After completing a banner season for the Archers, and specifically, the middle of their batting order, the linchpins of that lineup were rewarded accordingly this week.
Sophomore outfielder Brandon Gutzler and sophomore infielder Jacob Walters were each named to the National Junior College Athletic Association All-America second team.
Gutzler, who was also named the Region XVI Player of the Year, batted .423 with 16 home runs and 72 RBI on the season.
After recovering from an early-season injury, Walters was named a Marucci Elite Hitter for the South Central District by batting .480 with eight home runs and 46 RBI. Thirty-three of his 61 hits went for extra bases.
The two became the first Archers to be named NJCAA All-Americans in the same season in team history.
“It says a lot about those two guys individually, the type of player they are, the type of competitors they are,” Archers head coach Scott Goodrich said. “However, you don’t see too many All-Americans who come from bad teams, so it’s a testament to the whole team.”
The Archers (34-23) built much of their offensive success—and there was plenty of it, with a .330 team average—around the potent bats of Gutzler and Walters, who batted behind table-setters Thomas Estopare and Devan O’Bryan.
“Gutzler had 72 RBI, and if teams wanted to pitch around Brandon to get to Jacob, good luck with that,” Goodrich said. “When you put all the things together, with Estopare and O’Bryan at the top, you look how we won our regional tournament. Going into 2015, that was something I expressed, that that was going to be our philosophy, for guys to get on for our middle of the order. I wanted Estopare to lead off and get 200 plate appearances. I wanted Gutzler and Walters to bat third and fourth and play every day.”
As their numbers certainly suggested, writing their names in the lineup became a daily formality for Goodrich, who will certainly have his hands full in replacing his All-American duo.
“As successful as we were last year and as much as we want to enjoy that success, 2016 is going to be here before we know it,” Goodrich said. “It’s going to be tough to replace those guys. But we’ll put guys in situations to allow guys to be themselves.”