WARRENTON - Garrison Hibbs did a lot to help the Warrenton baseball team this season. The senior southpaw topped the Warriors in most offensive and pitching categories and guided an inexperienced squad gutted by the graduation of a majority of its starters from last year to a surprising second consecutive outright Gateway Athletic Conference North championship.
But it’s what Hibbs didn’t do that stands out most to Head Coach Eric Burle.
“In four years I never heard that kid complain once,” Burle said. “He never had an excuse about anything. Garrison’s the consummate team player. He leads by example and just goes out and competes.”
Hibbs, a St. Louis Community College signee, was recently voted the GAC North Player of the Year by league coaches and was one of six Warriors to earn all-conference honors.
A pair of juniors, outfielder Xavior Noble and infielder Nate Shepard, also made the first team, while senior outfielder Cody Herzog, junior infielder Hunter Sherman and junior catcher Nate McGee were second team selections.
The dependable Hibbs could be counted on for a base knock every other at-bat. His .500 average (30-for-60) was good for sixth best in the St. Louis Metro area. He also had eight doubles, three home runs, 16 RBIs and scored 19 runs with a .577 on-base percentage and .783 slugging mark. He struck out just four times on the year and fanned only once through the first 20 games.
And his statline looks even better considering a majority of that production came at less than 100 percent health-wise as Hibbs pulled a quad muscle running out a groundball in a late-March conference game against St. Charles West. He didn’t miss much action, but the injury lingered the rest of the season and may have turned a few would-be extra-base hits into singles while limiting his innings in the outfield, his natural position.
With Warrenton lacking pitching depth, Hibbs got the lion’s share of work on the mound and went 4-0 with a 2.16 ERA in conference play, including a two-hit complete game shutout at Orchard Farm, the only conference team to win a district title. When not toeing the rubber, he also spent time at first base, third base and even handled a few frames at shortstop, despite his left-handedness.
While it wasn’t out of the ordinary to see Hibbs all over the diamond, celebrating a big hit or lamenting allowing one while on the field was a rare occurrence.
“He’s not one to wear his emotions on his sleeve,” Burle said. “He doesn’t get too high. He doesn’t get too low. It’s pretty much all business, and he went out there every day and showed everyone how to go about it.”
Speaking of business, Noble also knew how to take care of it with his bat as well. The athletic junior led the Warriors with 17 runs driven in and was second in extra-base hits with nine, batting .393 with five doubles, a triple, three home runs and 20 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. His first long ball of the year was a huge one as it helped Warrenton secure a series sweep of West on the road.
“I’m kind of biased, but I thought Xavior was probably the best outfielder in our conference, both offensively and defensively,” Burle said. “He saved quite a few runs with his range and ability to track the ball, and put up some eye-popping numbers with the bat. He was a big reason for our success in conference play. When Xavior and Garrison were clicking it really fueled our offense.”
Shepard, who rounds out the trio of first-teamers, also provided some octane to the offense, hitting .390 with three doubles, nine RBIs, 15 runs scored and a .500 on-base percentage. He spun the second-most innings on the mound (35), going 1-4 with a 5.05 ERA.
“Nate did a little bit of everything,” Burle said. “He spent a lot of time at first, pitched and played some outfield. He started some as a sophomore, but solidified himself this year. He started slowly but was really tearing it up with the bat toward the middle/end of the season and was great in the cleanup spot. We’re excited to have him another year and hope he can lead us by example.”
Herzog, one of just two seniors and a three-year starter, finished second on the team in hits (26), doubles (6) and RBIs (16), posting a .382 average with 14 runs scored.
“Cody put up some pretty big numbers and really carried us offensively at times throughout the year,” Burle said “He provided some good protection for Xavior and Garrison, and really anchored down left field defensively for us.”
Sherman, Warrenton’s youngest all-conference selection, thrived after being moved to the top of the order midway through the season. The sophomore shortstop walked 18 times, twice as much as any other Warrior and posted team-high in runs scored (22) and stolen bases (11), while batting .241 with two doubles and four RBIs. He was also third in innings pitched with 22.
“Hunter will be the first to tell you that he was really comfortable batting leadoff for us,” Burle said. “When he got on base we were usually able to score some runs, and his glove gave us some consistency in the infield. He’s just a gamer who really enjoys baseball and we’re excited to have him a few more years.”
McGee, a first-year starting backstop, was never afraid to crowd the plate as he was plunked twice as much as anyone else with eight HBPs. He also walked six times and batted .273 with a double, 12 RBIs, 11 runs scored and .420 OBP.
“Nate always had a penchant for getting on base,” Burle said. “He had some clutch hits for us and stepped things up in conference with an average well-above .300 and did a good job with our pitchers.”