Five members of the Mount Vernon Nazarene College baseball team will play the final home games of their careers at Cougar Field on Thursday as the Cougars host Point Park (PA) College in an American Mideast Conference doubleheader at 1:00 p.m.
Seniors Drue Gray, Brian Sheets, Jeff Lavin, Dave Byard, and Andy Heimbach have led MVNC to an overall record of 147-51 (.742 winning percentage) over the past four seasons. The Cougars have also won two conference titles and two National Christian College Athletic Association national titles during that span as well as making the program's first-ever appearance in the NAIA World Series in 1997.
"This senior group has been involved in a number of quality wins," said head coach Keith Veale. "They have competed for championships every year that they have been here. They have a quiet competitiveness that has given direction and allowed us to continue to compete at a high level. It has been a quick four years."
Gray, a first baseman from Ashville, Ohio, has played in 50 games during his career at MVNC and posted a career batting average of .353 with seven doubles, one triple, two home runs, 20 runs batted in, and 24 runs scored. This season, the former Teays Valley High School product leads the team with a .380 batting average while playing in 16 games.
Sheets, a third baseman from Vermilion, Ohio, has played in 138 career games and posted a career batting average of .354 with 31 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, 89 runs scored, and 116 RBI. He ranks tenth in both career batting average and doubles. The former Vermilion High School standout, who was a First Team All-Conference selection and an NCCAA Honorable Mention All-American as a sophomore, is batting .303 with 23 RBI this season.
Lavin, a catcher from Mercer, Pennsylvania, has played in 121 games in his career and compiled a .328 career batting average with 14 doubles, five home runs, 20 runs scored, and 64 RBI. The former West Middlesex High School product was an NAIA and NCCAA Honorable Mention All-American and an NAIA and NCCAA Academic All-American as a junior. He is batting .316 with 14 RBI this season.
Byard, a right-handed pitcher from Byesville, Ohio, has posted a 32-7 career record with a 2.52 earned run average. In 282 innings, the former Meadowbrook High School star has fanned 226 batters - the fifth most in school history. This season, Byard, who was an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American last season and has been an NCCAA All-American three times, has compiled a 4-2 record with a 5.06 ERA.
Heimbach, a right-handed pitcher from Wheelersburg, Ohio, has posted a 36-7 career record with a 2.38 ERA. In 291 innings, the former All-Ohioan at Wheelersburg High School has struck out a school-record 320 batters and also tossed a national-record 17 shutouts. Heimbach, who is a two-time NAIA All-American and the 1999 NAIA National Player of the Year, was drafted in the eighth round of the 1999 amatuer draft by the Boston Red Sox. This year, he has posted a 4-2 record with a 4.22 ERA.
These five players have helped to carry on the successful winning tradition that has come to be synonymous with the MVNC baseball program. They have set standards of excellence on the field for future Cougar players to emulate.