The Orient chooses the male and female Athlete of the Season based on exemplary performance and commitment to their programs. The winners are selected by the sports editor.
Oliver Van Zant ’13, baseball
Oliver Van Zant '13 is having one of the most dominating seasons ever for a Bowdoin pitcher. His statistics speak for themselves: 1.75 ERA, a 5-1 record and a .164 batting average against.
His performance also proves that it never hurts to have some brotherly competition. His younger brother Henry, also a pitcher, is playing in his first season for the Polar Bears.
"It's definitely always nice to come off the mount and get off the mound and get a high five from your brother," Van Zant said. "You are always rooting for the other guy but trying to outdo him at the same time."
Henry echoed his older brother.
"Playing on the same team has always been fun," he said. But "being two years younger, it's always a tough act to follow."
The elder Van Zant is currently winning the friendly competition. This year, he has thrice been named NESCAC Pitcher of the Week, and is one of the best in the NESCAC for ERA, opposing team's batting average, shutouts, and strikeouts.
Van Zant credits his improved health as well as his increased mental and physical strength as critical factors in his improvement this season.
"My arm is healthier and I am a lot stronger," he said. "I am trying to pitch instead of just trying to overpower people."
Power is at the heart of Van Zant's game. He throws his fastball at speeds close to the ones thrown in the Major Leagues: He pitched a 93 m.p.h. fastball earlier this season and typically hits the low 90s every game.
His arm is versatile as well. A YouTube video of Van Zant shows a radar gun clocking him throwing a Wiffle Ball 99 m.p.h in a Bowdoin dormitory. The legendary feat has earned the video nearly 100,000 views.
Van Zant also attributes his hard work off the field to his improved game. Increased endurance has kept him hurling hard late into games. Van Zant credited his strength coach at home in Connecticut, but also said his brother is an integral part of his physical success.
Henry "is probably the biggest reason for my weight room success," he said.
Van Zant has also worked on the mental side of his game, focusing on location rather than just power and getting strikeouts. Keeping his pitch count down has enabled him to stay in the game longer and, while not intentional, has led to more strikeouts. His motto on the mound is "stay cool."
"If you don't overthrow, the ball still comes out just as hard," he said.
Van Zant credits the coaching staff for his new discipline.
"Coach Connolly and Coach Jensen have both been integral in helping me mature mentally as a pitcher and a lot of my success definitely stems from that," he said.
Van Zant recently made the record books when, in a 5-3 win against Tufts on April 27, he broke the College's 62-year-old career strikeout record. With 13 strikeouts, he moved past Bernard Johnson '50, who is now second with 187, 10 behind Van Zant. While Van Zant still has a year to add to his record, he is quick to point out that he believes Johnson completed the feat in three years.
Furthermore, Van Zant is wary that his reign as strikeout king of Bowdoin may be brief because of the dominant play of fellow pitcher Christian Martin '14, who has posted impressive statistics and has compiled 117 strikeouts in two years.
"I'm going to have to set the bar high or Christian is going to take it the year after me," Van Zant said.
Van Zant is also chasing the single season strikeout record. With 82 this season, he is 10 strikeouts shy of the record set by Ron Woods in 1958. Van Zant is currently averaging 13 strikeouts per game.
Next season, Van Zant says he will be looking to stay more consistent in all his starts and improve his endurance.
Reflecting on the most memorable moment of the season, Van Zant does not look to a time when he was pitching. Not the two-hitter that he threw against Colby over nine innings or one of the scoreless games he has had. Rather, it is Bowdoin's unlikely comeback against Tufts on April 28, when the Polar Bears knocked Tufts out of playoff contention by scoring five runs in the final inning to win 8-7. The history made for sweet revenge against a team that has bounced Bowdoin from the playoffs for two consecutive years.
With playoffs a week away, Van Zant will play a significant role in Bowdoin's success. He is looking to continue his strong play, staying focused on the mound, pitching with power, and always knowing that his brother is watching in the dugout.
Runners-up: Matt Egan '12, lacrosse, and Chris Martin '12, track and field.
-Compiled by Charlie Cubeta.
Gen Barlow ’13, softball
Gen Barlow '13 has not just been the softball team's best player this year; she is now one of the best in school history. Barlow lead the Polar Bears in nearly every statistical category with a .425 average, 46 hits including 13 doubles, seven home runs, 47 RBI, and 46 runs scored. She is ranked among the top 10 in many categories in the College's all-time record book and is currently at the top of RBI and runs scored in a season.
The former Connecticut All-State outfielder was fairly productive during her first two years but has blossomed into an all-around powerhouse at the plate in her third season at Bowdoin. Head Coach Ryan Sullivan believes that this is simply a result of her natural progression as a player.
"Her first year and sophomore year were very productive years. She was one of our better hitters, but I think this year she's kind of taken everything, refined it and honed in on it, and had a great all-around season," said Sullivan.
"As a junior, I've gained a certain level of confidence in my abilities," said Barlow. "I need to be better, and it's an expectation for myself. My own commitment in the offseason has stepped up a notch and I really just decided I need to do this."
Whether it is taking extra groundballs or extra swings in the cage, Barlow has responded to high expectations with her best season yet.
While her power has been the engine of this team, she is quick to point out that the offense has been a team effort.
"There's never an 'I have to do it all'" feeling, "and I think hitting is really contagious. If you look at our statistics, the whole team is hitting really well and that helps everyone including me," said Barlow.
Nevertheless, Barlow's leadership ability has not been lost on Sullivan, who said he has noticed a difference in the role that his star player has taken on this season.
"Even before the season started, on our first practice on February 15, she took on a new hat as far as being a little more vocal in practice and among her teammates," said Sullivan. "The biggest change for her has been simply her voice and her command of the infield."
While many players would feel added pressure under the weight of her growing responsibilities, Barlow explains that she feels calmer.
"Now it's more like, I know that I have to do it, so I have to find a way," she said.
Runners-up: Carolyn Gorajek '13, lacrosse, and Elsa Millett '12, track and field.
-Compiled by Andrew Park.