Baseball: From bit part to lead role

Lunday named All-Nebraska NAIA baseball team captain

By Marjie Ducey

Justin Lunday started the season platooning in left field and at first base.

The York College senior outfielder finishes as captain of The World-Herald’s All-Nebraska NAIA baseball team.

Lunday lost half of last season after breaking the middle finger of his left hand. The ligament tore away from the finger, separating at the knuckle, and he had to have a few screws inserted. He wasn’t able to swing a bat until the first practice of last fall.

“A week or two into the preseason schedule, he found himself in the lineup every day and really took advantage of it,’’ coach Nick Harlan said.

Lunday hit .448, with 69 hits and 50 runs scored. He had 17 home runs, 18 doubles and an .896 slugging percentage, which ranked in the top four in the nation.

“My coach kept on working with me,’’ Lunday said. “They didn’t give up on me. They gave me some extra chances that allowed me to get back in there. I finally got in the groove and started hitting again.”

Justin LundayLunday

The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder said he struggled at the plate last year, but regained his confidence this season. His teammates looked to him when they needed someone to step up in crucial situations.

“He was a great leader on the field, just the joy he brought to the game,’’ Harlan said. “He made great decisions off the field that helped us become a better team.’’

Bruce AmendeAmende

Lunday is one of three York College players chosen for the team in balloting by NAIA coaches in the state. Others were outfielder Kris Little and pitcher Bruce Amende, who went 12-0 for the Panthers.

Both Lunday and Amende were first-team NAIA All-Americans and have helped turn around the fortunes of York College. The Panthers won 24 games the season before Harlan arrived six years ago. They won 39 in his first season. This season they went 45-9, won the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference and went 1-2 at regional competition. Harlan credits the support from school administrators for the program’s continued success.

Lunday, who is from San Ramon, Calif., is one of several players Harlan has recruited from his home state. But the coach says he’s building his program with kids from all over, including Nebraska.

Lunday said York’s program is the best he’s ever been a part of.

“Coach has us working, and we had to study hard,’’ he said. “He kind of taught us how to be men and baseball players at the same time.’’

• P: Bruce Amende, York College, 12-0
• P: Dexter Spitsnogle, Doane, 6-2
• C: Geoff Hobbs, Hastings, .308
• C: Brett Chamberlain, Bellevue, .424
• 1B: John Rivera, Hastings, .335
• 2B: Clayton Brigham, Peru State, .430
• SS: Anthony Hincy, Doane, .405
• 3B: Nolan Koehn, Midland Lutheran, .353
• OF: Justin Lunday, York College, .448
• OF: Kris Little, York College, .407
• OF: Nate Schmoll, Concordia, .380
• OF: Matty Johnson, Bellevue, .427
• DH: Nick Naegele, Bellevue, .409
• UT: Louie Templeton, Bellevue, .366

Player of the year: Justin Lunday, York College

Honorable Mention: Jake Aylward, Maxx Catapano, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rosario, Chris Williamson, Bellevue; Cody Falk, Chase Hunter, Alex Johnson, Bob Reynolds, Otis Seals, JJ Stanard, Dana; Zach Goodrich, Jacob Shaffer, Dustin Matlock, Brad Ramp, Concordia; Mike Albert, Thomas Frinkman, Ryan Otto, Josh Reed, Blake Snow, Doane; A.J. Clark, Mack Land, Kirby Wells, Hastings; Brady Beckman, Zane Cascini, Andy McGowan, Josh Ostrom, Nebraska Wesleyan; Yimy Rodriguez, Jon Sanley, Peru State; Matt Berru, Nick Caravelli, Sam Feiner, Josh Warren, York College.

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