Baseball Lions enjoy improved play
SAGU led by Jett, Mendoza, Vess
Infielders turn 22 DP's after one in 2011
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The recently concluded 2012 baseball season at Southwestern Assemblies of God University began and ended with much promise.
Under new Head Coach Jonathan Shockley the Lions went 15-27, mostly on the strength of an improved pitching staff and a better defense.
In 2012 the Lion hurlers earned run average of 5.27 was sixth in the Red River Athletic Conference, the best in seven years. A year ago they permitted 7.38, an upgrade by 2.11 per game. Two years prior, the staff ERA was 10.00.
Cutting opponents’ scoring from 373 runs to 270 was nearly 30% lower. In the field, SAGU made 98 errors in 42 games compared to 121 in 40 in 2011.
The team was drastically better in converting double plays; turning one batted ball into a pair of outs in a single play. SAGU make 22 twin-killings after only one in 2011. Those making the pivot were a pair of freshmen who made the DP look routine this spring.
After getting off to an 8-0 start, the team toiled to produce runs in spite of finishing fourth with a .284 batting average.
Pushing across 3.57 runs, ninth best in the RRAC, curbed the victory parade. If the Pride scored what the 2011 team did, at almost five runs per outing, they could’ve added six wins and finished 21-21. That would've been the best record in school history.
Southwestern surrendered double-digits to opponents in only 12 of 42 games after yielding 10+ runs 22 times in 40 games the previous season.
In contrast, while the 2011 team won 5 conference contests, four more than this year’s squad, they held RRAC teams under ten runs just six times in 30 league games.
The 2012 unit more than doubled that effort in 23 games. Thirteen times the squad limited the opposition to nine runs or less. A few clutch hits would’ve made a major difference.
Middle Men were the defensive backbone
The enhanced product on the field was markedly better.
The Lions were solid up the middle. Jared Denton (Mission, Tx / Sharyland HS) and Taylor Froelich (Lee's Summit, Mo / Central Christian College, Lee's Summit West HS) were ‘tough as nails,’ productive catchers behind the dish as well as at bat. The pair were sophomores also appeared at first base or as the designated hitter.
Donovan Vess (Ft. Worth, Tx / Eastfield College, Lake Worth HS) and Jake Spivey (Georgetown, Tx / Harker Heights HS), a pair of 5’9 freshmen, both manned the shortstop and second baseman positions. The combination converted ground balls, catcher throw-downs and cutoff relays into methodical putouts.
The duo hit well over .300 all season; the gritty Vess with power rips and Spivey with an array of well-hit liners sprayed to all fields.
Dustin Jett (Patterson, La / Patterson HS) was the cornerstone of the defense, roaming the expanses of centerfield. His range, closing speed and glove-work were renown. (See photo above of his catch of the year, Photo-Shopped to help fans understand how he made the catch)
The rightly named player left SAGU as the school’s all-time leader in at bats, hits, runs, walks, stolen bases and unofficially in spectacular catches.
With 21 thefts in 22 attempts, Jett was fifth in the league in the category.
Flanking him in an all-senior outfield were Mario Mendoza (Ft. Worth, Tx / Grambling State University, Polytechnic HS) in left and Ben Chavez (Roswell, NM / NM Military Institute, Gateway Christian HS) in right.
Mendoza led the team in batting after going 5-for-8 in the season finale doubleheader, nudging past Vess. His focus, drive and athleticism were always on display.
Before straining his throwing his elbow in his fourth start, the southpaw tossed SAGU’s first-ever no-hitter and a one-hitter.
The multi-talented Chavo, unlike Michael Jackson, had a glove on one hand for an obvious reason. He could play the field.
He was a trusted leader and playmaker in rightfield as well as several infield positions. He often batted in the two-hole for his ability to advance runners and had occasional power.
Chavey (like CHAH-vee) and Froelich (FRAY-lick) both crushed home runs that have yet to land. Vess and Robert Elles (Red Oak, Tx / Tyler JuCo, Red Oak HS) also went ‘yard’ this season.
Freshman Zach Worrell (Ft. Worth, Tx / Central Christian College, LD Bell HS), an impressive freshman pitcher, was a fine-looking outfielder with a left-handed hose in right.
Salty veteran Riley Hensel (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) played the hot corner and was as tough as a thirty-cent steak. He hit .268, uncorked four extra-base hits and was fearless at third. Hensel had an arm as strong as his heart.
Kevin Barnes (Weatherford, Tx / Brewer HS), Weston Lippe (Huntsville, Tx / Alpha Omega Academy) and Adam O’Banion (Peoria, Az / Kellis HS) had their moments at third and could challenge for a starting role next season.
Barnes is a speed merchant with a good bat. Lippe (LIP-ee), a strapping 6’5 third baseman, showed flashes in the late-going while O’Banion’s bat (.333) may force coaches to find room for him in the attack.
A handful of first basemen took their turns; Elles, Froelich, the hulkster Enrique Rodriguez (Ft. Worth, Tx / Ranger JuCo, Nolan Catholic HS), Nick Sheffield (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) and Daniel Reinhardt (Abilene, Tx / Vancouver Christian HS) were more than capable glovemen. Elles led the group with a .278 bat.
Upgraded pitching staff includes 5.27 ERA and a no-hitter
The pitching staff was deeper this season than in many years. The injury to Mendoza (2-0 record) was a key loss. Angular lefty Nic Morgan (Ft. Worth, Tx / LeTourneau Univ, Boswell HS), the senior ace, and sophomore John Savis (Canton, Tx / Canton HS) were consistent for most of the spring.
Savis, whose courageous recovery from Tommy John surgery was a great story, finished in the Top 10 in the RRAC in strikeouts.
Two freshmen made their mark as starters.
Right-handed Rockie Davis (Santa Fe, Tx / Santa Fe HS), a starting linebacker for the Lions football team, was just as bold on the mound. His three wins tied senior reliever Chris Stanley (Harker Heights, Tx / Harker Heights HS) for the team lead.
Davis issued just 17 walks in 45 innings pitched, ranking #13 in the league.
Worrell, a southpaw, fired a 4-0 shutout at Howard Payne University and went 2-2 in just four starts. Elles, another lefty, Michael Reeves (Red Oak, Tx / Ovilla Christian) and Reinhardt each turned heads with some of their efforts.
Senior closer Tim Kolczak (San Antonio, Tx / F.E.A.S.T., Taft HS) earned a pair of saves that tied him for the SAGU all-time record.
Comparative team statistics over the past seven seasons are posted below. Click here for individual players stats from 2012.
|Year||Games||Held Tms Under 10||Allowed 10+ Runs||W-L||ERA|
Key: W-L-T – Won-Lost-Tied. ERA – Earned Run Average. *Also had one tied game.
SAGU Team Batting
|Year||BA||Runs Per Game||HR||SB|
|2012||.284||3.57 (9)||4 (10)||94 (3)|
|2011||.280||4.71 (10)||14 (11)||44 (10)|
|2010||.266||5.09 (9)||16 (9)||23 (10)|
|2008||.302||5.40 (8)||7 (10)||38 (9)|
|2007||.330||5.14 (9)||4 (11)||67 (8)|
|2006||.338||7.33 (4)||16 (7)||90 (3)|
Number in parenthesis indicates rank in the RRAC.
Key: BA – Batting Average. HR – Home Runs. SB – Stolen Bases.