The Mount Vernon Nazarene College baseball team finished another successful season as the Cougars compiled a 29-20 record in 2000 for the program's seventh straight 20-win season.
MVNC began the year with the team's annual spring trip to Fort Myers, Florida. Playing against mainly NCAA Division II and NAIA teams, the Cougars won six of their first seven games on their way to a 9-5 record on the trip.
Upon returning north to Ohio, MVNC was welcomed back to Mount Vernon by one of the rainiest springs in recent years as the team was forced to reschedule six conference doubleheaders and cancel three non-conference games.
Despite sometimes going almost a week between games and then playing six games in a four-day span, the Cougars managed to win nine of their next 11 games to improve to 18-7 overall.
However, MVNC dropped six of its next seven games to slip to 19-13 as three of the contests were decided by one run. The Cougars closed out the regular season by winning six of their final nine games as the team's record stood at 25-16 heading into the postseason.
MVNC began its postseason play at Geneva (PA) College in the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region Tournament. After losing their first game 9-3 to Malone College, the eventual region champions, the Cougars downed Geneva 6-2 before the host Golden Tornadoes eliminated MVNC with an 8-1 decision.
The Cougars next advanced to the NAIA Region IX Tournament where MVNC was the fourth-seed in the six-team double elimination event. The Cougars defeated third-seeded Ohio Dominican College 5-4 in 10 innings and second-seeded Shawnee State University 10-8 in 11 innings to begin the tournament.
After MVNC fell 15-12 to the #22-ranked Bears of Shawnee State, the Cougars rallied to defeat Ohio Dominican 12-11 in 11 innings and advance to the championship game of the tournament. However, MVNC saw its season come to an end as Shawnee State prevailed 18-2 to advance to the NAIA Sectional Tournament and eventually the NAIA World Series.
Individually, several players had outstanding seasons including five seniors (Andy Heimbach, Dave Byard, Jeff Lavin, Brian Sheets, and Drue Gray) who wrapped up their stellar careers.
Heimbach, a right-handed pitcher, posted a 5-3 record with a 4.65 earned run average. In 62 innings, he struck out 67 batters as he was named to the NCCAA East Region Team and the American Mideast Conference Second Team. Heimbach finishes his career as the school's all-time leader in shutouts (17), strikeouts (339), innings pitched (310.1) and tied for most victories (37).
Byard, a right-handed pitcher, compiled 4-4 record with a 6.59 ERA. In 54.2 innings, he struck out 56 batters. Byard finishes his career ranked third in school history in victories (32) and strikeouts (243), and second in innings pitched (294.0).
Lavin, a catcher, posted a .311 batting average this season with seven doubles, four home runs, nine runs scored, and 21 runs batted in. He was an Honorable Mention All-AMC selection, and he was also chosen to the GTE Academic All-District IV Second Team and the AMC All-Academic Team.
Sheets, a third baseman, compiled a .349 batting average with nine doubles, one triple, two home runs, 26 runs scored, and 32 RBI. For his career, he ranks ninth in batting average (.363) and doubles (34), and tenth in hits (169), runs batted in (125), and walks (77).
Gray, a first baseman, recorded a .349 batting average with six doubles, two home runs, 14 runs scored, and 13 RBI.
Mike Waddell, a junior right-handed pitcher, posted a 6-3 record with a team-best 2.81 ERA. Waddell struck out a team-high 74 batters in 67.1 innings as he was named the AMC Pitcher of the Year. He was also named to the AMC First Team and the NCCAA East Region Team as well as being selected as the team's Most Valuable Player. In addition to his performance on the mound, Waddell batted .345 with nine doubles, two triples, a team-high six home runs, 32 runs scored, and a team-high 44 RBI.
Eddie Wright, a junior outfielder, led the team with a .377 batting average, five triples, and 18 stolen bases. He also recorded two doubles, two home runs, 27 RBI, and 34 runs scored as he earned AMC Honorable Mention and NCCAA All-East Region honors.
Jason Hall, a junior second baseman, batted .329 with five doubles, 24 runs scored, and 28 RBI as he was named to the AMC Honorable Mention list. He also committed just eight errors in 188 chances at second base. Meanwhile, Joel Laslo, a junior shortstop, batted .333 with 10 doubles, four triples, one home run, 36 RBI, and 37 runs scored.
Jeff Wine, a junior outfielder, batted .343 with a team-high 12 doubles, one triple, two home runs, 17 stolen bases, 23 RBI, and a team-high 51 runs scored. He was also named to the GTE Academic All-District IV Second Team and the AMC All-Academic Team.
Mark Coulter, a sophomore left-handed pitcher, posted an 8-5 record with a 4.81 ERA. He led the team with 73 innings pitched, and he earned all three of the Cougars' wins at the NAIA Region IX Tournament.
Josh Colley, a sophomore outfielder, batted .324 with 13 stolen bases and 22 runs scored before an injury ended his season at the NCCAA East Region Tournament. Josh Sichina, a freshman third baseman, batted .347 in his first collegiate season with nine doubles, two triples, two home runs, 22 runs scored, and 29 RBI.
Tim Saunders, Jason Irish, and Lew Hilgenberg, a trio of freshmen right-handed pitchers, all contributed in their first season at MVNC. Saunders posted a 4-1 record with a 5.03 ERA, while Irish was 2-1 with a 5.88 ERA. Hilgenberg led the team with 16 appearances, and he compiled an 0-2 record with a 5.29 ERA and a team-high two saves.
With an experienced lineup returning in 2001, the future looks bright for the Cougar baseball program.