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WC Baseball Season Wrap-up: Coyotes match Best Finish in School History

There's a reason Weatherford College’s Jeff Lightfoot has been a successful college baseball coach for nearly 20 years.

5 31 17 jlyons pitch high katiedwards
Jake Lyons, "Pitch High," by K. Edwards

With a resume that includes a National Junior College Athletic Association Division III World Series championship at Eastfield College, Lightfoot knows how to motivate.

That skill was exemplified by a mid-season meeting that inspired his team to one of the best finishes in Coyote baseball history. His team was 10-10 in the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference at the time and finished by winning 16 of their next 20 games.

“We met as a team after the MCC (McLennan Community College) series and talked about what it meant to be a part of our program and the expectations that came along with being a Coyote,” Lightfoot said. “We talked about the reasons they chose WC, the postseason tradition, the winning history and the ability to play in big games.

“We talked about the importance of representing the uniform for those who have worn it in the past and those who will wear it in the future.”

Following the speech, the Coyotes went on to advance to the championship round of the NJCAA Region V Tournament. Ironically, it was McLennan who eliminated them and earned the berth in the Division I World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.

It’s the second time the Coyotes have come that close to the world series, the other time being in 2004. The 2017 Coyotes finished 35-23 after standing 19-19 at one time.

“I am extremely proud of our staff and our players for the fight and commitment that they showed this season,” Lightfoot said. “This team had to overcome a lot of adversity throughout the season. Every time we hit an obstacle someone stepped up and accepted the challenge. This group was selfless and had a lot of character.”

Lightfoot also reached a milestone with his 600th career win during the season. His record is 616-426, including 473-354 at WC.

Seven Coyotes earned All-Conference honors, including freshman second baseman Andrew Keefer as the Offensive Player of the Year. He was joined on the first team by freshman outfielder Jake Michener. Second-team selections included sophomore shortstop Nick Evarts, sophomore third baseman Jamie Lovell, sophomore outfielder Malik Jones, freshman catcher Landon Gray and freshman right-handed pitcher Jake Lyons.

Lyons set a team record for strikeouts in a game (18) and season (114). He is one of 20 freshmen on the roster that have Lightfoot already excited about next season.

Nick Evarts - Foot-up - by Brent Baker
Nick Evarts, "Foot Up," by B. Baker

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“Our freshmen will gain great experience from this journey and will be hungry to take it a step further,” he said. “We want to take that next step and get to Grand Junction.”

Several sophomore Coyotes have already signed letters-of-intent to play at the next level, including outfielder Payton Rhodes with Lubbock Christian University, Evarts with Purdue, outfielder Dalton Dunn with Abilene Christian University, left-handed pitcher Reagan MacDonald with Dallas Baptist University, and right-handed pitcher Tyler Perez with Incarnate Word.

En route to the championship round of the regional tournament, the Coyotes defeated McLennan, No. 6 in the nation, 4-3, along with a 4-2 win over No. 16 Grayson and a 6-5 victory against Midland. This, after the Coyotes finished third in the NTJCAC regular-season standings.

McLennan, however, ended the magical run with back-to-back wins of 17-9 and 14-8.

“It was very disheartening how it ended, but we competed until the end,” Lightfoot said. “The Region V tournament is the toughest regional in junior college baseball. MCC will represent Region V well.

“The work has already began to put WC in position to win a championship in 2018, we look forward to the challenge.”

Weatherford College Coyotes Baseball recap

  • Record: 35-23
  • Conference: 20-12, third.
  • Postseason: Advanced to the Region V championship round before falling 17-9 and 14-8 to No. 6 McLennan, whom they defeated 4-3 earlier in the tournament.
  • Home record: 22-9.
  • Road record: 9-9.
  • Neutral record: 4-5.
  • Milestone: Coach Jeff Lightfoot topped 600 wins in his career.
  • Team batting average: .331.
  • Team on-base percentage: .421.
  • Team slugging percentage: .485.
  • Team doubles: 126.
  • Team triples: 17.
  • Team home runs: 41.
  • Team walks: 240.
  • Team ERA: 5.12.
  • Batting leaders (minimum 75 at-bats): Andrew Keefer, freshman, .448; Jake Michener, freshman, .397; Malik Jones, sophomore, .357; Nick Evarts, sophomore, .357.
  • RBI leaders: Landon Gray, freshman, 52; Evarts, 52; Payton Rhodes, sophomore, 51.
  • Home run leaders: Gray, 7; Keefer, 6; Lachlan Mayo, sophomore, 5.
  • Double leaders: Keefer, 22; Rhodes, 19; Jones, 16.
  • Triple leaders: Jones, 6; Keefer, 3; Gray, 2; Jaime Lovell, sophomore, 2; Dezmond Chumley, freshman, 2.
  • Hit leaders: Jones, 81; Evarts, 71; Keefer, 73.
  • Walk leaders: Rhodes, 36; Gray, 32; Jones, 22; Mayo, 22; Dalton Dunn, sophomore, 22.
  • Pitching win leaders: Jake Lyons, freshman, 8-3; Tyler Perez, sophomore, 8-4; Toby Davis, freshman, 4-0; Mitchell Walters, freshman, 4-4.
  • ERA leaders (minimum 25 innings): Lyons, 2.87; Reagan MacDonald, sophomore, 3.66; Austin Cornish, sophomore, 3.86.
  • Pitching strikeout leaders: Lyons, 119 (team record); Perez, 54; MacDonald, 51.
  • Pitching innings leaders: Lyons, 87.2; Davis, 53.2; Perez, 51.0.
  • Fewest walks pitching leaders (minimum 25 innings): Cornish, 11; Perez, 14; Lyons, 15.
  • Saves: Perez, 2; Cornish, 1; Andrew Knutson, freshman, 1.

by Rick Mauch

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