Dayton, Tenn. – On Tuesday evening, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced the 2017 Baseball All-America Teams as selected by the NAIA-Baseball Coaches Association All-America Committee, and Bryan College's standout slugger, Justin Morhardt (JR/Winsted, Conn.), earned the honors of NAIA All-American Second Team. The 34 honorees that make up the first and second teams are also recognized as ABCA/Rawlings All-Americans by the American Baseball Coaches Association and Rawlings Sporting Goods. The ABCA began recognizing All-Americans in 1949 and named the first ABCA NAIA All-America team in 1969.
Before being named an All-American, Morhardt was named the Appalachian Athletic Conference Player of the Year this season, along with landing on All-Conference First Team. He played a major role as the Lions' team posted some of the most impressive hitting numbers in program history. Bryan Baseball saw numerous individual and team records shattered with Morhardt claiming the No. 1 spot in many of the leaderboards. He registered a .439 batting average this season, which sets a new record, and he pieced together a total of 86 hits to be named the new hits leader. He accomplished the feat while seeing less than 200 at-bats. He ranks 3rd in doubles with 20, crushed 12 homers for 4th-best, drove in 51 runs to rank 9th, and was walked 47 times, which is the 2nd most for any Lion. He sits with the 4th-best slugging percentage after compiling .724.
Among other players in the AAC, Morhardt led the way in batting average, total hits, hits per game (1.48), doubles, and on-base percentage (.551). His notable slugging percentage ranked 4th in conference, RBI total ranked 9th, tied for 8th in homeruns, and 5th in total bases. Along with Bryan gaining national attention by ranking as high as 14th in the 2017 NAIA Baseball Coaches' Top 25 Poll and defending a place in the top-25 until the final poll was released on May 2nd, Morhardt also helped show that the Lions were a team to watch out for as he swatted the 12th-highest batting average in the country, was 15th in total hits, 30th in doubles and slugging percentage, 34th in total bases, and 36th in hits per game.
As a team, Bryan connected for 91 homeruns, which blew away the previous mark set at 63 in both the 2012 and 2010 seasons. Their 19 triples tops their 17 recorded in 2011, and their 118 doubles slides in at the No. 2 spot in the record book behind the 121 produced in 2014. The team's 603 hits are the 2nd best in program history, .332 batting average ranks 2nd, and .568 slugging percentage outperforms the 2011 bar set at .499. The 457 runs scored and 419 runs batted in are also the new record that future Lions' Teams will aim at topping.
In a tough conference, Bryan was the leader in batting average, slugging percentage, total runs scored, runs scored per game (7.88), hits per game (10.4), total runs batted in, RBI's per game (7.22), doubles per game (2.03), triples, triples per game (0.33), homeruns per game (1.57), stolen bases (112), and stolen bases per game (1.93). The Lions trailed the Bulldogs of Tennessee Wesleyan University in only total hits, total doubles, and total homeruns. On the national level, Bryan ranked 3rd in homeruns per game, 4th in slugging percentage, 4th in total homeruns, 15th in total RBI's, 15th in RBI's per game, 15th in batting average, 17th in runs scored per game, 17th in total stolen bases, 18th in total triples, 18th in total runs scored, 20th in total hits, 21st in steal attempts per game, 22nd in hits per game, 22nd in stolen bases per game, 22nd in total doubles, 28th in triples per game, and 29th in doubles per game.
Even though the Lions came up short in the AAC Tournament, they managed to battle their way to a remarkable 35-16 regular-season overall record and finish 17-10 in conference play, which proved good enough to earn their first-ever at-large bid for the National Tournament and 3rd appearance. Before being eliminated by No. 3 seed Midland University (Neb.) in opening round action, the Lions topped No. 5 seed St. Ambrose University in overwhelming fashion, where Morhardt went 3-of-5 with a pair of runs scored, four RBI's, and two deep balls that sailed over the fence.
Morhardt and Reinhardt University's go-to guy on the mound, Enrique Zamora, were the only players to represent the AAC as NAIA All-Americans. Fellow conference schools, Bluefield University (Va.) and Tennessee Wesleyan, each had one player receive an Honorable Mention.
For the full list of 2017 NAIA Baseball All-Americans and Honorable Mentions, click here.