Dayton, Tenn. – Following last week's announcement of Justin Morhardt (JR/Winsted, Conn.) adding 2017 NAIA All-American honors to his pile of accolades already accumulated this season, he received the kind of news that every collegiate athlete longs for. With the No. 650 pick in the 22nd round of the 2017 MLB Draft, the Atlanta Braves selected the catcher from Winsted, Conn.
Having a Lion jump from Bryan College to the professional level via draft has never happened before until now. "After a long list of deserving players from Bryan, it feels amazing to be the first player to have the privilege of breaking the professional ice," explained Morhardt. "My only wish is that I can represent the school with the utmost honor and humility, always putting Christ in the forefront."
Morhardt helped the Lions to a 35-16 regular-season overall record and 17-10 record in Appalachian Athletic Conference play, which proved good enough to earn Bryan their first-ever at-large bid to the National Tournament and 3rd overall appearance. The 2017 AAC Player of the Year and All-Conference First Team member posted some of the most impressive hitting numbers in program history. He swatted a .439 batting average and pieced together 86 hits, which both are new records for the Bryan Lions. He compiled 20 doubles, 12 homeruns, 51 RBI's, and slugged .724. His efforts gave way to him leading the conference in batting average, total hits, hits per game (1.48), doubles, and on-base percentage (.551). His bat brought national attention to Bryan as well as he recorded the 12th-highest batting average in the country, ranked 15th in the hit's column, held on for the 30th spot in both doubles and slugging percentage, turned in the 34th-highest total bases, and had the 36th-best hits per game average.
With the assistance of Morhardt, the Lions climbed to as high as 14th in the nation and defended a top-25 spot for the majority of the season. As a team, Bryan led the highly competitive AAC in the following categories: .332 batting average, .568 slugging percentage, 457 runs scored, 7.88 runs scored per game, 10.4 hits per game, 419 runs batted in, 7.22 RBI's per game, 2.03 doubles per game, 19 triples, 0.33 triples per game, 1.57 homeruns per game, 112 stolen bases, and 1.93 stolen bases per game. 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.
Bryan Athletic Director and Head Baseball Coach, Taylor Hasty said, "I am so proud of Justin and all of his hard work the past three seasons. He invested time on and off the field and this commitment has been rewarded in a big way! I pray he will continue to follow the Lord and work hard throughout his professional career. There remains much for him to accomplish beyond this achievement."