Wichita State Shockers

Missouri Valley adds Dallas Baptist for baseball beginning in 2014

Missouri Valley Conference baseball improved during Dallas Baptist’s trial run as a member. That trial run officially earned an upgrade and extension on Monday.

The Valley announced the acceptance of Dallas Baptist as an affiliate member for baseball. The President’s Council affirmed the recommendation made by athletic directors, senior women’s administrators and faculty representatives to add Dallas Baptist for at least six seasons beginning with 2014.

“The addition of Dallas Baptist makes us stronger,” commissioner Doug Elgin said in a news release. “Their addition to our conference as an affiliate member in baseball will strengthen our position in the national landscape.”

Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson advocated for Dallas Baptist’s inclusion for almost two years.

“I think anything that can make our league stronger is a plus,” he said. “They certainly will make our league stronger.”

The Patriots, previously an independent in baseball, made a strong case for that in 2012. They played three-game series against seven of the eight MVC baseball-playing schools, going 14-7, as part of a scheduling agreement. Dallas Baptist went 41-19 and earned an NCAA regional at-large bid.

The MVC benefited and compiled a No. 6 power ranking (RPI) and put five schools in the top 85 of the NCAA’s RPI rankings. Two MVC schools earned at-large bids. Dallas Baptist finished the season with an RPI ranked No. 23.

Dallas Baptist won its way to a super regional in 2011. It is 249-151 in seven seasons as an NCAA Division I independent with three NCAA berths.

“The Missouri Valley Conference is a perfect fit,” Patriots coach Dan Heefner said in a news release.

The addition also helps MVC schools by filling an eighth conference weekend. It is difficult to find good opponents for a series in April and May, sometimes forcing Valley schools to play opponents from a lower NCAA division.

Dallas Baptist is a member of the NCAA Division II Heartland Conference — of which Wichita’s Newman University is also a member — in all other sports. It is a private university with an enrollment of almost 6,000 students.

Conference realignment cost the MVC its chance at adding Dallas Baptist, and then handed the opportunity right back last fall.

In September, Dallas Baptist announced it was joining the Western Athletic Conference for the 2013 season. The MVC hesitated to offer membership, opening the door for Dallas Baptist to consider options. The WAC, with nearby members, looked more convenient for travel. Soon after, WAC membership changed and the Texas schools that once provided Dallas Baptist attractive rivals scattered to other conferences. Dallas Baptist will play a WAC schedule in 2013.