This season, the baseball team moves to Division I like all other North Alabama athletics. The Lions face big name teams, like The University of Alabama, The University of Mississippi and Auburn University.
“We used to play those teams in the ‘90s, but we haven’t played them in so long,” said head coach Mike Keehn. “I don’t know how we will match up or where we will match up. All we can do is go out there and say ‘this is what our team is and how our team is.’ I think for us, it is about seeing how close or how far away we are. Travel is gonna be an unknown for us since we have never travelled so much. I think the guys will be excited about the teams we play and the facilities we play in this year. Time will tell though.”
With six seniors and 13 juniors lining the diamond this year for North Alabama, the move to Division I will have these upperclassmen facing more difficult and stronger teams. It is still too early to assume how the Lions will perform, because practice started mid-September.
“We’ve been at it a week,” Keehn said. “We are just so into the first stretch, so new, so it is hard to find anything out of it. We just started scrimmages, it is hard to figure out what we are going to do and where we are gonna go cause we are so new. Right now we are just trying to feel everyone out, especially the new guys.”
The first three games of the season spark an old rivalry for UNA. The Lions baseball season begins with Jacksonville State at Jacksonville. This road battle is the first of many for the two teams who rekindle an old rivalry, now in Division I.
“They probably don’t see that,” Keehn said about the rivalry with JSU. “For me, since I have been around the days with the Troys, Jacksonvilles, UT Martins, it is unique since we used to be the GSC, and now 20 years later we are back. It is kind of like we did a full circle around and back playing the teams that we use to play, just now at a different level.”
The Lions play their first game Feb. 15 at Jacksonville and end their season in Nashville against ASUN conference opponent Lipscomb May 18.