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Ryan Cooper | | April 13, 2017

All-midseason team: The best players of the first half

  Luke Heimlich has starred for No. 1 Oregon State with an ERA of just 0.77.

It seems difficult to believe, but this past weekend marked the halfway point between opening day of the 2017 season and the postseason selection show on Monday, May 29.

As teams gear up for the stretch run, let’s first reflect on the best of the first half. Here is the all-midseason team, with a starter and runner-up selected at each position.

All stats are via and are current through games played on April 9.

Catcher: Erik Ostberg | Hartford

The Hartford junior catcher is threatening to do the unthinkable this season: post a batting average over .500. He is currently sitting exactly there, collecting a hit in 43 of his 86 at-bats. A Florence, Massachusetts native, Ostberg has had some eye-popping numbers at the dish, as one might expect for a hitter putting up such a high success rate. He has collected a hit in 22 of his 24 games, has 14 multi-hit performances, and has also walked an impressive 22 times for a .596 on-base percentage. That’s against a measly nine strikeouts. His six home runs have already tripled his previous career total of two in 92 games.

Honorable mention: Joey Bart | Georgia Tech

First base: Brendan McKay | Louisville

Admittedly, McKay earns this spot for his prowess on the mound as much as at the plate. The junior lefty has shown off just how far ahead of the game he is athletically by posting equally incredible campaigns on both sides. On the mound, he has started seven games and posted a 4-2 record with a tiny 1.40 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 45 innings. With a bat in his hands, he’s hitting .388 with five home runs and an on-base percentage a little over .500. He has gathered multiple hits 13 times, including seven of eight games to start the season. That one game he didn’t was mostly because he was walked three times, including twice intentionally, and only finished with one official at-bat.

Honorable mention: Ben Fisher | Eastern Kentucky

Second base: Jake Scheiner | Houston

Scheiner has shown some impressive pop for a middle infielder, blasting 10 home runs and putting up a .798 slugging percentage that ranks sixth nationally. When you combine that with a stellar .403 batting average, you’ve got a special year at the plate. On March 19 against Alabama State, the junior JUCO transfer had what will go down as one of the offensive performances of the year. He went 5-for-5, walked, hit three home runs, had seven RBIs and scored four runs. That’s 14 total bases in one game.

Honorable mention: Cole Freeman | LSU

Shortstop: Nick Madrigal | Oregon State

Madrigal has been the straw that stirs the drink for the No. 1 team, batting atop the lineup and performing at a very high level. He sports a .392 batting average on the strength of 16 multi-hit performances and has chipped in eight stolen bases. His ability to make contact is a huge asset at the top of the lineup, as the sophomore has struck out just five times in 120 at-bats for the one-loss Beavers.

Honorable mention: Jesse Berardi | St. John’s

Third base: Drew Ellis | Louisville

Even after a 2-for-13 weekend against Wake Forest, Ellis has put up some excellent numbers serving as McKay’s protection in the five-hole. His .364 batting average and .600 slugging percentage are very good, but the sophomore's true value has been serving as just the kind of consistent bat any contender needs. He had only gone hitless in four games this year before an 0-for-8 Friday and Saturday against the Demon Deacons. He’s added 11 doubles and 25 RBI for the No. 2 Cardinals.

Honorable mention: Jake Burger | Missouri State

Outfield: Adam Haseley | Virginia

Like McKay, Haseley plays a role on both sides of the field. Though his 4-1, 3.43 ERA pitching line is good but not quite as sparkling as McKay’s, the Virginia lefty has outshone Louisville's star on offense. The junior is batting .402 with 10 homers, the latter mark of which already toppled his 127-game career total of seven. Aided by a four-run game on Friday against Pittsburgh, Haseley now ranks fourth in the nation with 41 scored.

Honorable mention: Seth Beer | Clemson

Outfield: Tyler Adkison | San Diego State

Adkison represents one of only five players with a slugging percentage over .800, closing out the weekend with a mark of .821. Though he has played in only 27 games so far, he has had some outstanding performances and put together one of the hottest streaks of the year in mid-March. During an eight-game stretch from March 11 to March 25, the sophomore went 22-for-31 (.710 batting average) with five home runs and 23 RBIs. His on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.340 is about as good as it gets.

Honorable mention: Jared Oliva | Arizona

Outfield: Jeren Kendall | Vanderbilt

Considered by most to be one of the top selections coming in June’s MLB draft, Kendall has done nothing but affirm that position. Kendall has the making of a true five-tool player who can impress in just about every facet of the game. Hit for average? He has hit a solid .309 while playing in the pitching-rich SEC. Hit for power? Already a career-high 10 home runs. Speed? He’s swiped 13 bags. Kendall does have a propensity to strike out if you want to find a knock on him, but he came into the season with a lot of hype, and scouts have to be pleased with how he’s responded.

Honorable mention: Niko Hulsizer | Morehead State

Designated hitter: Brent Rooker | Mississippi State

No player has struck more fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers this season than Rooker, who has torn the SEC apart. He made some headlines on Saturday for a ridiculous performance against Kentucky that included a grand slam and two solo home runs. That was his third multi-homer game and fourth with six or more RBIs. His 1.008 slugging percentage leads the country by a huge margin, he is on a ridiculous RBI pace with a nation-leading 56 in 34 games, and he’s batting at a .448 clip (second nationally). Oh, and he can run, too: His 14 steals rank in the top 30. If we were selecting the top overall hitter in the first half, Rooker would easily be the guy.

Honorable mention: Keston Hiura | UC Irvine

Starting pitcher: J.B. Bukauskas | North Carolina

The first seven starts for the junior righty from Ashburn, Virginia, were like a hot knife through butter. Bukauskas went 47 innings with only five earned runs allowed, good for a superb ERA of 0.96. That included 70 strikeouts, placing him among the national leaders, and he had nine more strikeouts in all but one of those starts. Unfortunately, start No. 8 did not go so smoothly, as Boston College roughed him up for seven runs (five earned) in just four innings, though the Tar Heels did still win the slugfest 17-7. Even with that rough one, he heads into next weekend 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA.

Honorable mention: Steven Gingery | Texas Tech

Starting pitcher: Jared Poche’ | LSU

Poche’ became a well-known name around the country during the early days of the season when he started the year off with a seven-inning no-hitter and then followed that up with eight more no-hit innings before giving up his first hit in the ninth. It can really only go downhill from there, but Poche’ kept the dominance up for a good month. He didn’t allow a run — earned or unearned — until March 18 in his fifth start of the season. Like Bukauskas, his overall numbers took a hit this past weekend, as he struggled mightily in Arkansas. In just 3.1 innings, he allowed nine hits and seven earned runs. To highlight how amazing his start was, he allowed more earned runs on that day than his first seven starts combined (six). The senior sports a 6-1 record and 2.32 ERA through eight appearances.

Honorable mention: Jared Janczak | TCU

Starting pitcher: Luke Heimlich | Oregon State

Like the previous two pitchers, Heimlich’s worst start of the year came this past weekend. The thing is, that worst start featured just two earned runs over 6.2 innings. Heimlich has clearly cemented himself as the ace of the No. 1 team in the country thanks to a 5-0 record and insane 0.77 ERA. In a three-start stretch in March, the junior threw 24 innings without allowing a run and surrendered just seven hits. He also picked up 29 strikeouts in that span. He has allowed just five runs in 58.2 innings of work this season and is limiting batters to a .157 batting average.

Honorable mention: Seth Romero | Houston

Relief pitcher: Josh Hiatt | North Carolina

The Tar Heels closer has been dynamite this year, converting all 10 of his save opportunities and striking out 31 of the 97 batters he’s faced. He has shown the ability to go multiple innings when called upon, such as when he picked up the win in a big 11-inning victory over Florida State on April 1 with 2.2 scoreless frames. For the year he carries a 1.96 ERA with five earned runs allowed in 23 innings, three of which came in a bumpy non-save situation against Coastal Carolina a couple weeks back.

Honorable mention: Brian Glowicki | Minnesota

Relief pitcher: Nick Sandlin | Southern Mississippi

Sandlin has spun 27.2 innings this season, only one of which involved an earned run. That came on April 4 to break his 23-inning scoreless streak to start the year, but it was business as usual on Saturday with three strikeouts in 1.1 perfect innings. Sandlin’s ERA is just 0.33, and he has struck out 43 while allowing just 12 hits. His 11 walks are the one concern that could be raised, but he has worked around it to this point by limiting solid contact. Often used in the middle of games rather than purely at the end, Sandlin has pitched four or more innings three times and has a 5-0 record, while also recording three saves.

Honorable mention: Nate Harris | Louisiana Tech

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