AZUSA, Calif. -- Fresh off its return to the postseason, in which Azusa Pacific claimed wins over a pair of NAIA Top 15-ranked opponents in the Golden State Athletic Conference Postseason Tournament, the Cougars had a program-record 6 players honored among the list of 21 GSAC Baseball Scholar-Athletes in 2011.
The 6 players honored ties the record for the most GSAC Scholar-Athletes to be produced by a single school in GSAC baseball history, matching the 6 GSAC Scholar-Athletes California Baptist produced in 2008. The most players to ever receive the award from Azusa Pacific in the same season was 3, which has occurred 4 times since 1997. The only other team with more than 3 GSAC Scholar-Athletes in 2011 was Biola, which produced 4.
“I was definitely impressed with the number of scholar-athletes we had,” Cougar head coach Paul Svagdis said. “It’s something we’re proud of as a program, and it’s certainly something we look to develop in our recruiting. Whether they’re 2-year players from junior colleges or 4-year players out of high school, our goal is to find those guys who are the right fit academically for Azusa Pacific.”
The GSAC Scholar-Athlete designation goes to student-athletes who carry a 3.5 cumulative grade point average and have reached junior or above academic standing. Senior OF Josh Leite was the lone senior in terms of athletic eligibility among Azusa Pacific’s 2011 GSAC Scholar-Athletes. He was joined by 5 juniors: 1B Johnathan Erb, LHP Tim Lu, RHP Noah Northrop, RHP Cameron Ross, and C Daniel Shouldice.
“I think it shows you can have good students and good athletes at the same time,” Svagdis said. “I’d like to think you can be successful as a student-athlete and also be able to win baseball games. That’s something that’s personal to me with my background as a college student and as a college coach, and it’s certainly a focus for us in our recruiting. We want to find a combination of both academics and athletic ability in all of our student-athletes. Aside from those 6 GSAC Scholar-Athletes, you would hope the other 30 guys in the program are also competing well in the classroom.”
Over the past 3 seasons, Azusa Pacific has increased its number of GSAC Scholar-Athletes, going from 1 in 2008 to 2 in 2009 and 3 in 2010 before this year’s record 6-player delegation. In addition, the Cougars were recognized last year as an NAIA Scholar Team, 1 of just 24 NAIA baseball programs to earn that distinction. Among those 24, only 1 other program (Oklahoma City) had appeared in back-to-back NAIA World Series within the past 5 seasons, which Azusa Pacific did in 2007 and 2008.
An NAIA Scholar Team must have a minimum 3.0 GPA among all eligible varsity student-athletes on that team, and Azusa Pacific had the ninth-highest team GPA (3.12) among NAIA baseball programs in 2010. The Cougars were the only GSAC program named as an NAIA Scholar Team last year.