By Derrick ForsytheRecord Staff WriterIt was a milestone season for the Warrenton baseball team and that was evidenced through the postseason accolades the Warriors received.The program was awarded the two most prestigious honors, boasting both the conference coach and player of the year. Additionally, seven Warriors were named to the GAC all-conference teams.Eric Burle refused to take much of the credit for his Coach of the Year honor, citing it as a result of tremendous team effort and stability within the program.“We’ve been fortunate to have several guys with the coaching staff to have a consistent voice the guys are hearing,” said Burle. “The kids are buying into what it takes in the offseason.”Burle took the program from the ashes over the past five years, leading the Warriors to a winning record in each of the past three seasons. Warrenton has reached the district title game in two of the past three seasons.The Warriors finished 13-13 this season.Senior Ben Stephens was a pivotal part of that resurgence, and league coaches recognized that by naming him conference player of the year.Stephens established a stellar reputation on the mound as a four-year varsity starter, collecting 19 wins and striking out 220 batters over the course of his career.“It’s a testament to what he’s accomplished throughout his high school career,” said Burle. “He has always been a reliable pitcher for us, and more recently he has really stepped up his performance at the plate.”Stephens was the Warriors’ primary ace this season, striking out 90 batters and walking 18. He carried a 0.93 earned run average, going 7-2 as a starter in 15 appearances. Stephens tossed a team-best 75.3 innings as a senior.At the plate, he batted .364 with 32 hits and 24 runs scored.Dallas Johnson — junior was named to the first team after a standout performance in the infield and a particularly strong showing at the plate.“Dallas made a lot of improvement from last year to this season,” Burle said. “He started off slow but really picked up his bat and showed what he’s capable of at the plate. Opposing pitchers know about him, so he sees a lot of offspeed and breaking stuff, and he’s got a good eye for the ball.”Hunter Capstick — junior was selected to the first team as an outfielder after leading the Warriors in extra-base hits. He batted .352 with 31 hits, collecting 28 RBIs and scoring 23 runs.“As the season progressed his role changed, and he had to play centerfield instead of right field. In the end we got short-handed due to injuries, but he stepped up. He threw several huge innings against St. Dominic and got the win in that game. Offensively he’s been a pleasant surprise and has great gap power.”Capstick hit seven doubles, four triples and three home runs.Taylor Duvel — senior was chosen as a second-team infielder after batting .296 with 24 hits. He was responsible for 17 RBIs and scored 13 runs.“He was one of the better third basemen in our conference defensively. He’s not going to shy away from a ball hit at him and is willing to take a line drive off the chest to keep the ball in the infield. He also started off really strong offensively.”Brandon Purkaple — junior garnered second-team honors as an infielder after pitching and playing first base. He batted .311 with 23 hits and 11 RBIs. Purkaple scored 10 runs.“He was a solid defensive player for us,” said Burle. “He had some key hits early in the season to provide some timely RBIs for us. He hit well for average and drove in some key runs.”Sawyer Junker — junior was chosen to the second team as an outfielder after batting .321 with 17 hits and six RBIs. He also scored 11 runs.“He’s a good athlete,” said Burle. “He’s got good speed and a strong, accurate arm. He made some critical game-saving catches for us.”Jacob Abel — junior was named to the second team as a designated hitter after batting .243 with 17 hits. Abel recorded 10 RBIs and scored 10 runs.“He hit toward the back half of our order,” said Burle. “He really settled into that DH role well and was a great on-base guy.”
Ben Stephens was named the Player of the Year in the GAC.
Derrick Forsythe photo.