STORM LAKE – Buena Vista University junior second baseman Bryce Rheault highlights the list all-conference honors for the Beavers this season by being voted on as the league's Position Player of the Year, announced by the conference office on Wednesday. Three others were also named all-conference along with one honorable mention selection.
Rheault has had a banner season as he returned back to the right side of the infield by leading the league during conference play in hits (38) and triples (4), ranking third in average (.400), fourth in both slugging percentage (.579) and on-base percentage (.482) and sixth in runs scored (22). His 10 stolen bases were also fourth-most among any player in the league. Rheault had at least one hit in 22 of the 24 conference games, including 10 straight to end the schedule. In eight of those 10 games, he had multiple hits, including a pair of three-hit contests. Overall this season, he has registered 68 total hits which is just three away from the program's single season mark of 71 set in 2009 by Brandon Pietrzyk.
It's the second time in the last four seasons that the Beavers have landed the top position player in the league (Neil Marshall, 2016) and the third overall (Brandon Pietrzyk, 2010). He also gives the program at least one First Team All-Conference selection in 15 straight seasons.
BVU also landed a trio of Second Team honorees - seniors Egan Bonde and Peyton Renning, along with junior Gage Smart. Sophomore utility player, Nick Henrichs, earned Honorable Mention recognition.
Bonde's had himself a career-year, posting a 3-1 conference record and ranking ninth in the league with a 2.85 ERA in those games. He made seven starts and worked 41.1 innings, allowing just 17 total runs and seven walks in those games. He saved his best outing for his last when he pitched a complete-game shutout against the University of Dubuque on the final day of the regular season and striking out five en route to being named the A-R-C Pitcher of the Week. This marks Bonde's first career all-conference accolade.
Smart is also all-conference for the first time and emerged as one of the top closers in the league this season. He made 12 appearances on the mound during A-R-C play and all were out of the bullpen. He worked a total of 24.1 innings over those 12 contests and his ERA of 1.48 in those games was second-best in the league. He led the way in opponents batting average at .111 and his six saves ranked second. He has eight saves overall this season which has him tied for second all-time in school history for a single-season and just one shy of the all-time mark of nine set by Lucas Hadaway in 2015.
Renning is all-conference for the second straight season after receiving First Team recognition as a junior in 2018. He started all 24 games in centerfield and had 10 multi-hit contests against league foes during the year. His eight doubles were the fourth-most by any player in the league during conference play while his 101 at-bats were second. He only struck out 12 times in 101 at-bats. Defensively, he was arguably one of the best in the league at the position, finishing with only two errors in 60 total chances.
Henrichs' versatility has been key for BVU all season long. He played in all 24 conference games with seven starts coming on the mound where he went 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA. His 39.2 innings pitched in those games was just outside the top-10 among all league pitchers as were his 34 strikeouts. He had a pair of strong outings right out of the gate where he went six innings, allowed just two runs and struck out six in a no-decision at Simpson before going 7.1 innings, allowing only one run and posting a career-high nine strikeouts against Loras in a tough 1-0 loss. He gave the Beavers six strong innings and struck out five during a 3-2 victory over Dubuque to begin the pivotal three-game series to wrap up the regular season and earn the team's #2 seed into the conference tournament.
Buena Vista went 15-9 in American Rivers Conference play which marks the sixth time in the last seven seasons the team has captured at least 15 conference wins. It closed the conference schedule out by going 10-1 down the stretch and earning a first round bye into the conference tournament.
The Beavers, now 25-17 following their conference tournament championship last weekend, are set to travel to River Forest, Ill., for NCAA DIII Regional Tournament play on May 17-19. The team opens play against top-seed and second-ranked Concordia Chicago on Friday at 1:30 p.m.