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Bradley Ruiz Receives SAC Conference Honors

By Alyssa Fox on 05/10/2018

Oklahoma City— As the post season draws to a close, Aggie Baseball culminates their winningest season in Panhandle records, and can add to their repertoire the momentous milestone of the first conference appearance in school history.

University President Dr. Tim Faltyn expounded, "Not only has this team made history, they have set an excellent example that we can all be proud of. Success builds confidence, and shows that we can continue to do great thing, things that have never been done before."

The Aggies accrued a 25-32 record on the season, including series sweeps of Bacone College, Southwestern Assemblies of God University and Central Christian College, and a win over Eastern New Mexico College, the first time Panhandle has bested the Portales, New Mexico team in ten years. The Aggies finished 12-15 in conference and landed a spot as the sixth seed in the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament where they took down the nationally ranked No. 23 Texas Wesleyan Rams before finishing 1-2 in the conference.

On the memorable emprise of the tournament, senior pitcher Adrian Lopez reflected, "The conference tournament was a great experience for our guys, we are a young team that has proved that if we get behind each other we can hang and beat great teams. I expect big things in the years to come." Senior pitcher Josh Casillas echoed his teammate, "It was a blast to be a part of the program this year; it's sad that I have to be done but I'm excited to see how well the guys do next season."

As the end of the season Sooner Athletic Conference rankings are released, Panhandle boasts eight athletes across the board, as Bradley Ruiz, Jared Mayeda, Kasey Leatherwood, Nate Kelly, Luis Rodriguez, Juan Sanchez, Pierce Edwards and Gerson Padilla all ranked in the Top 20 over a span of fourteen categories. First baseman Jared Mayeda finished at No. 3 in the rankings in PutOuts with a total of 342 on the season. Short stop Nate Kelly landed a No. 3 spot in Triples with 7 on the year and is ranked No. 1 overall in the conference in Assists with a total of 141. Sophomore center fielder Bradley Ruiz is ranked No. 2 in the conference in Fielding Percentage at 1.000 with zero errors on the season and 91 putouts over 94 chances, only just missing the No. 1 spot to total chances.

The 2018 SAC All-Conference winners were released Tuesday, May 8, and Ruiz' stellar season performance earned him the Sooner Athletic Conference Gold Glove Award, making him Panhandle's first baseball conference award winner in documented school history. Ruiz bested every center fielder in the conference to come out on top on the considerations list, and beat out the four nominated players in his category to win it, with just one Gold Glove recipient awarded at each fielding position. With strong competition in the All-Conference categories, Nate Kelly, Jared Mayeda, Luis Rodriguez and Gerson Padilla all received nominations.

Head Coach Jason LaRocque remarks with great pride in his team and their accomplishments over the season and moreover, their first appearance in the conference tournament, "Our guys played with a lot of heart. It's astounding to see how far they have come. It is a blessing to get to see our guys in that moment on that stage playing with that much emotion and grit. Our seniors gave us everything they had and the bar has certainly been set for the program going forward." Coach LaRocque is taking his first year with Panhandle State University in stride, reveling the pivotal season accomplished by the staff and the team, but looking ahead to his upcoming 2019 season of Aggie Baseball. LaRocque asserts, "I have used the term resiliency a lot this year, but I do so because I feel it is the perfect term to encapsulate our team- from where we started to where we are now to what we have the potential to become. We are honored to have had such success this year, but we are not satisfied nor content by any means; It's time for the staff and I to hit the ground running to allow this program the opportunity to take things to the next level."

For a full list of the Sooner Athletic Conference All-Conference Award Winners, please visit soonerathletic.org.


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