NewsMVNU Baseball Team Finishes Another Successful Year
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Coming into the 2005 season, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University baseball team had high expectations after finishing tied for fifth at the 2004 NAIA World Series and being ranked ninth in the 2005 NAIA preseason poll.
However, as the season began, those expectations changed to question marks as the Cougars found themselves battling injuries and scheduling issues as the team had several of its early season games cancelled due to bad weather. Following a four-game sweep at the hands of eventual American Mideast Conference South Division and NAIA Region IX champion Ohio Dominican University, MVNU’s record stood at 8-11.
While some teams might have thrown in the towel at that point, the Cougars rallied around each other and caught fire. The team proceeded to win 16 of its next 17 games including 12 straight at one point as MVNU’s record improved to 24-12. The Cougars also finished second in the AMC South Division with an 18-6 mark to earn a home playoff series.
After sweeping Seton Hill (Pa.) University in an AMC Tournament Best-of-Three series, MVNU advanced to the NAIA Region IX Tournament. Despite losing their first game in the double elimination event, the Cougars battled their way through the loser’s bracket to reach the championship game for the sixth straight year. After handing Ohio Dominican its only loss of the tournament, MVNU fell in the ‘if necessary’ game to finish one win away from advancing to the NAIA Super Regional.
Then, the team closed out the season at the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After falling to eventual NCCAA runner-up Oakland City (Ind.) University in the first round, the Cougars pounded host Tennessee Temple University 22-2 and eliminated Bethel (Ind.) College 10-1 before finishing fourth with a 6-5 loss to Indiana Wesleyan University as MVNU closed the year with a 31-17 overall record.
"This was a very challenging year for us,” said MVNU head coach Keith Veale, who has guided the Cougars to 30-win seasons in 10 of the past 12 seasons. "We started with high expectations coming off the World Series appearance. The preseason national ranking added to the expectations even though the ranking was probably more about last year than this year. I felt like halfway through the year we still did not know if we were a good team or not. Compared to everyone else, we just had not played many games.”
"Following the Ohio Dominican series, we were 8-11 and staring at 16 conference games in two weeks,” Veale added. "That was make or break time for us. Fortunately, there was enough resolve on this team to make something out of our season. We won 15 of 16 conference games and finished second in our division. That was as good of a run under near impossible conditions as anyone could hope for. We won our last 11 conference games with some very challenging pitching match-ups that got us not only into the playoffs, but also hosting a playoff series. That was just a tremendous accomplishment for this club.”
Individually, the Cougars were led by seven seniors, who wrapped up their careers in 2005. Ty Dendinger, a first baseman, was selected by his teammates as the team’s Most Valuable Player after batting .397 with 12 doubles, 27 runs scored, and 33 RBI. He was also named to the AMC South Division Second Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA All-National Tournament Team. He finished his career ranked fourth in school history with 785 putouts.
Jon Barchus, a right-handed pitcher, returned after missing the 2004 season with Tommy John surgery and posted a 4-6 record with a 2.78 ERA that included 53 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings. In Barchus’ six losses, MVNU scored a combined 11 runs. Barchus was named to the AMC South Division Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Team. He finished his career ranked twelfth in school history in wins (19), sixth in ERA (2.88), and first in saves (13).
Steve Edwards, an outfielder, finished his career by batting .389 with 12 doubles, one triple, three home runs, 28 RBI, and 38 runs scored. During the NAIA Region IX Tournament, Edwards went 14-for-22 with seven runs scored and six RBI. He was named to the AMC South Division Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Team.
Derek Morey, a right-handed pitcher, posted a 4-1 record with a 3.72 ERA. He posted two wins and closed out the team’s other victory at the NAIA Region IX Tournament, and he notched another victory at the NCCAA National Tournament against Bethel.
Outfielders Nate Rutkowski and Tim Martini finished the season batting .297 and .252 respectively. Rutkowski, who was an AMC South Division Honorable Mention pick, led the Cougars with 12 stolen bases to go with 21 RBI and 27 runs scored. Martini added 15 RBI and 27 runs scored. Meanwhile, infielder Chris McKinney batted .278 with 11 RBI and 12 runs scored as he battled through a shoulder injury all season.
Junior Kyle Peters posted a .368 batting average with 22 RBI and 46 runs scored. In addition, he anchored the infield defense at shortstop where he committed just 14 errors in 180 fielding chances. Peters was selected to the AMC South Division First Team and the NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention list.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Mike Laughlin had another stellar season as he compiled a 7-2 record with a team-best 1.86 ERA. In 63 innings of work, Laughlin struck out 61 batters while posting two shutouts and one no-hitter. For his efforts, he was named to the AMC South Division First Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA All-American First Team.
Junior right-handed pitcher Nick Schwartz also compiled a 5-2 record on the mound with a 4.57 ERA. In 65 innings of work, Schwartz notched 64 strikeouts with just 15 walks. He was selected to the AMC South Division Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Team.
Richey Burgos, a freshman third baseman, had a solid season as he batted .378 and led the team with 13 doubles, 46 RBI, and 48 runs scored. He was named to the AMC South Division Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention list.
Zack Helm, a sophomore second baseman, batted .295 and committed just four errors in 142 fielding chances as he earned AMC South Division Honorable Mention status. He also compiled 21 RBI and 20 runs scored.
Sophomore catchers Ray McFerren and Ari Yoder split time behind the plate for MVNU. McFerren batted .279 with 13 RBI, while Yoder batted .333 with 23 RBI. Junior Jeff Derr also added depth at catcher as well as serving as a designated hitter, and he compiled a .452 batting average with 13 RBI and 10 runs scored.
Freshman infielder/designated hitter Joèl Torres batted .446 with 30 RBI and 24 runs scored and he led the team with six home runs. Freshmen outfielders Garret Shivley (.206 batting average), Brandon Turner (.500), and Marc Hadley (.176) also contributed in their first collegiate season.
On the mound, sophomores Jake Poole and Ryan Decker also figured into the mix for MVNU. Poole, who was named to the AMC South Division Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention list, went 3-2 with one save and a 5.09 ERA, while Decker was 3-3 with a 6.51 ERA. Freshmen Dave Yost (1-0, 7.25 ERA), Jason Barber (1-0, 9.45 ERA), and Turner (1-1, 12.41 ERA) also saw action on the mound.
"Individually, we were not outstanding, but collectively we came together,” said Veale, who was selected as the NCCAA East Region Coach of the Year. "To get back in the regional championship game for the sixth year in a row says something about the consistency of our program.”
Although the Cougars will lose the seven seniors, MVNU will return a nucleus of players with experience who will look to continue the program’s winning ways when the 2006 season rolls around.