The Wright State baseball program is no stranger to the national stage after reaching the regional final the last two years, but the Raiders are newcomers to the national polls.
For the first time in program history, the Raiders are ranked after winning two of three games at then-No. 10 Clemson over the weekend to debut at No. 25 in the Baseball America poll released Monday.
“It’s a very exciting moment,” said first-year coach Jeff Mercer. “Certainly for our program currently, but really what it is, it’s a testament to the success the program has had for the last 10 or 15 years. This is for all those guys that put in the hard work and dedication to allow our program to reach this level. We feel very fortunate that we’ve had great players and great coaches for a long time to put us in a position to finally break through and do this.”
Clemson was the 13th Top-25 team the Raiders have beaten since 2007. But it was the first time since WSU knocked off No. 18 Mississippi in back-to-back games in 2007 that the program has won a series against a ranked team.
And it comes in the squad’s first action since losing former coach Greg Lovelady to the Central Florida job in addition to having a handful of players from last year’s squad selected in the draft.
“We lost five guys to the draft, four underclassmen, coaching changes, graduation, all those things,” Mercer said. “But the culture is in place and the belief is that guys are going to come here, they’re going to get better, they’re going to be coached and developed and they’re going to come out the best players they can be. That belief doesn’t leave and that practice doesn’t leave.
“When I was first hired they said, ‘What are you going to change?’” he added. “I’m not going to change anything. I’m going to keep it the same. I’m going to keep the same core values and principles, which is recruit good, quality athletes, develop them the best we can and go out there and win a bunch of ballgames. That’s how we’ve started out, and now we have to continue to do that. And I’m confident we will.”
In addition to the Top-25 ranking, the Raiders received another accolade Monday when junior pitcher Danny Sexton was named the Horizon League Pitcher of the Week after allowing one run on four hits with seven strikeouts in 6.2 innings Sunday.
The Raiders will get another crack at a top-25 team this weekend when they head back to the Palmetto State to take on No. 5 South Carolina for a three-game series that begins Friday.
“Their top three starters are all projected to be first-round, second-round guys, so they’re going to be very good,” Mercer said. “It’s going to be a big, hostile environment, very similar to last weekend, but I would imagine probably ratcheted up just a little bit. It’s going to be the next challenge in a series of challenges, so we’ve got to make sure we’re mentally prepared for that, and I’m sure we will be.”