Five seniors face final season together
By Kayla Allen
News and Features Editor
Kyle Barr, Darren Athey, Jerrob Decker, Josh Roberts and Jeff Estep are the seniors for the 2011-2012 Cougar baseball season. With three seasons under their belt, these young men prepare to lead their team out on the field one last time and end their college career with pride.
Kyle Barr, from Gahanna, Ohio, is the team’s number one pitcher.
Through the 2011 season, Barr’s career pitching statistics show 19 wins, a 3.79 earned run average (ERA), 14 complete games, five shutouts and 201 strikeouts.
“I came to MVNU to play baseball and to meet new people,” Barr said. “I had heard of the program, that they were really good and had a great coach.”
Barr was the American Mideast Conference Pitcher of the Week, March 15-21, 2010 and was named the 2011 AMC Pitcher of the Year.
Barr ranked fourth in the AMC in ERA for the 2011 season. He led the league in strikeouts (93) and tied for the conference lead in victories (8).
“Barr leads our team in terms of performance in the conference,” said head coach Keith Veale. “We played four- game series, and he always threw game one, which is a significant assignment because you are usually facing the other team’s number one guy.”
“Pitching-wise, Barr needs one win to become just the 16th pitcher in school history to record 20 or more career wins at MVNU,” said Sports Information Director Dave Parsons. “He should also finish in the top 10 in strikeouts, innings pitched and shutouts with another solid season.”
“I have had a great career here as an individual and as a teammate,” Barr said. “Over my years our coach has told us many times that it’s not our team accomplishments and individual stats we will remember, but it will be the fun time and laughs that we share through the years.”
After graduation, Barr aims for a career in professional baseball.
“I would like to try my hand in getting drafted and continuing on with the thing I love to do,” Barr said. “And if that doesn’t work I will be searching for a job in coaching at the college or high school level.”
Darren Athey is a pitcher from Newark, Ohio. Through the 2011 season, Athey’s pitching statistics show five wins, a 4.37 (ERA) and 19 strikeouts. Athey was also named the AMC Pitcher of the Week for April 12-18, 2010.
Athey began as a starting pitcher during his freshman year, but it wasn’t until his second year that he was able to step out onto the field and close a game.
“Coach Veale thought I did a pretty good job at being a closing pitcher,” Athey said, “so he made me the closer for the rest of the year. I did the same thing my junior year too.”
Athey describes his experience at MVNU as “amazing.”
“Playing at MVNU not only has made me a better baseball player, but also a better man. I can definitely say that my skills at baseball have improved and my knowledge about life has increased too. I don’t think I could have picked a better school. I have built lifelong friendships that I will carry with me throughout life.”
Athey will graduate in December and plans to teach physical education and to coach. “I hope to find a job in Central Ohio, but anywhere that has a job opening in Ohio will be okay too,” Athey said.
“Whatever is in store for me, I will give it my all and know that in anything that I do, God will guide me every step of the way.”
Jerrob Decker is a pitcher from Jeffersonville, Ohio. Through the 2011 season, Decker’s pitching statistics show 12 wins, a 4.71 earned run average, two complete games, one shutout and 110 strikeouts.
Decker came to MVNU not knowing where he wanted to go to school or if baseball was an option.
He was contacted by Veale, who came to see him pitch in a summer league game and offered to sign him.
The decision to play for the Cougars was a rewarding one for Decker.
“This team is unlike any other that I have played for before,” Decker said. “It’s a huge family that loves to play the game of baseball. It can be a dysfunctional family at times but we all care for one another. So, on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the best experience, I would rate it as a 20.”
“God brought me here for a reason,” Decker said. “This is something I truly believe. I have grown in my faith a great deal over the past four years.”
“Decker has matured more than anyone on the team in his confidence as a person,” Veale said.
After graduation, Decker would like to continue to play baseball. “I feel like God has opened some doors for me to become a high school teacher and a coach,” Decker said.” So that is the career path that I am going to pursue.”
Josh Roberts is the starting first baseman from Chillicothe, Ohio. Through the 2011 season, Robert’s career statistics show a .387 batting average, 105 runs scored, 166 hits, 91 runs batted in, a .545 slugging percentage and a .983 fielding percentage in 135 games.
Roberts was the 2010 Honorable Mention All-AMC and placed 12th in the 2011 top NAIA players.
“Being a part of the team is a great life experience,” Roberts said. “As an incoming freshman, I really had no clue what to expect. Freshman year was pretty rough until spring break in Florida rolled around. Returning from Florida, I was hitting in the upper .600s. I felt like I was on top of the world and nobody could bring me down.
“After that I would not trade a day here at MVNU. The life experiences learned on and off the field have been priceless.”
“After graduation I plan to return back home and continue with my auctioneer career,” Roberts said.
“With my business management and marketing degree, I am confident of being successful in the service industry. I plan to use the life lessons that I have acquired here at MVNU to help me run and manage a business.”
“Roberts is a true team leader on and off the field,” Veale said. “As one of our team captains, he sets a good standard for our team.”
Jeff Estep is an infielder and pitcher from West Columbia, S.C. Through the 2011 season, Estep’s career statistics included a 6.29 ERA, five pitching victories, and 43 strikeouts. At the plate, Jeff has a career .267 batting average, 37 runs scored, 32 hits and a .342 slugging percentage. He also has a .904 fielding percentage.
Estep came to MVNU with previous ties and connections.
“I grew up in a Nazarene church, son of a Nazarene pastor and now Nazarene district superintendent,” Estep said. “So I guess you could say I’m filial with this campus. I really wanted to attend a Christian school. I also have had a lot of family who attended MVNC and MVNU. I had the opportunity to play baseball with my brother, Josh Estep, and that’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Estep has faced a lot of injuries during his career, including a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
“He has had injuries and his knee surgeries, but he continues to be a consistent player,” Veale said.
“I’ve matured a lot over the past four years,” Estep said. “Two knee surgeries have reopened my eyes to seeing what a blessing it is to be able to play every day and has changed my overall attitude on the field. I’m trying to soak up the little things this year, such as a hot dog between games and bus rides with the fellas.”
“After graduation I plan on finding a job in Ohio or South Carolina as a physical education teacher and coach,” Estep said. “I will take a year or two off, then go for my master’s.”
“I would say that all five guys would tell you that their baseball career has gone by fast,” Veale said. “They have contributed at varying levels and have been successful in a lot of areas. But I’m sure they’d tell you that they never felt like they always had it together. They have had valuable experiences while they’ve been here and have grown as ball players.”