Mount Vernon Nazarene University
800 Martinsburg Rd
Mount Vernon, OH 43050
Cougars Wrap up Another Successful Baseball Season
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
The Mount Vernon Nazarene College baseball team posted another successful season as the Cougars went 38-11 to record their eighth 30-win season in the past nine years and finish as the NAIA Region IX Tournament runner-up for the third straight season.
MVNC began the season with a pair of doubleheaders at home as the Cougars swept Ohio State University-Newark and the University of Rio Grande with three of the games being shutouts. In fact, the team did not give up its first run of the year until the second inning of the fourth game when Rio Grande scored a run as MVNC turned a rare triple play.
The Cougars then headed south for the team's annual spring trip to Fort Myers, Florida, as MVNC played 15 games at the Gene Cusic Classic. The team went 12-3 on the trip with two two-run losses and one one-run loss as the Cougars returned north with a 16-3 record.
Back in Ohio and ranked 16th in the NAIA national poll, MVNC jumped into the thick of the American Mideast Conference schedule. The Cougars went 4-5 over their next nine games as the team's record moved to 20-8.
At that point, MVNC closed out the regular season by winning 14 of the team's final 15 games including eleven in a row as the Cougars headed into the postseason with a 34-9 record. The team also finished second in the highly-competitive AMC with a 17-5 mark.
In the first game of the NAIA Region IX Tournament, MVNC fell 5-4 to Shawnee State University as the Cougars slipped into the loser's bracket. However, the team rebounded to eliminate the University of Rio Grande, Shawnee State, and Walsh University to storm back to the championship.
After defeating top-seeded Ohio Dominican College, the AMC champion, 15-7 to force a second championship game, MVNC built a 6-1 lead against the host Panthers going into the final two innings of the game. However, Ohio Dominican showed why it had a 25-2 record at home as the Panthers rallied to win the game 8-7 in ten innings and claim the region title for the second straight year. It also marked the third straight year that the Cougars had come within one win of the region title as MVNC finished the year 38-11 with eight of the team's losses coming by two runs or less.
"Over the course of the season, you are on an emotional roller coaster," said MVNC head coach Keith Veale, who improved to 438-196 in thirteen years at the school. "There were some exciting wins and some frustrating losses. I must admit, the losses stay with you longer and eat at you. But, that is part of the process to motivate us to keep pursuing our goals as a program. The reality is that we won 38 games and only lost eleven. In terms of results, there are not many programs that would be disappointed with that record, and we should not be either. This team played solid baseball, they finished strong, and they represented themselves well."
"I am grateful to our seniors (Mark Coulter, Scott Crawford, Chris Holly, Nate Overholt, Steve Waers, and Eddie Wright) who finished their careers with nothing to be ashamed of," Veale said of the six players who led the team to a 142-62 record over the past four years. "They are a good group who persevered through personal injuries in many cases to show their dedication to their teammates and the game itself. I wish them well and thank them for their stamp on our program."
Individually, several players had outstanding seasons for the Cougars. Coulter, a first baseman/pitcher, led the team with a .436 batting average and 13 doubles. He also compiled one triple, five home runs, 31 runs scored, and 54 runs batted in. On the mound, the southpaw went 7-2 with a 3.83 earned run average. Coulter was named to the AMC First Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA All-American First Team. He was also chosen as the NCCAA East Region and Unlimited Potential Player of the Year.
Crawford, a shortstop, batted .356 with nine doubles, a team-high four triples, two home runs, 19 RBI, and 49 runs scored as he was named to the AMC First Team and the NCCAA East Region Team as well as being an NCCAA Honorable Mention All-American.
Wright, an outfielder, batted .356 with nine doubles, one triple, three home runs, 37 RBI, and 34 runs scored as he was named to the AMC Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Team. Wright also led the team with six outfield assists.
Holly, a right-handed pitcher, posted an 8-3 record on the mound with a team-leading 2.72 ERA. In 72 2/3 innings of work, he struck out 48 batters and issued just 19 walks. He was named to the AMC Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Team.
Waers, an outfielder, batted .329 with six doubles, two triples, one home run, 13 RBI, and 32 runs scored. He also stole a team-high nine bases. Meanwhile, Overholt, another outfielder, posted a .273 batting average with one double, one run scored, and three RBI.
Sophomore Adam Rowe posted a 10-0 record on the mound with a 3.00 ERA as the southpaw struck out 78 batters in 81 innings of work in being named to the AMC First Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA All-American First Team. Rowe also posted a .382 batting average with six doubles, one home run, 16 RBI, and 25 runs scored while playing in the outfield.
Justin Clarey, a sophomore catcher, batted .411 and led the team with nine home runs and 58 RBI as he was named to the AMC First Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA All-American First Team. Clarey also recorded 11 doubles, one triple, and 15 runs scored.
Jon Barchus, a sophomore pitcher, went 3-2 on the mound with a 3.21 ERA. The right-hander posted a school-record seven saves and struck out 33 batters in 28 innings as he was named to the AMC First Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA All-American First Team.
Jason Irish, a junior designated hitter/outfielder, batted .353 with nine doubles, two home runs, 26 runs scored, and 29 RBI as he was named to the AMC Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention Team. Irish also posted a 4-2 record on the mound with a 5.44 ERA.
Junior Josh Sichina and sophomore Dan Matheney each were AMC Honorable Mention picks. Sichina, a third baseman, batted .299 with nine doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 28 runs scored, and 45 RBI. Meanwhile, Matheney, a second baseman, batted .314 with eight doubles, one home run, 23 RBI, and a team-high 50 runs scored.
Lew Hilgenberg, a sophomore pitcher, posted a 2-0 record on the mound with a 3.00 ERA. The right-hander also notched two saves. Meanwhile, freshman pitcher Nick Schwartz posted a 4-1 record on the mound with a 5.50 ERA. The right-hander tossed a complete game victory against Walsh in the NAIA Region IX Tournament.
Freshmen Tim Martini (.429 average with 32 runs scored), Matt Myers (.381 average with 12 RBI), Brent Zimmerman (.333 average with 11 runs scored), and Eli Johnson (.265 average with 15 runs scored) all saw significant action in their first collegiate seasons.
Veale, who was named the NCCAA East Region Coach of the Year, will have several holes to fill in his lineup with six players graduating and a few others deciding not to return. However, he will have a solid group of returning players to help make that task easier.