A few Hamilton Cardinals can take a bit of extra motivation into the team’s third playoff game on Tuesday. Prior to the start of the second game in the best-of-seven first round playoff series with the Barrie Baycats, the Intercounty Baseball League Cardinals presented their first-ever Fanz Choice Awards.
All voting is done by coaches and/or media:
The Most Improved Player is Kyle Gappa. The Hamilton native, in his first year with the Cardinals, batted .325 with five doubles, four home runs and 24 RBIs while making outstanding dive grabs in the field in the 40 games he played.
Top Pitcher honours went to third-year veteran Brett van Pelt. Finishing fifth in the IBL in ERA among qualifying pitchers, van Pelt was a workhorse on the mound, appearing in 15 games and throwing 58 1/3 innings. Currently, he is studying at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Andris Rizquez was the recipient of the rookie of the Year award. The 19-year- old graduate of St. Jean de Brebeuf high school in Hamilton set the table at the top of the order with a .353 on-base percentage. He had 10 extra base hits, including six home runs. His biggest hit of the season came on July 14 when he connected for a grand slam home run in a 10-1 win over the Burlington Bandits.
Taking the Player of the Year trophy was John Solazzo. In his third year as a Cardinal, he has worn many caps for the team. This season he came out of the bullpen earning a 2-1 record on the mound with a save and an ERA of 0.79. At bat he had a .368 average with eight home runs and 23 runs-batted-in. He has literally cleaned up on the field and in the clubhouse.
The Runner-up Player of the Year tribute went to rookie Dre Celestijn. In 39 games he had a batting average of .333 with 16 extra base hits, including a team high 10 doubles. He is currently attending Genesee Community College in Batavia, New York.
Hamilton and Barrie resume their series, tied 1-1, on Tuesday (Aug. 13) when the Cards visit the Baycats.