The Southwestern Assemblies of God University baseball team will resume practices for the 2014 season Jan. 13.
Sam Blackmon, entering his first year as head coach, concluded a successful fall camp that concluded with a fresh, new-look Lions team.
The current roster has eleven players from last year’s team to go along with 18 who are vying to make their debut in purple and gold. There could still be changes to the 29-man squad by the start of the regular season.
SAGU will commence a 46-game schedule on the last weekend in January when Hillsdale College (Okla.) visits for a pair of doubleheaders at home on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
The first one is set to be played at the Waxahachie Sports Complex across town while the Saturday twinbill will be played on campus.
The Lions will play 17 doubleheaders and a dozen single games.
SAGU is a new member in the Sooner Athletic Conference, which has ten schools fielding baseball programs this spring. Half of them are ranked in the Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll.
The Lions have 15 games on tap against those teams, seven of them at home.
Oklahoma City University (49-13 record last season) is the highest rated in the SAC at No. 5 in the NAIA. Oklahoma Baptist University (44-19) starts at No. 11.
The next two teams, like SAGU, are joining the Sooner after years in the Red River Athletic Conference. Northwood University (44-13) is ranked No. 13. Texas Wesleyan University (42-18) is at No. 20.
Receiving votes, but not breaking inside the Top 25 is the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma. The Drovers (41-19) appear at No. 33.
SAGU plays each of the other nine SAC teams in three-game series, totaling 27 conference games. Sixteen will be played at home, 11 are on the road.
Of the Lions’ 29 home games, 13 will take place on campus. Sixteen are scheduled for the Waxahachie Sports Complex. It is just north of Highway 287 near the Showbiz Theatre.
Fans can get a quick look at the team when they open with their first 10 games at home against Hillsdale, Central Christian College (13-39) and Wiley College (5-33).
The new coaching staff staff consists of Blackmon, Tommy Benningfield, Derek Fortner, Andrew Rickman – all beginning their second year, and Chris Semprun. The latter will handle Lion pitchers.
SAGU will be led by a pair of senior veterans in catcher Jared Denton and infielder Nick Sheffield of Maypearl.
Another senior, outfielder Tali Fletcher, gives the Lions three players who will complete four years in purple.
There are three other seniors in Jeremy Cross, Zach Worrell and Dej Mathis.