SHREVEPORT, La. – Will Cates of Southwestern University was voted the Offensive Player-of-the-Year and Taylor Henry of Centenary College was selected the league's Pitcher-of-the-Year in exclusive 2015 all-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) voting by the conference's head coaches. Complete Release
In that same balloting, Chris Zapata of Centenary College was named the conference's Freshman-of-the-Year, while Centenary head coach Mike Diaz was selected SCAC Coach-of-the-Year.
As for the All-SCAC team, Trinity earned a league-high eight First Team selections while Texas Lutheran University followed with four. When totaling combined First and Second Team selections, the league's top four teams dominated the balloting as Trinity had nine honorees, Texas Lutheran had eight, Centenary had five and Southwestern had three.
Cates, a junior outfielder from Cy Fair, Texas, is currently leading the SCAC in batting average (.405), hits (64), triples (eight), total bases (104), slugging percentage (.658), runs scored (48) and stolen bases (29). He is also in the top 10 in the league in doubles (9 – seventh), home runs (5 – third), runs batted in (36 – third) and on-base percentage (.438 – fifth). A two-time SCAC Player-of-the-Week during the 2015 regular season, Cates has had 20 multiple-hit games in 20 of the 37 contests he has competed including an extraordinary seven game stretch in mid-May when he went 18 for 32 (.563) with nine RBIs, eight stolen bases and 15 runs scored. The highlight of that stretch was Cates' 4-for-5, three RBI and three runs scored performance that led the Pirates to a 13-7 victory over the then second-ranked team in the nation – St. Thomas (Minn.).
With the honor, Cates becomes the first student-athlete from Southwestern to be named the league's Offensive Player-of-the-Year since former three-time all-American Matt Gelotti earned the distinction in back-to-back years (1999-2000). Cates received four votes in the Player-of-the-Year balloting while junior outfielder Jeremy Wolf of Trinity received two votes. Senior outfielder Tony Gennusa of Texas Lutheran University received the remaining first-place vote.
Henry, a senior left-hander from Bossier City, La., is in the midst of one of the more dominant seasons in SCAC history. He currently leads the league in both appearances (22) and saves (9) as well as strikeouts (78) and strikeouts per game (13.59). His strikeouts per nine innings total is currently the second-highest in an SCAC single-season – only trailing the 14.50 total that future MLB draft pick Daniel Sarisky of Oglethorpe University posted in 2009. Opposing hitters are managing just a .180 batting average against him (fourth in the SCAC) and his ERA sits at 1.39 (second in the SCAC and the fourth-lowest for a single-season in league history). Henry posted a 4-1 mark with nine saves in his 22 appearances, leaving him just one save from tying the league's single-season record in that category.
Henry, who received five votes to secure SCAC Pitcher-of-the-Year honors, is the first pitcher used almost exclusively in relief (less than five starts) to win the league's highest award for hurlers. Senior right-hander Aaron Aleman of Texas Lutheran received the remaining two first-place votes.
Zapata, a first-year catcher from Saratoga, Calif., leads all first-year conference players in batting average (.346 – eighth overall), hits (47 – sixth overall), RBI (26 – ninth overall), total bases (56 – 10th) and on-base percentage (.419 – ninth overall).The freshman started his collegiate career with a bang, hitting safely in this first 13 games and 22 of his first 24. He would go on to post at least one hit in 28 of the 37 games he appeared. A Second Team all-SCAC selection at catcher, Zapata was the only freshman to earn all-SCAC First or Second Team recognition by the coaches.
In its three years as a member of the conference, a Centenary College student-athlete has won or shared SCAC Freshman-of-the-Year honors in each of those seasons. Zapata was a unanimous selection by the coaches for this year's honor.
Mike Diaz, in his 11th season with the Centenary College program and fifth as the team's head coach, has already established himself as the fourth winningest baseball coach in school history. He enters this year's conference tournament with a head coaching record of 103-97 (.515), which includes a three-year SCAC mark of 41-15 (.732) as well as one shared (2013) and one outright (2015) regular season conference title. This year's squad posted a 15-3 conference mark (22-14 overall) and swept Texas Lutheran on the final weekend of the regular season to secure the top seed and hosting privileges for the 2015 SCAC Baseball Tournament. This is Diaz's second SCAC Coach-of-the-Year honor as he was recognized as the league's co-COTY in 2013.
Diaz received five votes from his peers in the SCAC Coach-of-the-Year balloting. Greg Burnett of Texas Lutheran and Tim Scannell of Trinity each received one vote.
2015 SCAC Player-of-the-Year
Will Cates, Southwestern University, Junior, OF, Cy Fair, Texas
2015 SCAC Pitcher-of-the-Year
Taylor Henry, Centenary College, Senior, LHP, Bossier City, La.
2015 SCAC Freshman-of-the-Year
Chris Zapata, Centenary College, First-Year, C, Saratoga, Calif.
2015 SCAC Coach-of-the-Year
Mike Diaz, Centenary College, 15-3 SCAC / 22-14 overall – top seed for SCAC Tournament