WATERTOWN, Wis. -- It was another building year for Maranatha but a young and promising program took some forward steps from where they were a year ago.
The Sabercats returned veterans Clint Matheis and Dillon Smith, who captained the team and led the way as four-year student-athletes. But behind the two captains was a solid core of returning players (including AD3I 1st Team All-Independent selection Ryan Hempel), and a promising group of first-year student-athletes.
For many of the games this year, the Sabercats started six first-year players.
Jonah Bailey caught most of the games for the Sabercats. The rookie from the U.P. didn't shy away from college baseball, as he went 2-2 in his first collegiate game. Bailey was also a prominent member of the pitching rotation, as he was given the ball for six games in his rookie season.
Alex Causey was voted as the team MVP, and he filled four key positions including shortstop and pitcher. Causey was second on the team with a .247 batting average and the team leader with doubles (4) and extra-base hits (5). Causey was also named as the Association of Division III Independents' student-athlete of the week in late April.
Kyle Cummins held down first base for the Sabercats and he came up big in the Sabercats' two wins on the season. Cummins pitched the 5-1 win over North Central and would later go 4-4 with three runs scored in the Sabercats' 17-5 hammering of Lincoln Christian.
Rudy Gieger ended up being the cleanest outfielder for Maranatha, holding a .931 fielding percentage after 29 chances this season. After playing and starting inconsistently for the first part of the season, Gieger earned a consistent place in the starting lineup.
Shane Paruch was a mainstay at third base, as the freshman held the position all season long. Paruch logged two key RBI in the Sabercats' first win of the season against North Central on April 6.
Caleb Westerlund was the sixth rookie to be an active member of the Sabercats' starting lineup. Westerlund played outfield primarily and took to the mound in four games for the Sabercats.
(AD3I All-Independent Awards: TBA)
(NCCAA All-Region Awards: TBA)
During the annual Athletics Awards Assembly at Maranatha two weeks ago, Coach Gary Garrison named the team awards for the 2019 season, as voted on by the student-athletes and coaches.
Most Valuable Offensive: Ryan Hempel
Most Valuable Defensive: Alex Causey
Most Valuable: Alex Causey
Pitching Ace: Clint Matheis
Coach's Award: Jed Marsh
"I was very pleased with the development of the freshman," said head coach Gary Garrison. "With starting six freshmen in many games, they gained valuable experience that will help them in the next three years. Six years ago we had a crop of eight freshmen on the team. Those guys bonded and developed into possibly the best senior class MBU has ever had."
What impressed Garrison the most about the team was "their willingness to learn and grow not only as players but as brothers in Christ. They bonded very well. This is a very coachable group of returning sophomores. I look forward to seeing their progress from year to year."