FRISCO, TX (Press Release)- Six members of the Stephen F. Austin baseball team found themselves on the receiving end of some Southland Conference recognition when the league unveiled its major award winners and All-Conference teams via a press release on Monday morning.
Junior outfielder Zac Michener took home one of the league’s major awards as the Kennedale, Texas, product was tabbed as the league’s Newcomer of the Year. Michener, who was also an All-SLC Third-Team honoree, became the second Lumberjack ever to capture the conference’s Newcomer of the Year award joining former SFA great Bryson Myles who accomplished the feat in 2011.
The ‘Jacks placed three individuals on the All-Southland Conference First Team in junior outfielder Conner Fikes, senior outfielder Garrett McMullen and senior third baseman Kyle Thornell. Shortstop Tyler Kendrick and second baseman Nick Ramos each secured All-Southland Conference Honorable Mention nods as a result of their efforts on the diamond in 2016.
The three All-SLC First Team selections racked up by SFA matches a program record that was set back in 1988. Additionally, the 'Jacks' four representatives on the All-SLC First and Third Teams ties a program high for selections on the three All-SLC teams.
With the addition of Michener, the ‘Jacks boasted another big bat in the heart of their order. In 52 games played, the junior posted the third-best batting average on the squad at .340 and completed an enviable slash line with a .435 on-base percentage and a .489 slugging percentage. In the ranks of the Southland Conference, hit on-base percentage was the sixth-highest among all players and his 31 walks drawn were the seventh-most in the league. In his inaugural season with SFA, Michener posted a team-best 25-game on-base streak and wrapped the regular season with 18 multi-hit tilts.
Additionally, Michener’s arm strength in right field couldn’t be underscored as he registered eight outfield assists through the course of the season. In Southland Conference games, Michener batted .363, which was the eighth-highest figure in the league.
Fikes, who spent the better part of 2016 patrolling the outfield for SFA, distinguished himself as one of the league’s best hitters during his initial days as an upperclassman. Finishing the regular season as the league’s fifth-best hitter by boasting an average of .365, Fikes’ hit total of 70 and triples total of six ranked eighth and third among all league players respectively. Currently, Fikes is the owner of the longest active on-base streak on the team, having reached base in 13-straight games.
Rarely did the Rowlett, Texas, product go down on strikes, punching out just nine times over 192 at-bats. That low total ranks Fikes as the fourth-toughest player to strike out in all of NCAA Division I baseball. Additionally, his team-leading eight sacrifice flies are the fifth-highest total in the land.
In his last season as a collegiate baseball player, McMullen attained All-SLC acclaim for the first time by leading the ‘Jacks in batting average (.367), hits (73), RBI (56), multi-hit games (22) and multi-RBI games (17). One of just two players in the league to reside in the top five in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, McMullen closed the regular season with the sixth-most hits, third-most RBI, fifth-most total bases (116), fourth-highest on-base percentage (.444) and fifth-highest slugging percentage (.583) among all Southland Conference baseball players.
When taking a look at Southland Conference games only, McMullen sat in the top ten in no fewer than eight statistical categories and his season sits among one of the best ever in SFA program history. Hit 56 RBI are the third-most ever in a single season and hit 73 hits and .367 batting average are the ninth and 10th-highest single-season figures in program history.
Following a hot streak in the month of April that was unparalleled among Southland Conference players, Thornell cemented his All-Southland Conference First Team selection at third base. One of just two men in the league to record both a top-three on-base percentage (.464) and slugging percentage (.624). Rounding out his slash line with a batting average of .339, Thornell’s bat was one of the most powerful in the league as he blasted a team-best 11 home runs. That long ball total is the second-highest among all SLC players.
On the national scene, Thornell is 48th in terms of slugging percentage and 46th with 14 hit by pitches throughout 2016. His 11 long balls are tied for the ninth-most in a single season by an SFA player and his 14 career triples stand as the most ever by an SFA player. Thornell picked up Southland Conference Hitter of the Week citations in back-to-back weeks, becoming one of just two players to do so in 2016.
In his third year of service with the ‘Jacks, Ramos served as the team’s every day second baseman by taking part and starting in 52 of SFA’s 55 regular season tilts. No SFA player scored more runs in 2016 than Ramos, whose total of 47 proved to be the fifth-most in the league. In Southland Conference games, Ramos touched home plate a league-best 33 times.
In the field, the .264 hitter posted a fielding percentage of .962 by committing only nine errors.
Installed as SFA’s starter at shortstop from the time he arrived in Nacogdoches, Kendrick’s sharp eye at the dish helped the junior become one of the five SFA regulars who batted north of .300 in 2016. Hailing from Arlington, Texas, Kendrick appeared in 53 games and made 50 starts through a season where he posted a .333/.416/.429 slash line.
He finished the regular season tied with Thornell for the team lead in doubles with 15. No SFA player finished with more four-hit games than Kendrick’s three and his 16 multi-hit games were the fourth-most among the team’s ranks in 2016.
On Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., the ‘Jacks make their first appearance in the Southland Conference Tournament since 2013. SFA, the eighth seed in the league tournament, will face off against number-one seed and Southland Conference regular season champion Sam Houston State at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas.