|Scott Shultz '13, recipient of the E. Michael House Coaches/Spirit Award.
The Western Reserve Academy baseball team posted its highest win total in 14 years this season, and with no seniors on the current roster, the best may be yet to come for the Pioneers.
After opening the season with four losses, the Pioneers went on a streak that saw them win 11 of their next 14 games before finishing the season at 13-10.
“Coming off our three-week Spring Break, we begin our season one week after all our opponents,” coach Rich Hoffman said. “We struggled to put runs on the board that first week; but from then on, it really was a remarkable campaign.”
The Pioneers were led by the pitching of Tyler Hoegsberg ’14, who earned Most Valuable Player honors after going 8-2 on the season with an ERA of 1.93
“An old adage in baseball says that good pitching beats good hitting,” Hoffman said. “Tyler’s good pitching beat good hitting on eight separate occasions. Prior to Tyler’s eight wins this year, the most successful WRA pitcher in the last decade was Chris Pechalk ’05, who won five games in 2005. Chris was (also) voted by his teammates as Most Valuable Player.
“Tyler struck out twice as many batters as he walked; he allowed approximately one base hit per inning pitched. When you consider that he only walked one batter every three innings pitched, it is clear that Tyler readily accomplished the aim of all pitchers: he kept people off base. For us, having a guy on the mound delivering those types of numbers makes for a great season.”
Azziz Qadri ’13 earned Most Improved Player honors after totaling 25 base hits on the season – after collecting just three hits total during his sophomore season.
“This year, on two separate occasions, Azziz rapped three base hits in a single game and, in one of them, he was 4-for-4, which is no easy task,” Hoffman said. “One third of the way through this season, Azziz was batting a rather subdued .190, better than last year, but not the level of success he expected from himself, and not the output this very young team needed from one of its junior leaders. But starting with the April 17 game against Cornerstone Christian, Azziz hit in all but two of our last 16 ballgames. The 21 base hits he rapped in his final 45 at-bats – a .467 clip – brought his year-end average to a more than respectable .379, totaling 25 base hits in 23 games.
“Perhaps the most noteworthy element of Azziz winning this award is the fact that his teammates recognized his improvement without the aid of all the statistical hardware to which a coach has access. I can spout off these numeric improvements, having such access. But more astutely, his teammates saw the improvement in Azziz’s day-to-day performance, very typical of the kind of close-knit team this group has become over the past three-plus months.”
Team captain Scott Schultz ’13 earned the E. Michael House Coaches/Spirit Award.
“Scott is the first junior ever to captain one of my teams and, while most WRA athletic squads have two, three, perhaps four or more captains, Scott took on this great responsibility alone,” Hoffman said. “Without hesitation I say that I’ve not coached a better-led team than the one Scott captained this year.
“Before the season, Scott was quoted in the Reserve Record as saying that, ‘baseball will have a new feel at WRA, with some new and exciting additions to the ballpark.’ I am sure that when he spoke of the ‘new and exciting additions to the ballpark,’ Scott was referring to the BOSE sound system and the American flag we had installed early this spring. And to Scott’s credit, he was a huge factor in our procuring both for the ballpark.
“But there were other ‘new and exciting additions to the ballpark’ in freshmen Joey Mylott, Patrick Mylott, Connor Semple, Sam Ennis, Ethan Troyer and Evan Morgan. Each of these additions to the ballpark contributed to the 13-10 record we put together this year. But it was the leadership – the spirit of Scott Schultz – that drove this squad to the heights that together we achieved.”
Hoffman is looking forward to building on this year’s success.
“Next year will provide new challenges,” he said. “I am anxious to see just how high this group can climb, together.”
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