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Ward wins Golden Glove award

By Matt Wilson

For the FCT

Former Russellville baseball standout Jake Ward recently won the Division II Golden Glove award for being one of the best defensive players in the league for the 2014 season.

Ward, who played his last two years of eligibility for the University of North Alabama, finished the 2014 season with a 1.000 fielding percentage and no errors. He was responsible for 123 putouts and six assists from the center field position.

The American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) named Ward to the ABCA/Rawlings National Gold Glove Team for 2014 as one of only nine players in the nation.

He is the first UNA player to ever be named to the All-American Gold Glove Team.

Ward said he was glad to win the award, but playing solid defense is something that he’s always expected from himself.

“My junior year I hit the ball pretty well and played pretty well in the field,” Ward said. “But my senior year I was struggling at the plate and wasn’t really producing for the team on that side. So I felt like I needed to back it up with my defense.”

UNA assistant coach Matt Hancock said Ward is the kind of player the coaches can always trust.

“Jake is kind of a quiet guy but he’s a good leader,” Hancock said.

“He was someone us coaches always could count on to reverberate what we were trying to teach. Whereas I lead by being vocal Jake was more of a leader by example.”

Hancock said even though Ward’s offensive production might have slipped from junior to senior seasons, his improvement on defense was impressive and no accident.

“He took challenges personally,” Hancock said.

“His junior year a ball would be hit to the gaps and he wouldn’t get to it. When he’d come back to the dugout we’d pull him aside and say, ‘Hey, you got to get a better jump on that’ and that’s what he worked on and that’s what he would end up doing.”

“I never really thought about my defense last season, I just kind of expected it from myself,” Ward said.

“I expected it and my team expected it and I wanted to deliver and play the way I knew I could.”

Ward is a senior at UNA hoping to finish his degree in Physical Education.

“I’m hoping to finish up my degree and get into coaching after that,” Ward said.

Ward was a two-year starter for the Lions and played every game for the Lions in 2014 before finishing with a perfect fielding percentage.