CHICAGO --- Earning the most wins in their respective Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball divisions, North Division champion Judson University and South Division titleholder Olivet Nazarene University also claimed the most spots on the 2013 all-CCAC Baseball Teams, which were part of the overall postseason awards announced by the league office Monday morning.
Both schools had eight players named to either the 17-member first or second team, while overall champion and conference tournament champion Judson also boasted the CCAC Player of the Year in Cameron Balough (Santee, Calif.) and the league's Coach of the Year in Rich Benjamin. For Benjamin, it was the second straight year that he was honored after guiding his team to league-best records of 40-15 overall and 25-4 in conference play.
Judson placed five players on the first team and three on the second, while Olivet Nazarene was the reverse with three making the first team and five on the second. Purdue University North Central and Trinity Christian College were a distant third, collecting three spots each with the former having two members on the first team and the latter, one.
University of St. Francis, Illinois Institute of Technology, Robert Morris University, Roosevelt University and Cardinal Stritch University placed two players each between the two squads with both St. Francis representatives making the first team and Illinois Tech and Robert Morris splitting their reps evenly. Roosevelt and Cardinal Stritch had their choices on the second team.
Rounding out the list of schools represented were Saint Xavier University (one first-team choice) and Holy Cross College (one second-team pick).
Balough, a sophomore designated hitter, ranked among the top six players in the league in nine of 12 statistical categories during the regular season highlighted by winning the individual crowns for hits (74), runs batted in (70) and doubles (16). He was second in total bases (109) and tied for third in walks with 34.
Balough's .376 batting average, .553 slugging percentage, .473 on-base average and five home runs all placed sixth-best in the league.
Robert Morris University left-handed hurler Rey Rodriguez (Valencia, Valenzuela) was recognized for the second year in a row as the CCAC Pitcher of the Year. A four-time CCAC Pitcher of the Week, Rodriguez went 6-2 with a conference-best 1.20 earned run average and one seven-inning no-hitter to his credit (3/22 vs. Lindenwood University-Belleville). He also limited opposing batters to a conference-low .161 average, while striking out 64 batters (fourth best).
Rodriguez, a senior, joined four other players --- Trinity Christian College shortstop Ryan Kiesel (Streamwood, Ill.), University of St. Francis outfielder David Kuhne (Metamora, Ill.), Purdue University North Central catcher Ched Gaskin (Brighton, Mich.) and St. Francis pitcher Adam Panayotovich (Palos Park, Ill.) --- as a repeat selection on the all-conference first team, as well.
Kiesel was the only player to earn first-team status three years in a row.
The other top individual honor went to Cardinal Stritch University's Luke Erickson, who was named the league's Freshman of the Year. Erickson (Milwaukee, Wis.) struck out 101 batters --- or 31 more than his next closest challenger --- in just 68 1/3 innings. Opponents batted just .181 off him, second-best in the league behind Rodriguez.
Purdue North Central matched its three all-conference selections with a league-best three members on the nine-man CCAC Gold Glove Team. St. Francis and Judson each had two players on that squad, while Olivet Nazarene and Roosevelt had one each.
St. Francis' two selections --- Kuhne and first baseman Joe Ruge (North Riverside, Ill.) --- were the only repeat choices as Gold Glove winners.
St. Francis, under the direction of second-year head coach Brian Michalak, was named the CCAC Champions of Character Team award winner.
For the complete list of award winners, go to http://www.ccacsports.com/awards/11/10.php.