Mercer’s baseball team spent a chunk of Tuesday on the road to DeLand, Fla., for the A-Sun baseball tournament, but it was a good trip.
The Bears got to talk about how they dominated the A-Sun all-conference honors.
Chesny Young was named the A-Sun player of the year, while pitcher Brandon Barker earned the conference’s baseball scholar-athlete award.
And Craig Gibson earned his first conference coach of the year honor.
East Tennessee State workhorse Kerry Doane, who shut out Mercer in a 1-0 win May 10, is the pitcher of the year, and Stetson’s Patrick Mazeika is the top freshman.
Young, Doane, Florida Gulf Coast’s Brandon Bednar and Kennesaw State’s Stephen Janas were unanimous picks.
Designated hitter Nick Backlund, outfielder Derrick Workman and relief pitcher Dimitri Kourtis joined Young on the first team, while Barker made the second team.
“It’s been a special, special season for us,” Gibson said.
Young is Mercer’s first player of the year since Gibson won the honor during his playing days in 1985. And Mercer hasn’t had a baseball coach of the year since Barry Myers in 1994.
A-Sun baseball records indicate that Young is the first player to follow up top freshman honors with player of the year as a sophomore, dating back to the first freshman of the year listed, Stetson infielder Brian Zenchyk in 2001.
The sophomore from Marist’s average rose from .367 to .388, and he drove in 19 more runs with one more homer. And the third baseman improved his fielding percentage from .898 to .969, committing only four errors while starting every game this season.
Young enters the A-Sun tournament first nationally in hits (95), 27th nationally in average, 29th in total bases (128), 42nd in RBI per game (1.0), 58th in runs per game (0.98) and 100th in on-base percentage (.449).
Workman earned his second straight first-team honor, lifting his average 12 points to .345 and belting two more homers with 14 more RBI. He led the A-Sun in hitting for a chunk of the first half of the season.
The junior from Dominion Christian is 62nd nationally in slugging percentage, 92nd nationally in homers per game and 96th in RBI per game. Backlund is also a repeat selection on the first team.
The junior from San Jose, Calif., is hitting .327, 15th in the A-Sun, with a conference-leading 63 RBI, 20 doubles (51st nationally) and 13 homers (30th in homers per game), as well as 132 total bases (20th nationally).
Kourtis made the all-freshman team a year ago as a starter and middle reliever, going 6-2 with a 3.90 ERA, .267 opponents average and only one home run allowed.
He moved into the closer’s role this season with remarkable ease.
Kourtis leads the A-Sun with nine saves, good for a tie for 56th in the nation. The sophomore from Alpharetta is 81st in the nation in strikeouts-to-walks ratio (4.15, and two spots ahead of teammate D.J. Johnson).
He is 5-1 with 54 strikeouts in 59 innings. Teams are hitting .242 against him and have yet to hit a homer.
Barker made the second team but had first-team numbers: 7-1 record, 1.90 ERA, 76 strikeouts in 80.2 innings and a .232 opponents average. Last year’s numbers are through the three games of the A-Sun tournament.
Barker, an engineering major, helped Mercer land four of the nine slots on the baseball all-academic team. He was joined by Young, Workman and junior Austin Barrett.
“That’s the consistency we’ve gotten on Friday night, and (Barker) has been consistent in the classroom,” Gibson said. “He has almost a 3.7 in engineering, so that’s special. Unbelievable.”
Gibson joins men’s basketball head coach Bob Hoffman and men’s soccer head coach Brad Ruzzo as conference coaches of the year in 2012-13 from Mercer.
“It means we had a good team,” Gibson said. “I don’t live and die to be coach of the year. I just like winning games.”