SAN ANTONIO – For the first time in the history of University of Incarnate Word, the Cardinals baseball team is eligible for NCAA postseason play.
The team's current 12-9 record has been the first winning season for the team since it joined the Southland Conference and became a Division I program in 2013.
The four-year transition for the team ended this season, and it is now officially a D1 program.
This is the first year Patrick Hallmark has been coaching the Cardinals.
“He’s brought a lot of motivation,” senior John Shull said about Hallmark. “This year, we’ve had a lot of will. We’ve had a lot of come-from-behind wins. This team has the most will that I’ve ever been a part of.”
Shull has been a member of the team since his freshman year, and for him and other seniors such as Mark Whitehead, this has been quite an exciting way to end their collegiate careers.
“It’s a great feeling. I’ve been here for five years and this is the first time we’ve been eligible,” Whitehead said. “It brings more meaning to all these Southland Conference games. They mean a lot and you can’t take any for granted.”
UIW has three weeks remaining in the regular season and while the Cardinals are on pace to play in the postseason, the next three games are important for them to clinch a spot in the top eight of the Southland Conference.
Northwestern State will travel from Louisiana this weekend to take on the Cardinals in a three-game series. If UIW gets two wins, it will be locked in for postseason play.
Last season, the Demons took two of three games from the Cardinals on the road, and the team is looking to protect its home field this year.
“We’ve got a chip on our shoulder and really need these two games,” Whitehead said.
"We have plenty of motivation to beat them at our place," junior pitcher Cody Allen said.
While the season is far from over, Hallmark said the team is pleased with this year but not satisfied.
“We want to continue to evolve,” he said. “I think we’ve played mostly good baseball, but, as a coach, I’m always looking to make improvements.”
And while improvements come from all areas of a team, the Cardinals have some freshmen who “carry a lot of weight” this season, Hallmark said.
Ryan Flores averages .360 at bat while fellow freshman Ridge Rogers is right behind him at .355.
The Cardinals said they need to hit their numbers in order to beat the Demons this weekend. The Demons are at the top of the Southland Conference in pitching, at No. 2, with an ERA of 3.00.
The Cardinals are sitting at No. 1 in batting, with an average of .297.
“We’ll put up a good battle,” Schull said.
The first game of the series with Northwestern State is at 3 p.m. Friday at Sullivan Field.