Longhorn Ballplayers Slighted At All-Regionals

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Grand Canyon Region coaches apparently weren't impressed last season by the efforts of the Longhorn baseball players.

At a voting for the all-region teams, the only Longhorns selected were Daren Daniels and Kyle Sachak. Daniels was chosen to the all-GCR second team and Sachak was named honorable mention.

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Senior Kyle Sachak was one of only two Longhorn baseball players named to the Grand Canyon all-region team. Sachak was named to the honorable-mention squad as an infielder.

Longhorn players were absent from the first team roster.

The snub riled Payson High School coach Jerry Daniels.

"We are leaving the (4A) conference next year so they were not too concerned with us," he said. "We finished with the same record (4-8 in the region, 11-18 overall) as Page and they got three first team (members), three second team and one honorable mention."

Daniels' ire escalated when GCR officials failed to forward the two players' awards after the season-ending award banquet, and then only at the urging of he and school administrators.

The coach argued that during the regular season and the GCR campaign, the Longhorns had several players -- other than Daren Daniels and Sachak --hose performances were good enough to earn them postseason accolades.

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Horns' first baseman Daren Daniels was chosen to the GCR all-region second team.

Among them were catcher Matt LeVac, infielder-catcher Tyler Williams, outfielder Donnie Wilbanks and pitcher-infielder Jason Sweet.

LeVac posted a team leading .392 batting average playing in 16 of the Horns' 27 games. He missed much of the early season recovering from an injury. After his return, he contributed 10 RBIs, scored 11 runs and slugged two home runs.

Williams batted .382, scored 22 runs and had 18 RBIs.

Wilbanks hit .382 and led the team in RBIs with 22.

Sweet, a sophomore, hit .349, and slugged four doubles that tied him for the team lead with Sachak and Williams.

All four of those players were worthy of some type of postseason mention, coach Daniels said.

Of the two selected all-region, Daren Daniels, a finesse hitter, had 22 singles in his 24 base hits and finished with a .353 average. He also scored 10 runs and chalked up 16 RBIs.

Sachak finished with a .353 average, scored 20 runs and had 17 RBIs.

The hurlers, defenders

Among the pitchers, Daren Daniels finished with a 3-0 record that included a 5.19 ERA.

Matt Behrens, the team's front-line hurler most of the season, finished 3-6 with a 8.58 ERA.

Sweet suffered through a hard-luck year in which he led the team in innings pitched, 22.3, but had only a 1-6 record. Wilbanks was 2-4 and Jacob Willis 0-2.

Defensively among the regulars, Daren Daniels posted a .953 fielding average. Behrens fielded at an .857 click and Wilbanks finished with a .797 average that included 37 put outs from his center field position.

The season

In the early days of preseason training, the Longhorns seemed to have a battery -- pitcher Dusty Hacker and Matt LeVac behind the plate -- that could have been among the region's best.

Last year, Hacker was the Horns' second-line pitcher and appeared destined for a break-out season. LeVac's performances the past three years earned him recognition as one of the most promising players on the Horn roster.

It wasn't long however, before both were sidelined with injuries. Hacker aggravated a shoulder injury he suffered last season and never returned to his old form. LeVac broke his wrist in a pickup football game, but returned to play mid-season.

"It's really difficult when you are missing two of your best players in the lineup," coach Daniels said. "The injury was devastating to Dusty because he lived baseball and it really hurt the team because he would have been a team leader both offensively and on the mound."

Without Hacker and LeVac, the Longhorns didn't post the won-loss record Daniels was hoping for at the onset of the season. The losses, however, didn't dampen the enthusiasm Daniels has for the players.

"The boys never gave up and their work ethic in practice was excellent," he said. "They are great kids and really fun to be with."

Daniels anticipated some of the players have the talent to play on the college level.

"I think a few of these kids could play small-college ball if they decide this is the way they want to go," he said. "I will really miss the seniors next year."

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