With eight of nine regulars in the batting order and the entire pitching staff returning, the George Fox University Bruins have been voted 26th in the country in the 2006 NCAA Division III pre-season baseball poll as chosen by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, which provides the nation’s most extensive coverage of college baseball.
The Bruins, coming off a 32-12 record in 2005, received 191 points in the poll, two points behind 25th-rated Eastern Connecticut State University (30-13), whom the Bruins defeated to win the NCAA Division III World Series in 2004. Wooster College of Ohio (39-9) was the top pick with 252 points, three ahead of 2005 national runner-up Cortland State University of New York (43-9). Defending national champion University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (46-7) was 18th with 210 points.
The only other Northwest Conference team in the ratings was Linfield College (33-9), which was 29th with 184 points. The Bruins and Wildcats shared the NWC title last year. Other teams in the West Region listed in the top 30 were Chapman University (37-11), 4th with 245 points; La Verne University (31-13), 10th with 229 points; and Texas Lutheran University (35-10), 11th with 227 points.
Although they did not get a chance in 2005 to defend their national title, it was still a record-setting year for the Bruins. They equaled the record for most wins in regular-season play (the 1999 team went 32-8), equaled their best conference record at 20-4, and shared their 7th NWC championship in the last nine seasons. The defense’s .979 fielding percentage established a new NCAA Division III national record, and they set team records for most consecutive wins (15 from March 20-April 17) and most stolen bases in a season (89). George Fox was ranked 30th in the final poll of the season.
Right-handed pitcher/designated hitter Derrick Jones (9-1, 2.50, 73 K’s/.377-10-63) was named First Team All-America and First Team All-West Region as the utility player, and was NWC Co-Pitcher of the Year. Also earning First Team All-Conference honors were shortstop David Peterson (.316-0-31, 19 sb), center fielder Drew Johnson (.365-0-19, 27 sb), and second baseman C.R. Braniff (.363-0-31, 13 sb). Second Team All-NWC honors went to left fielder Daniel Downs (.352-10-45) and southpaw Brandon Rupp (7-5, 3.36, 70 K’s), while right-hander Jordan Purdy (6-0, 4.14, 47 K’s) received honorable mention for All-NWC. All except Peterson, who signed with the Texas Rangers, return.
Back for his 11th season as the Bruins’ coach will be Pat Bailey, the 2005 NWC Co-Coach of the Year (his 7th Coach or Co-Coach of the Year honor) and Greater Portland FCA Coach of the Year. The National Coach of the Year in 2004 for leading the Bruins to the national championship, he takes a 294-132 (.690) record into the new season, which begins Feb. 16 against California State University-East Bay in the Arizona Desert Classic in Glendale, Ariz