McLain earns all-conference, looks ahead to senior year

Not many players will be able to say they had an improvement in hitting as former Rantoul baseball player Tanner McLain did at Olivet Nazarene University in 2016-17.

The junior hit an eye-popping .359 this year, 130 points higher than his average one year ago. In his first two years, he hit .236 and .229, respectively.

“I learned quite a bit when I played the summer of 2016 in Cincinnati,” McLain said. “I was able to spend more time on my game, and I was able to understand who I am as a baseball player. I gained confidence from within. I worked harder because I knew I had to be better for our team.”

His .359 batting average was the fourth highest on the team among players who played more than 40 games. The 46-game starter led the team in runs scored (49), home runs (four) and triples (three). He was also second in doubles (16) and RBI (37) and stolen bases (15). His 60 hits was third on the team.

“I have always been a gym rat,” McLain said. “I knew I was never going to be the biggest player on the team, but I try to be the most dedicated. I wanted to be the player that hit more than just singles every time at bat.”

It is probably the reason for the increased power. One year ago, the sophomore had 15 extra base hits. This year he finished with 23.

The other part of his game, defense, was as good as it could have been. He finished with a perfect fielding percentage as he had 37 putouts and 16 assisted putouts from his position in the outfield. He was an infielder last season.

“Our coach wants the best nine athletes on the field, and that was the reason for my defensive change,” McLain said. “We have to do that in order to win. The coaching staff knows that I would play wherever needed. I am always game to move back as well. I have been a shortstop my entire life, and it makes me feel like a kid to play there. I love being involved in every play and working with those other infielders up the middle.”

McLain was not only named to the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference first team, he was also a CCAC Gold Glove selection.

“I would not have the success I have had without my father (Tony) and mother (Lynette),” said the Gifford native. “My mom has always been supportive, but my dad knows what to say, when to say it and how to say it. He sees more in me than I see in myself.

“I was grateful for the honors. I set some goals at the beginning of the year and earning all-conference was among them.”

Olivet Nazarene finished the year with a 32-19 mark. The Tigers were 20-7 in the CCAC. They spent most of the year as a nationally ranked team and were ranked as high as fifth in the NAIA.

ONU tied with Purdue University-Northwest for the CCAC-South Division title. The Tigers were eliminated in the third game of the CCAC Tournament to end their season.

“We were a special team,” McLain said of the 2016-17 team. “When a baseball team plays that well, it is easy to have fun. The ending was not fun. We did not play as well as we had hoped down the stretch.

“Our wins start in the classroom and carry onto the baseball diamond. I look forward to continuing the consistency next year. My main focus for next year is to win the conference title again. I love our group of guys and know we have a good shot.”

sports@rantoulpress.com

Categories (4):Prep Sports, Baseball, Misc., Sports

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