Within the past few months, two Bear athletes have garnered some of the most prestigious honors in their respective sports. Senior midfielder for the Mercer men’s soccer team Will Betts was named a Capital One First Team Academic All-American while junior designated hitter for the Mercer baseball team Nick Backlund was named a National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Preseason First Team All-American as well as a Louisville Slugger Preseason First Team All-American.
Betts is only the fourth Mercer student-athlete in history to receive Academic All-American Honors. The Brenham, Texas native is also the only men’s soccer player from the Atlantic Sun Conference to receive such honors this year.
This isn’t the first academic honor for Betts, who has a 3.98 cumulative GPA as a finance major. Betts was also named the Atlantic Sun Conference Men’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2011 and 2012 and was voted a Capital One Academic All-District IV first team member as a junior and senior as well.
The senior captain had a stellar 2012 campaign that saw him earn 11 points on four goals and three assists. He finished his career with 77 games played and tied for the fifth-most games started in A-Sun Conference history, with 74. He had 33 career points on 12 goals and nine assists.
“Will is an outstanding student-athlete and is very deserving of this incredible honor,” head coach Brad Ruzzo said. “He embodies all the characteristics that we want for a player in our program. Four years ago, Will bought into a vision and plan for this program and he has helped accomplish those goals due to his success both on the field and in the classroom.”
The second Mercer athlete to receive high accolades over the past few months is Nick Backlund. Backlund, a designated hitter for the men’s baseball team, first received the honor of being named a NCBWA Preseason First Team All-American prior to the 2013 season.
Backlund was only one of 10 position in the nation to be given the preseason honor and is the only player in the state of Georgia to earn such accolades.
“What an honor it is for Nick to be named one of the top returning position players in the country,” head coach Craig Gibson said. “Nick has worked very hard over the summer and fall to get even better and we expect big things from him once again looking forward to the 2013 season.”
The San Jose, Calif. native had a stellar first year in Macon. Backlund led the A-Sun Conference with a .381 batting average, a .668 slugging percentage, 85 hits and 149 total bases. The Bears designated hitter finished second in the league with a .471 on-base percentage and 58 RBI, tied for second with 16 home runs and third with 51 runs scored.
Backlund was later named a Louisville Slugger Preseason First Team All-American just days after his first award. Backlund was once again the only player from the state of Georgia named a Preseason First Team All-American and was the only player in the Atlantic Sun Conference named to any of the three Louisville Slugger teams.
“Another well-deserved honor for Nick and I am glad people around the country are realizing how talented a player he really is,” head coach Craig Gibson said. “We have had All-Americans here at Mercer before, but to have Nick be named a Preseason First Team All-American by two different national publications in a little over a week is pretty special. We look for big things from Nick and the rest of our upperclassman this upcoming season.”
Nationally, Backlund finished in the top-40 in total bases (8th), slugging percentage (11th), home runs (12th), RBI (32nd), and batting average (36th).
While Mercer men’s soccer player Will Betts hangs up his cleats, junior Nick Backlund is just lacing his up preparing for the baseball team’s 2013 championship season. Backlund and the Bears will travel to Sarasota, Fla. to take on Ohio State as a part of the Snowbird Baseball Classic on Feb. 15.