With back-to-back sectional championships and this past season in some respects eclipsing the ‘05 “Season to Remember,” Shelbyville baseball proved one maxim this spring, success breeds success.

The Shelbyville Rams feasted Friday night at their awards banquet like they feasted on their opponents during the season. They celebrated their second sectional championship and their second historic season in a row on Friday, as well as remembering other great moments from the season and handing out awards.

Last year, the ‘05 Rams, who graduated seniors Will Clark, Trent Duckett, Colby Rothrock, Matt Turner, Kyle Ladd and Seth Moeller, won the first-ever sectional title in Shelbyville school history, amassed a 26-5 record, won their first regional in six years, claimed first place in the Okaw Valley Conference and set 17 IHSA records, including the all-time record for the most grand slams in a season (9) and tying the record for the most grand slams in an inning (2).

The ‘05 Rams had one more thing as seed money for this season, 10 juniors ready to step up and do just as good if not better in their senior year. They did.

This past season the ‘06 Rams repeated their ‘05 dominance and in some ways exceeded it. They amassed a 28-3 record, won their second regional in a row, their second sectional in a row and went undefeated in the conference for the first time in school history, winning the Okaw Valley Conference with a perfect 9-0 record.

At one point, the Rams had an 18-game winning streak and finished the season with a .903 winning percentage. This group of senior Rams completed a 4-year run for Shelbyville with a record of 86-29 (.748).

Ram head coach Tony Pullen mentioned how special this season was.

“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Coach Pullen said. “This was a great season. It was so much fun, with so many great moments.”

He thanked the coaching staff, Coach Darren Kennell, Coach Sam Mehl and Coach Matt Cloe.

“I was lucky to have four guys who care as much about the players as I do.”

He also remarked about the parental support, in boosting attendance at game, working on dugouts, working on the field, keeping the score book and one and on.

“You not only have raised good ball players, you have raised quality individuals,” Coach Pullen said. “One thing that stood out was their confidence, not gloating, but confidence. These players were an inspiration in Shelbyville, they get stopped for handshakes on the street. They are heroes to these little kids. It was an overwhelming year.”

With ‘05 Shelbyville slugger Will Clark gone, which of the ‘06 seniors would step up to lead the team this season. It was Kraig Ladd.

Ladd batted clean-up and he did. He led the Rams with a .500 batting average and with a team-high .613 on base percentage. Ladd also led the team with eight home runs, a team-leading 41 RBI’s, and was in the spotlight when games were on the line. He hit a home run to break Olney’s back in the sectional semifinal and hit a home run to win the sectional title game.

Friday night at the Ram baseball awards banquet, Ladd was in the spotlight again as he received the Most Valuable Player Award, the Highest Batting Average Award, the Highest On Base Percentage and was named to the Okaw Valley All-Conference Team.

The Most Dedicated Award for the 2006 season was shared by two players, Jason Sullivan and Jake Hankins.

Coach Pullen remarked at Sullivan’s gutsy performance in the super-sectional on just three days rest and Hankins perfect fit as the #2 hitter in the order.

Sullivan threw 95 strikeouts this year in just 58 innings and was one of two hot pitchers down the stretch. Hankins on base percentage of .595, was second only to Ladd’s. He had a team-high 27 walks and hit .405.

Derek Hayden won the Lowest ERA (earned run average) Award. Hayden had an almost microscopic 0.38 ERA. That places him 20th all-time in the history of the IHSA. Hayden also allowed just one extra-base hit the whole season, in 37 innings pitched. He won last year’s sectional title game with a shut-out and this year’s sectional title game with a shut-out.

Team Captain Award (voted on by the players) was given by a hug majority to Brett Jarnagin. Jarnagin had an .878 fielding percentage from the shortstop position and threw some serious leather down the stretch, especially against Neoga in the sectional championship game.

The Gold Glove or Defensive Award winner for the season was Donny Dragovan. Dragovan had an .829 fielding percentage, gunned down Olney players in the sectional semifinal and got up in the air to snag a sure extra-base hit line drive in the sectional championship game.

Three Ram players were named to the Okaw Valley All-Conference Team, the most of any team. Of the ten players selected, three were from Shelbyville. Ladd was already mentioned, receiving seven out of the nine votes. The other two selections were unanimous selections, receiving all nine of the coaches votes.

Derek Hayden and Jason Sullivan were both unanimous selections. Sullivan was a first-teamer for the second year in a row and last year Hayden was a second-team selection.

As a team the Rams hit .357 with seven of the nine starters hitting over .300. They scored a total of 284 runs and held their opponents to only 91 runs, 18th on the all-time IHSA list. The Rams pitching staff, that had five aces if split up on separate teams threw 274 strikeouts and those five aces amassed a record of 24-3. Sullivan was 7-2, Isaac Smith 6-1, Hayden 5-0, Tyler Lane 5-0 and Nathan Eversole (headed to pitch for Lake Land College) was 2-0.

Complete season varsity stats on all the Ram players and career stats on the seniors will appear in tomorrow’s Daily Union.

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