Jay Benard, a 2016 Massac County graduate, was presented with a bit of a dilemma this winter when the NCAA granted all senior athletes another year of eligibility due to COVID restrictions on collegiate athletics.
Benard already had a job lined up but decided to pursue his baseball career at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville for that one last season. Looks like he made the right choice.
After a stint at Rend Lake College, Benard matriculated to Trevecca Nazarene University. This past year was a record setter for him and the Trojans.
Trevecca is a member school in the Great Midwest Conference at the NCAA Division 2 level. The Trojans won their conference championship and post season championship, as well, with Benard setting records from the Trojan bullpen.
Benard was just named to the NCAA D-2 Conference Commissioners Association All-American Team after being previously named to the ABCA/Rawlings All-American third team.
Benard finished his career with 16 saves. He recorded nine of those this year. Those 16 saves placed him seventh among all active NCAA D-2 pitchers and ranked 15th among all active NCAA pitchers of any division. This year’s nine saves ranked him fifth in Division 2 pitchers and first in the Great Midwest Conference.
Benard won three games this year against a lone loss while throwing 29 innings. In those 29 innings, he compiled a 1.24 ERA, allowed just 16 hits and struck out 27 batters.
The Trojans’ championship propelled them to the NCAA D-2 Regional, which they won, and then on to their first ever D-2 College World Series in Cary, North Carolina. The Northwest Nazarene Nighthawks of Nampa, Idaho, ended Trevecca’s improbable run at the Series title June 7.
After a positive COVID test on the team and requisite contact tracing, 11 players had to sit out the conference tournament, making their 4-0 run decidedly more meaningful.
On a personal note, one of my favorite memories of Benard at Massac County is of the early-October 2014 football game at Herrin when he and wide receiver Marky Marlatt put a king-sized scare in a vaunted Herrin team that eventually won by a lop-sided count of 69-28. For 30 minutes or so, the combination of quarterback Benard and wide-out Marlatt was absolutely magic, compiling four touchdowns and almost 300 yards of passing offense in one half. Both were eventually knocked out of the game, and Massac’s slim hopes were dashed.
Off the athletic field, Benard was also named the Male Christian Athlete of the Year at Trevecca. He was named the Outstanding Student Teacher in 2020. He graduated magna cum laude, earning his bachelor’s degree in chemistry education. He will complete a master’s in English as a Second Language in August. Congratulations, young man.