LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- For the second consecutive year, the Covenant baseball team played in a national tournament. A year after appearing in the NCCAA World Series, the Scots took another milestone step forward in the program's history by winning the USA South and participating in the school's first NCAA tournament.
In head coach Doug Simons' eighth season, the Scots continued their recent trend of success. By finishing 26-15 overall, it marked the fifth consecutive 20-win year and .500 or better season. The Scots won a program-record 26 regular season contests and set a new mark with 19 conference wins.
Entering the year, Covenant was picked to win the USA South in the preseason coaches' poll. After getting off to a 3-3 start in league play, the Scots won 11 of the next 12 conference games to gain a lead in the standings. Consecutive series losses to Methodist and Maryville left Covenant three wins back of first place heading into the final series against Averett.
Needing a sweep over Averett to win the conference, the Scots took care of business on their home field. Covenant run-ruled the Cougars 14-2 in the series opener and followed that with wins of 14-7 and 5-2 to earn the program's first conference title and an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
Covenant received the six-seed in the NCAA South Regional in Demorest, Georgia and opened up postseason play with an 11-3 loss against top-seed and nationally-ranked Shenandoah. Facing Rhodes in an elimination game, the Scots fell just short of keeping their season alive in a 5-3 loss.
Eight players were named to All-USA South teams, the most in program history, following impressive seasons. Will Cleland, Perry Rigby, David Lockwood, Will Carlton and Garrett Kriston were all first team selections. Scott Gillespie and Chris Rollins earned second team honors, while KC Simons was a third team choice. Paul Phillips was Covenant's representative on the All-Sportsmanship team.
Cleland was also honored with all-region honors from the ABCA and D3baseball.com.
Covenant also had eight players earn weekly USA South honors, headlined by Kriston being a three-time Pitcher of the Week. Jordan Lester, Carlton, Cleland, Rigby and Z Arima were recognized during the year.
As a team, the Scots led the USA South in hitting with a .320 average. Seven regular starters hit above .300 and the catcher position, split between Arima, Forrest Hunter and Alex Kerr, accumulated a combined .349 average. Carlton, the only regular to hit below .300, led the team with four homers.
Lockwood put an end to an outstanding career with a .316 average, 44 RBIs and 21 doubles. The 44 RBIs ties a program mark and the 21 doubles tied his own school record set back in 2012. Lockwood leaves Covenant with several program career records including hits (220), doubles (66), RBIs (141) and total bases (334).
The team set several new program records during the year as well. The Scots defeated Greensboro 29-4 on March 22 to set a new program mark for runs scored and hits with 27. Coming into the season, no Covenant team had tallied 20 hits in a game but the Scots did it three times against Greensboro (27), Maryville (23) and Berry (22). Covenant set a school record and tied the USA South mark for most steals in a game with 16 coming against Bates on Feb. 18. The team also tied its record for most innings played in a 16-15, 13-inning loss to Berry on March 18. Finally, the Scots won a program record nine straight games from March 21-April 4.
Individually, Cleland broke a program and conference record with three triples in one game as he achieved the feat against Piedmont on March 15.
Covenant will lose seniors Lockwood, Rollins, Phillips and Carter Finch, but with the core of the lineup and pitching rotation set to return next season the Scots look to make a run at another USA South title and NCAA tournament appearance.
USA South All-Conference
Will Cleland - 1st team
Perry Rigby - 1st team
Will Carlton - 1st team
David Lockwood - 1st team
Garrett Kriston - 1st team
Scott Gillespie - 2nd team
Chris Rollins - 2nd team
KC Simons - 3rd team
ABCA All-South Region
Will Cleland - 1st team
D3baseball.com All-South Region
Will Cleland - 2nd team
USA South All-Sportsmanship
USA South Players of the Week
Garrett Kriston - Pitcher (3 times; Feb. 24, April 7, April 28)
Jordan Lester - Rookie Pitcher (Feb. 24)
Will Cleland - Player (March 17)
Perry Rigby - Player (March 24)
Z Arima - Rookie (March 24)
Will Carlton - Player (April 28)
D3baseball.com Team of the Week
Garrett Kriston - Feb. 25
NCBWA Hitter of the Week
Perry Rigby - Honorable Mention (March 26)
USA South Sportsmanship Award