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Hats Off To The Cougars

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Photo by Ken Williams
Gold Glove Winner Brent Warren (left), all-GSAC honoree Matt Kimmel (center), and GSAC Player of the Year Jordan Leyland (right) congratulate each other at home plate.

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Published
April 30, 2012
By
Chris Baker

2012 GSAC Awards

AZUSA, Calif.-- After one of the Golden State Athletic Conference’s best seasons in years the NAIA’s 4th ranked Azusa Pacific was well-represented when the 2012 GSAC honors were announced. The Cougars, who went 28-4 in conference play after winning all eight series, had the GSAC’s Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, four all-GSAC honorees, and two Gold Glove award winners.

Head Coach Paul Svagdis took home coach of the year honors for the second time in his stint at Azusa Pacific after fielding a team that not only ranked at or near the top of the GSAC in every offensive category, but also finished with the second lowest ERA (4.20) in the conference. The last time Svagdis earned the Coach of the Year distinction was in 2007 when he led his Cougars to the first of back-to-back NAIA World Series appearances.

Leading the way for all-conference honors was the GSAC Player of the Year Jordan Leyland, who finished No. 1 in home runs (20) and RBIs (64). Also listed for Azusa Pacific on the all-GSAC team were Matt Kimmel, Johnathan Erb, Michael Finnigan, and Alan Garcia, while Anthony Rodriguez won his first Gold Glove at short stop and Brent Warren earned a Gold Glove after posting a perfect fielding percentage in right field.

Jordan Leyland: GSAC Player of the Year; .441, 20 HR, 64 RBI, 17 2B, .855 Slugging

From the get-go Azusa Pacific got production from its first baseman as the former UC Irvine Anteater opened the year on a 16-game hitting streak. The San Dimas native finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the NAIA in home runs (20), to go with the nation’s highest slugging percentage (.855). Leyland ended the season ranked inside the NAIA’s top-10 in total bases (No. 1; 159), slugging, home runs, RBIs (No. 6; 64), hits (No. 7; 82), runs (No. 9; 62), and batting average (No. 10; .441). He recorded 28 multi-hit games, and drove in two or more runs 18 times. And despite playing in a hitter’s park at Azusa Pacific, Leyland actually hit more than half of his home runs on the road (12), including a 3-run home run off GSAC Pitcher of the Year Charlie Gillies in a 4-3 win at The Master’s on March 19. Leyland is the 4th Cougar to be named GSAC Player of the Year since 2005.

Johnathan Erb: All-GSAC; .325, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 17 2B

While Leyland was putting one of the program’s best seasons together, it was Erb that kept opposing pitchers honest. Playing in the 4-hole behind the GSAC Player of the Year Erb protected Leyland, and then some; most notably on March 9 when Fresno Pacific dared Erb to beat them twice by intentionally walking Leyland to face the left fielder. The senior from Camarillo made the Sunbrids pay, first doubling in a pair of runs before blasting a 3-run home run over the right field fence in a 21-5 drubbing for the Cougars. Erb hit .385 in GSAC play (5th best), while hitting six of his seven bombs against conference foes. Erb tied Leyland for the team’s longest hitting streak of the season and did well against lefties, batting .419 against southpaws with a .677 slugging percentage.

Matt Kimmel: All-GSAC; .441, 7 HR, 53 RBI, 20 2B

There was no sophomore slump for Kimmel as the centerfielder from Redmond, Wash. led the GSAC in batting average, while finishing in the top-5 in slugging (.690), on-base percentage (.493), runs (51), hits (91), RBIs, (53), doubles (20), and total bases (138). Kimmel was deadly in the clutch, putting up a .426 average with runners on base, .478 with runners on and two outs, and a ridiculous .475 with runners in scoring position and two outs. And while Kimmel was a smooth .500 (20-for-40) as a leadoff hitter, Azusa Pacific went 34-5 after moving him to the 5th spot.

Michael Finnigan: All-GSAC; 6-0, 2.51 ERA, 47 SO, 3 CG, 1.11 WHIP

Back in the fall Finnigan was fighting for a spot as a starter on the Cougar’s staff. Now he is atop a staff that finished second in the GSAC in earned run average, thanks in large part to his 2.51 ERA and three complete games. In his first year with Azusa Pacific Finnigan excelled, pitching game-two of Saturday double-headers at the beginning of the year before getting bumped up to being Azusa Pacific’s No. 1 starter. The Cajon High School graduate went 6-0 in conference play, and posted the GSAC’s lowest ERA (1.88) in conference games. The junior held opposing hitters to a .205 clip from the plate, and got the leadoff batter out nearly 82 percent of the time. Lefties hit just .200 against Finnigan and recorded just one extra base hit (double) all year against him. Finnigan earned GSAC Player of the Week honors twice in 2012, most recently after registering 10 strikeouts in a shutout against San Diego Christian on April 7.

Alan Garcia: All-GSAC; 15 Saves, 3.91 ERA, 24 SO

Garcia broke the Azusa Pacific saves record, registering the NAIA’s second most saves (15). The junior from Hermosillo, Mexico was lights out in save situations, finishing with a 2.45 ERA when given the ball with a Cougar lead in the 9th. Garcia didn’t allow an opposing batter to hit a home run against him and despite nearly giving Svagdis a heart attack on multiple occasions was almost unhittable with runners on and two outs (.111 average against). Garcia dominated right handed hitters all year, allowing just a .157 average against while recording a 22-to-7 strikeout to walk ratio.

Brent Warren: GSAC Gold Glove; 1.000 FLD%, 112 Putouts, 4 Assists

As one of the Cougars most well-rounded players Warren followed up his 2011 all-GSAC campaign with a Gold Glove in 2012. The right fielder was perfect in the outfield, going errorless in 116 chances, while recording four assists.

Anthony Rodriguez: GSAC Gold Glove; 27 double-plays, 89 putouts, 163 assists, .944 FLD%

With arguably the strongest arm of any short stop in the NAIA Rodriguez saved countless runs for the Cougars. The senior had great range and better instincts, committing just 15 errors in 267 chances.

GSAC SCHOLAR ATHLETES

The following players earned scholar-athlete recognition for their performance in the classroom. The Cougars' seven GSAC scholar-athlete recipients led the GSAC, with the next closest teams (The Master's and Fresno Pacific) each getting three.

Johnathan Erb: Applied Health

Trevor Lothrop: Business

Tim Lu: Accounting

Noah Northrop: Finance

Tyler Putjenter: Social Science

Cameron Ross: Applied Exercise Science

Daniel Shouldice: Biology