By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

First-team all wildcats

CWU baseball takes over GNAC honors
Austin Ohland after mound visit. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Thompson/Thompson Sports Medis)

The CWU baseball season did not end the way the Wildcats wanted it to but their efforts throughout the season did not go unnoticed. Numerous players were recognized with awards for their outstanding play this year following the Wildcats early exit from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) tournament.

The GNAC player of the year award was brought home by junior outfielder Ben Leid. He was the only player in the league to hit over a .400 average, sitting at .425 to end the year. He also led the team in home runs, hits, runs batted in (RBI) and on base percentage. Along with player of the year he was named to GNAC first team all-conference and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) first team in All-West region.

“I have never won an award this big, I’ve had all of the all conference all league stuff which is really cool but honestly the day it happened i kind of forgot about it,” Leid said. “I heard someone mention it to me when we were on the bus after practice in Billings. It was cool to get texts from people about it and obviously it’s cool when you feel like your hard work is paid off.”

Junior second baseman Marcus Manzardo was awarded the newcomer of the year award and was also named to GNAC first team all-conference. He played his previous two seasons at Spokane Falls Community College before coming to CWU. Manzardo finished the year hitting a .343 average, 69 hits, 20 RBI’s and supplying consistent defense. 

Manzardo had his sights set on a GNAC championship and would’ve preferred that over any individual award, but he stated that he’s still very proud of the play he and his teammates showcased this season. “I love my teammates,” Manzardo said. “So it is obviously so cool to see that many guys earn awards. I think it shows how much talent we had on our team this year and it doesn’t come without hard work.”

There were two other members of the baseball team that were awarded with first team honors. Senior outfielder Kevin “Baba” Varner Jr. and senior catcher Austin Ohland also made the cut with their productivity this season. Ohland was a four year starter for the team as the man behind home plate and earned GNAC first team all-conference honors for his fourth consecutive year. He also made NCBWA second team All-West region. Varner Jr. finished up his second year at CWU after transferring from Pierce College and has put the GNAC on notice with his bat and his ability in the outfield.

With Ohland’s departure going into next season, CWU will be losing one of their cornerstone pieces in CWU’s all time home run leader. However, Ohland is still confident about the future of the Wildcats roster with more experience under their belts. “I’m excited for them, I’m hoping I left CWU better than I found it and I know these guys can go do something special,” Ohland said. “While the results weren’t necessarily what we were hoping for this year, just making it to the tournament is a huge thing for the younger guys and it gets them more comfortable in the coming years. 

Members of the all-GNAC second team included sophomore first baseman Andrew Sharpe, “I was excited, it is a great honor being my first year in the conference. For me however, there is still more work to be done. My goals at the beginning of the year were not met but all I can do is take it one day at a time and keep improving to come back next year.” Sharpe mentioned. 

Up next was junior pitchers Jonathen Garza ll and Daniel Charron. Also making GNAC all-conference honorable mention honors was junior relief pitcher Nolan Milliman. “I worked extremely hard during my last 3 years here at Central as well as in the off-season which put me in a great position to perform at my highest abilities,” Milliman said. Milliman won’t be returning to play at CWU next year, instead he will be pursuing his master’s degree at an undecided institution.

With the season ending earlier than expected, the Wildcats will look towards improvement for next year with the majority of these award winners returning to the team and looking to bring home the GNAC title.

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