Now that his first season with Eastern Illinois is officially over, I'd like to take this time to congratulate my brother, Zach, on an outstanding season. As a true freshman, Zach's line was .394/.506/.547. Zach started 36 games for the Panthers and in 137 ABs had 5 HRs, 6 doubles, 2 SBs, 43 runs scored, and 28 RBIs.
After Eastern's best player, Brett Nommensen, went down with a wrist injury, Zach took over as the leadoff man and did a fantastic job. He led the team in walks with 29. His BB/K ratio was 29/20. He hit safely in 17 of the first 18 games he started and reached base safely in 35 of the 36 games he started.
His .506 OBP was tops in the Ohio Valley Conference, after Nommensen's ridiculous .652 clip. In fact, he led all Division I freshmen in the nation in OBP. Overall, Zach ranked in the Top 25 in OBP in the nation. His average ranked in the Top 100. Among freshmen, it was in the Top 5. Needless to say, he made the All-Freshmen OVC team. And it was just announced that he was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball.
Zach also made a smooth transition from the infield to the outfield. In high school, Zach was a first-team All-State shortstop. As a freshman in college, Zach was asked to play right field and a little third base, two positions that he had very little experience in. He only made 1 error all year.
Despite winning the OVC regular season title with a 36-14 overall record, Eastern Illinois did not receive an at-large bid to enter the NCAA Baseball Championship tournament. Had they won the OVC tournament, they would have automatically been in. Still, I think Eastern's omission is patently unfair for a variety of reasons.
The Panthers were ranked in the Top 10 in the nation in batting average, slugging, and home runs per game. Two of their pitchers ranked in the Top 50 in winning percentage. Shortstop Jordan Kreke ranked in the Top 50 in slugging. Southpaw Tyler Kehrer ranked in the Top 20 in Ks per 9 innings. Richie Derbak ranked in the Top 20 in toughest to strike out. There is a good chance that 3 or 4 players from EIU could be drafted this summer. In addition, Eastern posted 5 victories over teams that made the tournament field and were competitive against 2 other qualifiers.
While it was certainly disappointing that Eastern was overlooked for the tournament, my brother and his teammates should hold their heads up high. You had a great season, Zach. I'm very proud of you.