When a hitter registers the type of offensive statistics Western Nevada College’s D.J. Peters did during the 2016 season, few can question why he was chosen as the Scenic West Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
Peters followed his outfield mentor, Jake Bennett, as the conference’s top player after his Ted Williams-like season, which included a .401 average, 14 homers, 57 RBI, 59 runs scored, 69 hits, five sacrifice flies and a .727 slugging average. Mind you, these powerful numbers were all done with a wooden bat.
“D.J. took over Bennett’s role as a leader and workhorse, and was such a consistent force,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore. “It’s a great honor for D.J. and our entire program, especially coach Demo (Aaron Demosthenes) who is such an outstanding hitting coach. For him to have now coached the player of the year four times in the past nine years speaks volumes about his talent.”
The all-SWAC first team also included WNC pitcher Chase Kaplan, catcher/designated hitter Tim Lichty and second baseman David Modler.
“Seven of the nine offensive starters were honored in some capacity and five of our top six pitchers as well,” Whittemore said. “Really, that tells the whole story of our team in 2016. We have a team full of quality players who contribute. We might not have the most talented team, but we are deep.”
Peters’ 14 bombs set a single-season WNC record and led the SWAC. The sophomore also made a successful switch from right field to center, showing the necessary speed to track down balls in the power alleys.
Lichty, who routinely hit behind Peters, forced pitchers to throw decent pitches to the team’s star because of his own hitting ability. He belted 10 homers and hit a sizzling .383. His 16 doubles led the Wildcats, and his 64 hits, 54 RBI and .671 slugging average were second on the team.
Modler set the table for Peters and Lichty. He averaged .327 at the plate, while lining 14 doubles and scoring 40 runs. The latter two stats were good for second on the team. He also had 10 stolen bases and 53 hits.
After an up-and-down freshman season, Kaplan developed into WNC’s top pitcher in 2016. Kaplan topped WNC with an 8-1 record and 2.92 earned run average. Hitters struggled to a .206 average against the sophomore left-hander.
The Wildcats also had four players selected to the second team. Second-team members included outfielder Bradley Lewis (.319, 11 doubles, two triples, 28 RBI and only 17 strikeouts in 141 at-bats), relief pitcher Josh Mill (4-1 record, 3.40 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings), pitcher Jordan Ragan (6-1, 3.82 ERA, .214 batting average against and two complete games) and first baseman Daniel Nist (.316 batting average, third on team with eight homers, second on team with 11 bags stolen in 12 attempts, 29 RBI and 27 walks).
Earning SWAC honorable mention were third baseman Chad Bell (.279 average, tied for third on team with 12 doubles) pitcher Matt Young (7-5 record, 4.12 ERA, led team with four complete games and a team-high 86 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings), pitcher Jordan Dreibelbis (6-3 record with a 3.95 ERA, second on team with 68 1/3 innings pitched and second with 45 strikeouts), catcher Sam Salyers (only six errors and handled a pitching staff with a combined 3.94 ERA) and outfielder Abe Yagi (third on team with .368 batting average, 10 doubles and .439 on-base average).
“For all of the players who were recognized, I am thankful they were rewarded for all their hard work,” Whittemore said. “Lots of time in the world you get what you earn, and they certainly earned it.”