Written by Sean Dahlin
BUENA VISTA, Va.—Upon recording its program-best fourth consecutive .500-plus season, the Southern Virginia University baseball team won nine of ten home contests on route to an 18-16 mark in 2013.
"I'm proud of what this year's team accomplished," said fourth-year Head Coach Logan Mann. "We won a lot of big games this season, and it was a joy to coach such a well-rounded group of players."
The senior class, consisting of Dale Brown (Mesa, Ariz.), Tyler Cox (Forest, Miss.), Ed Greenhalgh (Roy, Utah), Trager Hintze (Purcell, Okla.), Robert Key (Flower Mound, Texas) and Barrett Price (Georgetown, S.C.), each finished their standout careers at Southern Virginia.
From 2010-13, Cox, Greenhalgh and Hintze have won more games (87) than any group of players in program history while helping the Knights to postseason appearances each year. Along with Cox, Greenhalgh and Hintze, Brown and Price also participated on the 2011 squad— baseball's winningest season in its 14-year history with a 30-10 mark and a second-place finish at nationals.
"I watched all six seniors since the beginning of their time at Southern Virginia," said Mann. "They've reached heights that no other class has accomplished and have left a legacy that we hope to continue."
Brown led Southern Virginia this season in stolen bases (17) while finishing second in fielding percentage (.980). The third-year starter also ranks third in program history in career stolen bases (42).
In his four years, Cox set all-time records such as second in career games started (130), third in RBIs (110), total bases (211) and hits (149). He also tied for the Knights' home run lead (3) while ranking third in slugging (.567) and on-base percentage (.457).
Left-handed hurler Greenhalgh earned USCAA Honorable Mention All-American honors after leading the pitching staff in wins (4) and ranking second in strikeouts (30), innings pitched (42.0) and opponents' batting average (.264). The three-time USCAA All-Academic selection also ranks second in program history in career strikeouts (79) and third in games started (20).
"It's been rewarding to see Ed grow and develop into a star pitcher," said Mann. "He won some big games for us and did outstanding on hitting the corners."
Co-captain Hintze ended his four-year stint with a program-best 143 games started while finishing second in games played (144) and fourth in RBIs (101), hits (147) and doubles (31). The 2011 USCAA All-Academic selection was second on the team in home runs (2) and third in RBIs (23) this year.
After two seasons at Southern Virginia, Key converted to the outfield in his senior campaign, registering a team-high 1.000 fielding percentage and ranking fourth in batting average (.348).
Price started all 32 games behind the dish in 2013, including tying with a team-best 29 RBIs while ranking second in home runs (2) and recording a .330 average at the plate. In his four years, Price accumulated a second-best 464 career defensive putouts and fourth-highest .978 fielding percentage in program history.
The Knights' shortstop, junior Mitch Stevenson (Muskogee, Okla.), had a breakout year as the USCAA First Team All-American led the squad with a .478 batting average and .516 on-base percentage—the program's second and third-highest single-season marks respectively—while recording a team-high in RBIs (29), hits (54), runs (37), slugging percentage (.673) and doubles (15).
Stevenson, who will play for the Rockbridge Rapids this summer, also holds the program's third-highest career batting average (.396).
"There's no doubt that Mitch was a big reason why we had such a successful year," said Mann. "I've watched him work hard and get better. He has poise at the plate that gave the team confidence that he'd come through in any situation."
The middle infield tandem Stevenson and sophomore second baseman C.J. Andrus (Federal Way, Wash.), who achieved Capital One Academic All-District and USCAA All-Academic honors, turned a team-best 16 double plays on the year. Andrus added a .312 average, 17 runs scored and 10 RBIs while ranking second in defensive assists (65) and third in fielding percentage (.972).
To round out the outfield, freshman Tyler Clark (Idaho Falls, Idaho), who started 21 ballgames, finished 2013 second in batting average (.388), stolen bases (11) and on-base percentage (.458).
First-year Knights—redshirt freshman Nicholas Lyons' (Bryson City, N.C.) and junior Giovanni Prado (West Valley City, Utah)—contributed in the infield as Lyons knocked in 20 RBIs and blasted three home runs while Prado held his ground at third base.
"Our newcomers gave us depth we haven't had before, and they came through for us on many occasions," said Mann. "Tyler [Clark] is a perfect example of taking advantage of his chance to start and never letting go. It was fun to watch him each day continue to improve."
The Southern Virginia pitching staff registered a 4.93 ERA—the program's second-lowest mark.
"This year, we had probably the deepest staff at Southern Virginia," said Mann. "They kept us in a lot of games and came through in clutch situations."
In addition to Greenhalgh, freshman reliever Jonathan Hodges (Cleveland, Tenn.) had a standout rookie year with three saves and a 2.88 ERA—both ranking second for all-time single-season marks. He also struck out a team-high 31 batters and a season-low six walks.
"Jonathan had no fear on the mound and kept us in a lot of games," said Mann. "He pitched well beyond his freshman experience and solidified our bullpen."
Cox, Juniors Tyler King (San Ramon, Calif.)—2013 USCAA All-Academic honoree—and Mitchell Mantle (St. George, Utah) and sophomore Thomas Rudd (Norman, Okla.) were the starting rotation throughout the season.
In his nine starts on the mound, Rudd led the Knights in innings pitched (43.0) and ranked second in ERA (3.77) and wins (3). Cox and King both added two wins apiece as well.
In 2013, Southern Virginia baseball had 16 scheduled contests against NCAA DIII opponents, 10 against USCAA members and six against NAIA affiliates. The Knights also registered a 9-1 record on its home turf overall.
Southern Virginia started the season on a five-game winning streak at home with twin bill sweeps over Virginia-Lynchburg and Rochester College followed up by a 12-11 walk-off victory on Feb. 15 to New Jersey City thanks to a suicide squeeze from Key.
"To come from behind and beat New Jersey City at home was fun to be a part of," said Mann.
After beginning 5-0, the Knights hit a skid dropping four of five road contests, including two of three to eventual 29-game winner Virginia Intermont on Feb. 22-23.
The squad then started another streak, gaining the advantage in five of the next six competitions.
During the stretch, Southern Virginia earned a season series sweep at crosstown rival Washington and Lee with a 14-8 win on Feb. 27 and an 8-7 nail-biter on Mar. 14. Greenhalgh also tossed five-plus scoreless innings to give the club a 4-2 win on Mar. 2 at future Capital Athletic Conference-foe Mary Washington.
"To earn a split at Mary Washington, who finished second in the CAC, was big for us knowing we can compete with the best," said Mann. "It's also always gratifying and gives us a sense of pride when we beat W&L."
One week later, Andrus came up big for the Knights on Mar. 9 with two straight walk-off base knocks in 4-3 and 6-5 home wins against Penn College before Greenhalgh turned in seven innings of eight-strikeout, shutout ball for a 5-0 win at Ferrum on Mar. 20. Greenhalgh's performance over the Panthers helped him procure USCAA Pitcher of the Week.
Following twin bill losses at Lynchburg and USCAA-rival Apprentice, Southern Virginia won six of its last nine contests heading into the USCAA Small College World Series highlighted by a career day from Hintze on Apr. 13, leading to a 17-7 victory over Guilford on its Senior Day.
The Knights were given the No. 6-seed heading into its program-record fourth straight invite into the USCAA national tournament, but were unable to capitalize beginning with a first-round loss to third-seed Cincinnati-Clermont (6-0) before being eliminated 2-1 by No. 10 Penn College in the season finale.
Southern Virginia finished with the fourth-most wins (18) in baseball's 14 years and added the second-highest team batting average (.337) in university history.
"We knew that playing 16 NCAA DIII games would be a challenge," said Mann. "But, this season showed us we're capable of the task and expect from day one to compete each year to make the CAC tournament."
Entering 2014, baseball will join the Capital Athletic Conference with a full conference schedule.