Huntingdon Baseball Lands Five On GSAC All-Conference Team; Conville Named League Coach of the Year


By Adam Bagni

LAGRANGE, Ga. --- Led by 2009 Great South Athletic Conference Coach of the Year D.J. Conville, the Huntingdon baseball team had five members named to the All-Conference team, three honored on the All-Freshman team and nine recognized on the All-Academic team, when the league announced its postseason awards.

Seniors Brad Vest and John Otterson, as well as juniors Kyle Eller, Josh Bennefield and Alex Sanford were each named to the GSAC’s All-Conference team, while newcomers Caleb Astin, John Rice and Caleb Cofield garnered All-Freshman team honors.

Vest, an All-Conference selection last season, anchored the Hawks pitching staff, finishing 6-6 with a league-low 2.65 earned run average. The Falkville native tossed a team-high 88 1/3 innings, allowing just 75 hits, while striking out 62. In addition, opponents posted a batting average of just .227 against Vest on the season.

A native of Madison, Ala., Otterson started in 38 games, posting a .321 batting average, hitting primarily in the lead-off spot. He finished second on the team with 52 hits, while hitting a team-high 10 doubles. Otterson added two home runs, a triple, 28 runs batted in, 35 runs scored and 14 stolen bases.

A three-year starter for Huntingdon, Eller led the team in nearly every offense statistic this season. The Birmingham native recorded a .370 batting average, 57 hits, eight home runs and 42 RBIs. He also added 18 stolen bases, while scoring 40 runs. Eller also recorded a team-best 17-game hitting streak, 17 multi-hit games and nine multiple RBI games.

After missing last season with Hodgkin's lymphoma, Bennefield played a key role for the Hawks both offensively and defensively. At the plate, the Pleasant Grove native recorded a .298 batting average, while leading the team with seven sacrifice hits. He added 39 runs scored, 14 runs batted in and 10 stolen bases. In the field, he committed just seven errors in 112 attempts, good for a fielding percentage of .967.

Sanford, a Prattville native and transfer from Bishop State Community College, finished 2009 with a 4-2 record and a 4.69 earned run average. Sanford also posted 71 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings, as well as his first career shutout, a 5-0 victory over Piedmont.

In his fifth season at the helm, Conville guided the Hawks to a 26-15 record, including a 6-3 mark in the conference. Huntingdon earned the top-seed in the GSAC Tournament, falling in the finals to eventual-champion Maryville. During his tenure, Conville has recorded a 136-73 overall record, good for a winning percentage of .651.

Astin, a Prattville native, was one of three players to start 40 games for the Hawks this season. He finished with a .314 bating average, scored 33 runs, drove in 20 and stole 10 bases.

A native of Decatur, Ga., Rice appeared in 14 games, recording a 5-2 record with a 3.24 earned run average. He also recorded one save and issued only 18 walks in 50 innings pitched, while allowing opponents to hit just .254.

Cofield, who is from Opelika, appeared in 16 games, all in relief. He recorded a 1-2 overall record with a 4.64 ERA. Cofield struck out 33 in 33 innings, while limiting opposing hitters to a .194 batting average.

Ben Peters of Maryville was named the GSAC Player of the Year, while Piedmont’s Spencer Shelton earned Pitcher of the Year. Jordan Martinec of LaGrange garnered Freshman of the Year honors.

In addition to its on-field awards, the GSAC also recognized its All-Academic Team. For the third straight season, Vest and senior Brent Blackwell earned the honor, while Otterson, Eller, senior Dylan Ruppel and junior Chris Knight were each recognized for the second time. Juniors Ben Cecil, Gary Frazier and Landon Rogers were named to the team for the first time this season. In order to be considered for the all-academic team, a player must be classified as a sophomore or higher and maintain a grade point average of 3.25 or better.

Huntingdon finished the 2009 season with a 26-15 overall record, capturing the GSAC Regular-Season title before falling the Tournament Championship Game.

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