Southern Arkansas didn’t achieve its ultimate goal of reaching the NCAA Division II World Series this spring, but the Muleriders capped off another successful season in claiming its third Gulf South Conference championship and fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA regional tournament.
Under first-year Coach Steve Browning, the long-time assistant who took over when Allen Gum departed for the University of Central Arkansas last year, SAU (15-6) fell just short by percentage points to Harding (14-5) for the GSC West Division title, but went on as the West No. 2 seed to capture the league crown in the post-season tournament, its third in the past six years.
Southern Arkansas entered the South Region tournament as the second seed, but its bats were quiet in Pensacola, Fla. The season ended for them after dropping their first two games against North Alabama and Tampa, while host West Florida captured the region title and went on to win the national championship.
The Muleriders led the nation in walks (302) and batters hit by pitch (120), and ranked in the top 10 in home runs (56), fielding percentage (.971), home runs per game (1.1) and runs scored (422). Junior shortstop Trey Buck led the country in walks (53) and walks per game (1.02), while senior starting pitcher Dan Bream was fourth in wins (12), and senior third baseman Logan Williams ranked sixth in RBI per game (1.3) and seventh in total RBI (67).
SAU was represented by five first team members on the All-GSC team in Buck, Bream, Williams, senior catcher Brandon Choate and junior pitcher Doug Shields. Bream, Williams, Choate and junior center fielder Gavan McCauley made All-South Region squads, while Williams and Choate earned All-America honors.
Bream and Choate became Southern Arkansas’ 23rd and 24th players all-time selected in the Major League Baseball draft, with both going to the Tampa Bay Rays. Bream went in the 33rd round, while Choate was nabbed in the 38th.
The Muleriders’ 36-16 overall record in 2011 provided their 11th consecutive 30-plus win season and 20th in the past 21 years, while the NCAA regional appearance was their sixth overall. Ranked as high as sixth during the season, SAU ended the season at 30th in the official Collegiate Baseball Coaches’ Poll and were 16th in the College Baseball Lineup rankings.