Follow Kendall Rogers on Twitter at @ysportsncaabb.
The winds of change have whipped up over the past year.
Just last season, there were 16 programs that called themselves independents. That number has dwindled this season, though, as eight programs left to create what is now known as the Great West Conference, and Bryant left to join the Northeast Conference.
Dallas Baptist still is the headline independent.
The Patriots made an NCAA regional two seasons ago and hope to return to the postseason after narrowly missing out on a second consecutive berth last season.
Longwood, Le Moyne and Cal State Bakersfield are expected to improve this season. Savannah State and North Carolina Central still leave something to be desired.
Seattle is restarting its program this season and is the newest addition to the list of Division I Independents.
HOW THEY STACK UP
1. Dallas Baptist – The Patriots have some holes to fill on the mound, but their offense will be as productive as ever with the return of Jason Krizan and Ryan Enos.
2. Longwood – The Lancers have some work to do on the mound, but welcome back eight hitters that earned significant playing time last season.
3. Le Moyne – The Dolphins return six position starters and a pair of weekend starters that are among the best in the independents classification.
4. Cal State Bakersfield – The Roadrunners didn't have a great first season in Division I, but welcome back almost every key player from last year's team.
5. Savannah State – The Tigers hope to continue to show improvement after increasing their win total last season.
6. Seattle – The Redhawks have a solid coaching staff, but their first season in Division I could be a tough one.
7. North Carolina Central – The Eagles only have one direction to go after finishing last season with a dismal 6-35 record.
Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner – What Heefner has accomplished in his two seasons as head coach is special. Heefner guided the Patriots to an NCAA regional in his first full season as coach. He also guided the program to a strong finish last season. There's a good chance Heefner eventually will move on to a bigger program.
Le Moyne's Jeff Tardiff – Tardiff had a strong freshman campaign and also followed that up with a fabulous sophomore campaign last season. Look for Tardiff to earn more headlines on the national stage this season.
Longwood's Brant Jones – The Lancers could make some noise this season with Jones and teammate Casey Havers leading the charge at the plate. Jones' stock is soaring after having an impressive '09 campaign. Jones batted .387 with 17 doubles, four triples, seven homers and 44 RBIs last season.
Dallas Baptist's pitching staff – The Patriots have much work to do on the mound to make another regional trip this season. DBU had a very solid staff last season, but doesn't return a single weekend starter this spring. Chris Haney and Ryan Behmanesh are talented returning pitchers, but the unit still is a huge question mark.
RHP Jeff Tardiff, Le Moyne
The Dolphins finished last season with just a 24-23 record, but hope Tardiff is a reason they take a step forward this spring. Tardiff is coming off a fantastic campaign. He made 13 starts last season and compiled a 3.02 ERA in 95 1/3 innings. He also struck out 68 and walked 27 and limited opposing teams to a low .257 batting average. Also worth noting, Tardiff threw three complete games last season.
OF Jason Krizan, Dallas Baptist
The Patriots have established consistency under coach Dan Heefner and expect to have another fantastic campaign this season. They welcome back several talented hitters, including Krizan, who had a fabulous sophomore campaign last season. Krizan batted .389 with 20 doubles, two triples, 16 homers and 74 RBIs last season. He also finished the season with a .736 slugging percentage and a .441 on-base percentage. Additionally, he induced 21 walks and struck out just 20 times. Krizan and teammate Ryan Enos are reasons the Patriots may notch another postseason berth.
Dallas Baptist – The Patriots are it when it comes to independents with a legitimate chance to make an NCAA regional this season. DBU took a huge step forward two seasons ago with an NCAA regional appearance. It also finished last season with an impressive 38-17 record, but fell just short of earning another at-large bid. The Patriots once again will play a challenging schedule this season, perhaps once again setting the tone for another regional appearance.
• Sixteen programs called themselves independents last season, but that number has dwindled down to seven this season. The nine programs that have found homes include Bryant, New York Tech, Northern Colorado, Utah Valley, North Dakota, Texas-Pan American, Houston Baptist, New Jersey Tech and Chicago State. Bryant joined the Northeast Conference. Chicago State, Houston Baptist, New Jersey Tech, New York Tech, North Dakota, Northern Colorado, Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley joined forces this season to crate the Great West Conference.
• North Carolina Central and North Dakota aren't eligible for the NCAA postseason as a result of still being in the reclassification stage from Division II to Division I. Then there's Cal State Bakersfield and Seattle. Bakersfield will be eligible for postseason play in 2011. Seattle, meanwhile, is slated to be eligible in 2013.
• Cal State Bakersfield coach Bill Kernen hopes for a more successful campaign this season. Kernen's first campaign at CSUB went about as expected, as the Roadrunners finished the season with just a 13-37 record. The Roadrunners, though, welcome back 13 position players that earned some playing time last season. They also welcome back three starting pitchers that hope to rise to the occasion.
• It's a special season for Seattle University. The Redhawks had baseball in the mid-1980s, but were forced to drop the sport. Thanks to a collection of former baseball players and donors, the Redhawks will head back to the diamond this spring. SU tabbed coach Donny Harrel to take over the program. Harrel spent four seasons as an assistant at Washington. He also previously served as an assistant at Oregon State and had a stint at Lane Community College. SU begins its season with a two-game set at Washington State. Cal State Northridge will be its first home series.
• The Lancers appear to be on the way back. They finished the '07 season with an impressive 34-19 record, but took a step back in '08 with a 23-26 record. The Lancers ended last season with a 26-22 record and are primed to take another step forward this season. They welcome back several key hitters and a pair of starting pitchers in Chris Briere and Troy Dickman. The pitching staff is the key to the season.
• Dallas Baptist has made some statements the past few seasons. As a result, it should come as no surprise the Patriots aspire to be in a conference. There's a good chance this could be the Patriots' last season as a Division I Independent. The Summit League or Missouri Valley Conference are legitimate options.
- Cal State Bakersfield
- Dallas Baptist
- North Carolina Central
- Le Moyne