The Mount Vernon Nazarene College baseball team finished another successful campaign in 2001 as the Cougars posted a 35-16 record for the program's seventh 30-win season in the past eight years.
The season began with the annual trip to Fort Myers, Florida, for 14 games at the Gene Cusic Classic. The team posted an 11-3 record on the trip that included an 11-7 victory over the University of St. Thomas (Minn.), which was the top-ranked NCAA Division III team for most of the year.
Upon returning north to Ohio, MVNC jumped right into the thick of its highly-competitive American Mideast Conference schedule. The Cougars won 15 of their next 19 contests to improve to 26-7 overall and 13-3 in the AMC. The four losses came at the hands of Point Park (Pa.) College, the eventual conference champions, Walsh University, the defending conference champions, Ohio Wesleyan University, ranked ninth in NCAA Division III at the time, and Ohio Dominican College, the eventual NAIA Region IX Tournament champions.
MVNC closed the regular-season portion of its schedule by going 5-4 to stand at 31-11 overall. The Cougars also finished second in the AMC with a 16-6 record that included doubleheader splits with the top five teams in the conference.
MVNC began postseason play with a best-of-three series at Malone College to determine the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region title. The Cougars dropped back-to-back hard-fought games by the scores of 13-8 and 8-5 as Malone claimed the title.
MVNC rebounded to play well at the NAIA Region IX Tournament the following week as the second-seeded Cougars defeated Walsh, Shawnee State University, and Point Park to stand just one win away from winning the region title. However, Ohio Dominican came out of the loser's bracket to beat MVNC twice and eliminate the Cougars.
The season was not quite over for MVNC, though, as the Cougars received an at-large berth and the second seed at the 10-team NCCAA National Tournament in Celina, Ohio. After rain cancelled most of the first three days of action and forced the tournament to switch to a single-elimination format, MVNC posted a 3-1 victory over Greenville (Ill.) College to advance to the semifinals. In the semifinals, the Cougars dropped a hard-fought 4-2 decision to East Texas Baptist University on a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning as the team's season came to an end.
"I felt we had a very successful year," said MVNC head coach Keith Veale, who picked up his 400th career in the win over Greenville. "We always want to play deep into the postseason and ultimately win some championships. We did get deep into the postseason and we were real close to winning championships this year. I really believe that can happen in the next couple of years."
Individually, several players had outstanding seasons. Senior outfielder/pitcher Mike Waddell closed out his career by posting a .436 batting average with a team-high 12 home runs and 59 runs batted in. He also tied the school record with 21 doubles. In addition, he posted a 6-1 record on the mound with a 7.25 earned run average and 44 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings pitched. He was named to the AMC First Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA All-American Team.
Senior outfielder Jeff Wine posted a .377 batting average to go along with 11 doubles, a school-record-tying 11 triples, six home runs, 12 stolen bases, and 37 RBI. He also led the team with 54 runs scored. For his efforts, Wine was named to the AMC Second Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA Honorable Mention All-American Team.
Senior second baseman Jason Hall wrapped up his stellar career by batting .351 with five doubles, three triples, 28 RBI, and 51 runs scored. He was named to the AMC Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Team. Meanwhile, senior outfielder Joel Laslo also closed out his career with a .321 batting average to go along with five doubles, four triples, three home runs, 26 RBI, and 25 runs scored. He was an AMC and an NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention selection.
"When I look at these seniors as a group, I see young men who get the most out of their abilities," said Veale of Waddell, Wine, Hall, Laslo, and Matt Stryker. "This is an extremely hard-working group whose passion for the game has been an inspiration to the entire team. They have truly been team players and a pleasure to coach."
Mark Coulter, a junior first baseman/pitcher, posted a .374 batting average with eight doubles, 10 home runs, 52 RBI, and 30 runs scored. He also compiled a 9-3 record on the mound with a 3.57 ERA and a team-high 59 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings of work. He was named to the AMC First Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA Honorable Mention All-American Team.
Scott Crawford, a junior shortstop, led the team with a .449 batting average despite missing almost half the season with a knee injury. He also recorded four doubles, five triples, five home runs, 30 RBI, and 34 runs scored as he was named to the AMC Honorable Mention Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA All-American Team.
Josh Sichina, a sophomore third baseman, batted .324 with seven doubles, four home runs, 27 RBI, and 32 runs scored as he was named to the AMC Honorable Mention list. Steve Waers, a junior outfielder, also batted .300 with five doubles, one home run, 14 RBI, 44 runs scored, and a team-high 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts.
Sophomore outfielder/pitcher Jason Irish compiled a .326 batting average with five doubles, two home runs, 14 RBI, and 13 runs scored. He also went 3-4 on the mound with a 5.19 ERA. Junior pitcher Nate Overholt also posted a 1-1 record on the mound with a 5.25 ERA, and sophomore pitcher Tim Saunders went 4-0 with a 6.30 ERA.
Adam Rowe, a freshman pitcher, led the team with a 3.51 ERA as he compiled an 8-4 record on the mound with 56 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. He was named to the AMC Second Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA Honorable Mention All-American Team.
Justin Clarey, a freshman catcher, also had an outstanding first season as he batted .377 with six doubles, three triples, six home runs, 32 RBI, and 11 runs scored while starting 46 of the team's 51 games. He was named to the AMC First Team and the NCCAA East Region Team.
Dan Matheney, a freshman infielder, saw action in 49 games that included 32 starts primarily at shortstop in place of the injured Crawford. Matheney batted .284 with four doubles, 17 RBI, and 29 runs scored. He also led the team with four sacrifice hits.
"I think that there were some strong performances from our underclassmen which gives optimism for the future," said Veale. "I was very pleased with our improved physical strength and our offensive numbers which was a focus coming into the year. After last year's injury-filled season, this club has helped re-establish our program with 35 wins in 51 games. Those are solid numbers and will provide a goal for our underclassmen."