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Massi headlines Mercer’s eight All-Conference selections

Following a campaign that featured a national ranking and 38 or more wins for the fifth-straight season, the Mercer baseball team was rewarded with eight Atlantic Sun Conference Postseason honors on Tuesday afternoon.
MACON, Ga. (MERCER ATHLETICS RELEASE) – Following a campaign that featured a national ranking and 38 or more wins for the fifth-straight season, the Mercer baseball team was rewarded with eight Atlantic Sun Conference Postseason honors on Tuesday afternoon.

Senior Michael Massi highlighted the Bears postseason haul as he was named the A-Sun Conference Defensive Player of the Year to go along with an A-Sun All-Conference first team selection.

Senior Sasha LaGarde and junior Eric Nyquist joined Massi on the first team while senior Nick Backlund and juniors Chesny Young and Dimitri Kourtis were voted onto the A-Sun All-Conference second team.

The future also looks bright for Mercer as freshmen Ryan Askew and Kyle Lewis were both elected to the A-Sun All-Freshman team.

Mercer’s eight overall postseason selections tied a program record while its six first or second team All-Conference honorees set a new program record, breaking the previous mark of five set in 2011 and 2013.

Massi’s honors are the latest in a string of postseason accolades that also include an A-Sun Academic All-Conference and Capital One Academic All-District 4 first team selection. The Powder Springs, Ga. native hit for a team-high .350 batting average this season and currently ranks among the league’s top-10 players in several statistical categories including runs scored (T-4th – 50), on-base percentage (5th - .430), hits (T-5th – 72), total bases (6th – 104) and walks (T-9th – 26). Also a whiz with the glove, Massi is fielding .981 from his shortstop position and ranks second in the A-Sun with 186 assists which is on the cusp of breaking the Mercer single-season assist record of 187 set by Jeff Thompson in 1983.

LaGarde had a breakout senior season with the bat, proving to be a force at the top of the Mercer line-up due to his power and run production. LaGarde hit .322 for the year to go along with 65 hits and a team-high nine stolen bases. The Montreal, Quebec native ranked tied for second in the A-Sun with his 51 runs scored, fourth with nine home runs, seventh with 44 RBI and tied for seventh with 102 total bases.

Nyquist thrived as a part of the Bears weekend rotation this season, posting a sterling 8-1 record with a 3.16 ERA in 85.1 innings pitched. The Alpharetta, Ga. native led the A-Sun with four complete games while ranking tied for second with his eight wins and third with a .224 opposing batting average. Nyquist’s four complete games are the most by a Mercer player since Hunter Abercrombie matched the feat in 2005 while his back-to-back complete game shutouts against USC Upstate and Lipscomb in mid-April was the first time that feat has been accomplished by an A-Sun pitcher since Kennesaw State's Chad Jenkins did so in April of 2009.

Backlund is wrapping up a magnificent career that has seen him cement his mark as one of the top sluggers in Mercer history. Backlund hit .278 this season with 32 runs scored, 10 doubles, eight home runs and 37 RBI. The San Jose, Calif. product’s 37 career home runs is the fourth-most amongst all active players in the NCAA and is the 28th-most in A-Sun Conference history.

As the reigning A-Sun Conference Player of the Year, Young continued to show his ability as one of the best pure hitters in the league in 2014. Young hit .345 on the strength of 68 hits to go along with 32 runs scored, nine doubles and 37 RBI. The Atlanta, Ga. native stepped his game up during league play as he ranked tied for ninth amongst A-Sun players with a .398 batting average and 39 hits. Young also tied for the team lead with 20 multi-hit games this season while committing only five errors defensively at the hot corner.

After a slow start due to injury, Kourtis re-gained his form that has made him one of the elite relievers in the A-Sun Conference. Kourtis posted a perfect 5-0 record with five saves, a 1.29 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 35.0 innings pitched. Owner of a .256 opposing batting average, the Alpharetta, Ga. native was nearly untouchable during A-Sun play, sporting a 0.39 ERA after giving up just one earned run in 23.0 innings pitched.

Askew showed great versatility as Mercer utilized him as a weekend starter, mid-week starter and middle reliever this season. The Suwanee, Ga. product put together a 3-3 record with a 3.26 ERA while ranking tied for second on the team with 49 strikeouts in 66.1 innings pitched.

When given a chance, Lewis displayed a great hitting stroke at the plate that figures to serve him well as a cornerstone of the Mercer offense for years to come. Lewis hit .284 on the season with 20 runs scored, but upped his batting average to .370 with two home runs over the last month of the regular season.
Kennesaw State’s Max Pentecost was named the A-Sun Conference Player of the Year while FGCU’s Michael Murray and Dave Tollett won Pitcher of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively.

Mercer returns to the diamond on May 21 when it takes on Stetson in the opening round of the A-Sun Baseball Championship in Fort Myers, Fla.

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