PARK HILLS – Through eight games and three full weeks of the season, the Mineral Area baseball team ranked highest among NJCAA Division I programs with 20 home runs.
And with a huge boost from north of the border, specifically southeastern Ontario, the Cardinals continued to maintain an explosive threat at the top of their lineup.
Returning starters Caleb Feuerstake and Liam Hicks and sophomore transfer Riley Perks were fixtures within a 32-win campaign and eventual third-place finish in Region 16.
Mineral Area was three outs away from a guaranteed spot in the tournament final last Friday, but a two-run lead vanished In the 11th inning before State Fair prevailed in the 13th.
Hicks and Feuerstake were named to the Region 16 First Team, as announced on Sunday, while Perks and redshirt pitcher Blakeney Kearbey picked up Second Team honors.
Hicks switched his defensive assignment from second base to catcher this season, and powered MAC from the No. 2 spot behind Feuerstake and preceding Perks.
Hicks posted several team highs with 73 hits, a .440 batting average, .567 on-base percentage, 14 home runs, 56 RBI and 41 walks. He also produced 19 doubles and caught 13 runners stealing.
His season-high six RBI occurred during a game against Hannibal-LaGrange. Hicks homered twice during a victory over Nunez College in Louisiana during a March road trip.
Feuerstake paced Mineral Area with 68 runs scored, 21 stolen bases and 20 doubles from the leadoff spot. The center fielder batted .349 with 11 homers and 31 RBI, and made no errors in 102 chances.
His three-run blast last Thursday helped the Cardinals snap the 29-game win streak of Jefferson in the first round of the region tournament.
Perks patrolled left field for the Cardinals, and posted a .273 average with six home runs, 33 RBI and 12 stolen bases.
Kearbey, a native of Greenville, Mo., emerged as the staff ace with a string of five consecutive winning starts that began in early April.
He threw a team-high 63 innings for a 7-3 record with one save, including four complete games. The right-hander boasted a 3.14 ERA and averaged a stellar 11.57 strikeouts per nine innings.