TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (May 1, 2012) – Tallahassee Community College placed eight players on the Coaches’ All-Panhandle Conference Baseball Team, announced on Monday.
Headlining the group is sophomore shortstop Graham Saiko who, in addition to being a first-team all-conference pick, was named Defensive Player of the Year and received the Panhandle Conference’s Buddy Kisner Scholar-Athlete Award.
Saiko, who is from Newburgh, Ind., transferred to Tallahassee after playing his freshman season at Oklahoma State University. He made an immediate impact, both on and off the field.
In uniform, he played in and started 48 games and posted a .342 batting average with one home run and 43 RBI. He was second on the squad in hits (54), slugging percentage (.506) and RBI while posting a team-high 21 doubles. He also shared team-high honors with 20 stolen bases in 21 attempts.
Defensively, Saiko turned in one of the best seasons in school history. In 239 chances, he committed only ten errors – a fielding percentage of .958.
“He was a real steady ballplayer who came ready to play every day,” said Tallahassee head coach Mike McLeod. “He provided a trustworthy and honest at-bat and got better at the (shortstop) position each day.”
Saiko’s on-the-field success was matched by academic excellence in the classroom. He earned a spot on the President’s List during the fall semester and graduated from TCC on April 27.
“It’s an honor to be around a student-athlete of his caliber, one who excels on the field and in the classroom,” added McLeod. “He’ll be highly successful on the field and in life after baseball.”
Saiko’s immediate future includes deciding where he will spend the next two years. He is currently weighing options from schools such as South Carolina and South Alabama.
“This year (at TCC) was very valuable,” said Saiko. “I can’t thank Coach Mac (Mike McLeod) and Coach Angelo (assistant coach Angelo Nicolosi) enough for giving me the opportunity. They worked me hard and made me a better player.”
Meanwhile, Saiko’s drive for academic achievement was long ago instilled in him by his parents.
“They (parents) have always stressed academics,” said Saiko, “and I take great pride in working hard both in and out of the classroom. To be recognized for academics is awesome.”
Saiko was joined on the All-Panhandle Conference first-team by a pair of Tallahassee natives: freshman outfielder Bobby Rice and first-year catcher Tyler York.
Rice, who played at North Florida Christian School, appeared in 49 games and batted .347 – second-best on the team – with one home run and 28 RBI. His .462 on-base percentage was best among the Eagles’ everyday starters and he shared team-high honors with 40 runs scored.
York, a former standout at Leon High School, settled into the starting role behind the plate and batted .320 with one home run and 30 RBI. He committed only one error in 227 chances – a fielding percentage of .996.
Five players received second-team honors: freshmen Nick Graganella (outfield), Anthony Torres (second base), and Trent Higginbothem (third base), and sophomore pitchers Cameron Tewksbury and Hayden Jordan.
Graganella, like Rice, is from Tallahassee and prepped at North Florida Christian School. In 51 games, he batted .307 with 21 RBI and 16 stolen bases. Graganella led the Eagles in batting during PC play with a .338 average.
Torres, a native of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, played in 48 games and batted .285 with 24 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He teamed with Saiko to form, arguably, one of the best middle infields in the nation. Torres committed only ten errors in 222 total chances – a fielding percentage of .955.
Higginbothem, a native of Pace, Fla., played in 51 games and batted .306 while leading the Eagles in hits (56), home runs (5) and RBI (49).
Tewksbury, a native of Okeechobee, Fla., went 5-5 with a 2.84 ERA in 16 games. The southpaw totaled 76.0 innings on the mound, struck out 58 and held opponents to a .229 batting average.
Jordan, a native of Fayetteville, Ga., was named second-team Fireman of the Year. A converted closer, the right-hander developed into one of the state’s top relief pitchers in 2012. In 28 games, he posted a 2-0 record, six saves and a 1.99 ERA. He struck out 40 batters in just 40.2 innings and held opponents to a .204 batting average.