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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Four Knights earn All-MIAC in baseball

<r the first time since 1991, four Carleton College baseball players received all-conference honors in recognition for their contributions on the diamond. Seniors Ethan Guevin and Jay Melson repeated as All-MIAC honorees. Joining them were junior Russ Fujisawa and first-year Alex Wirta.

Head Coach Aaron Rushing received 2009 MIAC Coach of the Year honors for his role in rejuvenating Carleton’s baseball program. In his fourth season with the Knights, Rushing led his squad to the program’s first-ever berth in the MIAC Baseball Playoffs. One season after finishing last in the MIAC, Carleton had a 10-game improvement in league play and tied for third in the conference standings at 12-8. The Knights’ 21-21 overall mark was the second-highest win total in the program’s history dating back more than 125 years. This was the first time Carleton finished at or above .500 since 1991.

Guevin once again served as staff ace, pacing the team’s pitchers in strikeouts and earned run average for the fourth consecutive year. His 3.18 ERA was second among MIAC hurlers with a minimum of 60.0 innings. He limited opposing batters to a .267 batting average and yielded more than three earned runs in only two of 15 appearances on the year. With Carleton needing two wins at Concordia on the final day of the regular season to reach the post season, Guevin twirled his fourth complete game of the year in a 5-4 win. He permitted all four runs in that game during the second inning immediately after being struck on his pitching hand by a batted ball. Guevin remained in the contest and held Concordia in check until the offense could rally for the necessary victory. Then pitching on two days rest, he handcuffed national No. 7 St. Thomas, holding them to an unearned run over first five innings in the Knights’ playoff debut.

When he wasn’t pitching, Guevin played second base at hit .363, second on the squad. That figure is an improvement of more than 100 points to his average from his junior campaign. He was 6-for-14 (.429) with three doubles and three RBI during the Concordia games and MIAC Playoffs.

“Ethan is the heart and soul of our team,” Rushing said. “He was the starting pitcher for all but one conference doubleheader and set the tone all season on the mound. He’s been a dominating pitcher for four years, and his offense exploded this season. Even more importantly he’s been successful off the field as well, for which he was recently recognized as academic all-district.”

Melson once anchored the Knights’ offense. After a slow start, he batted .353 during conference action and finished the season with eight home runs, the second-highest total over the last 20 seasons at Carleton and third-best among MIAC players this season. He knocked in 34 runs, tied for the fifth-best total at Carleton, while his 21 RBI during MIAC games finished one off the league lead. Melson was seventh in the conference after recording a .676 slugging percentage during league contests.

“Melson is one of the best power hitters in Carleton history. He walked in here and has been one of our top players since day one,” said Rushing. “It’s great to see his efforts recognized by the conference for the second year in a row.”

A first-time All-MIAC selection, Fujisawa batted .413 as the Knights’ leadoff hitter, finishing third among conference players with as many plate appearances and fifth-best all time at Carleton. He reached base safely in 38 of 41 games and collected a MIAC-best and school-record 21 doubles, a figure that tied for ninth in NCAA Division III. Fujisawa set the new Carleton standard with 52 hits, while also pacing the conference with school-record 34 walks, which tied for 23rd in NCAA D-III. His .540 on-base percentage ranked 12th among all Division III players with as many plate appearances. Despite batting at the top of the order, Fujisawa posted a. 627 slugging which ranked him fourth among all MIAC players (125+ ABs) and 61st among NCAA D-III outfielders.

“Fuji made himself into one of the top leadoff guys in the country this season. You simply can’t ask for more from a leadoff hitter,” said Rushing.

Wirta—the seventh freshman ever to be an all-conference baseball pick at Carleton and the first to do so since Scott Rizzardi in 1995—played like a seasoned veteran. He stepped into his role as second baseman with ease and also assumed the No. 2 spot in the starting rotation.
At the plate, he hit .397 during conference action, ranking eighth among MIAC players with as many at bats. He was 10th with a .485 on-base percentage in league games. Wirta ranked among NCAA leaders in bruises as he was hit by a pitch 14 times, a total that broke the school record, led the MIAC and tied for 30th in the nation. His uncanny plate discipline is best demonstrated by the fact that he was plunked more often than he struck out (14). He fanned only once over his final 57 plate appearances.

On the mound, he pitched 17 times including 10 starts and tied with Guevin for second on the staff in wins. Wirta’s ratio of 7.85 strikeouts per nine innings pitched was best in the rotation and second on the staff. Opposing conference hitters batted .279 against him, 10th-best in the league.

“Wirta is just a hard nosed baseball player,” Rushing said. “He played great defense in the middle infield and really hit the ball well for us down the stretch. His pitching was a huge asset as well. It always speaks volumes for a player to be recognized as all-conference as a freshman.”
Senior Cameron McDonald-Hyman was chosen by his coaches and teammates to represent the Knights on the MIAC All-Sportsmanship Team. He had arguably the biggest hit of the season, as his two-out, two-run double in the last inning of the final regular-season game, rallied Carleton to a 7-6 win at Concordia, securing the Knights trip to the playoffs.

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