Lowery tabbed CAA Player of the Year
James Madison junior catcher Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) was selected as the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year to headline six Dukes earning All-CAA honors as announced Wednesday evening at the league’s annual awards banquet on the eve of the 2011 CAA Baseball Championship.
Lowery was JMU’s only First Team All-CAA selection on a team that went 37-17 with the league’s best overall record, went 21-9 to finish in first place by two games and moved into the Collegiate Baseball national rankings at No. 30 on Monday. Senior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) and sophomore outfielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) were each Second Team All-CAA. Redshirt junior starting pitcher Sean Tierney (Midlothian, Va./Clover Hill), redshirt senior center fielder Alex Foltz (Mathias, W.Va./East Hardy) and freshman utility player Ty McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) were all named to the Third Team. McFarland was also an All-Rookie selection.
The award for Lowery is JMU’s sixth Player of the Year honor, the most for any CAA school. He joins two-time honorees Kellen Kulbacki (2006, 2007) and Eddie Kim (2002, 2003) along with 1988 honoree Dana Allison. In addition to Lowery, the CAA Pitcher of the Year award was shared by William and Mary’s Logan Billbrough and Old Dominion’s Kyle Hald. Defensive Player of the Year went to Towson shortstop Nick Natoli. Outfielder Aaron Barbosa of Northeastern was selected as Rookie of the Year while Old Dominion interim head coach Nate Goulet was picked as Coach of the Year.
Jake Lowery, who was Second Team in 2010 as a sophomore, orchestrated one of the best seasons in conference history, particularly from a power and run-production standpoint. In 54 games, Lowery has hit .348 while setting JMU records with 81 RBIs and with 49 extra-base hits, including 19 doubles, a record-tying eight triples and 22 home runs. In addition to his school record, he is second in JMU history for season runs (72), second for total bases (178), second for slugging percentage (.805), ninth for doubles, third for home runs and could reach the top 10 for at bats and hits. His season totals are also currently fifth in CAA history for total bases and home runs along with third for RBIs. Through games of May 22, Lowery leads the nation in RBIs and total bases while also ranking second in runs, fourth in triples, second in home runs and third in slugging percentage. In addition to his Player of the Year honor, Lowery has been recognized as one of 13 semifinalists for the Johnny Bench Award for the nation’s top catcher, one of 36 semifinalists for the Dick Howser Award for the nation’s best player and as one of 60 players on the watch list for the Golden Spikes Award for the nation’s best player.
David Herbek ranked throughout the season as one of the best players in the league but was narrowly edged at one of the league’s most talented positions. He is a three-time All-CAA honoree after earning Third Team honors in 2010, Second Team in 2009 along with All-Rookie accolades in 2008. Like Lowery, Herbek was named a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy while also being named one of 25 semifinalists for the Brooks Wallace Award for the nation’s best shortstop. He has twice been selected as one of Collegiate Baseball’s National Players of the Week. He leads JMU with a .368 batting average. He has 74 hits, 18 doubles, three triples, 14 home runs, 50 runs scored and 67 RBIs. This year he established a CAA career record for hit by pitches (54), a JMU career record for sacrifice flies (24) and the JMU season mark for sac flies (9). He is top 10 in Dukes’ career history for games (203), hits (245), runs (183), RBIs (186), doubles (60), home runs (34), total bases (425) and assists (491).
Johnny Bladel built on his All-Rookie freshman year to hit .335 as a sophomore with a team-best .465 on-base percentage thanks to 39 walks and 12 hit by pitches. He has 10 doubles, five triples and three home runs. Bladel missed five games in the middle of the season due to injury, including the entire series against Georgia State. He returned to the lineup for each of the final 21 games and moved into the leadoff spot. In those last 21 games, he hit .370 with 28 runs scored and 19 RBIs. He reached base in all 21 games and had a 12-game hitting streak.
Alex Foltz returned from missing the entire 2010 season to provide the Dukes with the same reliable bat and steady defense that he showed from 2007 to 2009. He was second on the team with a .351 average with 11 doubles, a triple, seven home runs, 42 runs scored and 41 RBIs while playing error-free in the outfield on 105 total chances. Foltz had a .462 on-base percentage while spending the first half of the year in the leadoff spot and latter half in the middle of the order. He has 14 steals this year to pull into fifth in JMU history with 67 in his career. He is also eighth for career walks (110), ninth for at bats (725), ninth for hits (248) and seventh for hit by pitches (26).
Sean Tierney’s emergence as the top start in the rotation has been one of the keys to the team’s hot end to the season. The former Virginia transfer had just four total career appearances through three years heading into his redshirt junior season. He was worked back into the pitching staff carefully coming off of an injury. Finally, Tierney was moved into the rotation in mid-April and responded with a 3-0 record, 1.09 ERA and .204 opponent average over 24 2/3 innings in four CAA starts. He is currently 25th in the nation in wins with his 9-1 record. Altogether, he has a 3.27 ERA and .240 opponent average in 52 1/3 innings pitched while striking out 41.
Ty McFarland made 50 starts in his first season playing for the Dukes and his father, head coach Spanky McFarland. The utility player spent time at first base, third base, the outfield and at designated hitter while combining to hit .283 with 54 hits including 13 doubles, good for third on the team. He scored 34 runs and drove in 32 to go with one triple, two home runs, 17 walks and five steals. He also made 12 pitching appearances, primarily in non-conference games.