Minnesota hosted its annual team banquet on Tuesday evening in the DQ Club Room of TCF Bank Stadium. The gathering featured food, fellowship and a plethora of team awards that were handed out by various members of the coaching staff and the Dugout Club.
Presenters included head coach John Anderson, assistant head coach Rob Fornasiere, assistant coach Patrick Casey, director of operations Lee Swenson, president of the Dugout Club Billy Soule, “M” Club director George Adzick and public address announcer Dick Jonckowski, who also served as master of ceremonies.
In total, the Gophers had their eight seniors – Jordan Jess, Ty McDevitt, Dan Motl, Dalton Sawyer, Connor Schaefbauer and managers Joey Brettingen, Austin Burandt and Kan Ikeda – all gave speeches that highlighted the team’s togetherness, toughness and courage throughout their careers. All eight received “M” Club alumni pins for their years as members of the program.
First-time letterwinners Eddie Estrada, Nick Lackney, Cole McDevitt, Ben Mezzenga, Riley Smith, Jake Stevenson, Terrin Vavra, Brettingen, Burandt and Ikeda received “M” letter jackets.
George Thomas Most Improved Player Award: Toby Anderson
Anderson solidified the pitching staff after stepping into the weekend rotation midway through the season. With countless series-deciding starts, the junior touted a 7-1 record in the regular season with a 3.28 ERA. Anderson tossed two complete-game shutouts and was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week earlier in May.
Dave Winfield Pitcher of the Year: Dalton Sawyer
Sawyer got batters out at an alarming rate, mostly doing it all himself with 107 strikeouts in 88.2 innings pitched before the NCAA Tournament. The southpaw shifted his role from bullpen ace to Saturday night starter and currently sits fifth in single-season program history with his strikeout total. Sawyer is one of only 10 pitchers to amass 200-plus career strikeouts as a member of the Gophers.
Paul Molitor Batting Champion: Matt Fiedler
A mainstay in the third spot in the everyday lineup, Fiedler paced the nation’s No. 3 offense with a personal clip of .377, which ranks in the top-20 nationally. The junior currently has 83 hits to his name this season, which leads the team. Fiedler has accumulated 19 extra-base hits, including 11 doubles, one triple and seven home runs.
David Chelesnik Jr. Memorial Award: Austin Athmann and Dan Motl
The award is annually given to the player(s) who overcome adversity and maintain a team-first attitude. Athmann and Motl suffered multiple injuries last season, but battled back to have incredible 2016 campaigns as two of the top hitters in the lineup as well as stout defenders. Both Athmann and Motl held fielding percentages of .978 or higher and played in 47-plus games this season.
Phil Isaksson Teammate of the Year: Ty McDevitt
McDevitt earned the award through his dedication to the team and his ability to lift up each and every individual who is part of the baseball program. His teammates voted on the award that embodies hard work and unselfishness to the team.
Dianne Olson-Ficenko Dugout Club Player of the Year: Connor Schaefbauer
The senior was tabbed for the annual honor through his ability on and off the field. Schaefbauer made the unselfish move over to first base midway through the year to help accommodate an injury and maintained his outstanding play, which he was named All-Big Ten First Team for, too. Schaefbauer had a career-year at the plate and defensively during the regular season with a .316 batting average, five home runs, 36 RBI and a fielding percentage of .996.
Paul Fortin Scholar-Athlete Award: Jordan Jess
Jess, who completed his undergraduate degree this spring, was selected for the outstanding student-athlete award. The senior balanced his coursework flawlessly with his terrific showing as the closer for the team. Jess was recognized as an Academic All-Big Ten choice last season and showed his grit in the classroom this past year.
Richard “Chief” Siebert Memorial MVP Award: Matt Fiedler
Teammates and coaches named one of the nation’s top two-way players, Fiedler, as their most valuable player. The junior led the team with in a multitude of offensive categories while serving as the Friday night starter on the mound, going up against each opponent’s top arm and winning the battle with a 7-3 record during the regular season. Fiedler accomplished a program-first when he earned the win on the mound, hit a home run and stole a base in a 13-5 victory at Utah Valley in mid-March.
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