One can certainly sympathize with your reaction. It's a tricky call sometimes when trying to figure out whether to fish or cut bait on using a particular term. If there's no good synonym, sometimes you have to stick with what you have and try to popularize an awareness of what it does signify.
In the present environment, the alternatives to apologist are problematic. Defender makes it sound like you have a chip on your shoulder. Controversialist makes you sound quarrelsome. And evidencer isn't a real word.
Fortunately, the term apologetics seems to be gaining in popular currency. In the last couple of years it has been cropping up--of all places--on political commentary shows, where it is being used in a secular context (e.g., calling someone an apologist for thus-and-such political position). Perhaps if people learn what it means in a secular context, they'll be more prepared when they encounter it in a religious one.