By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- The Willamette University baseball team has received the Team Academic Excellence Award from the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) for 2018-19. Willamette and other teams qualified for the award by earning at least a 3.0 team grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) throughout the academic year.
Overall, 208 NCAA and NAIA teams qualified for the award. Willamette was one of 81 teams in NCAA Division III that were recognized as achieving the honor. The Bearcats were joined by George Fox University and Lewis & Clark College from the Northwest Conference.
"Our program strives for excellence on and off the field," Willamette Head Baseball Coach Aaron Swick said. "We have had 22 straight semesters of a team GPA above 3.0. I am extremely proud of the efforts our players make to be great students and appreciate the ABCA for recognizing their performance."
The Bearcats finished the 2019 season with a 19-16 overall record, including a 14-10 mark in the NWC (4th place tie). On offense, Willamette was led by five players hitting over .300. Connor Bailey (Sr., CF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) led the way with a .386 batting average, while Justin Scanlon (Jr., 2B, San Jose, CA/Leigh HS/West Valley College) hit .357. Sam Hudd (Sr.Jr., 1B, Evergreen, COEvergreen HS) and Tyler Janitz (Sr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) each batted .321, and Cole Pursell connected for hits at a .305 rate. The Bearcats smacked 28 home runs, 64 doubles and five triples. WU ranked 23rd in NCAA Division III in home runs per game.
On the mound, the Bearcats' pitching staff attained a 4.31 team earned run average with 223 strikeouts in 307 innings. Matt Steindorf (Sr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) was 8-2 with a 2.81 ERA and a team-high 68 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings pitched. On defense, Willamette registered a .968 team fielding percentage and turned 27 double-plays. Hudd led the Bearcats with 156 putouts, while Janitz provided 118 assists.
Willamette achieved a 3-1 record against archrival Linfield College. The Bearcats went 5-1 against George Fox University.
Bailey was chosen NWC Baseball Player of the Year, while being selected First Team All-West Region by D3baseball.com and Second Team All-West Region by the ABCA. He was a finalist for the Ad Rutschman Small College Men's Athlete of the Year Award presented by the Oregon Sports Awards.
Bailey, Steindorf, Pursell, and Scanlon were named First Team All-NWC. Janitz was chosen Second Team All-NWC, and Brendan Natuzzi (Sr., 3B, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) earned Honorable Mention All-NWC recognition. Scanlon was selected Second Team All-West Region by D3baseball.com. Steindorf was a Third Team All-West Region pick by D3baseball.com and was named Second Team All-West Region by the ABCA.
Janitz received an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship worth $10,000 toward tuition when he begins studying at Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in Las Cruces, New Mexico, this fall. He also was a First Team Google Cloud Academic All-District VIII selection for 2019 as chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).