Year-end baseball honors

Mahomet-Seymour’s Nate McFall, left, and assistant coach John Weimer share a moment during the Bulldogs’ regional win against Urbana on May 20, 2019.

MAHOMET — A 7-1 loss to Charleston in the Class 3A regional semifinals was a sour way to end a season, but the Mahomet-Seymour baseball team still finished with a respectable 17 wins.

There will be a changing of the guard next spring as the Bulldogs will have to replace 10 seniors, including multi-year starters Dawson Finch, Dylan Gates, Jordan Veldman and Kyle Kinney.

But it’s award season. Here are the Mahomet Citizen end-of-the-year awards for M-S baseball.

Most Valuable Player: Jordan Veldman

Kobe Essien has a great case to be named MVP, but Jordan Veldman did everything for the Bulldogs this season. In 24 of 29 games, Veldman notched a hit and there were only two games this entire year where Veldman didn’t get on base at least once.

The senior shortstop led the Bulldogs in almost every offensive category, cracking 45 hits and leading the team with a .437 batting average. Veldman got on base at a .500 clip, which is absurd, and

he also stole a team-high 18 bags.

When you lead a team in hits, batting average, triples, home runs, stolen bases, runs scored, OBP, slugging and OPS, you’re the MVP. Veldman’s senior leadership will be hard to replace, as he was the heart and soul of Mahmomet-Seymour’s squad.

Veldman will continue his baseball career at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, and he will likely get in the lineup early and often.

Pitcher of the Year: Kobe Essien

Kobe Essien was downright dominant on the bump for the Bulldogs. The junior finished 3-0 with a minuscule 1.78 earned run average. In 43 1/3 innings, Essien struck out a team-high 75 and opponents hit just .135 against him.

Essien was the ace that the Bulldogs really needed, and he led a pitching staff that finished the season with a rock-solid ERA of 2.51. Essien even outpitched Effingham’s star hurler Zach Lee, who is a Kentucky-commit.

Essien gave his team a chance to win every time he stepped on the mound, and he has the stuff to pitch at the next level. A good showing in summer ball and another productive offseason would be huge for Essien’s growth.

He’s not perfect. He walked 28 batters this season and gave up three homers, but you couldn’t have asked for a much better junior year from Essien.

Most Improved: Nate McFall

Entering the season, sophomore Nate McFall was a guy that M-S coach Nic DiFilippo was super excited about. He had all the tools to be a terrific player. Great speed, great arm and a powerful stick. But McFall got off to a rough start. In the first seven games, McFall notched just one hit, and his batting average was just an ugly .048.

McFall’s confidence looked shot, but he continued to battle and things finally started to click. In one nine-game stretch, McFall had at least one hit in eight of the games, including a 5-for-6 day with four doubles in a doubleheader against Taylorville. By the end of the year, McFall had improved his numbers to a respectable .274 batting average, and he led the team with nine doubles and 12 extra-base hits. McFall has a real chance to be a rising star in the Apollo Conference, and he’s just scratching the surface of his potential.

Gold Glove: Jon Latham

Latham was terrific for the Bulldogs defensively, finishing his senior year with just one error. It was the first year that Latham got to start at catcher, but he looked like a grizzled veteran.

Rarely would balls squirt past Latham, and he finished with 17 assists from behind the dish.

The Danville Area Community College signee had an outstanding fielding percentage of .996, and Latham skillfully handled the Bulldogs’ pitching staff.

Latham’s lone error was in the second game of the season against Clinton, so he finished the year with 27 straight errorless games.