(GNAC media release)
PORTLAND, Ore. – Standout seasons at the plate continue to merit awards as four Great Northwest Athletic Conference sluggers have received first-team regional recognition to the 2018 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and Division II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA) All-West Region Teams.
In his first season with the Yellowjackets, Montana State Billings junior third baseman Kaleo Johnson was named to the first team for both awards. Joining Johnson on the NCBWA Division II All-West Region Team is Montana State Billings senior first baseman Ryan Myers and Central Washington senior designated hitter Dustin Braun, who was also a second-team selection by the D2CCA.
Johnson and Central Washington senior outfielder James Smith III were the two GNAC honorees to land on the D2CCA West Region First Team. Smith was also a second-team selection for the NCBWA. The Yellowjackets led the GNAC with five selections to the NCBWA Division II All-West Region Team.
Western Oregon senior second baseman Jay Leverett and Concordia senior shortsop Andrew Barrera were named to the NCBWA All-West Region Second Team while Smith and MSUB junior Jalen Garcia made the team as outfielders. After recording a league-high six saves this year, Montana State Billings senior relief pitcher Adam Cox earns his first selection to the second team.
Rounding out the 10 GNAC selections were Western Oregon junior catcher Jared McDonald and Montana State Billings senior pitcher Steen Fredrickson. Braun was the lone GNAC player selected to the D2CCA West Region Second Team. Of the 10 GNAC honorees for the NCBWA, Leverett is the only two-time selection.
Johnson, the GNAC Newcomer of the Year, was an offensive force for a Yellowjackets’ team that holds the GNAC single-season home run record of 78. Johnson led the Yellowjackets to its third GNAC regular-season title in four years as he finished the season with a league-best .412 batting average and 17 home runs. Five of his home runs came at the GNAC Championships. He is second in Division II with an .845 slugging percentage.
Smith, the GNAC Player of the Year, was an integral piece to a Central Washington team that appeared in its second-straight GNAC Championships last week. The slugger finished his senior campaign sixth in the GNAC with a .386 batting average and led the league with 22 doubles, which tied him for 11th in Division II. Smith was also among the conference leaders in hits (78), runs (58), slugging percentage (.693), RBIs (53) and home runs (12).
In his second year with the team, Myers launched 16 home runs and 57 hits to go along with a .696 slugging percentage. The senior led the league with a .516 on-base percentage and collected a team-high 57 runs. Four of Myers’ home runs came in the GNAC Championships, which included a solo shot over the right-field fence in his final at-bat.
On the offensive side of the ball, Braun finished third in the league by batting .379. He also was second on the team with 74 hits, 41 RBIs and a .528 slugging percentage. At the GNAC Championships, Braun went 5 for 14 with two RBIs, two runs scored and a home run.
Voting for the D2CCA was conducted by the NCAA Division II Sports Information Directors from West Region institutions and conference offices. Each of the 16 first teamers will now be eligible for the All-American honors, which will be announced later this month. Johnson, Braun and Myers are now eligible for NCBWA All-American honors, which will be announced in the coming weeks.