FORT SMITH (KFSM) - When you talk about college baseball in the state of Arkansas, the UA-Fort Smith Lions are very aware that you’re not talking about them. But maybe you should be, says fourth year head coach Tom Holland.
"45 minutes up the hill is Baum Stadium, where everyone’s an Arkansas fan, I really think they’re missing a big thing down here in Fort Smith."
"It is a chip on our shoulder," admits senior Brennan Dooly. "It is what it is. We're good, and if we need respect then that's what we'll get."
"No one really cared too much about Arkansas-Fort Smith but now that we’re starting to get a little bit of hype I think it’s really cool," says senior Anthony Seminaris. "It’s good for the city, it’s good for the university, it’s good for everybody."
The Lions are the 25th ranked team in Division II and, for the first time in program history, earned the top rank in the South Central Region, putting them in line to host Fort Smith’s first ever NCAA regional. Pitcher Dawson Floyd knows just how much that would mean to the team and the area.
" Woo, I can’t even say, I think that would be huge for Fort Smith in general, it’s never happened. I think that for us, it would just be an honor, but it wouldn't change anything, wouldn't change how we play. It would just be an honor knowing how hard we worked to get there."
Despite being the top team in the region, the squad still plays with the spirit of the underdog.
"We probably don’t have as much talent as a few of the others who are nationally and regionally ranked, and they show up to the park and are like man, how is this team good, how do they beat us? And we love that," says Floyd. "We’re like the 150 pound fighter that takes down the 300 pound behemoth. We just keep nipping at your heels until you fall."
The team stays loose, practices filled with hackey sack, jokes, and the occasional mock football game. But with just four games remaining in the regular season, the Lions are more ready than ever for the challenges that lie ahead. Hosting or not, they head into their second regional in a row with a common goal. The team is looking to gain respect the only way they know how: winning baseball games.