HANOVER, N.H. — The Dartmouth baseball team awards were handed out at the annual end-of-year team banquet Tuesday night with outfielder Dustin Shirley taking home three honors. Head coach Bob Whalen also announced the captains for the 2019 season will be pitcher Cole O’Connor (for the second straight year) and outfielder Matt Feinstein.
Shirley, a native of Los Angeles, California, was named the Big Green’s Most Valuable Player and the Best Offensive Player, plus earned the James H. Cooke Award, which is bestowed upon the four-year letterwinner who has done the most for Big Green baseball during his career. The senior co-captain led the team in seven offensive statistical categories — hits (50), home runs (5), doubles (14), RBIs (32), total bases (79), slugging percentage (.497) and stolen bases (7) — plus hit .314 on the season, all after changing positions from second base to the outfield in his final campaign. An Academic All-District I selection this year and an Ivy League Player of the Week at the end of April, Shirley completed his career having played in the fourth-most games in program history (162) while posting a .280 average, 31 doubles, nine triples, six home runs, 82 runs and 84 RBIs while setting a school record with 15 sacrifice flies.
The Pitcher of the Year was bestowed upon sophomore right-hander Austen Michel, who led the Ivy League with seven saves to go with a 3.38 ERA over 45.1 innings. The New England native from South Hamilton, Massachusetts, struck out 35 batters while walking just seven, ranking 23rd nationally in fewest walks issued per nine innings (1.39). He threw at least two innings in 13 of his 15 relief appearances and in six of his seven saves, plus earned one of his three victories by twirling seven scoreless innings on one hit in a 2-1, 13-inning triumph over Brown. Opponents hit just .249 against him — .209 in Ivy League action — and he is just the second qualified reliever in the last two decades to lead the Big Green in ERA.
Freshman Bennett McCaskill from Cardiff, California, was chosen as the team’s Rookie of the Year. The catcher started 32 of the 40 games (20 of the 21 conference contests) and hit .245 with three home runs, six doubles, 15 runs and 15 RBIs while batting ninth in the order. But his biggest contribution to the team was solidifying the defense behind the plate, and he threw out 10-of-38 would-be base stealers. The Ivy League Rookie of the Week honor McCaskill earned on April 9 began a one-month stretch during which the son of former MLB pitcher Kirk McCaskill started 17-of-18 games while hitting .333 with five doubles, three homers and slugged a team-best .608.
The Most Improved Player award went to junior Sean Sullivan from Hopedale, Massachusetts. In his first two seasons with the Big Green, he had collected just 18 at-bats with three hits to his credit. But the second baseman won the starting job during the preseason and proceeded to lead the Ivy League in both batting average (.340) and on-base percentage (.456) as he matched Shirley with 50 hits on the year and 16 multi-hit games while adding 29 walks, the second-most in the conference. Not only did Sullivan hit at the top of the order for Dartmouth, but he also provided terrific defense at the keystone with just three errors in 188 chances (.984).
Finally, senior Hayden Rappoport was chosen as Dartmouth’s Teammate of the Year. The outfielder from West Hills, California, was a key role player during his career, hitting .235 over more than 100 plate appearances, including a .353 average in 34 at-bats as a junior. Whether or not his name was in the lineup, he always came prepared to contribute and support his teammates. He finished his final season playing in 16 games, starting nine, providing eight hits with a pair of doubles, seven runs and five RBIs.
As for the captains, O’Connor has been in the starting rotation in each of his first three years with the Big Green, leading Dartmouth in victories this year with a 5-4 record and a 4.50 ERA over 70 innings. The rising senior from Bedford, Massachusetts, is 9-8 with a 4.08 ERA over 30 appearances and 156.2 innings, striking out 88 and walking just 31. Feinstein, a rising senior from Old Brookville, New York, has been in the starting lineup for virtually his entire career. The center fielder has started 102 games for the Green with a .299 average, 16 doubles and a pair of home runs in over 400 at-bats while reaching base at a .379 clip.