The boys of spring put on one exciting season. We've had some fun runs in the past, but 2013 was the best in recent memory.
The Whitewater Wildcats had been the lone playoff team the last couple seasons. This time they were joined by Starr's Mill and McIntosh. The three teams staged a trilling pennant race that wasn't decided until the last week of the season. Coming into the final battle between Starr's Mill and Whitewater, the region seedings had the Wildcats in first followed by the Panthers and Chiefs. The trio were in a virtual dead heat. Starr's Mill's 3-2 win gave them the region title and dropped Whitewater to third behind McIntosh. All three would qualify for the playoffs and advance. Starr's Mill and Whitewater would both reach the Final Four.
Along with the tremendous team performances were some awesome individual showings. It would've been just too unfair to narrow down the field to one player. Artemis Kadkhodaian of Starr's Mill and Hunter Bening of Whitewater are Co-Players of the Year. Kadkhodaian led the Panther attack with a .462 average. He also showed uncommon power for a shortstop, blasting eight home runs and driving in 35 runs. His coach also called him the best fielder to have ever played at Starr's Mill. Bening, meanwhile, stepped up as the leader of the Wildcat offense after the graduation of last year's Co-Players of the Year. Bening responded with a .468 average with three home runs, 28 RBI, and a robust .582 on-base percentage.
It was tough narrowing down the top coaching honors. Any of the three playoff teams would have obviously been a strong choice. Either Brent Mosely of Starr's MIll or Brad Campbell of McIntosh would have been deserving. However, Mark Jones of Whitewater is the Coach of the Year. In his first year at the helm, Jones took the Wildcats back to the Final Four. He had to deal with the graduation loss on offense of last year's Co-Players of the Year, Alex Liquori and John Mark Rhodes, along with workhorse pitcher Daniel Amos and others. During this season they also lost one of their top hitters. Still, the Wildcats kept pushing. Though they lost the region crown to Starr's Mill, they were able to go on the road in the playoffs and keep winning, including an upset over top ranked Gainesville.
We don't give out an award for the top newcomer every year. You also don't often see a rookie make an impact quite like one we saw this year. Cole Jackson of Sandy Creek is the Freshman of the Year. Jackson stepped in as a freshman and manned the hot corner for the Patriots like a veteran. Jackson's .328 batting average shows the kind of potential he has with his bat. He should be an exciting presence in the quickly improving Patriot program for the next three seasons.
The talent was so good this year that we had to create extra spots on the All-County First Team to include as many deserving players as possible.
Andrew Johnson of McIntosh will be behind the plate as the catcher. Johnson hit .348 with three home runs and 27 RBI for the Chiefs as they got back to the postseason.
Bening and Kadkhodaian are joined in the infield by McIntosh's Noah Kiker and Fayette County's Chris Carden. Kiker blasted the ball with a .452 average with three home runs and 29 RBI. Carden powered the Tiger offense with seven home runs and a .461 average.
The outfield is made up of Starr's Mill's Ryan Peurifoy, Whitewater's Nick Fuerstenau, and McIntosh's Trey Walters. Peurifoy was hard to stop all year, hitting .448 with three home runs, 12 doubles, five triples, and 30 RBI. Fuerstenau shined as one of the Wildcats' new stars, hitting .426 with two home runs and 24 RBI. Walters hit .383 for the Chiefs with 35 RBI and 39 runs scored.
Garrison Elliott makes the first team as a designated hitter. Elliott wins the county home run title with 11 big bombs. He wasn't just power though. He also had a sparkling .473 average with 40 RBI and six doubles.
Starr's Mill's Adam Goodman deserves honors as both a hitter and pitcher. Goodman, a sophomore, hit .452 with 20 RBI while also notching a 61 record with 31 strikeouts and a 1.64 ERA in 25 innings as a pitcher.
Fellow Panther pitcher Ryan Avidano sported a 5-0 record with a 0.89 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 39 innings.
Whitewater's Cam Wesolowski baffled hitters all yearlong with a nearly spotless ERA in the regular season while averaging more than a strikeout an inning.
There is still a ton of talent on the All-County second team.
Jared Jackson of Sandy Creek is the catcher. Jackson racked up a .303 average while flashing a rocket arm behind the dish.
The infield is made up of Our Lady of Mercy's Christian Griffith, Whitewater's Justin Trammel, McIntosh's Tyler Roberts, and Fayette County's Wahid Ali. Griffith led the Bobcat attack with a .415 average and 17 RBI with just eight strikeouts in 83 plate appearances. Trammel hit .372 for the Wildcats while flashing a tremendous glove, evidenced by his .951 fielding percentage. Roberts hit .381 with 22 RBI and 34 runs scored. Ali hit for .396 and seven doubles for the Tigers.
The outfield is made up of Sandy Creek's Chuck Terron, Starr's Mill's Brett Jeffares, and Fayette County's Chris Jones. Terron hit .367 for the Patriots. Jones hit .343 with three home runs for the Tigers.
Mike Murphy of McIntosh is the designated hitter. Murphy hit .333 with three home runs and 33 RBI.
Our Lady of Mercy's Austin Loper earns recognition as both a hitter and pitcher. Despite being limited by injury, Loper hit .338 with 18 RBI and tallied a 3.26 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 34 innings pitched.
Whitewater's Jake Lee notched a 4-2 mark with a 2.60 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 40 innings. McIntosh's Tre Hudak had a 5-1 record with two saves and a 1.70 ERA.
The county honorable mentions are a strong group in their own right, especially heavy on pitching talent. Starr's Mill's honorable mentions are Luke Abrams and Chris Chaphe. McIntosh's honorees are Matt Gray and Duke Kinamon. Our Lady of Mercy's are Justin Larkin, Thomas Smilie, Matt Frank, and Chris Wesley. Whitewater's are Branden Bell, Ethan Gillis, Evan Mask, Taylor Turner, and Jake Wilkinson. Fayette County's is Mikail Nettles. Sandy Creek's is Daniel Schoon.
Congratulations on another exciting baseball season.