UAM TRIO HEADLINES #theGAC BASEBALL AWARDS
ENID, Okla. – In advance of the start of the 2019 Great American Conference Baseball Championships, the league announced its All-GAC teams, its individual superlative award winners and its top scholar athletes. Northwestern Oklahoma State’s Johnnuelle Ponce won Player of the Year; Arkansas-Monticello’s Matt Lundh, Cade Thompson and John Harvey earned Pitcher of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively. Harding’s Ryder Yakel claimed the Newcomer of the Year honor.
Ponce finished the regular season as the GAC’s leader in total bases, 138, and slugging percentage, .762. He shared the home run lead with Oklahoma Baptist’s Jake Gozzo as both hit 18. He placed second to Gozzo with 60 RBI, ranked fourth in runs scored, hits and triples.
The UAM trio of Lundh, Thompson and Harvey helped lead the Weevils to their second-straight regular-season championship. Lundh went 7-0 with a 3.19 ERA to become the first Weevil to garner the Pitcher of the Year status. He struck out 76 batters in only 59.1 innings of work. He limited the opposition to a .235 average. Thompson followed teammate Jordan Johnson in claiming the Freshman of the Year accolade. His .380 average ranked sixth and his .461 on-base percentage ranked seventh. He added 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts. Harvey joins Southwestern Oklahoma State’s Zach Saunders as the GAC’s only two two-time Coach of the Year recipients.
Yakel became just the second player in Harding history to earn a GAC individual award. In 15 appearances out of the bullpen, he went 6-2 with five saves. He posted a 1.34 ERA with 49 strikeouts against only 11 walks in 47.0 innings. He held opposing hitters to a .193 average.
On the All-GAC First Team, Arkansas Tech’s Dylan McDearmon joined Lundh as the only two unanimous selections. He hit .356 with 11 home runs, 15 doubles and 53 runs scored. Three of Lundh’s teammates made the First Team as the Weevils and Oklahoma Baptist tied for the most First-Team honorees, four. Outfielders John Mauldin and David Reyna made the team as well as first baseman Kaleb Warden. Reyna closed the regular season as one of just two GAC players with a .400 average. His .696 slugging percentage ranked third and he successfully stole 15 bases in 17 attempts. Warden’s 13 home runs ranked third in the GAC and his 46 RBI placed sixth. Mauldin added 12 home runs and a .632 slugging percentage.
Oklahoma Baptist’s Gozzo earned First-Team honors for the second-straight season. In addition to sharing the home run title and leading the GAC with 63 RBI, he paced the league with 61 runs scored. He took second to Ponce in slugging percentage and total bases. His teammates Jake Lipetzky, Ramon Enriquez and PJ Harris joined him on the First Team. Lipetzky posted a 5-3 record with a 3.50 ERA. His .185 batting average against led the conference by 26 points. He stuck out 85 batters in only 64.1 innings of work. Enriquez hit .329 with 11 home runs. His 58 RBI ranked third and his 53 runs scored placed fourth. Harris led the conference with a .507 on-base percentage and ranked sixth with a .632 slugging percentage.
In addition to Yakel, starting pitcher Tanner Smith and second baseman Luke Van Dover represented Harding on the First Team. Smith recorded the league’s second-lowest ERA, 2.96, and tied for third with three complete games. Van Dover’s 18 doubles ranked second in the league.
Southeastern Oklahoma State starting pitcher Cody Nitson, Ouachita third baseman Tyler Riebock and Southwestern Oklahoma State’s Alex Pimentel rounded out the First Team. Nitson finished his season as the leader in strikeouts, 88. Riebock joined Mauldin in a tie for fourth in home runs, 12. He slugged .649. Pimental, last season’s GAC Newcomer of the Year, hit .355 with a team-leading 38 RBI.
UAM’s Thompson headlined the All-GAC Second Team. Two of his teammates, reliever Ojani Chacon and catcher Andrew Piraino, joined him on the Second Team. Arkansas Tech placed a league-leading five on the Second Team in starting pitchers Hayes Cox and Isaac Hale, outfielders Harry Gard and Riley Hickerson and third baseman Tristan Thomas. Harding also put three on the team in first baseman Miles Humphreys, shortstop Connor Kelly and utility player David Butterfield. Southwestern Oklahoma State’s trio of pitcher Tyler Tuck, outfielder Alex Bedard and designated hitter Rafeal Villela all landed on the team. Southern Arkansas’ tandem of reliever Matt Kortendick and second baseman Austin Baker plus Northwestern Oklahoma State outfielder Justin Bundy and Ouachita starting pitcher Brandon Matros rounded out the team.
The All-GAC Honorable Mention Team consisted of Henderson State’s Zach Eschberger, Kris Priddy, Brandon Pollock, Danny Mitchell, Joseph Shepherd and Caleb Carr; Arkansas-Monticello’s Hunter Huckabee, Jordan Johnson and Dylan Borman; Harding’s Ty Hoecker and Nolan Fertig, SAU’s Dakota Wright and Kane Koenigseder, SWOSU’s Cooper Cantwell and Chase Duncan, Northwestern Oklahoma State’s Bryce Donovan, Oklahoma Baptist’s Garrett McKee, Southeastern Oklahoma State’s
Austin Ferguson and Southern Nazarene’s Shelby Reese.
The GAC also announced the recipients of the Elite Scholar and Distinguished Scholar Athlete awards. Harding’s Cody Smith received the Elite Scholar Athlete accolade. Three of his teammates – Humphreys, Tyler Mohr and Tanner Smith – earned the Distinguished Scholar honor. Two from Oklahoma Baptist – Caleb Bly and Bryan Geurkink – joined Arkansas Tech’s Charles Shipp and UAM’s Lundh as Distinguished Scholar Athletes.
The league also announced its nine-member All-Defensive team. Harding led with three selections –Hoecker, Humphreys and Kelly. Henderson State’s two outfielders, Joseph Shepherd and Bryson Haskins, made the squad along with UAM’s Johnson and Brodie Threet. Oklahoma Baptist’s Gozzo and SAU’s Austin Baker completed the team.