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Miller Express vets and recruits pick up post-season awards as WCBL season approaches

Seven players receive conference honours as college and university seasons come to a close

With the Western Canadian Baseball League season a week away from first pitch, the Moose Jaw Miller Express will soon see players arriving in Canada’s Most Notorious City in earnest.

And a good number of them will be bringing NCAA and NAIA conference honours along with them.

A total of seven players -- and counting -- have received all-star awards as their respective seasons come to a close.

Leading the way is senior outfielder Dougie DelaCruz, who put together another stellar campaign for the Mitchell College Mariners in the NCAA Division III New England Collegiate Conference and picked up his third-straight Player of the Year Award.

DelaCruz led the NECC with a .448 batting average, putting up a conference-best 60 hits in the process. He finished the season with an .521 on base percentage and .828 slugging percentage, giving him an almost unheard of 1.349 OPS.

Mitchell College won their third-straight NECC title and are currently playing in the NCAA Division III Regionals.

DelaCruz last played for the Miller Express in the 2019 season and is making his return for his final year of eligibility.

Over at Doane University, a pair of Miller Express veterans picked up NAIA Great Plains Athletic Conference awards.

Reigning Miller Express MVP Nate Mensik was named first-team all-conference after putting together a .364 average while hitting 11 home runs and knocking in 43. He also crossed the plate 53 times and racked up 17 stolen bases.

Infielder Luke LaChance also had a solid campaign and picked up an all-GPAC honourable mention. LaChance had a .294 average and hit three home runs to go along with 41 RBI and 36 runs scored.

Doane put together an incredible 43-12 record this season but saw their campaign come to an end on Wednesday with a loss in the NAIA Championship opening round.

Miller Express newcomer Chaz Poppy put together a solid season for Arkansas-Monticello in the NCAA Division II Great American Conference and was named the second team all-GAC catcher.

A sophomore, Poppy had a .327 average with eight home runs and 44 RBI while also scoring 32 runs. His .899 OPS was also among the Weevils’ leaders.

Arkansas-Monticello had a 31-21 record and lost in the first round of the GAC tournament.

There were no shortage of Miller Express luminaries in the line-up for the Keystone College Giants of the NCAA Division III Colonial States Athletic Conference.

Pitcher Brayan Villar and catcher/outfielder Julio Acosta both picked up year-end awards, receiving honourable mentions as CSAC all-stars.

Villar put together a 7-2 record for the Giants with a 6.47 earned run average over 55 ⅔ innings pitched in his senior season. He finished with 61 strikeouts against only 22 walks and had a 1.55 walks and hits per inning pitched.

Acosta also had a solid senior campaign, hitting .333 with five home runs and 25 runs batted in, 40 runs scored and a stellar 1.104 OPS.

Junior infielder Bobby Pokorney saved some of his best play for the CSAC Championship tournament and was almost impossible to get out, hitting an incredible .700 and knocking in three runs. He’d pick up tournament MVP honours as Keystone won their 18th-straight conference championship. 

The Giants wouldn’t be able to keep their luck going, though, as they were eliminated in the NCAA Division III regionals on Saturday.

The Moose Jaw Miller Express open their 2023 Western Canadian Baseball League campaign on Friday when they travel to Weyburn before hosting their home opener against the Beavers on Saturday night. Game time is 7 p.m. at Ross Wells Park.

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