The Flames, who are earning their fourth all-time top billing and first since March 27, 2012, were awarded six first-place votes and 546 points.
Lee enters the week winners of six of its last seven games en route to a 26-7 overall record. The Flames showcase one of the NAIA’s top pitching staffs, ranking amongst the top three in ERA (1.83), strikeouts (260) and opponent batting average (.192). Jose Samayoa leads the staff with a 6-1 record in 44 innings, while Myles Smith owns a team-best — 18th nationally — 50 strikeouts, including a season-high 11 K’s in his most recent outing on March 21 against Southern Poly (Ga.).
“I will admit the No. 1 spot caught me by surprise,” said head coach Mark Brew shortly after the poll was released. “I think we have a team capable of being that type of program, but we really haven’t shown it with any consistency until this past weekend.”
Brew admitted his Flames played like a top-notch team in the Southern Poly series. “Hopefully this will spring us forward with momentum.”
He realized the season has several weeks to go and there are several SSAC and nonconference games remaining on the schedule. “It is important to handle the ranking with perspective. It is a great honor, but we have to stay focused on what we can control as a team.”
The Flames will waste no time in being tested after gaining the No. 1 spot. He’ll take his club to Athens on Wednesday afternoon to face a Tennessee Wesleyan team that is the defending NAIA champs and ranked No. 1 in the preseason. The Bulldogs battled back from behind to hand Lee a defeat some four weeks ago. “It should be a great battle and one I know our team is looking forward to,” added Brew.
Coming in at No. 2 is fellow perennial power Oklahoma City, with six first-place votes and 530 points. The Stars, who jumped two positions since the preseason poll, are 26-6 and have won six straight. During the streak, Oklahoma City has outscored its opponent 46-4.
Cal State San Marcos, which was previously unranked, is No. 3 with six first-place votes and 467 points, while No. 4 Faulkner (Ala.) and No. 5 The Master’s (Calif.) round out the top five with 466 and 464 points, respectively. Similarly to Cal State San Marcos, The Master’s was not ranked in the preseason poll.
Notes: Lee earned the No. 1 ranking for the fourth time in school history … the Flames also were picked No. 1 in the first regular-season edition of the 2012 Top 25 … Lee has now been ranked in 64 consecutive polls … The last time the Flames went unranked was March 22, 2006 … Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) leads all teams with 53 all-time No. 1 mentions, followed by Oklahoma City (28), Lubbock Christian (Texas) (13), Embry-Riddle (Fla.) (11), LSU Shreveport (La.) (6) and Cumberland (Tenn.)/Lee (4) (All information dates back to 2000 season).