Lions receive numerous awards

This Lions baseball team will go down in history as the first squad to ever reach the SLC Championship game. But the trailblazing doesn’t stop there.
Junior second baseman Brock Hebert secured the Southland Conference (SLC) Player of the Year and SLC Hitter of the Year, the first Lion to win either award. Junior reliever Stefan Lopez was named SLC Relief Pitcher of the Year, the first Lion to win the award, as well and freshman pitcher Andro Cutura notched SLC Freshman of the Year.
Senior infielder Jonathan Pace, Hebert and Lopez were named to the All-Southland Conference First Team. Senior outfielder Cody Gougler received All-Southland Conference Third Team honors, while Cutura, junior outfielder Harry Slade and sophomore pitcher Dylan Hills earned Honorable Mention.
But perhaps the most unknown award went to Pace, who was named Teammate of the Year by his teammates.
“The only award we vote on as a team is Teammate of the Year,” said head coach Jay Artigues. “To me the most important thing is what your peers think of you. Everybody’s trying to be a good teammate and head of the club, and Jonathan Pace exemplifies that.”
Pace, who spent the majority of the season as the Lions’ cleanup hitter, finished the season with a .350 batting average and only four errors playing first and third base. Artigues is now challenged with the tough task of replacing a player who excelled not only at the plate and in the field, but in the clubhouse as well.
“Replacing seniors is always tough, but the thing that makes it easier is the fact that our young guys kind of see how to lead by the examples in the past,” said Artigues.
Still, the Lions look to return the majority of their starters, but Artigues admits that talent does not always measure a player’s leadership ability.
“The main role we have to fill is the leadership position,” said Artigues. “You always bring in talented players – coach Riser and coach Latham did a good job bringing in guys – but how they step in to the leadership role is always the question mark.”
With decorated players like Slade, Hills and Cutura returning for another season with the team, there will be no shortage of options for team leaders during the 2013 season.
“These guys had a lot of question marks coming in to the season because we lost so much last year, but they did a good job turning question marks in to exclamation points,” said Artigues.
The Lions’ immediate future falls in the hands of Lopez and Hebert, both of whom were selected in the 2012 MLB Draft. Both are able to sign professional contracts this year, if they are willing.
“We’ll see what happens in the draft,” said Artigues. “We’ll meet with them both, talk to them, and whatever’s best for them and their family, we’re going to support them. We’d love to have them back, but we’ll see what happens in the draft.”