Seven RU baseball players honored by Big South

Photo courtesy of RU Athletics
Radford University pitcher Zach Ridgely has been named the Big South Pitcher of the Year.

Radford junior starting pitcher Zack Ridgely headlined seven Highlanders receiving postseason accolades as the left-handed pitcher became the second Highlander to be named Big South Pitcher of the Year, the league announced Monday night at its awards banquet.

The seven honorees match a program record set during the 2015 season. Joining Ridgley with first-team all-conference selections were Danny Hrbek and Kyle Zurak. Jonathan Gonzalez, Kyle Butler and Spencer Horwitz were named second-team honorees. Kyle Palmer was named to the league’s all-academic team.

“I am proud of every one of these guys that were recognized by the Big South coaches as the top players in the league,” said head coach Joe Raccuia. “Not only by the numbers, but coaches remember players and how good they performed in big moments.”

Ridgely joins elite company in Eddie Butler as the only two Highlanders to earn the league’s pitcher of the year award. Butler shared the honor in 2012 as Ridgely becomes the first to win it outright. Ridgely finished with four first-place votes and 17 points in the voting, just ahead of Winthrop’s Nate Pawelczyk (four first-place votes and 15 points).

The lefty earns his first all-conference honor, finishing the regular season with a 6-5 record and 2.91 ERA. Ridgely turned in a 4-2 record and 2.13 in eight Big South starts, holding batters to a .191 average. Striking out 80 batters in 89.2 innings, Ridgely ranked third in the league. Walking only 10 batters on the season, Ridgely ranks seventh nationally with an 8.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 10th with a 1.00 walks allowed per nine innings clip. In seven of his 14 starts, Ridgely walked zero batters seven times. The 2017 season saw Ridgely collect three weekly conference awards.

Hrbek earned first-team honors at the utility position, appearing in all 53 regular season games, the senior saw action at five different positions. Starting 14 games on the mound, Hrbek played 31 games at shortstop, four at second base, three at first base and one as the designated hitter. On the mound, Hrbek finished with a 4-5 record and 4.74 ERA in 68.1 innings. In only his third collegiate start, Hrbek tossed the first nine-inning no-hitter in program history on March 4, facing just one batter over the minimum. At the plate; Hrbek compiled a .257 average with 55 hits, 29 runs, eight doubles, four triples, two home runs and 25 RBIs. Hrbek was named to the second team in 2016.

Solidifying himself as one of the most electric arms in the Big South, Zurak earned his first career honor after going 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA and eight saves. The Highlander closer made two spot starts in league action, finishing the regular season with 55 punch outs in 42.2 innings. Zurak dominated Big South batters, finishing with a league best 1.03 ERA in conference games. In 11 Big South games, Zurak struck out 40 batters in 26.1 innings pitched. The righty finished with nine games of three-plus strikeouts, while striking out 13 in 9.2 innings in his two league starts.

Gonzalez’s breakout senior campaign cumulated with a second-team nod. His power numbers were some of the best in the league, ranking third with 12 home runs and seventh with 42 RBIs, leading Radford in both categories. Gonzalez finished the regular season with a slash line of .286/.512/.338. Ranking second on the team with 58 hits, Gonzalez had 11 multi-hit games and six three-hit games. In Big South play, Gonzalez led the team with 17 RBIs and 16 runs scored. Going 23 for 69 with runners in scoring position, Gonzalez compiled eight two-out RBIs.

After being inserted into the Radford lineup on Feb. 25, Butler has been nothing but a solid option for when the Highlanders need a base runner or a base hit, which earned the redshirt-sophomore a second-team bid. Butler tallied a team-best .318 average, ranking 10th in the league. In addition to leading the team in average, Butler paced the Highlanders with 64 hits and 43 runs scored. Of Butler’s 64 hits, 32 came in Big South play, finishing with a .308 average. Butler led the team with 21 multi-hit games, including 17 two-hit games and three three-hit contests.

Putting together one of the best freshman seasons in program history, Horwitz was rewarded with the final second-team award for the Highlanders. Horwitz finished second on the team with .306 batting average and a .289 average in league play. Compiling 56 hits, Horwitz proved to have a patient eye at the dish, earning a team-best 22 walks. Horwitz also tallied 29 RBIs on nine doubles and seven home runs. Of the seven home runs, six came in Big South play. Horwitz finished the regular season with 17 multi-hit games, including two four-hit showings. The freshman first baseman committed only two errors in 386 chances for a .995 fielding percentage.

Palmer, a redshirt-junior relief pitch, boasts a 3.63 GPA in Exercise Sport and Health Education. Working his way back Tommy John surgery in 2016, Palmer appeared in three games on the season, yielding only two hits in two innings pitched. Palmer played major role out of bullpen during 2015 championship run, compiling a 2.64 ERA with a 3-0 record and one save.

Radford finished the regular season with a 23-30 overall record and 11-13 Big South mark.

— Courtesy of RU Athletics