Orange shortstop Joey Berini earned Big 8 Baseball Player of the Year honors after leading the Panthers in five offensive categories this season

After leading the team in five offensive categories this season, Orange junior shortstop Joey Berini has been named the Big 8 Conference Player of the Year.

The official announcement came following a conference call with the Big 8 Conference baseball coaches on Monday afternoon, who voted on the awards.

Berini, who has started at shortstop for the Panthers since his freshman year, hit .541 this season. He led the team with 33 hits, 35 runs scored, 12 doubles and four triples.

Among Berini’s highlights this season came on April 23, when he laced a three-run, bases loaded triple at Northern Durham to push across the gamewinning runs in the 4th inning as the Panthers defeated the Knights 9-6. Two days later, Berini hit two doubles and finished 3-for-5 with two RBIs in Orange’s 10-1 win at Chapel Hill.

In Orange’s 15-4 victory over Northwood on May 3, Berini went 3-for-5 with a triple and a solo homer.

The win over the Chargers led Orange to host a state playoff game last week, though J.H. Rose ended Orange’s season. Orange finished 14-6.

Joining Berini from Orange on the All-Big 8 Conference team were centerfielder/pitcher Cooper Porter, second baseman Dante DeFranco and third baseman/pitcher Cooper Hench.

Porter, a junior who has started at five different positions during his career, was Orange’s starting centerfielder and the second pitcher in Coach Jason Knapp’s rotation. Porter had a two-run double during Orange’s five-run 2nd inning in a 9-1 win over Northwood on April 2 in Hillsborough.

In the final week of April, Porter had back-to-back saves against Northern Durham. On the mound, Porter was 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA this season. On March 20, in his first pitching start since his freshman season, Porter threw four shutout innings in an 18-1 win over Ragsdale.

DeFranco, who transferred from Cedar Ridge last summer, led Orange with 29 RBIs and tied for the team lead with three home runs. He was tied for second on the team with 31 hits. DeFranco had the game-winning double in the 6th inning of Orange’s 5-3 win at East Chapel Hill on March 12. It was the only Big 8 Conference loss this season for the Wildcats. DeFranco also went 4-for-4 with a home run against Northern Durham on April 23. The following day against Northern, DeFranco went 2-for-3 with 4 RBIs, including another home run. DeFranco started the season with a 10-game hitting streak.

Hench hit .500 in 62 at-bats. Hench, a junior, went 3-for-4 in the win at East Chapel Hill. He also earned the win in relief against the Wildcats, throwing two perfect innings. Defensively, Hench made nine assists. Hench earned a complete game win at Chapel Hill on April 25, throwing a three-hit shutout. He struck out six. At the plate, Hench went 3-for-5 against the Tigers.

Cedar Ridge pitcher Philip Berger and senior centerfielder Jackson Strowd also made the All-Big 8 team.

Berger, a senior who signed with William Peace University last month, earned the 20th victory of his career against Hillside on April 16. Berger finished 5-4 with a 1.99 ERA. He ended his career with a 3-2 victory over Northern Durham in Hillsborough on May 2, throwing a complete game while striking out nine. Berger ended his career with 22 victories and a .310 batting average.

Strowd hit .442 with 19 hits this season. In his final game at Cedar Ridge, he scored two runs. He concluded his Red Wolf career with a seven-game hitting streak. On April 25, he went 2-for-4 in a 8-2 win over Burlington Williams in Hillsborough. This was Strowd's first full season at varsity.