NewsCougars to Honor Five Baseball Seniors on Thursday
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - The Mount Vernon Nazarene University baseball team will honor its five seniors on Thursday afternoon between games of a non-conference doubleheader against Malone College with the first game slated to start at 1:00 p.m. at Cougar Field.
Brian Barrish, Jason Irish, Dan Matheney, Adam Rowe, and Justin Clarey have led the Cougars to a 129-58 overall record (.690 winning percentage) over the past four years with two straight conference titles. MVNU has also advanced to the NAIA Region IX Tournament championship game in each of the previous four years.
Barrish, a right-handed pitcher from Bedford, Ohio, has played for the Cougars the past two seasons. A product of Bedford High School, he has made five relief appearances during his career including two appearances this year. His only career decision was a loss at Ohio Wesleyan University on May 1, 2003.
"Brian is a relentless worker, and I have been impressed by his constant pursuit of excellence,” said MVNU head coach Keith Veale. "His effort and desire are positive intangibles that he brings every day to our team. He has always been a team-first player.”
Irish, a native of Cortland, Ohio, has pitched and played first base and in the outfield during his four years at MVNU and has posted a 14-9 career record on the mound and a .351 career batting average. As a junior in 2002, the former Lakeview High School star was named to the American Mideast Conference Second Team and the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region Honorable Mention Team. After not playing in 2003, Irish has returned to close out his career by posting a 5-2 record on the mound with a 3.08 earned run average. He is second on the team with 32 RBI and 29 runs scored, and he leads the team with 13 doubles while batting .367. He has also been named the AMC and NAIA Region IX Player of the Week once this year.
"Jason has become a very talented player,” said Veale. "Our biggest challenge with Jason coming into our program was finding a place for him to play. His versatility has allowed him to play first base, outfield, and pitch. He has worked hard to improve his skills, and he saved his best season for last. He leads by example and has provided quality leadership for our program. I am glad that he came back to complete his career. His contributions on and off the field this year have been significant.”
Matheney, an infielder from New Concord, Ohio, has put together a solid four-year career for the Cougars. In 173 career games, the former John Glenn standout is batting .341 and ranks tenth in school history with 129 runs scored. Matheney is also fifth on the school’s career assists list with 376, and he set a school record by going 135 consecutive at bats without striking out at one point in his career. He has earned AMC Honorable Mention status twice and was an NCCAA East Region selection in 2003. He has also posted a 3.571 grade point average and has been nominated for the NAIA and NCCAA All-America Scholar-Athlete Teams. This season, Matheney is batting a career-best .444 with 24 runs scored and 22 RBI as the team’s lead-off hitter.
"Dan is a coach’s dream,” said Veale. "He is an intense competitor, a hard worker, and his enthusiasm is infectious to his teammates and coaches. Dan’s mental toughness is perhaps his greatest attribute on the baseball field. I have seen him in moments of success and failure. He has handled both with class and determination to do even better the next time.”
"I know whenever Dan has been on the field that we are a better team,” Veale added. "He possesses an admirable quality of making everyone around him better and never appearing to be preoccupied with his own performance which time and time again has been exceptional. If you could instill Dan’s approach to the game of baseball into every player, then the team would have a blast, the opponents would be caught staring, and the stands would be packed.”
Rowe, a left-handed pitcher from Wooster, Ohio, has posted one of the best four-year careers of any pitcher in MVNU history. The former Wooster High School standout currently ranks second in career strikeouts (275), fourth in career victories (29), and fourth in career innings pitched (282 2/3). After making the AMC Second Team as a freshman, Rowe has been named to the AMC First Team twice. He was an NAIA Second Team All-American and an NCCAA First Team All-American as a sophomore in 2002 when he posted a 10-0 record with a 3.00 ERA. This season, Rowe has compiled a 6-1 record on the mound with a 3.27 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 55 innings of work.
"Adam will go down as one of the best in our pitching-rich program’s history,” said Veale. "He burst on to the scene as a freshman and had an immediate impact. Since then, he has only gotten better. Sometimes talent and work ethic do not mesh. For Adam, however, that is not true. He has worked hard over his four years here, and he typically grabs another pitcher by the arm and helps in their development as well. Adam has a teachable attitude and is constantly looking for ways to improve. He has given our program the opportunity to win the big games. We are looking for a big finish to his senior year.”
Clarey, a catcher from Columbus, Ohio, has put together some of the best offensive numbers in school history while also establishing himself as one of the top catchers to ever play at MVNU. The former Hilliard Darby High School standout currently ranks second in school history in career home runs (29), third in career RBI (158), sixth in career batting average (.382), and seventh in career hits (224) and career doubles (37). For his career, Clarey has thrown out 48 of the 111 runners who have tried to steal on him and has picked off 27 other runners. He has been named to the AMC First Team all three years and was an NAIA First Team All-American in 2002 and an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American in 2001. This season, Clarey leads the Cougars with a .455 batting average, two triples, six home runs, and 34 RBI.
"Justin has had an outstanding career,” said Veale. "He has solidified our catching position for four years. The benchmark for the catching position at the collegiate level is to control the opposing team’s running game. Justin has done that as well as anyone we have had in our program. Although he was very skilled when he came into our program, he has always impressed me with his desire to learn and be coached. He has always handled himself in a first-class manner, and his character is respected by his teammates and coaches.”
"These seniors have been awesome,” Veale added. "From wide-eyed scrawny freshmen to accomplished talented seniors, they have been a pleasure to coach. They are respected by their peers and have outstanding leadership abilities. They have represented our program with class and dignity. I am thrilled that they are Cougars, and I am honored that they call me Coach.”
MVNU is currently 29-12 overall and ranked 20th in the latest NAIA national poll. The Cougars have also clinched at least a share of the AMC South Division title with a 17-3 mark and a four-game series at the University of Rio Grande remaining this weekend.