May 22, 2008

Wildcats Players, Coach Earn Multiple SWAC Awards

Western ended the season with a fist-full of honors from the Scenic West Athletic Conference including Co-Player of the Year and Coach of the Year.

Left fielder Brian Barnett was co-player of the year for the Scenic West Athletic Conference, Chuck Howard was first team catcher, Travis Feiner was second team third baseman, Lance Ray was second team first baseman, and Jose Barajas and Josh Moody were second team pitchers.

Coach D.J. Whittemore was recognized by his peers for what he was able to do with a mostly freshman team, with only six returning players from a year ago. He was elected 2008 Scenic West Conference coach of the year.

As far as Barnett's performance, you may have to go back awhile--Babe Ruth's era comes to mind--when you find a hitter who slugs more home runs by himself than the entire battery of teams he plays against.

Like the Babe's towering shots in the "dead-ball" era of the 20's, Barnett did something no one else did. The outfielder's dominating hitting earned his selection as conference co-Player of the Year.

All he did was lead the Scenic West in slugging percentage (.652), total bases (79), runs scored (30) and home runs (9). While nine homers may not sound Ruthian, they were more than any other team hit in the Scenic West.

"Brian was the most respected and feared hitter in the conference," Coach D.J. Whittemore said. "What amazes me the most was his willingness to take what the pitcher gave him and his willingness to walk when they pitched around him. Like the rest of the team, Brian played his best down the stretch and was a big reason we won 27 of our last 33 games."

Western came within one game of tying for both the regular season championship and the post-season tournament held in Henderson.

Western also placed catcher Chuck Howard and outfielder Jerome Pena on the All Region First Team. First baseman Lance Ray and third baseman Travis Feiner, plus pitchers Jose Barajas and Josh Moody made the All Region Second Team.

"Howard was voted the top catcher in the conference despite the fact the catcher was one of the strongest and deepest positions in the conferences," Whittemore said. "I think the other coaches had a good deal of respect for Chuck's ability to get the most out of a young pitching staff--not to mention he was the only catcher in the conference to call his own game from behind the dish.

"Jerome Pena had an outstanding freshman campaign and really made a name for himself as being one of the toughest outs in the conference. He was near the top of the conference for walks, total bases, runs scored and doubles.

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