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21 May 2008

Whittemore and Marseco Highlight 2008 All-OVC Baseball Honors

Jacksonville State's Clay Whittemore (left) and Samford's Michael Marseco were named OVC Co-Players of the Year on Tuesday night. Photo: Courtesy of Jacksonville State Sports Information

PADUCAH, Ky.- For the first time since 1992, two players shared the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year award, which was handed out at the annual OVC Awards Banquet held on the eve of the 2008 OVC Baseball Tournament (which will be held at Brooks Stadium in Paducah). Jacksonville State senior outfielder Clay Whittemore and Samford shortstop Michael Marseco split the votes and were each awarded the OVC's highest honor. Eastern Kentucky pitcher Christian Friedrich was named the OVC Pitcher of the Year while Jacksonville State freshman outfielder Todd Cunningham was named Rookie of the Year and JSU's Jim Case took home Coach of the Year honors.


The awards are voted on by league head coaches and sports information directors and were awarded along with first and second-team All-OVC honors. Jacksonville State, the regular season champions, led the way with five first-team selections, three second-team picks and three selections to the All-Freshman Team. Southeast Missouri State (3 selections) was the only other team to place multiple players on the first-team. Each Austin Peay, Samford and Tennessee Tech equaled Jax State with three second-team picks.


Whittemore and Marseco became the first people to share the Player of the Year award since Austin Peay's Randy McDermott and Middle Tennessee's Gary Myers did so 16 years ago. Whittemore, who also won the 2007 OVC Player of the Year honor during his All-American junior campaign, became only the second player to win multiple awards, equaling the feat achieved by Murray State's George Dugan, who won three awards from 1963-65. Marseco became the first Samford Bulldog to win the honor.


After earning All-American honors as a junior, Whittemore put together an even better season during his senior campaign. In 54 games, Whittemore hit .421 with 90 hits, 43 runs, 17 doubles, six triples, eight home runs and 63 RBI while compiling a .668 slugging percentage and .477 on-base percentage. Those numbers were even better in Conference games, where Whittemore hit .457 with 48 hits, 10 doubles, six home runs and 34 RBI. He also led the team with 26 multiple-hit and 16 multiple-RBI games and hit .477 with runners in scoring position. With three hits in the regular season finale, Whittemore became JSU's all-time hits leader (252) despite just playing three years with the program. His play down the final month of the season helped Jacksonville State win 16 straight games, the longest active winning streak in the nation. Whittemore was also a first-team selection last season and a second-team All-OVC pick in 2006.


Marseco earned his third All-OVC honor in sharing the Player of the Year award with Whittemore. In 54 games he hit .407 with a school-record 88 hits, 51 runs, 12 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 46 RBI and nine stolen bases. He also added a .579 slugging percentage and .447 on-base mark. Marseco had 28 multiple-hit games (tops in the league) and nine multiple-RBI games on the season to go along with a Conference-best 29-game hitting streak at one stretch of the year. That ranked as the fifth-best mark among all Division I players this season. In 26 Conference games, Marseco hit .430, with 46 hits, 31 runs, five doubles, four triples, five home runs and 24 RBI.


Friedrich completed a dominant junior season by ranking among national leaders in earned run average, strikeouts per nine innings and hits allowed per nine innings. In 81.2 innings of work over 12 starts, he compiled a 5-1 record and 1.43 E.R.A. Friedrich allowed just 40 hits on the season - holding opponents to a .144 batting average - while walking only 33 and striking out a league-best 108. In OVC games, Friedrich was 4-0 with a 1.11 E.R.A. in 57 innings of work. He struck out 71 and walked 23 while allowing 27 hits. In back-to-back starts during the month of May, Friedrich allowed just one hit over eight innings in both contests. He also had a two-hit performance earlier in the season and only once all year (in the regular season finale) did he allow more than five hits. He struck out a season-high 13 against Southeast Missouri on May 10. Friedrich is the first EKU pitcher to earn the award since its inception in 1992.


In his first season with the Gamecocks Cunningham started and played in 54 of the team's 55 games. He hit .343 with 69 hits, an OVC-best 62 runs, 14 doubles, three triples, a home run, 29 RBI and six stolen bases. After he became the team's leadoff batter, the Gamecocks compiled a 27-5 record as the squad won its final 16 regular season games of the year and captured the OVC regular season championship. In 27 OVC games, Cunningham hit .356 with 36 hits, 37 runs, 11 doubles, a triple, home run and three stolen bases. He is the second Jacksonville State player to be named Rookie of the Year, following Donovan Hand's award in 2005.


Case earned his second OVC Coach of the Year award (he also won the award in 2005) in just his fifth season in the OVC. Case guided the Gamecocks to a 36-19 record and 23-4 mark in Conference games as the team won its second OVC regular season championship in the last four seasons. The 23 OVC victories set a new record for Conference victories in a season. Along the way the team posted a 17-8 mark in road games and finished the regular season with 16 consecutive victories, which is the longest active streak nationally entering the week. In his five seasons coaching in the OVC, Case has compiled a 95-40 league record, and his .704 winning percentage is best among active coaches. Overall in his seventh season with the JSU program, Case has a 225-181 (.554) record.


Whittemore, Marseco and Friedrich were each first-team selections in 2008, leading four repeat players on the first-team. The other repeat selection was Jacksonville State second baseman Bert Smith (.328, 64 hits, 51 runs, 38 RBI, 14 stolen bases), who was also a second-team selection in 2006. Another player - Austin Peay senior third baseman Tyler Farrar (.270, 54 hits, 42 runs, 9 home runs, 55 RBI, 18 stolen bases) - was a second-team selection who jumped to the first-team this year.  Farrar and Whittemore were the only two seniors represented on the 13-person first-team. Two other players - Southeast Missouri State sophomore catcher Jim Klocke (.359, 61 hits, 46 runs, 40 RBI) and Jacksonville State sophomore pitcher Ben Tootle (10-2 record, 4.00 E.R.A., 2 complete game shutouts, 76 strikeouts) were each All-Freshman Team honorees a season ago before moving up to the first-team this season. Other first-team selections included Southeast Missouri junior first baseman Matt Wagner (.335, 62 hits, 32 runs, nine home runs, 46 RBI) and junior outfielder Tyrell Cummings (.341, 70 hits, 48 runs, 16 doubles, 12 home runs), Eastern Illinois junior outfielder Brett Nommensen (.385, 69 hits, 46 runs, four home runs, 15 stolen bases), Murray State sophomore designated hitter Wes Cunningham (.380, 62 hits, 32 runs, 30 RBI) and a pair of Jacksonville State players in sophomore utility man Steven Leach (.353, 76 hits, 48 runs, 15 doubles, four home runs, 55 RBI) and sophomore reliever Alex Jones (7-2, 2.82 E.R.A. 8 saves, 57 strikeouts in 44.2 innings).


The second-team included three players who were second-team selections in 2007. That group included Austin Peay senior outfielder Rafael Hill (.391, 77 hits, 56 runs, 12 doubles, four triples, 21 stolen bases), Murray State junior third baseman Tyler Owen (.293, 48 hits, 24 runs, 23 RBI) and Tennessee Tech senior outfielder Jake New (.352, 75 hits, 54 runs, 10 doubles, 41 RBI). The team also included Jacksonville State senior designated hitter Brian Piazza (.348, 56 hits, 29 runs, seven home runs, 45 RBI), who was a second-team choice in 2006, and Cunningham, the OVC Rookie of the Year. The second-team was rounded out by Samford senior catcher Bear Burnett, Austin Peay sophomore first baseman Matt Kole, Tennessee Tech middle infield combination Matt Mihoci (senior second baseman) and Thomas Nelson (senior shortstop), Samford senior designated hitter Michael Rutledge, Morehead State sophomore utility man Michael Bottoms, Samford junior pitcher Jonathan Stephens, Jacksonville State senior hurler Brian Booth and Austin Peay sophomore closer Daniel Tenholder.


Nine of the 10 OVC baseball squads had at least one representative on the All-Freshman Team, which was awarded for the third time in 2008. The 13-member team was highlighted by the League's Rookie of the Year Cunningham. Cunningham was joined on the squad by a pair of Gamecock teammates in pitcher Jordan Beistline and shortstop Jake Sharrock. Morehead State also had multiple selections - catcher Casey Branham and third baseman Michael Fear - as did Eastern Kentucky - third baseman Jayson Langfels and outfielder Ryan Faidley. Two selections saw time on the mound and in the field during the year, as Tennessee Tech's A.J. Kirby-Jones (who was both the team's designated hitter as well as a pitcher), and UT Martin's Wes Patterson (pitcher and first baseman) both made the team. The team was rounded out by Austin Peay infielder Greg Bachman, Eastern Illinois pitcher Josh Mueller, Samford second baseman Michael Johnson and Southeast Missouri third baseman Trenton Moses.


OVC Co-Player of the Year:
Clay Whittemore, Jacksonville State
OVC Co-Player of the Year: Michael Marseco, Samford
OVC Pitcher of the Year: Christian Friedrich, Eastern Kentucky
OVC Rookie of the Year: Todd Cunningham, Jacksonville State
OVC Coach of the Year: Jim Case, Jacksonville State

C - Jim Klocke, Southeast Missouri
1B - Matt Wagner, Southeast Missouri
2B - Bert Smith, Jacksonville State
SS - Michael Marseco, Samford
3B - Tyler Farrar, Austin Peay
OF - Brett Nommensen, Eastern Illinois
OF - Clay Whittemore, Jacksonville State
OF - Tyrell Cummings, Southeast Missouri
DH - Wes Cunningham, Murray State
UTIL - Steven Leach, Jacksonville State
SP - Christian Friedrich, Eastern Kentucky
SP - Ben Tootle, Jacksonville State
RP - Alex Jones, Jacksonville State

C - Bear Burnett, Samford
1B - Matt Kole, Austin Peay
2B - Matt Mihoci, Tennessee Tech
SS - Thomas Nelson, Tennessee Tech
3B - Tyler Owen, Murray State
OF - Rafael Hill, Austin Peay 
OF - Todd Cunningham, Jacksonville State
OF - Jake New, Tennessee Tech
DH - Brian Piazza, Jacksonville State
DH - Michael Rutledge, Samford
UTIL - Michael Bottoms, Morehead State
SP - Jonathan Stephens, Samford
SP - Brian Booth, Jacksonville State
RP - Daniel Tenholder, Austin Peay

C - Casey Branham, Morehead State
1B/P - Wes Patterson, UT Martin
INF - Greg Bachman, Austin Peay
2B - Michael Johnson, Samford
SS - Jake Sharrock, Jacksonville State
3B - Trenton Moses, Southeast Missouri
3B - Michael Fear, Morehead State
3B - Jayson Langfels, Eastern Kentucky
OF - Ryan Faidley, Eastern Kentucky
OF - Todd Cunningham, Jacksonville State
DH/P - A.J. Kirby-Jones, Tennessee Tech
RHP - Josh Mueller, Eastern Illinois
RHP - Jordan Beistline, Jacksonville State

See 2008 All-OVC Baseball Team.

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Reprinted here in its entirety from OVC Baseball Report.

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