College baseball: Catawba Indians rack up SAC awards

Published 8:36 pm Thursday, May 2, 2024

Catawba Sports Information

The South Atlantic Conference regular season champion Catawba College baseball team earned plenty of hardware on Thursday morning when the league office announced its baseball major award winners and all-conference teams.

Payne Stolsworth (West Rowan) was named the SAC Pitcher of the Year in his first season in a Catawba uniform, as he led the league with 10 victories, with a starter-best 3.35 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in a SAC-most 86 innings pitched. Stolsworth recorded the fourth-most strikeouts in the league this season with 68 to just 22 walks. Stolsworth also found his way onto the All-Conference first team at starting pitcher. He’s the 10th Catawba pitcher to earn SAC Pitcher of the Year honors and first since Bryan Ketchie in 2021.

Hayden Simmerson (Carson) earned SAC Freshman of the Year laurels after his impressive debut season, recording a 3.14 ERA, good for second in the league with three wins, six saves and 69 strikeouts, a conference-high among relievers. His 10.83 strikeouts per nine innings ranked third in the SAC. He also earned second team All-SAC recognition as a relief pitcher. Simmerson is the 10th Catawba player to earn Freshman of the Year honors and the first since Hunter Shepherd in 2017,

Jim Gantt picked up SAC Coach of the Year accolades for a league-record 12th time and seventh time since 2013. The conference’s all-time record holder for career wins led the Catawba Indians to their eighth SAC regular season crown in the last 12 seasons and has the team ranked first in the NCAA’s initial regional rankings.

Levi Perrell was an All-SAC first team selection at shortstop, his second career All-SAC honor and first first team selection. Perrell ranked top 10 in the league with a .376 batting average with 76 hits, including 14 doubles, seven triples and three homers with 37 RBIs, 21 stolen bases and 56 runs scored. His seven triples are tied for a single-season record in Catawba program history.

Bo Rusher (Salisbury) also made an instant impact in his first season in a Catawba uniform, earning All-SAC first team recognition at catcher. Rusher finished the regular season with a .339 batting average on 60 hits, including 10 doubles and seven homers with a team-best 38 walks and 54 RBIs along with 16 runners caught stealing so far this year.

Austin Fine earned his second straight first team All-SAC honor at starting pitcher with another solid campaign, earning eight wins on the mound with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, good for second in the league. His 84 innings pitched were second only to Stolsworth in the conference this season, and he struck out 59 batters to 22 walks.

Dylan Driver (Carson) picked up All-SAC accolades for the second straight season with a second team nod and also was the league’s All-Defense selection in right field. The two-hole hitter for a majority of the season hit .359 this year with 60 hits, including 14 doubles, six triples and four home runs 53 runs scored, 37 RBIs, 20 walks and 16 stolen bases. The national gold glove recipient in right field had another outstanding season in the field, picking up five assists to no errors for the second straight year.

Sam Hunter was also a second team All-SAC honoree in the outfield in his first season with the Catawba Indians. Catawba’s center fielder hit .354 with 67 hits, including 12 doubles, four triples and five home runs with 53 RBIs, 51 runs scored, 27 walks and 26 stolen bases.

Drew Robertson made it a clean sweep for Catawba Indians in the second team outfield, while also earning All-Defense recognition at left field this season in the league. The senior finished the regular season with a team-best .378 batting average on 65 hits, including 13 doubles, two triples and a homer with a SAC-best 29 stolen bases along with 32 walks. In the field, Robertson added four assists.

The Catawba Indians kick off postseason play on Friday, as a host team for the SAC Tournament. Top-seeded Catawba will face eighth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne, the lone road team to come out of Newman Park with a victory so far this season. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. with the All-SAC awards ceremony and a special graduation tribute before the game.