WINTHROP, Mass. – From the start of the season, Johnson & Wales University third baseman Joe Maracic established himself as one of the top newcomers in the league. He was rewarded for a great first season with the Wildcats as he was named GNAC Rookie of the Year.
In addition to Maracic (Syosset, NY), Johnson & Wales had eight other players recognized by the conference coaches. Outfielder Dave Matthews (Newtown, Conn.) earned a spot on the First-Team All-GNAC squad. Second-Team selections included shortstop Lou Umberto (Cranston, RI), outfielder Rob Ballinger (South Kingstown, RI), designated hitter Edison Mercado (Providence, RI) and pitcher Brandon Budlong (Cranston, RI). Second baseman Ivan Reyes (Cranston, RI) was named Third-Team All-GNAC.
Named GNAC Rookie of the week on March 6, Maracic ranks first among freshmen in batting average, hits, runs scored, and runs batted in while rating second in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He had eight multi-hit games including a season-best 5-for-5 performance against Manhattanville with three RBIs and three runs scored.
Matthews was one of the best hitters towards the end of the season and it earned him GNAC Player of the Week on April 24. He leads the conference with 57 hits and rates sixth with a .380 batting average. Matthews is top 10 in the GNAC for home runs, RBIs, runs, total bases on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
A mainstay at shortstop all four years of his career, Umberto ended his tenure with a career-high .342 batting average. He rated fourth with 52 hits and 11th with 31 runs scored. The JWU all-time leader in assists, Umberto led the GNAC with 131 assists and 37 double plays.
No player in the league has crossed the plate more times this year than Ballinger. His 47 runs scored is first and he also ranks in the top five for hits, doubles, stolen bases and walks. His .357 batting average is the highest of his career.
A new addition to the team, Mercado is in the GNAC top 10 in four different categories. He hit .333 with a .402 slugging percentage. His best performance of the year was a 4-for-5 game against Manhattanville that helped him win GNAC Player of the Week on March 6.
Used primarily out of the bullpen his freshman year, Budlong made the jump into the starting rotation in 2017. Logging a league-high 61.1 innings, he finished the year as the conference leader with six victories to go along with a 2.79 ERA. He posted 51 strikeouts – the third most in the league – and limited opposing hitters to a .237 batting average.
Reyes was one of, if not the best hitting second baseman in the GNAC. He produced a .274 batting average and drew 24 walks as part of his .411 on-base percentage. Reyes was ranked second in the conference with 110 assists while helping turn 30 double plays.
Cabral completed his JWU career as the program's all-time leader with 692 putouts. This season he had a .984 fielding percentage and 296 putouts. Compton earned a spot on the Gold Glove team for the second year in a row thanks to a .914 fielding percentage.