Lewis, McCullers highlight Baseball's All-SSAC selections
By Matt Green
COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Shorter University junior Willie Lewis and senior Blake McCullers were named to the 2012 Southern States Athletic Conference first team to highlight the Hawks' all-league selections, which were announced on Wednesday night at the annual conference awards banquet.
Junior pitcher Ryan Newell earned second team All-SSAC recognition for the Hawks, who had three players honored with all-conference accolades for the second straight season. The All-SSAC honors are the first for all three players.
Lewis and McCullers garnered first team recognition after spearheading one of the SSAC's most potent offenses behind career seasons.
Lewis, a native of Gainesville, Fla., ranks second in the SSAC with a career-best .419 batting average thanks to 78 hits, which also ranks No. 2 in the league. Lewis also ranks third in the conference with five triples and sixth with 110 total bases while leading the Hawks with 43 RBI from his lead off position in the lineup. Lewis is also tied for the team lead with 13 doubles.
He went 3-for-6 in Shorter's 6-4 win over Southern Poly in the first round of the SSAC Baseball Championships yesterday at Golden Park in Columbus. Lewis has recorded multiple hits in 26 of his 51 appearances this season.
McCullers is enjoying a breakout season with the Hawks in 2012, ranking 11th in the SSAC with a .364 batting average. The Loganville, Ga., native has upped his batting average by .081 points from 2011 when he hit .283, and has also set career highs in doubles (11), home runs (3) and total hits (63).
His 42 RBI rank second on the team only to Lewis. His nine sacrifice flies lead the team.
Newell, who hails from nearby Marietta, gathered his first All-SSAC selection after emerging as the ace of Shorter's pitching staff with his performance throughout the season. He finished the regular season with a 9-3 record and 3.01 ERA and won each of his first seven starts of the year.
Entering the SSAC Tournament, Newell led the country with 108 strikeouts -- he now ranks No. 4 in the nation in that category and has yet to pitch in the tourney. Newell ranks second in the NAIA in hits allowed per nine (4.98), third in the country in opponents batting average (.161) and fourth in batters struck out per nine (12.52).
Newell had four double digit strikeout games, including a career high 14 strikeouts in a win over Emmanuel on March 3.
Shorter placed 10 student-athletes on the Academic All-SSAC roster: Beau Dahlke, Charlie Gillis, Cal Hardie, Ryan Patterson, Sean Piper, Hayden Privett, Kurtis Robinson, Bryce Sellers, Ben Stell and Josh Watson.
The 20th-ranked Hawks (36-15), seeded No. 4 in the SSAC Tournament, will square off with tournament top seed and No. 3-ranked Faulkner (45-9) at 4 pm today in the second round.