2012 All-Knudson Team – The Position Players
By Mark Knudson, The Mtn. InsiderMay 21, 2012
The Mountain West is no stranger to standout offensive performers, and this year was no different. Coming down the stretch, New Mexico has seven players hitting better than .300 and the Lobos rank in the top ten nationally in hitting with a sophomore leading them.
First Base: D.J. Peterson, New Mexico. All this amazing sophomore did was win the MW Triple Crown. He hit an astonishing .422, with 14 home runs and 68 RBI. A finalist for the Dick Howser (National Player of the Year) Award, Peterson’ season included a 22-game hitting streak. While he played a lot of third base this season and had a solid fielding percentage of .967, he’s more suited to play first in the long run, which will benefit his offense that much more.
Second Base: Tim Zier, San Diego State. A 20-game hitting streak helped him hit .318 with 11 doubles and 10 stolen bases. Zier was glue in the middle of a young infield, committing just seven errors and posting a .964 fielding percentage.
Shortstop: Matt Thorne, Air Force. Sidelined at the start of the season and limited to 25 games by injury, Thorne got back into the lineup mid-season and immediately made Air Force noticeably better. His .962 fielding percentage is second only to TCU’s Keaton Jones among MW shortstops and his .329 batting average was second. UNLV’s Danny Higa has a better batting average but Higa committed 17 errors and had a fielding percentage of just .938. Thorne proved to be the best combination of offense and defense the league had at this key spot this season.
Third Base: Jansen Witte, TCU. Like Thorne, Witte missed a significant part of the beginning of the season with an injury. And like Thorne, his team took off when he got back in the lineup. Witte ended up right where he was supposed to, hitting .325 with s pair of homers and 18 RBI while committing just four errors at hot corner.
Catcher: Mitchell Garver, New Mexico. Three-time MW Player of the Week, Garver is the only MW catcher still in the running for the Johnny Bench Award. He punished enemy pitching, leading the league in hits to the tune of a .394 batting average, 10 homers and 57 RBI while batting leadoff much of the time. Just as importantly, he played a huge role in the improvement of the Lobo pitching staff from behind the plate, where he made just five errors all season for a .987 fielding percentage. TCU’s Josh Elander is an outstanding backstop as well and in most seasons, he’d be a no-brainer pick for first team All Conference. This isn’t most years.
Outfield: Jason Coats, TCU. He has not committed a single error all season. Not one while playing in 48 games and hitting .326 with six homers and 45 RBIs. He ranks in the top ten in six offensive categories this season and has been, and remains, one of the most consistently productive players in Conference history.
Outfield: Josh Melendez, New Mexico. Has committed one error in centerfield all season, posting an outstanding .991 fielding percentage. A catalyst at the plate, Melendez was second in the NCAA in triples with eight while hitting .340 with three homers and 39 RBI.
Outfield: Trevor Kirk, UNLV. Tied for third in the MW in hits with 73, Kirks posted a .360 batting average and ranked in the top ten of the league in nine offensive categories. He was also stellar in the field, committing just three errors and posting a .971 fielding percentage.
Designated Hitter: Brandon Bayardi, UNLV. Along with Kirk, Bayardi was one of the bright spots for a UNLV team that struggled. Bayardi hit a dazzling .369 with seven home runs and 54 RBIs. More than just a big bopper, Bayardi also stole 12 bases in just 15 attempts.
Utility: Garrett Custons, Air Force. A rare combination of talent, heart and hustle, Custons excelled while splitting time between catching and the outfield, where he flashed the leather in style. Playing three positions, he finished with just four errors and a .980 fielding percentage for the season. At the plate, he was the Falcons’ best hitter from Day One, finishing with a .318 batting average. When Custons missed the key UNLV series in the middle of the season, the Falcons lost any real shot at making the postseason tournament.
Along with Elander and Higa, more honorable mentions go to Ryan Padilla of New Mexico, SDSU’s Spencer Thornton and Chris Wilson, Air Force slugger Seth Kline and Ben Woodchick of New Mexico. All had great seasons and are poised to do something big in the tournament. Stay tuned!
See the 2012 All-Knudson Team - The Pitchers HERE
See all of Mark Knudson's blog entries HERE