GREENVILLE, Ill. – The Greenville baseball squad will enter its 15th season under head coach Lynn Carlson, and despite the loss of All-American and All-Region players from last year's club, the Panthers look to the 2011 season with excitement and optimism.
The 2011 Greenville Panthers are coming off of one of the best seasons in GC baseball history. At 28-14, the 2010 team tied a program record with their 28 wins and set another program record with a .951 fielding percentage. The team also hit .323, finishing in second place in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with an 18-6 conference mark, another program record.
Setting the pace for the Panthers was an exceptional senior class, led by Stefan Neece, who put together perhaps the greatest offensive season in program history. Neece hit an astounding .487, while crushing opponent’s pitchers with 19 home runs and driving in 67 runs on the year. Equally amazing were his .663 on base percentage, 1.118 slugging percentage, and his 52 walks on the season, all of which led the entire NCAA Division III.
Also having a career season last year for the Panthers was senior Matt Leefers. Leefers’ 8-4 record tied him for the second most wins in a season in Panther history. He was awarded the SLIAC Conference Pitcher of the Year and earned third team All-Region honors as well.
Bryan Hobbie, the Panthers cleanup hitter and centerfielder put together a solid senior campaign as well, driving in 38 runs and playing flawless defense, which earned him All-Region Gold Glove honors.
Despite these losses, the club looks to 2011 with anticipation of success. The 2011 squad returns five starting position players and two of the five starting pitchers from last season. Two of the returning starters were awarded all-conference honors. Second baseman Kyle Hobar (Germantown, Tenn.), and third baseman Kenny Trager (Lakewood, CO) earned second team all-conference and honorable mention all-conference honors, respectively.
The team also boasts one of the largest recruiting classes in recent memory with 18 freshmen on the roster, bolstering the number of returning players with hopes of competing for the conference title.
“The SLIAC (St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) should be interesting this year with defending champion Webster losing 12 seniors off of last season’s team,” said Carlson. “With a little good fortune and development, we could find ourselves right in the mix.”
Apart from Carlson, the program's all-time coaching leader in games won, a terrific staff will help guide the Panthers this season. Both assistant coaches Andy Rincker and Dan Marsh return from last year’s club to direct and teach in GC system.
“Our success will not just be measured in games,” said Carlson. “We are striving to honor Christ in everything we do and to be good teammates. That is how we will truly win.”
Greenville baseball will kick off the season Wednesday, Feb. 23, as it plays host to McKendree University in one of the Panthers 18 scheduled home games this season.