It's shaping up to be an exciting month for USC Beaufort athletics, with the baseball and men's and women's golf teams all ranked in the NAIA top 25 and apparently headed for national championship bids.
The baseball team, ranked No. 22 in the country this week, still has some work to do, but the Sand Sharks are the No. 2 seed in next week's Sun Conference tournament and would seem to have an inside track on finding their way into a regional tournament, even if they don't win the conference crown. Their first-round opponent will be finalized today, but it's looking more and more like it will be rival SCAD. Unless the Bees sweep a doubleheader today at Edward Waters, they will slip to the No. 5 seed and face USCB in the first round. If they do sweep today, they'll jump St. Thomas, and the Sand Sharks will face the Bobcats from Miami in the opening game.
We'll get you up to speed on the situation in our weekly USCB notebook in Tuesday's paper.
All signs point to the women's golf team making their first trip to the NAIA national championships May 25-28 at Meadowbrook Municipal Golf Course in Rapid City, S.D. The Sand Sharks have helped their cause of late, winning the SCAD Spring Invitational at Wilmington Island Club and finishing second at the Sun Conference Championships behind top-ranked Embry-Riddle.
The Sand Shark women moved up to No. 2 in the conference rankings and No. 6 in the national poll last week, and barring something crazy when the final polls are released this week, they should be a lock for an at-large bid after narrowly missing one last year, but they won't know for sure until 3:30 p.m. on May 13.
The men's golf team also looks to be in good shape to earn its second consecutive bid to nationals, which is set for May 18-21 at TPC at Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
The Sand Sharks were ranked fourth in the final Sun Conference rankings that came out Thursday, but they're No. 10 in the national rankings released Friday, which seemingly would be good enough to ensure an at-large bid. The Sun Conference leads all conferences with five teams ranked in the top 25 -- No. 4 SCAD, No. 7 Johnson & Wales, No. 10 USCB, No. 19 Webber International and No. 25 Southeastern (and St. Thomas and Northwood also received votes) -- so I can't imagine that the league would earn fewer than four bids, which is the number it was granted last year.
The official announcement will be made at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, so keep an eye out here for that news.