Having won the NJCAA Region 2 crown and the Plains District Tournament, South Arkansas College was rewarded with a couple of postseason accolades.
Cannon Lester, who has guided the Stars to the NJCAA Division II World Series in his second year as the Stars’ coach, was tabbed as the Division II Region 2 Coach of the Year.
The Stars enter the World Series with a 45-16 mark that included an 18-game winning streak, as well as a win over top-ranked LSU-Eunice, which snapped the Bengals’ 39-game winning streak.
SouthArk posted a 30-7 record in Region 2 play, losing only one series.
“I’m very humbled and excited about the honor,” Lester said. “I wouldn’t be in this position if we didn’t have good players who have bought into what we’re trying to do. Our players have made our job very easy and we just write out the lineup card and sit back and watch them go.”
Freshman catcher Jacob Ambriz became the first SouthArk player earn Division II Region 2 All-Region honors.
Ambriz quickly became a fixture in the heart of the Stars’ lineup and has formed one of the top catching tandems in the country with sophomore Ryan Riggs.
Ambriz is hitting .333 with 10 home runs and 56 RBIs this year.
The freshman also made a pair of big defensive plays in SouthArk’s 6-4 win Monday over Western Oklahoma State that clinched a spot in the World Series.
“Jake had a good year for us hitting in the four-hole,” Lester said. “We’re excited for Jake. He has been a steady presence in the middle of the lineup since Game 1. He can handle good pitching, bad pitching and anything in between on the offensive side.
“He has also been able to spell Ryan Riggs back there and that has been able to keep them both fresh. Defensively, he has gotten better and better as the year has progressed. He is the only true freshman in our lineup that has seen extended time in the lineup and that speaks to how valuable he has been.”
And while Lester was certainly pleased to see Ambriz get rewarded, he felt there were some omissions from the squad.
“I will be really honest on that,” Lester said. “I think in a couple of different positions, I’m not sure what happened, but our guys should’ve definitely been in there. I thought Trace Shoup should’ve got it. He was unbelievable. If you look at conference numbers, he was tied for the lead in home runs and he was winning in RBIs. He’s third in the nation in RBIs. I think he’s an All-American, and he’s not going to get the chance just because for some reason he got overlooked, but that’s the way it goes.
“I thought Brett Foss and Trey Miller had a legitimate argument to be on those teams as well, but they only go one for each position and they gave it to a different guy. I think as the tournament went on, I think people probably realized who should be where, and they proved that, so that was good for them. We had a lot of guys that I thought legitimately should’ve been on there for sure.”
SouthArk will learn its opponent for the World Series on Tuesday when the matchups are announced. The event begins on May 27 in Enid, Okla.