AZUSA, Calif.-- This past year the NAIA’s 5th ranked Azusa Pacific baseball team put together one its most successful seasons in program history, winning the Golden State Athletic Conference regular season title and earning the right to host one of nine NAIA Baseball Championship Opening Rounds. And while this past season may have been one for the history books it was also one for the textbooks as seven players were named NAIA Scholar Athletes, the most of any school in the NAIA.
Johnathan Erb, Cameron Ross, Tim Lu, and Noah Northrop were the four seniors represented, with juniors Daniel Shouldice, Trevor Lothrop, and Tyler Putjenter each being listed among 259 players nationally.
“I think we’ve had pretty dramatic seasons like this year, but this is the first time we’ve had that many scholar athletes on a team with this much success,” said head coach Paul Svagdis. “We tell our guys you can be smart and good at baseball. Each one of those skills is not mutually exclusive.”
Over the past four seasons the Cougars have seen their number of Scholar Athletes rise from one in 2008 to six in 2011 before the 2012 team set a new standard of academic excellence with a program-high seven this year. Indiana Tech yielded the second-highest total of 2012 with six, while Arizona Christian, British Columbia, Doane (Neb.), Oregon Tech, and SCAD (Ga.) each produced five.
“It’s really a group effort. (Assistant Coach) Drew Evans oversees our academic development, but more importantly it’s a team effort. We have current players that tutor their teammates. I think that process, when you have a teammate or a tutor that takes that time, it creates a culture or expectation that academics are important. We want our guys to do well in the classroom, and we’re actively recruiting athletes that are strong students. Awards like this are a byproduct of that,” said Svagdis.
Yesterday Matt Kimmel, who is ineligible for Scholar Athlete recognition as a sophomore, was named to the CoSIDA Capital One Academic All American team, earning third team honors to give Azusa Pacific a total of eight national academic awards this year.
In order to be nominated by an institution's head coach or sports information director, a student-athlete must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved a junior academic status to qualify for this honor.
For the complete NAIA Scholar Athlete List Click Here (PDF)