DALLAS -- When the Dallas Baptist University baseball team watched the NCAA selection show on Monday, the only question was "where," not "if."
The last two times they've done this, making a regional was a big "if."
"It's really nice knowing that, 'OK, we're in,'" said Cy Sneed, who will be the starting pitcher Friday against Sam Houston State.
"Those first two years, sitting in the watch party on the Monday - selection Monday - it was kind of nerve-wracking," said senior catcher KJ Alexander, "especially because we were the last team selected both years."
This year, DBU's first season in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Patriots won the conference tournament to earn the automatic bid. Their last three trips to the NCAA Regional have been as an independent, which is what Dallas Baptist was when it became a NCAA Division I program in 2004.
Head coach Dan Heefner has won 256 games -- all with the Patriots -- and is only the third coach to ever win that many Division I games by the age of 36.
"You know, [I'm] thankful to our administration for hiring me when I was young -- I think that's kind of the first thing," said Heefner, who was an assistant coach at DBU for three years and then became the head coach before the 2008 season. "And then, two, just to realize I've been around a lot of great players; we've had a lot of great players in our program and a lot of great assistants, too."
"He pushes us every day in practice," Alexander said. "We don't take days off at practice, that's for sure. He'll get after us when we're slacking and he'll praise us if we're doing well."
"He's really figured out as a young coach exactly how different players react and how to push one guy versus another guy," Sneed said.
Dallas Baptist is a good, young program with a good, young coach, and usually, good, young coaches take jobs at bigger programs, but not Heefner. He could have last year with Wichita State, but he stayed.
"And that's what makes DBU so unique, is we get to play at the highest level of Division I baseball, and then also develop players in their faith and character as well," Heefner said. "And that's what makes it a great fit for me."
DBU hopes to be a good fit in the tournament, which starts Friday afternoon at the Fort Worth Regional against Sam Houston State.