poll, trailing only No. 1 TCU and No. 20 Texas A&M, will also host preseason-ranked Dallas Baptist (No. 26), Rice (No. 27), Texas (No. 30) and Houston (No. 35).

Season tickets are currently on sale by calling the Sam Houston ticket office at (936) 294-1729 or by visiting GoBearkats.com. Reserved chairback seats are priced at $225 and general admission seats are available for just $110.

“This is a special place when you look at our support, facilities and where we’re located,” Deggs said. “We fill up The Don every game. It is a tremendous advantage for us. This is the best environment in the league and one of the best in the state. We want to put out a great showing for our supporters.”