Bixler Named League MVP, Marshall Coach of the Year as 12 Grizzlies Collect All-HCAC Honors

Bixler Named League MVP, Marshall Coach of the Year as 12 Grizzlies Collect All-HCAC Honors

GREENWOOD, Ind. – The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) released the 2018 baseball all-conference teams on Tuesday (May 15) morning. After a dominant regular season, a total of 12 Grizzlies collected all-conference honors while taking home two of the four major awards.

Sophomore outfielder Ryan Bixler became the fourth player in program history to be named HCAC Player of the Year. Additionally, head coach Lance Marshall took home his fourth HCAC Coach of the Year award after leading the Grizzlies to a 38-3 record, going 17-1 in conference play while winning the regular season and conference tournament championships.

Along with Bixler, eight other Grizzlies were named First Team All-HCAC, giving the team a record-setting nine total. Alex Mis, Drew Naumovich, Sam Claycamp, Nick Wright, Frank Podkul, Ryan Erlandson, Jarrod Smith and Christian Sullivan joined Bixler on the first team.

Brandt Pawley collected Second Team All-HCAC honors, Mitchell Caster was named Honorable Mention All-HCAC and Jackson Freed was the team's representative on the All-Sportsmanship Team.

Bixler was a dominant force for the Grizzlies in his debut season, batting .376 with 14 home runs, 54 RBI, 62 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, eight doubles and two triples. The Logansport, Ind.-native was named the HCAC Tournament MVP, and became the first Grizzly to be named league MVP since David Verdeyen back in 2005.

Mis collected his first all-conference selection after an impressive sophomore campaign. The Munster, Ind.-native batted .391 with three home runs and 20 RBI while appearing in 28 games. Mis' 31 walks were tied for second on the team and his .568 on-base percentage topped all Franklin players.

Naumovich also earned his first all-conference award after batting .363 with four home runs, 27 RBI, 30 runs scored and nine doubles while playing brilliant defense at first base for the Grizzlies. The Greenwood, Ind.-native has a team-best .993 fielding percentage, committing just two errors on 288 chances.

Claycamp shook off a slow start to earn his second consecutive First Team All-HCAC selection. The Grizzly shortstop carries a .323 average with eight home runs, 50 RBI, 49 runs scored, 11 doubles and a .553 slugging percentage. In the conference tournament clinching win over Anderson, Claycamp put the game on ice with a two-run home run in the seventh that stretched the lead to six runs.

Podkul collected his third career All-HCAC honor and first First Team selection. A stable at the hot corner, Podkul is batting .340 with a Division III-leading 16 home runs and an HCAC-leading 57 RBI. The Schererville, Ind.-native was named HCAC Player of the Week once and set the program's single-season and career home run totals in 2018.

Wright picked up his first career First Team All-HCAC award after a strong sophomore season in the middle of the Franklin lineup. The Bloomington, Ind.-native is hitting .363 with eight home runs, 47 RBI, 12 doubles, 36 runs scored while playing in all 41 games for the Grizzlies. It is the second all-conference award of his career after he picked up Second Team All-HCAC honors in 2017.

A fixture at the top of the Franklin lineup, Erlandson enters the week with a .310 batting average, scoring 50 times and driving in 30 runs to date. The Blaine, Minn.-native set a new single-season record for walks in 2018, drawing 51 free passes.

Smith also picked up his first career all-conference award and enters the week at the top of the Franklin lineup with a .425 batting average. The Frankfort, Ind.-native has four home runs, 37 RBI, 43 runs scored and seven doubles on the year while starting 40 games in left field and leading the Grizzlies with 65 hits going into regional play.

Sullivan picked up his first career First Team selection after going 6-0 with a 3.01 earned run average and 74 strikeouts over 13 appearances. The Schererville, Ind.-native served as the team's game one weekend starter all year long, picking up his third HCAC Pitcher of the Week award earlier this year.

Another first-time all-conference selection, Pawley is the lone Grizzly to collect Second Team All-HCAC honors. The Elizabethtown, Ky.-native is batting .419 with one home run, 35 RBI, 43 runs scored, 62 hits, eight doubles and 18 stolen bases.

Caster was a weapon for the Franklin pitching staff as both a starter and a reliver, going 4-1 with one save and a 3.31 earned run average over 13 appearances. The Indianapolis, Ind.-native made seven starts for the Grizzlies, striking out 45 and walking just 18 while holding opposing hitters to a .221 batting average.

Freed earned his first selection to the league's All-Sportsmanship team after a senior year that saw him bat .318 with three home runs, 16 RBI and 24 runs scored. A 2017 Second Team All-HCAC selection, the Westfield, Ind.-native appeared in 25 games for the Grizzlies behind the plate, finishing with a .982 fielding percentage and throwing out a team-high seven base stealers.

Franklin opens the 2018 Central Regional on Thursday (May 17) morning, taking on Rhodes College at GCS Credit Union Ballpark in Sauget, Ill. First pitch is set for 11:00 a.m. eastern time.