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Nick_Loftin

GSA Spotlight: Nick Loftin

March 5, 2020
Baylor knows it can always turn to junior shortstop Nick Loftin when it needs a big hit. Take this past weekend's Shriners College Classic as a prime example. The Bears' situation against LSU looked rather bleak entering the sixth inning of Saturday's contest and middle game of the tournament. The
Baylor knows it can always turn to junior shortstop Nick Loftin when it needs a big hit.
Take this past weekend's Shriners College Classic as a prime example. The Bears' situation against LSU looked rather bleak entering the sixth inning of Saturday's contest and middle game of the tournament. The Tigers had a commanding 4-0 lead and righthander Landon Marceaux looked to be in total control.
That was until Loftin, one of the nation's premier players and prospects, saw Marceaux for a third time on the afternoon. In the first two at bats, Marceaux had struck out the All-American shortstop and gotten a ground out in his second at bat. But on the third? It was a much, much different story.
With a runner on second base, Loftin uncorked the most impressive home run of the weekend - a two-run shot that cleared the train tracks in left field and exited the ballpark entirely. It sent oohs and ahs throughout the crowd.
Loftin's majestic home run sparked the Bears and they went on to beat LSU 6-4 and finished the weekend with an unblemished 3-0 record. Loftin finished the weekend 4-for-11 (.364) with four RBIs, a home run and a double.
Even Loftin himself was impressed with the power he showed on that specific home run.
"I've never really seen anything go that far before," Loftin said with a laugh. "It was really cool to see, but it was a good team win."
While Loftin much prefers to talk about his team and teammates and not himself, there must be times where even he takes a step back and marvels at his own talents.
And moments like the one against LSU this past weekend have become standard procedure for Loftin throughout his Baylor career. When BU needs a bit hit, it always knows who to call.
"I mean, he's a kid who, from the first day he stepped on campus, his swing has always worked, and that's what I really like about him," Baylor coach Steve Rodriguez said. "He's done some things to change his approach a little bit, and even with that, he's still a phenomenal hitter. He's done a great job of turning himself into a great baseball player. His barrel to ball skills are unreal, and defensively, you kind of saw what he could do out there this past weekend."
While Loftin, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder, has formed into a premier prospect over the past two seasons, he wasn't that guy out of high school. He has gradually gotten better and better, and that seems to be the theme so far this season, too.
Loftin was ranked in the 200s by Prep Baseball Report out of high school and went undrafted the summer before his arrival at BU. Certainly not a bad ranking by any means, but also not a surefire future high-round pick.
As a freshman for the Bears, Loftin made an instant impact with a .306 average, six home runs and 36 RBIs, along with a .370 OBP. But he still had plenty of work to do. He wanted to be more consistent.
Then, Loftin's sophomore campaign arrived. With the Bears looking to make a third-straight NCAA tournament appearance, Loftin once again raised the bar. He had a phenomenal season that included a .323 average, six home runs and 41 RBIs, along with a .502 slugging percentage. He also established himself as one of the nation's premier defenders, getting the attention of Eric Campbell and USA Baseball, and earning himself a spot on the USA Collegiate National Team.
Now, Loftin appears to be ready for yet another step forward in what is his crucial junior campaign. Loftin is ranked the No. 28 college prospect for the 2020 MLB Draft, and that ranking is likely to improve in our updated midseason prospect rankings.
In addition to his strong showing in Houston, Loftin is off to a torrid start offensively this spring. He's hitting .341 with four doubles, a triple, two home runs and 11 RBIs. He has also improved his slugging percentage and currently sits with an OPS of 1.006. Loftin has good bat speed and can hit the ball to all fields. As a defender, he has good instincts, excellent play-making ability and a strong arm.
But he can be even better.
"Just looking at him in glimpses over the weekend, you can tell he has the swing, the bat speed and the bat path you want to allow yourself to hit a lot," one coach at the Shriners College Classic said about Loftin. "Loftin plays a premium position and he's an excellent player. He'd be a Top 15 type of pick for me.
"He's also really good defensively," he continued. "He makes things look really easy at shortstop, and he's just out there doing a great job of slowing the game down. He makes everything look easy and does a nice job with the tough plays, too. He has a strong arm, good body and makes all the plays."
Another coach at the tournament echoed almost the same sentiment.
"Nick is what I call a ball player. He approaches and plays the game the right way," he said. "We went after him, but in hindsight we should've been a little more careful because he picked up a big two-out hit against us. We made a mistake on a pitch and he delivered. That's what good hitters do. He's just one of those guys who can beat you in a lot different ways."
Baylor has a new-look offense this spring without some key cogs from last year's club. But some guys such as freshman Jared McKenzie have risen to the occasion, giving Loftin some assistance in the lineup. Should that continue, look for Loftin's production to only increase as the season progresses.
Baylor has reached the NCAA tournament in each of Loftin's two seasons in Waco, and the junior hopes to make it a third-straight postseason appearance in 2020.
When in doubt, just call on Loftin. He'll be ready.
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Kevin Kopps Named Forty-Third Golden Spikes Award Winner

Kopps becomes just the second athlete from Arkansas to earn the honor
July 15, 2021
CARY, N.C. – Arkansas’ Kevin Kopps was named the 43rd winner of the Golden Spikes Award today on ESPN’s SportsCenter. He is just the second athlete from the University of Arkansas to win the award, after Andrew Benintendi earned the honor in 2016. The Golden Spikes Award honors the top

CARY, N.C. – Arkansas’ Kevin Kopps was named the 43rd winner of the Golden Spikes Award today on ESPN’s SportsCenter. He is just the second athlete from the University of Arkansas to win the award, after Andrew Benintendi earned the honor in 2016. The Golden Spikes Award honors the top amateur baseball player in the United States based on their athletic ability, sportsmanship, character, and overall contribution to the sport.

Kopps marks the ninth SEC player to be named the Golden Spikes Award winner in its history, following in the footsteps of Dave Magadan (Alabama, 1983), Will Clark (Mississippi State, 1985), Ben McDonald (LSU, 1989), Kip Bouknight (South Carolina, 2000), Mike Zunino (Florida State, 2012), A.J. Reed (Kentucky, 2014), and Benintendi.

“We are proud to name Kevin Kopps the forty-third winner of the Golden Spikes Award following his incredible season on the mound for the University of Arkansas,” said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball Executive Director and CEO. “With his record-setting consistency and dominance out of the bullpen that were unmatched by starters or relievers in 2021, Kevin is truly deserving of this prestigious award and his place within the exceptionally talented group of past winners.”

The right-handed reliever was named the 2021 SEC Pitcher of the Year and the NCBWA Stopper of the Year, which is awarded to the country’s best relief pitcher, after leading the nation with a stellar 0.75 ERA during the regular season. Even in relief, Kopps led Arkansas in innings pitched this year with 60.1 in 26 regular-season appearances and becomes the first relief pitcher ever to win the Golden Spikes Award.

Kopps also collected a perfect 10-0 record and 92 punchouts during the regular season. He allowed opponents to hit just .162 against him, including a stretch of 20.2 innings from April 22 to May 14 in which he allowed just eight hits. Additionally, the righty tossed 7.1 consecutive perfect innings across three appearances in April against South Carolina and LSU, and did not allow a run in 10 appearances from March 5 to April 10. The consensus All-American finished the 2021 campaign with Arkansas’ single-season ERA record and was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 2021 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

Kopps joins a group of past winners that include Adley Rutschman (2019), Andrew Vaughn (2018), Brendan McKay (2017), Kyle Lewis (2016), Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).

Historically, Golden Spikes Award winners have gone on to have tremendous success in the Major Leagues. Of the 42 previous winners, six have earned Rookie of the Year honors, including Lewis in 2020. Additionally, three have won the Cy Young award, three were named MVP, and 11 have won a World Series championship as a player or manager, combining for a total of 18 championships. Twenty previous winners have also been named to at least one All-Star Game roster as a player or manager, combining for 59 total selections.

The award winner was selected through the distribution of ballots to a voting body consisting of national baseball media, select professional baseball personnel, previous Golden Spikes Award winners and select USA Baseball staff, totaling a group of over 200 voters and accounting for 95% of the vote.  Fan voting continued to be a part of the Golden Spikes Award in 2021 and contributed to the remaining 5% of the total vote.

For more information on the Golden Spikes Award and its past winners, visit GoldenSpikesAward.com or follow along on social media at @USAGoldenSpikes on Instagram and Twitter.

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Golden Spikes Award Winner to be Announced Live on Baseball Tonight on Thursday

Announcement to be made leading into Red Sox/Yankees series opener
July 12, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball announced today the 43rd Golden Spikes Award winner will be named live on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown on Thursday leading into the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees series opener. The program will air at 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT on ESPN.

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball announced today the 43rd Golden Spikes Award winner will be named live on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown on Thursday leading into the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees series opener.

The program will air at 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT on ESPN. Karl Ravech hosts Baseball Tonight alongside analysts Eduardo Perez and Tim Kurkjian, plus Senior MLB Insider Jeff Passan contributing news updates. 

Kevin Kopps (Arkansas), Jack Leiter (Vanderbilt), and Kumar Rocker (Vanderbilt) are the final three amateur baseball players in contention for the prestigious award. 

2021 marks just the second year in the history of the Golden Spikes Award that not only do all of the finalists hail from the same conference, but also the second time that they have all played in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). All four finalists for the award in 2015 also suited up in the SEC (Andrew Benintendi, Arkansas; Alex Bregman, LSU; Carson Fulmer and Dansby Swanson, Vanderbilt).

Additionally, this is just the second time ever that all the finalists for the award have been pitchers (2011).

For more information on the Golden Spikes Award and its past winners, visit GoldenSpikesAward.com or follow along on social media at @USAGoldenSpikes on Instagram and Twitter.

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2021 Golden Spikes Award Finalists Revealed

For the second time in Golden Spikes Award history, all three finalists hail from the same conference.
June 24, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball today announced the three finalists for 2021 Golden Spikes Award. Kevin Kopps (Arkansas), Jack Leiter (Vanderbilt), and Kumar Rocker (Vanderbilt) are the final three amateur baseball players in contention for the 43rd Golden Spikes Award.  2021 marks just the second year in the history of

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball today announced the three finalists for 2021 Golden Spikes Award. Kevin Kopps (Arkansas), Jack Leiter (Vanderbilt), and Kumar Rocker (Vanderbilt) are the final three amateur baseball players in contention for the 43rd Golden Spikes Award. 

2021 marks just the second year in the history of the Golden Spikes Award that not only do all of the finalists hail from the same conference, but also the second time that they have all played in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). All four finalists for the award in 2015 also suited up in the SEC (Andrew Benintendi, Arkansas; Alex Bregman, LSU; Carson Fulmer and Dansby Swanson, Vanderbilt).

Additionally, this is just the second time ever that all the finalists for the award have been pitchers. All three finalists for the 2011 prize also made their mark on the mound, including eventual-winner Trevor Bauer (UCLA), as well as Danny Hultzen (Virginia), and Taylor Jungmann (Texas).

“USA Baseball is thrilled to name Kevin Kopps, Jack Leiter, and Kumar Rocker the finalists for the 2021 Golden Spikes Award,” said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball Executive Director and CEO. “These three athletes have not only put together incredible seasons for their respective schools on the field, but have also proven to be truly worthy honorees of this recognition off the field as well. We look forward to celebrating this well-deserved accolade with each of them and welcoming them into a tremendous fraternity of Golden Spikes Award winners. 

Arkansas right-handed pitcher Kevin Kopps was named the 2021 SEC Pitcher of the Year after leading the nation with a stellar 0.75 ERA during the regular season. In 60.1 regular season innings of relief, Kopps collected a 10-0 record and 97 punchouts to go with his miniscule ERA, while opponents hit just .162 against him. A consensus All-America honoree, the righty also finished the 2021 campaign with Arkansas’ single-season ERA record. Kopps is just the third Razorback to be named a Golden Spikes Award finalist and the first since Andrew Benintendi took home the award in 2015. Arkansas’ Phil Stidham also earned finalist honors in 1991.

In his first full season of collegiate baseball, Jack Leiter put together a lights-out campaign for Vanderbilt in 2021. In 76.1 innings of work during the regular season, he recorded a 2.12 ERA and an 8-2 record, while walking just 34 batters. Leiter currently leads the SEC and the nation in strikeouts and tallied 127 of his current-171 in the regular season, including striking out 10 or more batters in seven of his 13 starts during the season. The right-hander tossed Vanderbilt’s first regular-season, complete game no-hitter since 1971 in his SEC debut, collecting 16 punchouts in the win. He then followed that effort with two more starts in which he did not allow a hit to record 20.1 consecutive no-hit innings in his first three conference starts. Leiter was named SEC Newcomer of the Year in 2021 after his strong showing in conference play, earned All-SEC First Team honors, and also earned All-America honors this season after helping to lead Vanderbilt to the NCAA Division I College World Series.

Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker earned First Team All-SEC and All-America honors for his dominant performance throughout the 2021 season. In 88.0 regular-season innings on the mound, Rocker tallied an 11-2 record and a 2.45 ERA, while walking just 27 batters and striking out 129. The Athens, Georgia, native won the first seven decisions of the season to set the tone for his 2021 campaign, and went on to once again help guide Vanderbilt to the program’s second-consecutive College World Series appearance. The right-hander allowed just 22 extra-base hits during the 2021 regular season. 

Leiter and Rocker are the seventh and eighth Commodores, respectively, to be named Golden Spikes Award finalists and the third Vanderbilt duo to earn the honor in the same year (Pedro Alvarez and David Price, 2007; Carson Fulmer and Dansby Swanson, 2015). 2021 also marks the second consecutive year in which Golden Spikes Award finalists were named that at least one Commodore was among the group, following JJ Bleday in 2019.

The 2021 winner will look to join a group of recent winners that include Adley Rutschman (2019), Andrew Vaughn (2018), Brendan McKay (2017), Kyle Lewis (2016), Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).

Historically, Golden Spikes Award winners have gone on to have tremendous success in the Major Leagues. Of the 42 previous winners, six have earned Rookie of the Year honors, including Lewis in 2020. Additionally, three have won the Cy Young award, three were named MVP, and 11 have won a World Series championship as a player or manager, combining for a total of 18 championships. Nineteen previous winners have also been named to at least one All-Star Game roster as a player or manager, combining for 56 total selections.

A final ballot will be sent to the Golden Spikes Award voting body consisting of national baseball media, select professional baseball personnel, previous Golden Spikes Award winners, and select USA Baseball staff, totaling a group of 200 voters. From Thursday, June 24, through Friday, July 2, the voting body will cast their final vote for the Golden Spikes Award winner and fan voting will simultaneously be open on GoldenSpikesAward.com. Selections made by the voting body will carry a 95 percent weight of each athlete’s total, while fan votes will account for the remaining five percent.

The presentation of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be announced at a later time. To stay up-to-date on the 2021 Golden Spikes Award visit GoldenSpikesAward.com and follow @USAGoldenSpikes on Twitter and Instagram.

    •  Golden Spikes Award Winners:

    • 2019: Adley Rutschman – Oregon State
    • 2018: Andrew Vaughn - California
    • 2017: Brendan McKay - Louisville
    • 2016: Kyle Lewis - Mercer
    • 2015: Andrew Benintendi - Arkansas
    • 2014: A.J. Reed - Kentucky
    • 2013: Kris Bryant - San Diego
    • 2012: Mike Zunino - Florida
    • 2011: Trevor Bauer - UCLA
    • 2010: Bryce Harper - Southern Nevada
    • 2009: Stephen Strasburg - San Diego State
    • 2008: Buster Posey - Florida State
    • 2007: David Price - Vanderbilt
    • 2006: Tim Lincecum - Washington
    • 2005: Alex Gordon - Nebraska
    • 2004: Jered Weaver - Long Beach State
    • 2003: Rickie Weeks - Southern
    • 2002: Khalil Greene - Clemson
    • 2001: Mark Prior - Southern California
    • 2000: Kip Bouknight - South Carolina
    • 1999: Jason Jennings - Baylor
    • 1998: Pat Burrell - Miami
    • 1997: J.D. Drew - Florida State
    • 1996: Travis Lee - San Diego State
    • 1995: Mark Kotsay - Cal State Fullerton
    • 1994: Jason Varitek - Georgia Tech
    • 1993: Darren Dreifort - Wichita State
    • 1992: Phil Nevin - Cal State Fullerton
    • 1991: Mike Kelly - Arizona State
    • 1990: Alex Fernandez - Miami Dade CC
    • 1989: Ben McDonald - LSU
    • 1988: Robin Ventura - Oklahoma State
    • 1987: Jim Abbott - Michigan
    • 1986: Mike Loynd - Florida State
    • 1985: Will Clark - Mississippi State
    • 1984: Oddibe McDowell - Arizona State
    • 1983: Dave Magadan - Alabama
    • 1982: Augie Schmidt - New Orleans
    • 1981: Mike Fuentes - Florida State
    • 1980: Terry Francona - Arizona
    • 1979: Tim Wallach - Cal State Fullerton
    • 1978: Bob Horner - Arizona State
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USA Baseball Announces 2021 Golden Spikes Award Semifinalists

The 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be presented in July
June 8, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball today announced the 25 semifinalists for its Golden Spikes Award, moving one step closer to naming the top amateur baseball player of the year. The winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be announced in July. Twenty-two different universities are represented by the 2021

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball today announced the 25 semifinalists for its Golden Spikes Award, moving one step closer to naming the top amateur baseball player of the year. The winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be announced in July.

Twenty-two different universities are represented by the 2021 semifinalists, and the list includes 12 athletes who have played their way into consideration since the midseason list was announced on April 14. 

“We are thrilled to honor these twenty-five tremendously talented student-athletes as Golden Spikes Award semifinalists in 2021,” said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball’s Executive Director and CEO. “This group of players truly showcases the elite level of amateur baseball talent in the United States as they have excelled on and off the field this season, and we are privileged to recognize their contributions to their teams and schools.” 

The watch list is headlined by Henry Davis (Louisville), Sal Frelick (Boston College), Jack Leiter (Vanderbilt), Ty Madden (Texas), and Kumar Rocker (Vanderbilt), who all also earned spots on the Golden Spikes Award Preseason and Midseason Watch Lists in 2021.

Vanderbilt University is one of three schools that boasts multiple semifinalists in 2021, with East Carolina and Mississippi State also featuring two athletes on the list. In total, at least one athlete from 10 different NCAA conferences has earned semifinalist honors this year. The Southeastern Conference leads all conferences represented with six athletes named semifinalists, while five players represent the Atlantic Coast Conference, and three hail from both the Pac-12 and the Big 12.

Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman took home the prestigious award most recently in 2019, joining a group of recent winners that include Andrew Vaughn (2018), Brendan McKay (2017), Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).

Beginning with the announcement of the semifinalists, a ballot will be sent to a voting body consisting of baseball media members, select professional baseball personnel, current USA Baseball staff and the previous winners of the award, representing a group of more than 200 voters. As part of this selection process, all voters will be asked to choose three players from the list of semifinalists. On June 24, USA Baseball will announce the finalists, and voting for the winner will begin that same day.

Fan voting will once again be a part of the Golden Spikes Award in 2021. Beginning with the semifinalist announcement and continuing through the finalist round voting deadline on Tuesday, June 15, fans from across the country will be able to vote for their favorite player on GoldenSpikesAward.com.

The winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be named in July. To stay up-to-date on the 2021 Golden Spikes Award visit GoldenSpikesAward.com and follow @USAGoldenSpikes on Twitter and Instagram.

    • The 2021 Golden Spikes Award timeline:
    • June 8: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists voting begins
    • June 15: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists voting ends
    • June 24: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists announced, voting begins
    • July 2: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists voting ends
    • July: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award trophy presentation
    •  

A complete list of the Golden Spikes Award semifinalists is as follows:

    • Name, Position, School, Conference
    • Andrew Abbott; LHP; Virginia; Atlantic Coast
    • Tanner Allen; OF; Mississippi State; Southeastern
    • Jacob Berry; INF; Arizona; Pac-12
    • Colton Cowser; OF; Sam Houston; Southland
    • Henry Davis; C; Louisville; Atlantic Coast
    • Sal Frelick; UTL; Boston College; Atlantic Coast
    • Tyler Hardman; INF; Oklahoma; Big 12
    • Jace Jung; INF; Texas Tech; Big 12
    • Niko Kavadas; INF; Notre Dame; Atlantic Coast
    • Austin Knight; INF; Charlotte; C-USA
    • Kevin Kopps; RHP; Arkansas; Southeastern
    • Jack Leiter; RHP; Vanderbilt; Southeastern
    • Ethan Long; INF; Arizona State; Pac-12
    • Ty Madden; RHP; Texas; Big 12
    • Matt Mikulski; LHP; Fordham; Atlantic 10
    • Matheu Nelson; C; Florida State; Atlantic Coast
    • Doug Nikhazy; RHP; Ole Miss; Southeastern
    • Connor Norby; INF; ECU; American
    • Kumar Rocker; RHP; Vanderbilt; Southeastern
    • Spencer Schwellenbach; INF/RHP; Nebraska; Big Ten
    • Landon Sims; RHP; Mississippi State; Southeastern
    • Paul Skenes; C/RHP; Air Force; Mountain West
    • Trey Sweeney; 3B; Eastern Illinois; Ohio Valley
    • Gavin Williams; RHP; ECU; American
    • Aaron Zavala; OF; Oregon; Pac-12
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GSA Spotlight: Louisville's Henry Davis Insists Upon the Extraordinary

May 14, 2021
Every week, a Louisville veteran addresses the rest of the team — the floor is his to use as he sees fit. Last Thursday, third-year sophomore catcher Henry Davis’ turn came up, and he brought a visual aid. “He showed the last at-bat against Vanderbilt in the [2019] World Series,

Every week, a Louisville veteran addresses the rest of the team — the floor is his to use as he sees fit. Last Thursday, third-year sophomore catcher Henry Davis’ turn came up, and he brought a visual aid.

“He showed the last at-bat against Vanderbilt in the [2019] World Series, he popped up with the tying run at second,” Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said. “He showed it to the team and he said, ‘I went to the Cape Cod League, I got a concussion, I was home for a couple weeks. All I kept thinking about was my last at-bat in Omaha, my last at-bat in Omaha.’ He goes, ‘I played hard, I competed, but I knew that I could do more, and I had regret. I never wanted to feel that feeling again. From that moment on, I turned it up to a level that I’ve been at for the last couple years.’”

Few players in college baseball have performed this season at a level that compares with Davis, who is batting .382/.511/.671 with 11 home runs, 43 RBIs and a 29-18 BB-K mark through 41 games, all while playing strong defense at the most demanding position on the diamond. But Davis wasn’t talking about his stat line. He was talking about his level of intensity and commitment.

Davis grew up in Bedford, N.Y., and he said one of the reasons he chose to play for Louisville was the connection he formed with McDonnell, a native of nearby Rye Brook, N.Y. But that connection did not mean McDonnell went any easier on Davis when he was a freshman. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“He’s from my backyard, so I had some heart-to-hearts with him as a freshman,” McDonnell said. “I put some pressure on him: ‘Dude, you come from where I come from, you represent New York baseball. There’s a torch that you’re carrying; don’t make us look bad. You chose this program for obvious reasons — well, you’ve got an opportunity to do special things.’ Through those conversations and the way the season ended [in Omaha], man, he has been on a mission. He just talked to the guys about what all college kids do and all freshmen do and how common everybody is. He says, ‘Man, I am so committed to being uncommon. From that summer and the end of the freshman year, I know that I’ve been uncommon. I wish there were more players like me, I’m trying to get more players like me,’ and he’s not talking talent, he’s talking about commitment and preparation, how good or great he wants to be.”

For Davis, it started with an overhaul of his swing after his freshman year, when he hit a respectable .280/.345/.386 despite some glaring swing flaws. He first landed on the prospect radar during his prep days because of his promising catch-and-throw skills, and he had plenty of brute strength, but mechanically he had a long way to go as a hitter.

“You come from New York, there’s just a rawness there, that when he got here, he was all over the place,” McDonnell said. “The front foot was all over the place, he was very lungey, very jumpy, he probably got the nickname Silo, just hitting the ball straight up, like a lot of high school hitters. A little pull-crazy, a little hookish. What was impressive was how well he competed in his freshman year when he mechanically wasn’t in a good place.”

Davis worked hard with hitting coaches Eric Snider and Adam Vrable on improving his hitting mechanics, but he also studied up on the finer points of hitting and developed a much more mature approach heading into his sophomore year last spring.

“I think it’s just growing as a hitter, understanding how guys are gonna get me out and making adjustments,” Davis said. “Good hitters make adjustments between pitch to pitch, and not waiting for at-bats or games to go by, but doing what I need to do so when I step in the box I’m the most ready and prepared to compete I can be.”

That relentless drive to maximize his preparedness is a big part of what makes Davis special. McDonnell said when Davis and fellow All-American Alex Binelas arrived on campus as freshmen together, Binelas was ahead of him in a lot of developmental areas — in fact, Binelas was ahead of everybody.

“With Binelas it was like coaching a 25-year-old and he was 18, which was unusual. I remember sitting Binelas down and saying, ‘Hey man, you’re three steps ahead of these guys, and nobody wants to follow somebody who’s three steps ahead. How about taking a step back and letting these guys follow you?’ I remember him saying that fall of their sophomore year, ‘Coach, Henry Davis is there. Coach, Henry Davis is on board, man. This dude is all in.’”

Davis went on to race out to a .372/.481/.698 start in 43 at-bats before the season was canceled by the pandemic, and then he packed up and went back home to New York. But there was no way he was going to waste the down time. He viewed it as an opportunity to make himself better. What else could he do?

“First and foremost, I understood that nobody was gonna feel sorry for me,” Davis said. “Obviously it sucked having the year taken away, and things weren’t ideal with working out or whatnot, especially being in New York, but everybody was dealing with it. I chose not to make excuses; I worked out every day. Luckily I had my workout buddy with me in my little brother.”

Davis’ 17-year-old brother, Morgan, is a promising prospect in his own right, a 6-foot-5 pitcher who can run his heater into the 90s. And Morgan couldn’t have a better mentor than his older brother Henry, who relishes his role as a veteran leader for the Cardinals.

“I take a lot of pride in it because I always want to say the things I wish I heard as a freshman,” Davis said. “There are so many things it took me time to learn and it wasn’t always the easiest learning process, so if I can make it go a little bit smoother for them then I owe that to them.”

The combination of makeup, size, tools, production and defensive value give Davis a real chance to be the first college player drafted this summer. McDonnell thinks people sometimes overlook or even nitpick Davis’ defense because his bat is so good, but he’s fielding .994 with just two passed balls, and he’s thrown out 12 of 26 basestealers (46 percent).

“I think coming out of high school he was more known for the arm strength and the catcher skills,” McDonnell said. “I don’t want to say he’s done a 180, but sometimes the catcher skills aren’t getting enough respect because the bat has done so well. This guy’s not a stiff back there, I mean this is an athletic, intense, motivated guy with leadership skills. But he seems to get dogged a little bit because he’s trying to frame balls or he’s not catching a ball. He catches well, he’s athletic, he moves around, he’s got a bazooka for an arm. I think he’s staying behind the plate, he’s not going to third base or left field.”

“And he runs the bases. I’m not gonna say he’s as athletic as Will Smith, but it’s obviously a compliment to be mentioned in that category. Will was probably a little more athletic coming out of Louisville, but Henry’s a little farther along as a hitter.”

Davis leads all ACC hitters with a .389 average and a .508 OBP in conference play, to go along with seven homers and a .674 slugging percentage. And to McDonnell’s point, he’s even stolen 10 bases in 13 attempts on the season, showing just how well rounded a player he is, even though nobody will mistake him for a speed merchant. He runs well enough, and his baseball savvy helps him pick his spots effectively on the basepaths.

Davis is a complete player, and his future in pro ball is blindingly bright. But he’s focused on enjoying the rest of the ride at Louisville.

“These three years have flown by,” he said, “so I’m trying to take it all in, soak it in and enjoy this time I have, the memories I still have and plan to make the rest of this season.”

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Sinacola

GSA Spotlight: Driven Nick Sinacola Blossoms Into Ace For Maine

May 7, 2021
It was a frigid January afternoon in Massachusetts, with temperature gauges hovering at about 10 degrees and snow drifts covering more than two feet on the ground. Mike Hart, who is the baseball coach and a teacher at North Attleboro High School, left his classroom at about 4 p.m., only

It was a frigid January afternoon in Massachusetts, with temperature gauges hovering at about 10 degrees and snow drifts covering more than two feet on the ground.

Mike Hart, who is the baseball coach and a teacher at North Attleboro High School, left his classroom at about 4 p.m., only to discover a surprise in the parking lot.

It was one of his former players, Nick Sinacola, playing long toss in the school parking lot.

“Everywhere else was covered with snow,” Sinacola explained with a shrug.

If nothing else, that commitment to getting his work done goes a long way toward explaining why Sinacola has made himself into a pro prospect.

A 6-2, 190-pound junior righthander for the Maine Black Bears, Sinacola struggled for much of his first two years of college, posting a 6.81 ERA as a freshman and a 5.57 ERA last season.

He entered this year winless collegiately – a combined 0-5 record.

This year, Sinacola has been stunningly dominant, posting a 7-1 record with a 1.25 ERA and a .174 opponents' batting average. In 50.1 innings, he has struck out 96 batters and walked 15. Maine is 7-1 when he pitches and 8-13 when he sits.

So … how has Sinacola managed this amazing turnaround?

Part of it is that work ethic that manifested itself this past January in the North Attleboro parking lot. But part of it, too, is his ability to learn his craft, picking up tips from coaches as well as teammates.

This past summer, when most leagues were shut down, Sinacola was invited to compete for the Brockton Rox. While there, Sinacola got to talking to Boston College pitcher Joey Walsh.

“He throws a hard, wipeout slider,” Sinacola said. “I saw that, and I wanted to adjust my slider. My old grip was two seam, and I threw it 77-80 (mph).

“I slid my grip down to the horseshoe. I started to work on it, and now it’s my favorite pitch.”

Sinacola throws his new slider 81-84 mph, and Maine coach Nick Derba said his ace throws strikes with that pitch 70 percent of the time.

“It’s a pro-level breaking ball,” Derba said. “His fastball mostly sits 90-92. He needs to continue to work on fastball command, and he also throws a splitter, which can be an out pitch in time.”

Sinacola credits Derba with teaching him the splitter.

“My freshman year, I was throwing a bullpen session with Coach Derba,” Sinacola said. “He told me my changeup was not where it needed to be, and he said, ‘Let’s try a splitter.’

“It clicked right away.”  

Sinacola’s big hands make that splitter easier for him to throw and to make deceptive, but it’s that coachability that really bodes well for his future.

Derba, judging from what scouts have told him, believes Sinacola will get drafted this June between the third and ninth rounds.

Getting drafted anywhere would be the culmination of a dream for Sinacola, 21.

Sinacola was about 3 years old when he started following his sister, Marissa, onto her softball fields.

“He would cry until they let him on the field to take a swing,” said their mother, Alicia Sinacola, who is a nurse. “I’ve never had a hobby that I’ve loved as much as he loves baseball.”

Mike Sinacola, Nick’s father and a department of public health administrator, took his son to his first Red Sox game when the boy was 5. In youth leagues, it was not unusual for Sinacola to play as many as four games in one day – a doubleheader with the “A” team and a double dip with the “B” squad.

“When he got put on the ‘B’ team, he said: ‘I’m going to show them they made a mistake’,” Mike Sinacola said.

At age 14, Sinacola watched the MLB Draft with his father and remarked: “I want to hear my name called one day.”

While he waits for that big day, one of Sinacola’s biggest thrills in baseball so far came at the close of his senior season at North Attleboro, leading the Big Red to the first state title in program history. Sinacola threw a complete game – 105 pitches – scattering five hits in a 4-3 win over Beverly.

All three Beverly runs were unearned against Sinacola, who also scored twice, banged two singles and stole a base.

Not bad for a kid who didn’t make varsity until his junior year.

“We knew he had a live arm, but earlier in his career, he would get too deep into counts,” said Hart, who got married two days after winning that state title. “By the time Nick got on the varsity, he started trusting his stuff more, going after hitters instead of nitpicking.”

Sinacola, who threw one no-hitter in each of his two varsity seasons, was named The Boston Globe’s Division II Player of the Year as a senior in 2018. He went 10-0 that season, including 3-0 in the playoffs.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever met a kid who loves baseball as much as Nick,” Hart said. “He always keeps a glove and a ball in his car – just in case he gets a chance to play catch.”

Despite Sinacola’s skill and his passion for the game, he went undrafted out of high school and didn’t have much in the way of scholarship offers, choosing Maine over options in Division II and Division III.

However, in his collegiate debut at national power Florida State, Sinacola showed a glimpse of his talent. Entering the game in relief, Sinacola pitched five scoreless and hitless innings, striking out five and allowing just two walks.

“That was a great way to have my first outing,” Sinacola said. “It made me feel like I belong.”

Sinacola, who has a 3.6 grade-point average while majoring in Finance and minoring in Economics, has had some rough times, too. Maine, for example, finished its COVID-shortened 2020 season with a 1-12 record, the program’s fewest wins since posting an identical ledger way back in 1907.

But things are looking up this season, as long – apparently – as Sinacola continues with his superstition of eating a pepperoni and cheese sandwich the night before he pitches.

Other than that, the other key is for Sinacola to continue to learn his craft.

“Over the past year, I’ve been studying my own pitch sequencing,” Sinacola said, “just becoming a student of the game and getting my work done.”

Even if that work has to happen in 10-degree snowstorm weather.

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MikulskiGSA

GSA Spotlight: Matt Mikulski Turns Himself Into Dominant Street Fighter For Fordham

April 30, 2021
Look for the guy doing handstands just before his start. That is where you’ll find the pitcher who throws100 mph and leads D1 college baseball in ERA. He’s Fordham lefthander Matt Mikulski, who is 6-0, 0.92 in eight starts, and his ERA could be even lower had one of his fielders

Look for the guy doing handstands just before his start.

That is where you’ll find the pitcher who throws100 mph and leads D1 college baseball in ERA.

He’s Fordham lefthander Matt Mikulski, who is 6-0, 0.92 in eight starts, and his ERA could be even lower had one of his fielders not lost a ball in the sun against Delaware.

Mikulski’s pre-game routine includes cartwheels and handstands as well as vertical and lateral leaps, which are all designed to maintain his athleticism.

“I don’t know where he got all that from, but I just leave him alone,” Fordham coach Kevin Leighton said sheepishly. “I’ve never seen anything like it before, but hey, maybe it’ll start a new trend.”

Calisthenics aren’t the only things Mikulski does to prepare for a start. Mikulski, a big fan of mixed martial arts, borrows from MMA star Conor McGregor when it comes to mental and emotional approach.

Mikulski even wears a McGregor-esque hoodie at times while doing his pre-game stretches.

“Baseball is essentially my livelihood,” said Mikulski, who will turn 22 on May 18. “Anybody who steps into that batter’s box is trying to take away my livelihood. That’s the way I look at it.”

Fordham, one of the oldest college baseball programs in the nation with a history that dates to the 1850s, has had just one first-rounder so far – righthander Pete Harnisch, who was the 27th pick in the 1987 MLB Draft.

Harnisch, whose son Jack now plays second base for Fordham (18-12), was an MLB All-Star in 1991.

Mikulski dreams of reaching the MLB level. But for now, he’s dominating college baseball and has a shot at becoming Fordham’s second first-rounder when the draft begins on July 11.

In 48.2 innings this season, Mikulski has struck out 91 batters. He has allowed just 18 hits and 19 walks, and batters are hitting just .111 against him.

He ranks second in the nation in total strikeouts as well strikeouts per nine innings and fewest hits per game.

“Everything is there,” Leighton said when asked about Mikulski, the reigning Atlantic 10 Conference Pitcher of the Week after striking out 15 Saint Joseph’s batters on Saturday. “He has the frame (6-4, 205 pounds). He has the work ethic. He has a legit four-pitch mix. He is around the zone. He has an upper-90s fastball, and he is putting up serious numbers.

“It’s all there.”

How It Began

Mikulski is from Mohegan Lake, New York, about 50 miles from Fordham’s Bronx campus.

The youngest of two brothers, Mikulski played four sports growing up, including quarterback in football as well as lacrosse and basketball.

“I was throwing him a ball since he was in diapers,” said his father, Dennis Mikulski, who played outside linebacker and H-back at Division III SUNY Albany.

Sheila Sheridan, Mikulski’s mother, said her son was talented in all four sports.

“If there were conflicts, he would agonize,” she said. “He would say, ‘Mom, you don’t understand.’ He didn’t want to let anyone down.

“I don’t remember the kid missing a practice, even if he wasn’t feeling good.”

Even so, by the time he entered high school, Mikulski had dropped the other three sports to focus on baseball.

“It was against my DNA to pull Matthew out of football,” his father said, “but it was the right call.”

A pitcher since age 8, Mikulski was a late bloomer physically. He was 5-8 and 175 pounds as a high school freshman and about 5-11 and 190 upon entering Fordham.

Leighton, though, liked Mikulski’s arm action and breaking ball.

“We tried to move on him early,” Leighton said of Mikulski, who was drawing interest from Villanova, St. John’s and Stony Brook. “Most of the guys we get at Fordham are not ‘can’t miss’ prospects. They are guys who come here, work hard and develop.

“Matt was throwing 83-84 when we offered him some scholarship money. I would be lying if I said we knew at that time Matt would become a superstar.”

Mikulski grew while in college – physically and also in his knowledge of pitching.

As a freshman in 2018, Mikulski went 4-5 with a 5.18 ERA in 12 games, including seven relief appearances.

“I was the only lefty on the team, and I got put in some tough situations,” said Mikulski, who struck out 41 batters in 41.2 innings that year. “But I learned.”

As a sophomore, Mikulski improved, going 6-6 with a 4.06 ERA in 18 appearances, including 14 starts. He pitched 5.1 scoreless innings in the Atlantic 10 championship game that year. Fordham went on to win that game, 4-3, in a 12-inning walk-off victory. It was Fordham’s second-ever A-10 tournament championship and its first since 1998.

A Breakthrough

That summer, Mikulski pitched in the Cape Cod League, boosting his confidence.

For the 2020 season, Leighton brought in Elliot Glynn as Fordham’s new pitching coach. Glynn, a former lefthander for UConn and in the Milwaukee Brewers chain, made an immediate connection with Mikulski.

The two lefties “spoke the same language”, Glynn said,

From watching film, Glynn noticed that Mikulski “ran hot” at times with his emotions. When things started to go wrong, he would overthrow, leading to walks and big innings.

Glynn got Mikulski to slow the game down in those instances, focusing on his breathing, and the instruction worked. As a junior, Mikulski went 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA in four starts with 18 strikeouts in 21 innings before COVID canceled the rest of the season.

During the 2020 MLB Draft, Mikulski said he got calls during the fourth and fifth rounds, but the financial offers were not substantial enough. At one point, his father asked if it would be prudent to take an undervalued bonus and just start his minor league career.

But Mikulski held firm.

“I was listening to my intuition and my gut,” said Mikulski, who is on pace to graduate this summer with a degree in Communications & Culture. “I felt I was slighted. That happens in the draft.

“I told my dad, ‘I’m going to go back to school and prove people wrong.’”

Once that decision was made, the next key, Glynn thought, was to improve Mikulski’s ability to generate swings and misses. Glynn encouraged Mikulski to experiment in the offseason.

That’s exactly what Mikulski did during the long COVID hiatus. He met with two of his friends, Anthony Fava, now the hitting coach for Iona; and Jonathan de Marte, a former minor league pitcher.

Working at The Training Zone, a New York facility owned by former East Carolina pitcher Mike Anderson, the guys took a critical look at each of Mikulski’s pitches.

“That summer, I asked (Fava and de Marte) what I could do to separate from the pack,” Mikulski said. “They said, ‘Check out (major leaguers) Robbie Ray and Lucas Giolito. They have gone to a shorter arm action, and they are throwing way harder.’

“It was a good adjustment. It reminded me of the arm action from when I played quarterback.”

Pitching With Purpose

The new delivery took about six weeks to implement, starting right after the 2020 draft. Mikulski debuted the new version of himself at a tournament in August, and he hit 97 mph for the first time in his life.

The family’s running joke is that no one outside of the people who run Amazon benefitted more from COVID than Mikulski did last year.

But even after a great summer, there was more work to do once he arrived at Fordham for the fall. That’s when Glynn made a tweak, getting Mikulski to hide the ball better.

“When we filmed it from behind the catcher, you could see the ball coming out of my glove the whole time,” Mikulski said. “We just turned my shoulders a little bit and the rest is history.”

Glynn said Mikulski deserves massive credit for the improvements.

“You can’t see the ball now until it’s out of his hand,” Glynn said. “He made 99 percent of these adjustments on his own.

“Guys who are invested in their own careers – those are the ones you want in your organization.”

But there’s more to Mikulski than just the physical dominance. There’s a sentimental side, too.

Before each start, Mikulski writes the following letters in the dirt behind the mound:

“RIP NGSE”

The meaning behind it is to honor some of the people in his life that he has lost. RIP, of course, is for Rest in Peace. The N is for “Nanny”, his maternal grandmother Kate Dunn, who passed away this past year on the eve of Thanksgiving. The G is for Andrew Gurgitano, a lefty pitcher and summer-league teammate who died of a seizure. S is for Sandra Mikulski, his paternal grandmother. And E is for his mom’s sister, Eileen Sheridan.

“I like to think they watch over me,” Mikulski said. “Losing them has shown me that life is precious, and it can be taken away in an instant.”

Building An Arsenal

Mikulski has destroyed opponents this year with four pitches: four-seam fastball, slider, changeup, curve.

His fastball sits 94-97 and touched 100 for the first time against Delaware on March 27, and he holds his velocity.

“He’ll see the finish line,” Glynn said. “His velo will be the same or a tick higher in late innings.”

Mikulski’s slider is thrown 86-88. It looks like a fastball initially but then disappears off the plate.

His changeup is his most improved pitch. Hitters this year are 1-for-19 with 15 strikeouts against that changeup, and 14 of those punchouts are against righthanded batters.

“He throws it with the same spin as his fastball, and he gets a ton of bad swings,” Glynn said.

The curve is thrown 76-77.

“If he gets that over,” Glynn said, “it’s impossible for hitters to cover that and a 96-97 fastball.”

This year, Mikulski is throwing his fastball 63 percent of the time, while mixing in his changeup (15 percent), slider (14 percent) and curve (8 percent). The biggest difference from his first three years is an increased reliance on the changeup, which is up from eight percent; and fewer curveballs (down from 13 percent).

Righthanded hitters batted .272, .251 and .237 against him for his first three years, but they are flailing with a .124 batting average this season.

Lefty hitters batted .234 and .184 his first two years. Last year, lefty hitters were rarely used against him (1-for-3). This year, lefties are hitting .061 against him.

Glynn and Leighton both believe Mikulski will be a first-round pick.

Mikulski is not one to disagree.

“I feel there’s no other lefthander in the draft better than me,” Mikulski said.

The only apparent knock against Mikulski is that he’s dominating at a mid-major as opposed to the Power Five level.

Mikulski scoffs at that notion.

“It doesn’t matter the name on the chest,” he said. “My stuff plays anywhere.”

Mikulski believes he’s the perpetual underdog.

“My whole life,” he said, “I’ve been overlooked.”

That perception may soon change.

Mikulski points to his most recent start against St. Joe’s as a sign of growth. He gave up a solo homer in the sixth inning.

In the past, that negative result might have snowballed on him.

Not now.

“I struck out the side after that homer,” Mikulski said. “I have a way better response now.

“I’m like an MMA fighter. I just keep coming.”

 

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Cowser

GSA Spotlight: Colton Cowser's Five-Tool Talent Shines For Sam Houston

April 23, 2021
First-round draft prospect Colton Cowser is good with wood. Last year, when COVID shut down just about everything, Cowser got into woodworking. His crown jewel was a gun cabinet that took him one week to build from scratch, working with a buddy from high school. In a sense, Cowser has

First-round draft prospect Colton Cowser is good with wood.

Last year, when COVID shut down just about everything, Cowser got into woodworking. His crown jewel was a gun cabinet that took him one week to build from scratch, working with a buddy from high school.

In a sense, Cowser has constructed his baseball career in a similar from-the-ground-up fashion. He went undrafted out of high school and had just one scholarship offer – from the Sam Houston Bearkats – which he accepted.

Cowser had the raw materials from which to become a prospect – good height at 6-3 and an ability to hit. But he was skinny and unpolished. Going from where he was when he graduated high school in 2018 to now at age 21 has taken a tremendous amount of sweat.

He has put in the work, chipping away at what were once weaknesses until he can now put some big numbers on display, including a .352/494/.696 slash line, 12 homers, 38 runs scored and 31 RBIs in 35 games. He is tied for fifth in the nation in homers, and he ranks first in the Southland Conference in long balls and runs scored.

“He has always had power potential, but this is happening sooner than most of us thought,” Bearkats hitting coach Shane Wedd said of Cowser, who now weighs 200 pounds with room to get to 225. “I thought this might happen later in his 20s, when he physically matured in pro ball.

“But he’s worked really hard in the weight room. He’s selective at the plate but aggressive when he needs to be.”

In the latest D1Baseball Top 100 college prospects list, Cowser ranks No. 6, making him a strong candidate for the top half of the first round. If that projection comes true, it would be a program record. As it stands, ex-major-league outfielder Glenn Wilson holds the Bearkats record for earliest draft selection, going 18th in 1977.

Cowser likely gets his athleticism from his mother, Anna, who played soccer at Texas A&M. She and Cowser’s dad, Dale, are both former high school soccer coaches.

Soccer wasn’t for Cowser, however. The only other sport he flirted with in high school was football, playing safety, outside linebacker and long-snapper through his sophomore year.

But baseball was his true love. Playing for Houston-area power Cypress Ranch, Cowser made All-State as a senior, batting .411 with 30 steals and 38 RBIs as he helped lead his school to the Class 6A state semifinals and a 32-8-2 record.

Bearkats coach Jay Sirianni was thrilled to sign Cowser, who bats left and throws right.

“He had come to one of our hitting camps, and we liked him,” Sirianni said. “He didn’t mishit balls. The barrel of his bat always found the ball, and we jumped all in on him.”

It helped that the Sam Houston campus is just 65 miles away from his home. It also helped that Cowser’s father went to school at Sam Houston.

Then again, Cowser didn’t have another viable option.

“Teams weren’t that high on me at the time, and I knew I had a lot of development I needed,” Cowser said. “I knew I could hit. But if I were going to take my game to the (pro) level, I had to go to college.

“Sam Houston is just one hour from home, and it was important to me that my family was able to come to my games. I also felt I had a good chance to play as a freshman and make an impact (at Sam Houston).”

Sure enough, Cowser became an immediate starter as a freshman in 2019, batting .361 with seven homers, 54 RBIs and nine steals in 56 games.

Following his freshman season, he made the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, earning MVP honors after hitting .438 in the Cuba Friendship Series.

“He tasted success that year, and he came back to us that fall even hungrier,” Sirianni said. “Playing with Team USA, he faced good pitching every night. His confidence soared.”

Last year, in the COVID-shortened season, Cowser hit just .256 with one homer in 14 games.

This year, Cowser has made improvements across the board, including a .494 on-base percentage and a .696 slugging percentage. With his added power, he has turned some of the doubles he used to get as a freshman and sophomore into homers.

Hitting has always been Cowser’s forte, but he is a much better athlete than some casual observers may realize. Cowser has stolen 12 bases in 14 attempts this year, for example.

Defensively, he has moved from the corners — which is where he played in high school and through his freshman season at Sam Houston — to center field, where he has four assists and only two errors this season.

“He has a good feel for reading swings,” Wedd said. “He knows what pitch is coming, and he gets good jumps, takes good angles. After one time through the batting order (to learn the hitters), he takes charge.”

And while Cowser has yet to scale a fence to steal a would-be homer as a collegian, the potential is there due to his impressive 38.5-inch vertical leap.

“The kid can jump,” Bearkats catcher Gavin Johnson said.

Cowser has also strengthened his throwing ability.

“I’ve put myself in good position to be a five-tool player if I’m not already,” Cowser said when asked about his all-around athleticism. “We had such a long offseason — about eight months. I took advantage of that time. I got into a long-toss program, took care of my arm, and those things stacked up.”

Sirianni said Cowser has not let the pressure of the upcoming draft get to him.

“That kid never has a bad day,” Sirianni said of Cowser. “It’s refreshing to see a kid who has a lot on his shoulders still come be-bopping in here with a big smile on his face every day.”

As a hitter, Sirianni said Cowser likes the ball more elevated than most lefties, which is a nuance scouts are learning about him.

“I have a good relationship with area scouts and crosscheckers,” Sirianni said. “Some of them say Colton will go really high in the draft, and then there are some doubters. But Colton is comfortable that he will fall where he will fall.”

The son of two educators — including his father who is the assistant principal at Cy Ranch — Cowser has a 3.8 grade-point average and is on schedule to graduate in just three years.

Cowser is majoring in construction management and has an interest in one day building custom homes, which should come naturally to him.

After all, he has already carved out the start of an impressive baseball career.

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LeeGSA

GSA Spotlight: Rare Baseball Mind Makes Cal Poly’s Brooks Lee Special

April 16, 2021
Brooks Lee was sitting in a two-hour freshman sociology class on a Monday morning. He wore a different expression on his face than the big smile he had a day earlier when he stood at second base following the first hit of his collegiate career, a pinch-hit two-run double for

Brooks Lee was sitting in a two-hour freshman sociology class on a Monday morning. He wore a different expression on his face than the big smile he had a day earlier when he stood at second base following the first hit of his collegiate career, a pinch-hit two-run double for Cal Poly against Baylor.

He was bored and antsy, so he texted his father, Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee. Brooks wasn’t looking for advice or asking dad for some extra spending money to be deposited in his account. Brooks was looking for a login and asking his father for the password to Larry’s Synergy Sports account where college baseball coaches can access video of prior games.

Ninety minutes later, Brooks arrived at Baggett Stadium, a place that has brightened his mood since he was in diapers coming to watch his father’s teams play. He stopped by his dad’s office before going to get some individual work. Larry asked about Brooks’ mid-lecture request. Was he watching his lone highlight, basking in the excitement of returning to the field? He couldn’t be blamed if so, after four and a half months of rehab following knee reconstruction surgery.

But Brooks wasn’t looking back. He was actually looking forward to the upcoming weekend’s four-game series against Oklahoma, when he was slated to move into the starting lineup for the first time.

“After class he comes in and he broke down all four starters for Oklahoma,” Larry said. “I just started laughing and he was spot on. That’s just what he does.”

Brooks’ personal scouting report on Sooners’ aces Cade Cavalli and Dane Acker is quickly rattled off when the story is separately brought up to him. He comments about the velocity he was expecting to face from Cavalli in his first college start and mentions Acker had thrown a no-hitter just a couple weeks prior. “Or was it a perfect game?” he questions himself as he’s quick to tag the game was played in Minute Maid Park. (Acker no-hit LSU, allowing a walk and two hit batsmen.)

Brooks has a baseball brain. Combined with his physical attributes, including the 20-25 pounds of muscle he’s added since arriving on campus and the razor whip wrist action he creates with each swing, it’s why he was named to the Golden Spikes midseason watch list on Wednesday.

His brain is wired to assess velocity, movement and spin rather than the study of social issues; launch angle and trajectory over social theories. (Though, Brooks points out he also did well in the class and that Larry has always been on him about grades, including a 12:30 a.m. text telling him to stay on top of his school work when Cal Poly arrived back on campus Sunday after splitting a four-game series at Long Beach State.) While a freshman 101 lecture is a bore, watching hours of opposing pitchers’ video or breaking down still images of swings has always been fun for Brooks. The walls of his childhood bedroom at the Lee household are remain smothered with photos of Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran and other major league hitters.

“Even when he was really young like 8 or 9 years old, he could break down video,” Larry said with a chuckle. “And there were some things that were said that just, I knew he was on the right track and had the ability to do that.”

Larry doesn’t take offense and the coaching staff doesn’t stop Brooks when he jumps in the pregame meeting with the Cal Poly hitters to give his thoughts and insights from what he’s seen on film from the opposing starting pitcher and relievers they may face. He’s only a (second-year) freshman, but his Mustangs’ teammates respect his opinion and value his perspective.

“He always joins in like he’s one of the coaches,” Larry said. “He says this is what he sees, this is probably how we should approach this pitcher. He really thinks the game and he wants to be prepared. He wants to have a very precise approach, but he also has the ability once the game starts to adjust that approach.”

Brooks was forced to make some big adjustments his first year on campus. A freak injury in the fall put his season in jeopardy. During the second week of practice, he slipped coming out of the box running to first base on a groundout. As he tried to get his feet underneath him, he hyperextended his knee. The lateral collateral ligament in his knee and his biceps femoris hamstring muscle both snapped. He also broke off a small piece of the fibular head where the fibula attaches to the knee. Doctors told Brooks there had only been 20 reported cases of a similar injury in the last 50 years. He had surgery on Halloween and was determined to work even harder to get back as soon as possible. 

“As bad as it sounds, I feel like I actually got better because of it,” Brooks said. “I completely changed my body and I’m thankful for it now for sure.”

He was able to use the first month of the season as a preview for when he was cleared. He felt ready for the speed of the game, the repertoire of the pitchers and everything else that was going to be thrown at him despite returning more than two months earlier than the doctors anticipated. He got a pair of pinch-hit opportunities against Baylor and was preparing for his first start at shortstop against the Sooners. 

The day the series was supposed to begin Brooks, like the rest of the college baseball world, was forced to adjust on the fly once more. The season was canceled due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. It was disappointing for the entire sport, but the timing was devastating for Brooks after all the work he had put in to return in 2020. He called it a “heartbreaker,” but ever the optimist, he also saw it as an opportunity to have more time to get himself ready for the 2021 season.

Lee was able to go play summer ball in Minnesota for the Willmar Stingers, where he answered any questions about his talent and the big high school numbers he had produced in a weak league (.437/.487/.630 with 78 R, 78 RBI and only 22 K in 328 plate appearances over three seasons). He was one of the top hitters in the Northwoods League, batting .345 with seven doubles, four homers and 35 RBIs in 36 games. He had a 19-game hitting streak and finished top 10 in several offensive categories.

His confidence grew even more, especially after the switch-hitter batted around .400 from the right side — where he had grown so frustrated during the early stages of quarantine he told his dad he didn’t want to swing righthanded any more.

“My dad just told me to stay with it and that’s what I did,” Brooks said. “It’s not fun when you’re not doing good on one side, but in the end, I think it’s more important to stick with it because it allows you to have more success. 

“It’s way harder to hit right on right or left on left and I never want to do it ever. I just try and stick with it, and when someone wants me to stop hitting righthanded or lefthanded, I’m going to tell them no because my dad told me not to.”

One of the hardest parts of being a switch-hitter has been getting opportunities to swing righthanded. Lefthanded pitchers were rare in high school. That’s been the case with the starting pitchers Cal Poly has faced this season too. The Mustangs have faced only four southpaw starters in 26 games this season, including Long Beach State lefty Alfredo Ruiz on Saturday. Ruiz kept Lee in check, getting him to fly out three times, but Dirtbags head coach Eric Valenzuela never felt comfortable when Lee was sauntering to the plate.

“His numbers say he’s a better lefthand hitter than righthanded, but man, he was as dangerous righthanded as well. Tough AB. He really is,” said Valenzuela, who added they were able to get him to pull off the ball with an approach early in the series, but Lee soon made an adjustment. “Other than that, he hit everything.”

Lee went 6 for 15, reaching base two other times on a walk and a hit by pitch. He had a double in each game, pushing his doubles streak to six games while moving into double digits with his hit streak. He finished the weekend with a .400/.471/.667 slash line and drove in three runs.

For Valenzuela, the damage could have been worse: “There were a couple misses that he had that were like to the fence that we threw good pitches. He’s pretty damn special.”

The scarier part for opposing coaches and pitchers? Lee doesn’t even feel like he’s in the zone right now. The first four weeks of the season, he hit .440 with four home runs, including two off Pac-12 pitching as he notched multi-hit performances in five of six matchups with USC and UCLA.

“For whatever reason, I was just in a flow state from the start of the season till about the fourth week. The ball looks big. You can see spin and you feel like you’re never off balance. Sometimes you just feel like you know the pitch before it’s coming. I swear. It’s the weirdest feeling,” Lee said. “That’s kind of when I knew that I could do some more things in the game than what I’ve been able to do earlier in my career.”

Lee has flashed power in batting practice and in showcase events in high school, but that’s not something he ever focused on in games. Instead, he just sprayed rockets all over the yard from foul line to foul line from either side of the plate. He tried to hit low line drives and said occasionally he would get under one or out in front a little bit leading to a ball sailing over the fence. 

But Lee now has more strength after spending his time in the weight room when he was unable to play his freshman year. A slender 6-foot-3, 180 pounds when he first really opened eyes and turned heads at the Area Code Games by collecting knock after knock — including lining the only base hit against Jack Leiter, who proceeded to strike out the next five batters he faced — Lee is now a thick 205 pounds. More than the strength element, Lee feels he’s tapped into additional power because his swing has become even more fluid. He is standing taller in the box and wielding the bat with even better command.

“I just feel like it’s a pure swing now, lefthanded especially,” Lee said. “Everything flows very fluidly. That’s kind of what led me to hitting offspeed pitches for power and then going to the opposite field.”

He’s hitting fewer singles than ever while still producing a high batting average. He’s got more extra-base hits than single-base hits. He is second in the Big West with six home runs. He is second in the nation with 15 doubles and he’s chipped in a pair of triples as well. Lee leads the Big West in RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases. He’s tied for the lead in sacrifice flies and he’s third in the conference in runs scored.

And yet what stands out most to those around him is what he does for everyone else.

“I can’t speak more highly of this kid,” Cal Poly pitching coach Jake Silverman said. “He’s really good. Everyone knows that, but he works so hard, and he’s so smart, and he makes everyone around him now much better.”

Silverman has been around first rounders Christian Colon, Gary Brown and Jeff Gelalich along with major leaguers Khris Davis, Pat Valaika and Kevin Kramer among others while coaching at Cal State Fullerton and UCLA. Still, he says Lee is top three, if not the best player he’s been around. 

“Brooks just his presence and his communication and leadership ability, whether you’re a pitcher or a hitter, you’re better with him around you,” Silverman said. 

“I just want to try and get everybody as best as they can and if something needs to be said, I’ll say it,” Lee said. “I just try and put all the knowledge I can that I’ve learned mostly from [Larry] to our players. It’s a different feeling when you have like a peer say something to you rather than a coach because a coach just says the same thing over and over. I try and put it into better words, as a captain, but it’s a real cool feeling just to give my knowledge to some of the other players.”

Not only is Lee studying film of opposing pitchers and relaying the information he takes away to the Cal Poly batters. He also will pass along information about the Mustangs’ pitchers to Silverman between innings during a game. Lee will let him know what he sees from his shortstop position, like when a pitcher’s slider may not be as sharp or a fastball has more late life than usual. He’s not dissecting mechanics in the middle of his defensive approach step as a pitch is being delivered, but his feedback gives Silverman more data points to then craft subtle in-game adjustments or go in a different direction with his pitch calling.

What makes Lee’s observations so reliable?  The amount of college baseball he’s already witnessed at the age of 20 and all the countless hours of video he’s pored over dating back to when he was eight or nine years old. He’s been watching and facing college pitchers for years now. He started taking live batting practice and filling in defensively at his father’s practices when he was in seventh grade.

“I’ve just seen so much baseball from this level like as a young kid and over and over,” he said. “I just had a real long time to look at pitchers and then we used to use Dartfish, which is like an extremely old [motion-capture] computer program for pitching and stuff like that. We would go over that when we were in the old clubhouse when I was a kid. 

“Video has basically been the thing for me all along because I feel like if I look at video long enough, it just gets cemented into my brain and people with the same repeatable delivery as another pitcher that I’ve already seen, you can think of what the aspects of their pitching repertoire is going to be like.”

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
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USA Baseball Unveils 2021 Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List

The 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be presented in July
April 14, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball unveiled today the 2021 Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list, moving closer to naming the top amateur baseball player in the country. The winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be announced in July. The midseason watch list features 45 of the nation's top

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball unveiled today the 2021 Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list, moving closer to naming the top amateur baseball player in the country. The winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be announced in July.

The midseason watch list features 45 of the nation's top amateur players from the high school and college ranks and includes 34 athletes who have played their way onto the watch list since the preseason list was announced on February 18. The Golden Spikes Award Advisory Board will continue to maintain a rolling list of athletes, allowing players to play themselves into consideration for the award before announcing the semifinalists on June 8.

“We are happy to recognize forty-five amateur athletes on the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list who put together stellar performances throughout the first half of the season,” said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball’s Executive Director and CEO. “Each of these athletes have proven themselves worthy of consideration for this prestigious award and we cannot wait to watch the rest of this exciting season unfold before announcing our semifinalists in June.” 

The watch list is headlined by Adrian Del Castillo (Miami) and Kumar Rocker (Vanderbilt), who both appeared on two consecutive preseason watch lists in 2020 and 2021. Additionally, Kenyon Yovan (Oregon) was named to the 2021 midseason watch list as a hitter after appearing on the preseason list in 2019 as a pitcher.

Vanderbilt University leads all 40 schools represented with three athletes on the 2021 midseason watch list while Arizona, Mississippi State, and Texas Tech each placed two athletes on the list.

In total, 17 different NCAA conferences have at least one athlete on the list. The Southeastern Conference leads all conferences represented on the midseason watch list with nine athletes, while seven players represent the Atlantic Coast Conference and five hail from the Big 12 Conference.

One National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and two high school athletes are on the midseason watch list in 2021 and will look to join Alex Fernandez (1990) and Bryce Harper (2010) as a Golden Spikes Award winner who claimed their respective trophies as a non-NCAA Division I athlete. Luis Vargas (Wayland Baptist) represents the NAIA on the list while Brady House (Winder-Barrow High School) and Jordan Lawlar (Dallas Jesuit High School) are the only high school baseball players recognized by the advisory board on the midseason watch list in 2021.

Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman took home the prestigious award most recently in 2019, joining a group of recent winners that include Andrew Vaughn (2018), Brendan McKay (2017), Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).

On Tuesday, June 8, USA Baseball will announce the semifinalists for the 2021 Golden Spikes Award. The list of semifinalists will then be sent to a voting body consisting of baseball media members, select professional baseball personnel, current USA Baseball staff and the previous winners of the award, representing a group of more than 200 voters. As part of this selection process, all voters will be asked to choose three players from the list of semifinalists. On June 24, USA Baseball will announce the finalists, and voting for the winner will begin that same day.

Fan voting will once again be a part of the Golden Spikes Award in 2021. Beginning with the semifinalist announcement and continuing through the finalist round voting deadline, fans from across the country will be able to vote for their favorite player on GoldenSpikesAward.com. 

The winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be named in July. To stay up-to-date on the 2021 Golden Spikes Award visit GoldenSpikesAward.com and follow @USAGoldenSpikes on Twitter and Instagram. 

  • The 2021 Golden Spikes Award timeline:
  • June 8: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists announced, voting begins
  • June 15: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists voting ends
  • June 24: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists announced, voting begins
  • July 2: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists voting ends
  • July: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award trophy presentation
  • A complete list of the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list is as follows:

    • Name, Position, School, Conference
    • Luke Albright; RHP; Kent State; MAC
    • Spencer Arrighetti; RHP; Louisiana; Sun Belt
    • Sam Bachman; RHP; Miami (OH); Mid-American
    • Dru Baker; UTL; Texas Tech; Big 12
    • Will Bednar; RHP; Mississippi State; Southeastern
    • Jacob Berry; INF; Arizona; Pac-12
    • Mason Black; RHP; Lehigh; Patriot
    • Branden Boissiere; INF; Arizona; Pac-12
    • Rodney Boone; RHP; UC Santa Barbara; Big West
    • Justin Campbell; RHP/1B; Oklahoma State; Big 12
    • Wes Clarke; 1B; South Carolina; Southeastern
    • Dylan Crews; OF; LSU; Southeastern
    • Henry Davis; C; Louisville; Atlantic Coast
    • Adrian Del Castillo; C; Miami; Atlantic Coast
    • Jaden Fein; OF; San Diego State; Mountain West
    • Sal Frelick; OF; Boston College; Atlantic Coast
    • Colton Gordon; LHP; UCF; American
    • Caden Grice; 1B; Clemson; Atlantic Coast
    • Geremy Guerrero; LHP; Indiana State; Missouri Valley
    • Steve Hajjar; LHP; Michigan; Big 10
    • Dominic Hamel; RHP; Dallas Baptist; Missouri Valley
    • Tyler Hardman; INF; Oklahoma; Big 12
    • Brady House; SS; Winder-Barrow
    • Jace Jung; INF; Texas Tech; Big 12
    • Niko Kavadas; INF; Notre Dame; Atlantic Coast
    • Dominic Keegan; UTL; Vanderbilt; Southeastern
    • Austin Knight; INF; Charlotte; C-USA
    • Jordan Lawlar; SS; Dallas Jesuit
    • Brooks Lee; SS; Cal Poly; Big West
    • Jack Leiter; RHP; Vanderbilt; Southeastern
    • Tommy Mace; RHP; Florida; Southeastern
    • Ty Madden; RHP; Texas; Big 12
    • Jordan Marks; RHP; USC Upstate; Big South
    • Parker Messick; LHP; Florida State; Atlantic Coast
    • Matt Mikulski; LHP; Fordham; Atlantic 10
    • Connor Norby; INF; ECU; American
    • Kevin Parada; C; Georgia Tech; Atlantic Coast
    • Zack Raabe; 2B; Minnesota; Big 10
    • Kumar Rocker; RHP; Vanderbilt; Southeastern
    • Landon Sims; RHP; Mississippi State; Southeastern
    • Nick Sinacola; RHP; Maine; America East
    • Liam Spence; INF; Tennessee; Southeastern
    • Andrew Taylor; RHP; Central Michigan; MAC
    • Luis Vargas; OF; Wayland Baptist; Sooner Athletic
    • Kenyon Yovan; INF; Oregon; Pac-12
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GSA Spotlight: Vandy’s Leiter Proving To Be One Of A Kind

April 9, 2021
Just a few starts into his second-year freshman campaign, Vanderbilt righthander Jack Leiter is already the premier starting pitcher in college baseball. Leiter, a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder, put together a fine freshman campaign before the 2020 season came to an end. He tallied a 1.92 ERA in 15.2 innings of work,

Just a few starts into his second-year freshman campaign, Vanderbilt righthander Jack Leiter is already the premier starting pitcher in college baseball.

Leiter, a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder, put together a fine freshman campaign before the 2020 season came to an end. He tallied a 1.92 ERA in 15.2 innings of work, along with 22 strikeouts and eight walks. Teams hit him at a .098 clip. He did not make an SEC start.

Coming into this season, we were sky high on Leiter’s overall stuff and his potential. But there were some naysayers out there. They said let’s tap the brakes until Leiter actually goes head-to-head with one of the premier lineups in the Southeastern Conference.

Well, Leiter rose to the occasion and showed unbridled potential in his first-ever SEC start against South Carolina. He made history. He struck out 16 batters in the complete game performance. And the only thing separating him from a no-hitter and a perfect game? A walk to the leadoff hitter in the first inning. It was that close.

Leiter did not slow down after the South Carolina start. If anything, his dominance continued at the same rate. A week later at Missouri, he struck out 10, walked two and once again didn’t allow a hit in seven innings of work. For anyone who watched the game, was there any doubt that he would’ve thrown a second straight no-hitter had Vandy head coach Tim Corbin not done the responsible thing and taken him out of the game after 101 pitches?


 The Leit Show hit the road last weekend to Baton Rouge to face an LSU team with its back against the wall. And perhaps no single inning could encapsulate Leiter’s maturity, demeanor and overall stuff better than his first inning against LSU.

Riding a 16-inning no-hit streak in SEC play entering the game against LSU, the Tigers appeared to have Leiter potentially on the ropes in the first inning. The righty struck out talented LSU freshman Tre Morgan on a 97 mph heater to start the game, but the second hitter reached base via an error and they loaded the bases after a pair of walks.

Leiter went to work. He struck out Cade Doughty on a filthy slider for the second out, and he escaped the jam by striking out Cade Beloso on a 95 mph heater. There was no celebration or fist pumping. Leiter casually walked off the field like a true professional. After all, he expected that result. His no-hit streak reached 20 innings in that game before LSU finally got a hit to leadoff the fifth inning.

He’s that good, and his overall numbers just reinforce that feeling. For the season, Leiter has a 0.43 ERA in 42 innings, along with 71 strikeouts and 16 walks. Teams are hitting him at a ridiculously low .074 clip. His marks in the strikeout and OBA categories rank No. 1 in Division I Baseball.

“I think that’s where he kind of separates himself among a lot of people — just the maturity he has in everything that he does,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “Whether it’s in the actual classroom, or our classroom, he’s always locked in. He’s not one of those guys you ever see yawning — he’s always upright and he’s always on every word that you’re saying.

“He’s a Dean’s List type of student. You go into his locker and everything is very, very detailed,” he added. “He’s got a mental organization and maturity. I think that has a lot to do with the fact he grew up with three sisters, is a good brother and has a very intelligent mom with a great disposition about her. And they’ve certainly lived the baseball life with his dad.

“He’s just very settled into what he’s doing out there,” he added. “He’s got a very good routine and he’s just very organized when he gets to the ballpark. Jack is a baseball player first, then a pitcher. And I think Al [Leiter] should take some credit for that. He taught his kid how to pitch before he taught his kid how to throw. There’s definitely an aptitude for pitching that supersedes arm strength.”

Corbin recalled when the Commodores were recruiting Leiter early in his high school career. Though Leiter will comfortably sit in the 93-96 and up to 97 mph range with his fastball these days, that wasn’t always the case. He vividly remembers Jack having such incredible poise and command, but also sitting in the upper-80s with his fastball at times in high school career. 

“When we committed him in high school, he definitely wasn’t some ultra-high velocity guy,” He threw really, really well, but he wasn’t then what he is today. I’m not saying we made him throw hard at all, but we committed him on his instincts, maturity and projection.”

His dad, Al Leiter, also reflected on some old high school memories where his son just seemed to have ‘it’ while on the mound.

He recalled a moment when Jack was taking part in USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars. Leiter was going against guys like Riley Greene, Bobby Witt and some others. And he more than held his own and made the team. Later that summer, Jack got the ball against Panama in the Pan Am Games with a crowd — as you might expect — that was boisterous and certainly home-team heavy.

Leiter dealt. He held his own yet again. He showed maturity beyond his years, just as he has with the Commodores through seven starts this spring.

“I kind of saw that early on with Jack — just his overall temperament,” Al Leiter said. “He’s facing guys like Witt and Greene, and then when they go down to the Pan Am games, they determined he was the one who was going to pitch in the Gold Medal game against host Panama. The crowd was crazy as can be, and he absolutely nailed it. They played really well, and just watching him, he was calm and cool. He’s got that cool presence about him with some strong inner aggression.

“The temperament has always been there with Jack. He’s much calmer and cooler than I was. I was a hair on fire get mad type of pitcher, and I was a little crazy out there at times. That probably played against me at times. For Jack, the mental part was there, it was all about just staying sound mechanically. He was always pretty sound, but in this sport, you’re always tweaking and trying to clean some things up. It was always interesting to think about how much bigger and stronger he’d get, because that would equate to velocity.”

Jack Leiter might already be the total package, but staying humble is in his DNA. 


Al Leiter will never forget a moment he experienced early in his career during a stint with the New York Yankees.

He was a younger pitcher who was still enamored with the idea of playing with guys like Don Mattingly. But one day, Leiter was walking around the field before a game and noticed that Mattingly looked frustrated and bummed out. Sure, Mattingly wasn’t playing up to his personal standards at the time, but at the end of the day, Leiter said he just thought to himself ‘That’s Donny freakin’ Baseball, how could he possibly be bummed out?’. Leiter said he looked at Mattingly all confused as to how he could be so disappointed.

Mattingly’s response not only stayed with Al for the remainder of his successful big league career, but also has been carried down to Jack, his son.

“I learned something very early when I got into the big league,” Al Leiter said. “Don Mattingly had been struggling, and I was a young, goofy lefthanded pitcher at the time. I was kind of looking at him one day like why are you bummed, you’re Donny Baseball … he was just staring at his bat 45 minutes before a game.

“I couldn’t believe he was so bummed out, but at the end of the day, his level of play was not up to his standards. And he looked back at me — and I’ll never forget it — and said ‘Don’t ever forget that as good as the good is — the bad is never far behind’.

“That was the way the great players never got caught up in the ebbs and flows of the game of baseball. Never get too high or too low. Be consistent with your thoughts and behavior. While you’re experiencing success, you’re getting the job done and the results are great, you might have a day to enjoy it. You have to be ready for the next game. Even when I talk to guys in the big leagues right now, I let them know that pitching was not easy. I mean, I’ve stunk. I had a year in my career with an ERA over five. It’s not easy. It’s just how you keep plugging along that defines you. This game will constantly nip you if you go out each week and think you’re all that.”

Humble, but also meaning business, is the name of the game for Jack Leiter.

He’s anything but an ‘in your face’ kind of pitcher, but he sets the tone from the start. Leiter wastes little time getting out to the mound between innings, and once on the mound, he’s the enforcer. If a hitter steps out of the box, he doesn’t take strolls around the mound. He stays on the mound, glove over his mouth and nose and is dialed into Vanderbilt catcher CJ Rodriguez.


On the mound, Leiter attacks hitters with quite an impressive arsenal. His fastball sat anywhere from 93-96 mph and up to 97 mph with almost immaculate command against LSU last weekend, while he had a great deal of success throwing the 83-86 mph slider to his glove side. Leiter did a particularly impressive job of locating that offering on the outside part of the plate against righthanded hitters. His changeup will range anywhere from 85-88 mph, and the deep breaking curveball was 78-80 mph. Leiter’s primary secondary offering in high school was the curveball, while the slider has typically been his go-to secondary offering while pitching for the Commodores. Leiter also showed what appeared to be a cutter against LSU, but it apparently is a slider with a little more velocity to it. It’s unintentional. From a command standpoint, Leiter is much more advanced than a normal college pitcher. Most of his misses are barely misses, and are easily corrected a pitch or two later. His ability to make adjustments on the fly is what also sets him apart from other, even premier arms, in our sport.

“As his parent, I’m so thrilled and proud of what he’s doing right now. I’m proud as hell,” Al Leiter said. “I always watch games. But I’m always looking at his outings in a different way than most. I’m looking at it as an analyst. I do enjoy watching what he’s doing — it’s pretty amazing. But I always watch Jack am thinking, OK, what can he do to get better, and how can he execute various things a little better. With that said, the attention he is getting right now is very well deserved. He’s done a terrific job.

“With Jack, as with any pitcher, I’m really looking at a few things. Like, are you able to execute a quality pitch? Do you have two secondary pitches that you can expand appropriately? Do you know which hitters are hot, and who’s not? You know things like that. I always tell him and other pitchers to continue working on command, and to find the glove, and repeat it. In high school, his pitch was his curveball — almost a 12-6 curve — the consistency of that pitch needed to be tighter. The slider I really like, but it gets a little cutterish. I thought he threw some good changeups up at Oklahoma State, but it’s just kind of a pitch that I feel like he uses when it’s necessary.

“I thought his curveball was better than his slider in Baton Rouge last week. The quandary with breaking balls is always this — I always made sure that I had two distinct grips on my slider and curveball, respectively. My slider/cutter always crossed two seams, whereas I went with the horseshoe on the ball with the curveball. You don’t want either one to morph into the other.

“There are all stepping stones and learning experiences as you move forward in your baseball life,” he concluded. “When you play in meaningful baseball games, they all collect, and then you just have to go out there and do it. You have to experience it, and then do it without consequence. There are a lot of really good arms out there, but it’s all about how it transcends to the point when it counts the most.”


Jack Leiter is a unique starting pitcher who draws a myriad of comparisons when it comes to former, successful big league arms.

He’s much different than his cohort in crime at Vanderbilt — fellow righthanded pitcher Kumar Rocker. While Rocker has an imposing 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame, Leiter isn’t physically imposing. He’s 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and the 6-foot-1 might be a little generous. But he does have an athletic build with strong legs.

So, who is the best comp for Jack Leiter?

The first pitcher that comes to mind is former standout righthanded pitcher David Cone. Cone, as with Leiter, didn’t have height as an advantage — he was just 6-foot tall. He also was lighter than Leiter is — he was 180 pounds, whereas Leiter is 205 pounds. But the two have similar deliveries and approaches. Both pitchers have a quick, low angle, release that allows their fastballs to explode on hitters.

“I love David — he’s a good friend of mine and we worked together at the YES Network. They’re very, very similar,” Al Leiter said. “Coney eventually used. his split finger more as he got older and he had a variety of arm angles. Jack is a little taller than Cone, but I like that comp. I think that’s a pretty fair comp.”

Other pitchers scouts have compared to Leiter include former Astros star righthanded pitcher Roy Oswalt, former star and current Auburn pitching coach Tim Hudson and former Vanderbilt star righthanded pitcher Sonny Gray.

“I do certainly see some similarities with Sonny Gray, especially in terms of stature,” Corbin said. “Jack is one of those pitchers where I’m not sure there are a lot of guys to compare him to. I see some Tom Seaver in him with his size and sturdiness, but the delivery isn’t Seaver. Jack just has such great extension and leverage. 

“You just think about those guys who had swing and miss fastballs, you’re talking about guys like Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and so on,” he added. “Jack’s ball really explodes at the plate and that allows his fastball to really play up. It plays up because he has great extension to the plate.”

Leiter will have his chance to write his own story at the big league level, probably sooner rather than later. But for now, he continues on as arguably college baseball’s premier arm, and as a pitcher who hopes to lead Vanderbilt to its third national championship in a couple of months.

We’re not surprised to see Leiter having a wealth of success. But to be this dominant so fast? He’s truly one of a kind.

But as always the case in the Leiter household, he must stay humble. The rest will take care of itself.

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
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GSA Spotlight: Indiana State’s Guerrero A Grand Surprise

April 2, 2021
If you had given a note pad to Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs in the fall and asked him to list five breakout candidates, there’s a decent chance that redshirt senior Geremy Guerrero doesn’t make that list. That’s certainly no disrespect to Guerrero. But in the first four years

If you had given a note pad to Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs in the fall and asked him to list five breakout candidates, there’s a decent chance that redshirt senior Geremy Guerrero doesn’t make that list.

That’s certainly no disrespect to Guerrero. But in the first four years of his career, he had tallied unimpressive earned-run averages, and had failed to be a front-line arm for the Sycamores.

But that was then. And now, Guerrero, much to everyone’s surprise, has transformed not only from the bullpen to the starting rotation so far during this 2021 season, but he’s also become one of the nation’s best and most productive pitchers.

He’s a slam-dunk to be on the Midseason Golden Spikes Award watch list, and it’s all because of incredibly hard work and dedication to his craft.

“I might be the dumbest guy alive if we didn’t have him starting right now,” Indiana State coach Mitch Hannahs laughed about. “When we didn’t have Tristan Weaver the first weekend of the season, we were still trying to figure out who we were going to start, and Geremy was one of the guys on the list. He was the guy that our assistant, Pascal Paul, wanted to start the year with. He really thought he would throw strikes and show a lot of poise.

“I could’ve easily started the season with Geremy in the pen, but credit to him, we didn’t do that,” he added. “He’s really improved his game, and he’s had a willingness to make adjustments. to be honest, I don’t think any of us saw this kind of year coming from Geremy. He better in the fall and there was a noticeable improvement. But now, it’s like … boom.”

Credit to Hannahs and the Sycamores coaching staff, they have not shied away from competition during this difficult COVID season. They opened the season against upstart Pittsburgh. And though they lost two out of three to the Pirates, Guerrero, a 6-foot, 240-pounder, was outstanding against Mike Bell’s club, striking out six in 5.1 shutout innings.

Little did Hannahs and ISU know at the time that it would become a precursor to what has been a special season thus far for the redshirt senior.

“He’s always been a guy with great poise, and we kind of used him out of the bullpen in the past,” Hannahs said. “He’s always been a strike thrower, but he got with our pitching coach and decided to reshape his pitches back in the fall.”

Guerrero had recorded some starts in his ISU career, but his overall numbers weren’t conducive to success. He made just one appearance in 2017, tallied 16 appearances and five starts in 2018 and had a 4.45 ERA in 30.1 innings, along with 27 strikeouts and 10 walks. Then, in 2019, he tallied a 6.42 ERA in 33.2 innings, along with a low walk total, but a high .277 OBA, before tallying a 10.13 ERA in just three appearances during the cancelled COVID season.

With his eligibility essentially over after last season, Guerrero and plenty of other veterans were tossed a lifeline by the NCAA with its ruling that no one would lose their year of eligibility as a result of the shortened season.

Like many other older players, Guerrero decided to use that extra year, and he trained in the long summer months to come back stronger than ever. That work has paid off in a big way this spring.

“It’s not every often you see a guy decide to come back for his redshirt senior year. I don’t think you see that much anymore,” Hannahs said. “He’s very, very rare, he’s always eager to learn and try to improve, and I think it says a lot about him that he was willing to return and continue to work his tail off.

“From the minute he got back, he’s worked very, very hard, and I’m so happy for him,” he continued. “You don’t get to see this a lot in coaching — where kids kind of come from nowhere to this. He had no idea what he was coming back to this fall and the spring. He could’ve easily been stuck back in the bullpen yet again. But he got locked in, and here we are.

“You’re seeing a lot of pretty competitive older players this season after they were given another year,” he added. “I think there are several kids around college baseball like Geremy who felt they had something to prove this season.”

In five starts so far this spring, Guerrero has a 1.14 ERA in 31.2 innings of work, along with 44 strikeouts and six walks, while teams are hitting him at a ridiculously low .157 clip.

So, how has this unexpected transformation come about?

It’s been a combination of pitching coach Pascal Paul’s teaching and Guerrero’s willingness to change his game.

For starters, Guerrero has tweaked and improved his upper-70s changeup. The coaches worked with the talented lefthander to try to get him to put the changeup on the same arm slot and path as the fastball. They wanted to pitch to replicate his fastball from a slot standpoint.

Second, the Sycamores added an upper-70s cutter to his arsenal. It’s a pitch he hadn’t thrown before the past fall. In addition to the cutter, Guerrero also worked diligently at tightening up his upper-70s breaking ball, while also continuing to pound the zone with his fastball.

“Pascal really went to work with him, and credit them both. Sometimes when you’re a junior or senior like that, you’re not as willing to change things. But Geremy was,” he said. “The big thing with Geremy is that he goes out there each start, and teams know that he’s going to throw three or four solid pitches for strikes.”

Guerrero’s fastball isn’t overwhelming, but he has immaculate command of the offering. His fastball will sit in the 86-88 range, and Hannahs said it will get up to 89-90 mph on occasion. His ability to have feel of the zone and command his offerings is what sets him apart from some other arms around the country. And according to Hannahs, he’s certainly no spin-rate darling.

“The most underrated thing in our game is just having the ability to go out there and have feel for the zone — know the hot zones and have the ability to really pitch,” he said. “If he’s got a down zone, he’ll live with it. He’s fine stretching the plate, too, and he understands each time out what he’s going to get from the umpire. He’s certainly not at the top end of your spin rate charts. But he’s just really managed to keep hitters off balance this season. He can pitch backwards — he will hit you with some off speed pitches in fastball accounts, and vice versa. He just has hitters on their heels.”

We said coming into the season that this spring would be filled with surprises, both from a player and team standpoint. And Guerrero and Indiana State have met both qualifications. Guerrero is having an amazing season and the Sycamores are currently sixth in the latest RPI ratings.

Perhaps Hannahs didn’t expect all of this way back in the fall. But, boy, is he enjoying it now.

And the fun part? We’ve got a long way to go.

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GSARabbe

GSA Spotlight: Minnesota’s Zack Raabe Living The Dream With Gophers

March 26, 2021
Minnesota second baseman Zack Raabe has more than proven time and time again that baseball is alive and well in the North Star State. His 31 base hits led the nation a year ago before the season came to an abrupt stop, and he’s slashing .484/.600/1.032 this year through 10

Minnesota second baseman Zack Raabe has more than proven time and time again that baseball is alive and well in the North Star State. His 31 base hits led the nation a year ago before the season came to an abrupt stop, and he’s slashing .484/.600/1.032 this year through 10 games.

You may notice the inflated slugging number, and that 1.032 isn’t a typo. It’s also not by accident, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Raabe’s father, Brian, also played under legendary head coach John Anderson at the University of Minnesota, doing so from 1987-1990. That’s about 10 years into 14’s career as opposed to Zack, who is with Anderson during his 40th year at the helm of the program. Brian was named an All-American in 1990 and was drafted in the 41st round by his hometown Twins that year. He spent parts of three seasons in the big leagues with the Twins, Mariners and Rockies and currently serves as the head coach at Bethel University at the NCAA Division III level.

So, while Zack is a native of Forest Lake, Minn., Raabe didn’t just go to Minnesota because that’s where he grew up. He was born to be a Gopher.

“It’s an absolute dream come true – it really did come true coming to Minnesota,” Raabe said. “Ever since I was a little kid, I was a die-hard Gopher fan. We had season tickets to go to Gopher games: hockey, football, baseball – we’d go to all of them. I grew up in Minnesota and I’ve always loved Minnesota. Right when I got offered, this was the place I wanted to go.”

“I wouldn’t want to play for anyone else,” Raabe added about playing for head coach John Anderson, affectionately referred to as ‘14’. “Being here and being around him is a dream come true.”

Once a player attributed to hit the ball where it’s pitched – which always seems like a nice thing to say but isn’t always perceived to be a compliment – the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Raabe has spent a lot of time in the batting cage, and the weight room, looking to improve his craft knowing it’s a never-ending process. With that has come added power, as his eight extra-base hits (three doubles, four homers and a triple) in 10 games this year equal the eight (seven doubles and a homer) he hit in 17 games in 2020.

Time, after all, is the one thing baseball players were afforded more of during the pandemic.

“I work with my dad and [assistant coach Packy] Casey a lot,” Raabe said. “Pack Casey is one of the best in the business, I have nothing but good things to say about him. He knows what he’s doing, a hard worker. He studies a lot and helps all of us in ways that I can’t even imagine – they’re over my head. He’s such a good teacher on the mental side of hitting.

“The big thing he worked on with me, and our guys, is the thought process in the box, your approach at the plate, nitpicking that stuff to get the real hitting experience, the real D-I experience because that’s the difference between high school and D-I in my opinion, the mental side.

“I’ve been working a lot with him on my eyes, tracking the baseball all the way in. If you can’t see it, you can’t hit it. He works on that aspect more than any other coach. And same with my dad, we work on tracking the ball and harnessing my mental side of hitting.”

Add in Raabe’s diligent work in the weight room with strength coach Scott McWilliams and you have a physically fit player determined to add power to his already polished hit tool. Just look at the year-by-year triple slash progression to get a sense for how he has improved.

2019: .271/.337/.316

2020: .463/.526/.612

2021: .484/.600/1.032

The power isn’t a fluke. It’s not like he’s hit a stretch in which he’s just seeing the ball better and yanking line drives down the line that clear the fence. He’s driving the ball with authority, more consistently. In fact, his triple this year was mis-called by the umpiring crew after the ball bounced back into the field of play at U.S. Bank Stadium after clearing the fence. Meaning, he should have five dingers right now instead of the four that show up on his profile page.

In that same series, he hit two doubles – one that he launched over the center fielder’s head and just missed clearing the fence – and a home run that couldn’t be mis-called. And in adding power to his swing, he hasn’t lost his approach and has actually become more selective at the plate as evidenced by nine walks and only two strikeouts in those 10 games played.

For as good of a hitter as he is, when you ask Raabe about his goals he doesn’t talk about his numbers, base hits or the draft coming up in June. In fact, he actively avoids those questions until you find a way to ask so he can’t avoid it. He does, however, quickly point out the different things he can do to help his team win.

“That’s Zack. He’s a team-first guy,” Brian Raabe said about his son. “His main goal – and he truly means this – he wants to win first, more than anything else. That’s a big deal to him, it always has been. … He realizes that if he does well that’s great, that probably means the team is doing well. But if he’s not, and if it’s not his day – you know how baseball goes – if he can help in any other way [like] on defense or with his hustle or enthusiasm, then that’s what he’s going to do and bring to the table.”

Brian Raabe’s profile was very similar to his son’s. They’re both righthanded hitting second basemen with smaller statures that really know how to hit. And the elder Raabe is quick to point out that size doesn’t necessarily limit a player’s physical capabilities, mentioning the success of proven big leaguers including Jose Altuve and Dustin Pedroia.

“He’s so technically sound. It’s his swing mechanics, that is why he can do it,” Brian Raabe added. “There’s a lot of players that are a smaller stature but can flat-out hit and hit with pop. Zack’s no different. If you try to throw him away, he can hit a double to right, no problem. You throw him in and he [can drive it] to left-center. Because of that he provides a lot of problems for a pitching staff. They don’t know where to throw him, now they’re trying to trick him, and if they leave a hanging breaking ball up in the zone, he’s going to kill it.”

“I kind of chuckle every time I hear that question because it’s the biggest advantage anyone could have,” Zack Raabe said in response to working with his father. “I’d be lying if I said that I got here on my own. That’s not the case. Obviously, I’ve put the work in and all of that, but my dad has been here every single step of the way. Ever since I was a kid, he was the first person that wanted to go outside to throw whiffle balls to me, play catch with me.”

Raabe points out there have been a lot of people along the way that have helped guide him, including his father, his grandfather, Coach Anderson and the rest of the Minnesota coaching staff. It should also be noted that the family has a close connection to the family of Matt Wallner, another product of Lake Forest, Minn., who opted to play college baseball at Southern Miss.

Wallner returned home, so to speak, in June of 2019 when the Minnesota Twins selected him with the 39th overall pick of the draft.

While Wallner and Raabe are completely different athletes and hitters – Wallner is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound lefthanded slugger that you can’t miss when he takes the field – Raabe values being able to the mind of a close friend, someone that has had a taste, with success, of college baseball and more.

But Raabe isn’t one to look ahead. He clearly is grounded and focused on the present and genuinely is intent on helping his team win. With a 3-8 start to the 2021 season that part has been easier said than done. Work still needs to be done, however, as Raabe and other upperclassmen are focused on helping the first-year players find their way both on and off the field and getting through the rough patches together.

The rest will take care of itself.

“I’m not worried about the draft,” Raabe said. “I’m here to play college baseball. That’s my main focus. That’s my only focus. I just want to win games, I’m a big team guy, I’ve always been that way. I want everyone around me to have success, not just me.”

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Chavers_Article

GSA Spotlight: Healthy Chavers Does It All For Coastal

March 19, 2021
It's been two years since the college baseball world has experienced the joys of watching this Parker Chavers — the fully healthy, unencumbered Chavers who is one of the most exciting players in the country. As a freshman All-American for Coastal Carolina in 2018, Chavers did it all, hitting for average and

It's been two years since the college baseball world has experienced the joys of watching this Parker Chavers — the fully healthy, unencumbered Chavers who is one of the most exciting players in the country. As a freshman All-American for Coastal Carolina in 2018, Chavers did it all, hitting for average and power, stealing some bases, and playing great defense in center field. Then four weeks into his sophomore season in 2019, a freak accident altered the path of his career. Chavers was returning to the dugout at T-Mobile Park in Seattle after a loss to San Diego, and he stumbled on the dugout steps, catching himself with his right arm in an awkward way, causing his shoulder to pop out of joint. It turned out, the episode also caused a tear in his labrum, which had already been surgically repaired in 2014 as a result of a high school pitching injury.

The Chanticleers prepared to be without Chavers for most of that season, but he returned quicker than expected and served as the team’s DH while attempting to rehab his shoulder. Remarkably, Chavers managed to put up even louder numbers despite playing through the injury, finishing that 2019 season by hitting .316/.435/.612 with 15 homers and 10 steals in 57 games.

Chavers went to the Cape Cod League that summer and continued to play through the injury while trying to rehab, and he threw the ball well when he returned to campus that fall. But the pain kept flaring up, and eventually he faced the reality that he needed surgery at the end of the fall heading into his junior season — his draft year. He never saw the field in 2020 before the season was canceled, and he went unselected in the shortened five-round draft.

“I had to have my labrum repaired in two different spots. They disconnected my bicep and then reattached it so it wouldn’t continue to pull on the labrum — pretty extensive surgery,” Chavers said. “No one ever wants to get hurt, and for me, the way it happened was a bummer, a freak accident, something not even really baseball related. It’s kind of easy to ask, ‘Why’d that have to happen, why me?’ And then to have surgery going into your junior draft year, something you worked so hard for since you were a freshman, it was disappointing. I was super-bummed to have surgery going into last year, and then obviously everything got canceled and it was hard for everyone. I just wanted to come back and prove how healthy I was and how good I could still be.

"Obviously the timing was unfortunate, but now I feel better than I have in probably two years, as far as being healthy. If you would have told me last December that I’d come out of surgery and feel this good right now, I don’t know that I would have believed you.”

It was clear in the fall that Chavers was back to his old self. After catching an intrasquad in November, I wrote: A quick-twitch 5-foot-11, 190-pound lefthanded hitter who coils and explodes, Chavers was a hard contact machine this fall, and I saw him hit three balls that came off the bat at 104 mph or harder, highlighted by a towering solo homer to right on a 93 mph fastball that exited at 106 mph.

Through 15 games this spring, Chavers’ home run power hasn’t really shown up yet — he has gone deep just once through 61 at-bats. But even without the long balls, he’s still providing serious value in a whole bunch of different ways, hitting .344/.453/.557 with six doubles, two triples 14 RBIs and five steals in five tries. 

“He made some swing adjustments over the break and has had to go back and figure some things back out,” Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said. “He’s missed probably five or six balls where, a quarter of an inch on the bat difference and all of them are home runs. He’s been so close, and I think he’s gonna hit his stride somewhere along the way where he catches back up with the home runs, I truly believe he’s going to. But the greatest testament to him is the amount of positive things he is doing for us offensively without hitting home runs. He is a tough bird to strike out, and I’ll tell you what man, any time he fungoes that thing around in the infield, it’s a challenge to throw the guy out. He really gets down the line — he’s getting down the line in 4-flat or under just about every time. That’s putting a lot of pressure on defenses.”

Chavers said two of his greatest points of emphasis heading into this season were to show better plate discipline and put his speed to use more often on the basepaths. He posted a 39-54 walk-strikeout mark as a freshman, then a 39-47 mark as a sophomore, but this year he has 10 walks against just seven strikeouts.

“Going through my first two seasons here and obviously that summer in the Cape, kind of the biggest thing I saw in me was, I had dynamic tools but it was the swing and miss, the inconsistency at times in the box,” Chavers said. “So this year I’m just trying to focus on being a pure hitter, show that I can do it all, cut down on my strikeouts, be as well rounded as possible. The other thing for me is using my legs a lot more. I think I’m very underrated in the speed department because I didn’t run a whole lot my first two years. But I’m trying to showcase what I can do on the basepaths and in center field with my defense.”

That’s the other big difference between this Chavers and the 2019 Chavers: now that he’s healthy, he’s back in center field, where he can provide so much more value than he could as a DH. As a prep in Alabama, Chavers was an undersized infielder (“I would say I was the smallest kid on my team growing up and still wasn’t physically mature in high school,” he said). He originally committed to play at East Tennessee State for Tony Skole, whose son played on Chavers’ travel ball team. 

But after Skole left for The Citadel, Chavers eventually got his release, and he said Coastal was looking for an infielder. Chavers was still flying under the radar as a prospect, particularly since an elbow injury his senior year resulted in UCL surgery that May. But a scout buddy of CCU pitching coach Drew Thomas passed along a tip that Chavers could really hit and had been overlooked in the recruiting process. Chavers said he made his first visit to Coastal in the third week of July after his senior year, and a few weeks later he was on campus for the start of school. He worked in the Coastal infield that fall, but with Cory Wood and Seth Lancaster back in the middle infield, it soon became clear that Chavers’ path to playing time would be in center.

“He thought he could be a shortstop, and we recruited him as one, but the throwing action and some of the things were going to be a real struggle to make him an adequate infielder,” Gilmore recalled. “It took one day watching him run around in center field to realize that’s where God meant for that boy to be.

“The bar here for center fielders is really high, and he definitely is as good as anybody that’s ever played here. You look at [David] Sappelt and Rico Noel and Billy Cook, there have been some of the better center fielders in the country that have played here, and he’s as good as all of them.”

When you put it all together — the defense, the speed, the lefthanded bat speed and the increasingly mature approach — Chavers ranks as one of the most dynamic players in college baseball. Gilmore knows how fortunate his club is to have a healthy Chavers back leading his Chanticleers as a fourth-year veteran.

“We don’t ever talk about it, I don’t ever mention it to him by any means — he has enough internal pressure on himself with the draft and the pressures of trying to be a high draft pick on top of being the straw that stirs the drink type of guy — but our success and failure over the course of the season will largely depend on how he’s able to play all year long,” Gilmore said. “If he has a career year, that will help cover up some of the issues and challenges we have in offensive areas as well as pitching areas. The kid’s an unbelievable player. If you asked me how he’s played the first 15 games, I’d tell you he’s played very good. Has he been great? No, but he’s been very good. You’d look at his numbers and say, ‘Coach, how is that not great?’ But he’s one of the best hitters and players that I’ve had the pleasure of coaching. There’s more upside to him than about anybody we’ve ever had. He’s an athletic Tommy La Stella — he’s a guy that’s got power but doesn’t strike out very much, and his athleticism is insane, it really is.”

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GSASpotlight_Madden

GSA Spotlight: Texas’ Madden Magnificent

March 11, 2021
If you wanted to know what kind of start Texas right-handed pitcher Ty Madden had against Houston on Friday night, one just needs to let Cougars head coach Todd Whitting do the talking. “That’s about as good of an outing as I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Whitting said.

If you wanted to know what kind of start Texas right-handed pitcher Ty Madden had against Houston on Friday night, one just needs to let Cougars head coach Todd Whitting do the talking.

“That’s about as good of an outing as I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Whitting said. “I was just watching him pitch, and he reminded me a little of watching Stephen Strasburg when he was at San Diego State with that fastball straight downhill. He was throwing that breaking ball effectively in and out of the zone all night, too.

“He just pounded the zone all night. You just have to tip your hat to him a little bit.”

In our first look at Madden this season Opening Weekend against Mississippi State, his performance certainly was not Strasburg-ian. He allowed four runs on four hits in four innings. And though the fastball was electric and up to 98 mph at times, the secondary stuff left something to be desired.

Perhaps that was kind of a wakeup call for the steady and supremely talented Longhorns righthander, because he’s been outstanding since that start against MSU.

Last weekend against BYU, Madden got back to business, striking out what used to be a career high 11 batters, while walking just one and allowing just one hit in seven innings.

He was really good in that start.

Somehow, he was even better against a better team in a complete game performance, 1-0 victory Friday night.

“I thought Ty Madden was incredible tonight,” Texas coach David Pierce said. “He pitched off his fastball and I thought he pitched with total conviction. He prepares year around for nights like this one. What a performance he put together for us.”

Madden, who retired the final seven batters he faced against the Cougars, dazzled scouts and fans alike in the ninth inning with a 1-2-3 frame that included a fastball — even over the 100-pitch mark — that touched 96-97 mph, with some radar guns even getting 98 mph on the offering.

It was a brilliant end to a masterpiece of a performance.

But the foundation for this type of start was set much earlier in the contest.

Madden knew he needed to pitch well early in this one. Houston lefthanded pitcher Robert Gasser was matching him with zeroes in the first few innings. Gasser, who surprised some in attendance with a fastball up to 94-95 mph — he sat in the 90-93 mph range later in the game — had some iffy command at times, but he was a hard-nosed lefthander who attacked the Longhorns offense with a fastball that was well located on the outside part of the plate to righthanded hitters, while he showed a slider at 81-82 mph, a changeup at 83-87 mph and a true 12-5 curveball at 76-78 mph later in the game. Every time Gasser needed to make a pitch to get out of a jam, he made it. And he put together a strong start, striking out five batters, walking two and allowing four hits in seven shutout innings.

“That’s two weeks in a row that Gasser was very good, and that’s why he’s pitching for us on Friday nights,” Whitting said. “He’s tough as nails and that fastball has great life working away from righthanded hitters. He pitched good enough to win, and we should win a bunch of games if he keeps pitching like that.”

He’ll also win a lot more games if he doesn’t have a guy like Madden manning the other team’s mound.

You knew Madden was in for a good night in the first inning.

Madden allowed a runner to reach base in the first. But he was poised and seem totally dialed in. He finished out the first inning with a pair of strikeouts and was showing pure gas with the fastball, getting up to 97-98 mph with the offering with a spin rate approaching 2740 at times.

Madden proceeded to retire eight-straight UH hitters from the first inning on. And in the fourth, even though the Cougars got the leadoff hitter on base, he avoided that frame with no damage and ended it with a strikeout. His fifth inning of work was his most impressive, as he struck out the side with an 86 mph changeup and a pair of fastballs at 95 and 97 mph, respectively.

Madden’s fastball has always been a weapon, and that was no different tonight. He attacks hitters with the offering at a tough downhill angle, and it’s especially difficult to hit when he has life on it like he did tonight. However, the biggest key for Madden versus his earlier start against Mississippi State was his ability to locate and show premium stuff with the secondary offerings, particularly the slider. Madden’s slider was very good against the Cougars, showing a spin rate around 2500-2700 at times. The breaking ball had two different shapes — one a bit more typical of a slider and another tighter in nature. Both were terrific offerings against the Cougars.

“The slider — that was the difference for him,” Whitting said about Madden’s start. “You think all right all you have to do is go out there and sit on the fastball, then he drops in that slider, and he threw it for a strike enough to where when he buried it in the dirt, we swung at it.

“I’ll tell you what, too, he elevates that fastball,” he added. “He can really command it and elevate the fastball, then he comes back with that slider buried in the dirt. It’s pretty tough.”

Overall, Madden finished the night with another career high in strikeouts with 14. He walked just two UH hitters and allowed two hits in the complete game performance, while also throwing 110 pitches — 79 of those pitches for strikes.

For the past year or so, everyone has always believed in Ty Madden’s fastball. Now, after two-straight outstanding performances, and tonight, showing a filthy slider, perhaps there are now almost as many believers in the secondary stuff for the premier righty.
It was indeed a masterpiece.

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GSA Spotlight: Sal Frelick

March 4, 2021
It all started years ago, well before Sal Frelick and Cody Morissette and Mason Pelio and their classmates even showed up as freshmen at Boston College. Even as 16-year-olds, this group had a very specific vision. “I think my recruiting class, my junior year in high school, we actually named

It all started years ago, well before Sal Frelick and Cody Morissette and Mason Pelio and their classmates even showed up as freshmen at Boston College. Even as 16-year-olds, this group had a very specific vision.

“I think my recruiting class, my junior year in high school, we actually named our group chat ‘Omaha 2021.’ That’s always been our mentality,” said Frelick, now a third-year sophomore center fielder and a second-team preseason All-American. “I think when we set our goals so high, especially attainable ones, it’s just fun to try to chase them. We’re doing that one game at a time, but it’s always in the back of our head. Since I’ve been a freshman here, that’s just kind of been the switch we’ve seen in the culture here.”

Of course, every Division I baseball player dreams of Omaha, but this was a particularly bold ambition for a BC program that hadn’t reached the College World Series since 1967. When Frelick, Morissette, Pelio, Peter Burns and the other members of BC’s 2018 recruiting class first committed, BC was still playing at Shea Field, the worst facility in Power Five baseball, with a chain-link fence, a few rows of metal bleachers, and a playing surface that doubled as a parking lot for football games on fall Saturdays. Back then, the Brighton Field complex and the Pete Frates center were still just a dream. Aside from the Californian Pelio, this class was composed mostly of native New Englanders who could have left for warmer climates and better facilities and a richer college baseball tradition.

But Frelick (from Lexington, Mass.), Morissette (Exeter, N.H.), Burns (Reading, Mass.), Emmet Sheehan (Darien, Conn.) and Ramon Jimenez (Chicopee, Mass.) saw the potential of a BC program coming off a surprising 2016 run to super regionals. They believed in BC coach Mike Gambino’s vision and passion. They believed they could be a part of something special, and lead a New England college baseball team to Omaha for the first time in decades.

“I was such a big advocate for keeping local talent local. I wanted to play in New England because I was born and raised here,” Frelick said. “I think a lot of times, even when I was growing up in high school, kids older than me were going down south, out west to play college baseball. I was always like, ‘Man, we breed such good baseball talent here, let’s keep it local.’ I was so fired up, Cody Morissette, basically my whole recruiting class was roughly New England, with some Connecticut kids. I think it’s just a brand of baseball that we like to play. BC baseball offered that kind of grittiness, that fast-paced baseball that I love. I think it’s New England brand, so I was all for staying here.”

And Frelick epitomizes the New England brand, in so many ways. He became something of a folk hero during his prep days as a football, hockey and baseball star, earning the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year award in football after throwing 52 touchdown passes as a senior. Whenever I tweet about Frelick, responses like this flood in from Boston-area media people and sports fans:

Frelick said he committed to play baseball at BC when he was a high school freshman, but by the time he was a junior he was getting serious interest from college football programs, who viewed him as a Julian Edelman-style playmaker out of the slot. He said he was actually committed to play football and baseball at BC “for maybe a week,” but then he took a step back and decided baseball is the sport he has the best chance to play the longest, so it made sense to concentrate on the diamond.

He injured his knee in his final game of summer ball before the fall of his freshman year at BC, resulting in the first of two knee surgeries in the span of less than a year. Being sidelined for fall ball was tough for him, but he rehabbed quickly and got himself ready to play when the season started in 2019. And Frelick hit the ground running, putting up a .367/.447/.513 line with four homers and 18 steals in 21 tries over the course of 39 exhilarating games.

And then he hurt his knee again chasing down a ball in center field, and he had surgery again in May to report partially torn cartilage. I remember chatting with him in the stands at the ACC tournament that year, with his leg propped up on the seat in front of him and his crutches by his side. He was friendly and gregarious as always, but he was struggling beneath the calm façade.

“I remember I was actually here in Durham watching the ACC tournament on crutches, and I was just biting my lip, I was so angry I couldn’t go out there and play,” Frelick said. “I think the first couple weeks after that second surgery were a really big mental toll on me. I was in a dark place, it was tough watching my team go out and compete and I couldn’t go out and help them in any way. And then as I got into the summer, I said, ‘All right, let’s really pick this thing up, let’s make sure we come out of this not just 100 percent but 150 percent, because we’re trying to get faster and stronger here, not just back to where you were.’ So I hit a really rigorous program that summer and came back to school that fall maintaining that program. I don’t think my body’s ever felt as good as it does now.”

Speed is such a huge part of Frelick’s game, so it was thrilling to see him showing top-of-the-charts speed this weekend at Duke, proving that the knee injuries are well behind him. On one “routine” ground ball to second base, he blazed up the line in 3.91 seconds from the left side, causing all the scouts in the stands to compare their stopwatches and make sure they had it right (everyone around me had him in the low 3.9s). The Duke second baseman had to rush that throw and still didn’t get it to first base in time. He beat out another grounder to second base later in the game (initially scored as a hit, then changed to an error that was clearly forced by Frelick’s speed), in addition to a pair of crisp line-drive singles to center and right. Last year, when Frelick hit .241 in the shortened season, he clearly wasn’t all the way back from that knee surgery. Now he’s back to being a 5-foot-9, 175-pound stick of dynamite.

“I mean, he wasn’t there last year. Guys were getting 4.2s down the line, but now he’s a consistent 3.8, 3.9 down the line,” Gambino said. “In some ways, you talk about what Trea Turner did, I remember telling our infielders when Trea was here \[at NC State\], ‘Every ground ball is basically a do or die. Like, every one you gotta go get and get rid of.’ And that’s what it feels like when Sal’s hitting.”

Frelick’s 80 speed on the 20-80 scale could be worth 50 or 100 points of batting average over the course of the season, and it has helped him hit .429/.484/.607 through six games this year. But he also drives the ball to all parts of the field, regularly squaring up hard line-drive contact. On Saturday, he hit a ball off the opposite-field Blue Monster so hard that even with his speed, he was held to a single. And he showed the ability to turn on the ball with authority in Sunday’s series finale, ripping a two-run homer to right in the seventh inning, effectively putting the game away and helping BC clinch the series.

“My freshman year, I felt like the biggest part of my game was putting the ball in play. I really wanted to develop into that collision-contact hitter, with some power,” Frelick said. “I don’t think it was ever a change in, ‘I gotta put on some weight, I gotta get stronger.’ It was just a change in my approach, saying, ‘Let’s drive some baseballs here, not just flick them the other way.’ I’ve known I’ve had it in me for a while now, but I think it’s starting to emerge, a little bit last year and now this year.”

With speed, power, baserunning acumen, premium range and superb instincts in center field, Frelick can change the game in so many different ways. There might not be a more exciting player to watch in all of college baseball. And his makeup is just as special as his athleticism. Frelick just has a very rare magnetism about him, on and off the field.

“He very rarely has a bad at-bat. And he also is that guy everybody just knows in a big spot, he’s gonna get it done. He just is. He’s just ‘that kid,’” Gambino said. “My wife was in a grocery store like six months ago and had a BC baseball sweatshirt on. And some kid was like, ‘Oh, do you know Sal Frelick?’ He just went to a neighboring high school. The other guys just call him, ‘That kid.’ Like, he’s just ‘that kid.’ And part of it is the complete confidence, but with complete humility; he’s that good of a kid. Everybody has a story about awesome stuff he’s done \[on the field or in the rink\], but everybody has a story about how good a kid he is too. It’s just that real.”

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
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GSA Spotlight: Ole Miss’ Hoglund Forming Into Complete Pitcher

February 25, 2021
Ole Miss has won a school-record 18-straight games after Sunday’s 5-4 win over Texas Tech to improve to 2-0 at the State Farm College Showdown. And each step along the way of this winning streak, there has been at least one constant. That’s Gunnar Hoglund. Hoglund hasn’t had the easiest

Ole Miss has won a school-record 18-straight games after Sunday’s 5-4 win over Texas Tech to improve to 2-0 at the State Farm College Showdown. And each step along the way of this winning streak, there has been at least one constant.

That’s Gunnar Hoglund.

Hoglund hasn’t had the easiest path to success at Ole Miss. He drew a combination of praise and consternation coming out of high school after turning down the Pittsburgh Pirates as a first-round pick. When you’re a first-round pick and you choose the college route over the big bucks, expectations couldn’t possibly be higher.

So, to say Hoglund’s freshman campaign was a learning experience for the ultra-talented righthander would be quite an understatement. It was that and more. Hoglund earned 16 starts and appeared in 17 games for the Rebels as a freshman, tallying a 5.29 ERA in 68 innings. He struck out 53 and only walked 14, but teams hit him at a shockingly high .282 clip.

There was a reason for that.

As a high school prep star, Hoglund had a big-time fastball that climbed into the mid-90s on a consistent basis. He also had a curveball. But more often than not in high school, he could just blow that fastball past hitters and get away with it without having to rely much on his secondary stuff.

That changed in a variety of ways in his first year at Ole Miss. In addition to needing to shelve the curveball, his fastball velocity wasn’t what it was in high school. As a freshman, he was more 88-91 and up to 92 mph with the offering, while the 74-76 mph curveball wasn’t missing bats at an elite level.

Something had to change between the fall before the 2020 campaign, and that was ditching the curveball to focus primarily on the slider and changeup.

Hoglund was well on his way to showing his complete self before the ’20 campaign was shut down. He tallied a 1.16 ERA in 23.1 innings, while also striking out 37 and walked four. Most notably, teams were hitting him at just a .205 clip when the season came to a close.

But when the season was shuttered, some wondered if Hoglund would continue this spring where he left off last season.

That answer is a resounding yes.

Facing one of the nation’s premier offenses Sunday afternoon, Hoglund, who admittedly didn’t have his best slider after the first couple of innings, struck out 11, walked three and allowed just three runs on three hits in 5.1 innings of work.

“The biggest thing you didn’t see today was the dominant slider. The slider was a big reason why his strikeout numbers were so good last spring,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “He had a fastball, curveball and changeup as a freshman, and the curveball in high school. That works for him then. But he didn’t get swings and misses from those curveballs.

“I think he’s learned he doesn’t have to throw every pitch for a strike,” he added. “He can go out there and pitch more, and when you have super command like him, that’s what makes him special.

“There are guys out there that throw harder than him. There are guys out there that throw the slider harder than him, but he’s the whole package,” he added. “He has four pitches in the strike zone and really commands it well. To hit him, you really have to go out there and work. He was locating it in and out — against a pretty good offense.”

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound, was terrific in the first inning against the Red Raiders, going 1-2-3 with a pair of strikeouts — one on a 95 mph fastball and the other on a 96 mph heater. He allowed a two-run home run from Nate Rombach in the second inning and didn’t allow another run until Dylan Neuse greeted him with a solo home run to leadoff the sixth inning. He struck out Easton Murrell and was lifted for Austin Miller.

From a stuff standpoint, Hoglund has what you want from a frame standpoint, and has an easy, consistent, delivery. He was consistently 92-95 and up to 96 mph with the fastball early in the contest, while it was more 92-94 as the game progressed. He was 90-92 with the fastball in his final inning of work. He also threw some changeups at 83 mph, while the slider was effective at times at 83-87 mph — a couple of ticks higher from a velocity standpoint than last season.

“I thought he was pretty terrific against a very good offense,” Bianco said. “That’s a lineup that makes you work. It was not his best stuff today, but he had great command of the fastball and had velocity. Maybe after the first inning the slider was nonexistent, but he located the fastball well.

“Some of the things we tried to improve on — and credit him — is just trying to get more tilt on his fastball. I wanted more ride to his fastball, and we’re seeing that,” he added. “I’m not sure he’s throwing his fastball any harder than he did in high school, it’s just more consistent now.”

As for Hoglund, he credits a combination of technology and hard work for his continued improvements that have him a very safe bet to be a top two-round pick this summer.

“Using technology has been a big part of my improvement,” Hoglund said. “I was working on all my pitches — trying to get a complete arsenal. I can use any of my pitches in any count now.

“I can definitely tell a difference with my fastball,” he added. “If it’s at 88-90, someone can catch up to it, but when you’re pounding the zone at 92-95, you’re going to get some swings and misses.”

Ole Miss entered this season with high expectations, partly because of an expected rise by Hoglund.

More good days are certainly ahead for the Rebels, and for Hoglund, too.

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.



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2021 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List Announced

The 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be presented in July
February 18, 2021
CARY, N.C. ­– USA Baseball announced its 55-player preseason Golden Spikes Award watch list today, beginning the process of identifying the top amateur baseball player in the country for the 2021 season. The 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be presented in July. The 2021 preseason watch list features 55 of the

CARY, N.C. ­– USA Baseball announced its 55-player preseason Golden Spikes Award watch list today, beginning the process of identifying the top amateur baseball player in the country for the 2021 season. The 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be presented in July.

The 2021 preseason watch list features 55 of the nation’s top amateur players from high school and college baseball. The Golden Spikes Award Advisory Board will maintain a rolling list of players, allowing athletes to play themselves into consideration for the award throughout the season.

Headlining the 2021 watch list is top MLB Draft prospect Kumar Rocker (Vanderbilt), who is making his second consecutive appearance on the preseason watch list this year. Rocker is joined by seven other 2020 Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list members, including Alex Binelas (Louisville), Colton Cowser (Sam Houston), Adrian Del Castillo (Miami), Trenton Denholm (UC Irvine), Josh Elvir (Angelo State), Bobby Seymour (Wake Forest), and Ethan Wilson (South Alabama). Additionally, Kevin Abel (Oregon State) returns to the list in 2021 after being named to the 2019 Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list.

“We are thrilled to be bringing the Golden Spikes Award back this year and kicking off the 2021 amateur baseball season with the fifty-five-player preseason watch list,” said Paul Seiler, Executive Director/CEO of USA Baseball. “The athletes who make up this year’s initial watch list have an incredible amount of talent and we are looking forward to their return to the diamond so we can follow their journeys during what will undoubtedly be a highly competitive season.”

The 2021 Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list features five athletes that will look to become just the third player from a non-NCAA Division I school to win the award, following in the footsteps of Alex Fernandez (1990) and Bryce Harper (2010). Elvir returns to the preseason watch list for the second year in a row representing NCAA Division II, while Mo Hanley (Adrian) and Luis Vargas (Wayland Baptist) represent NCAA Division III and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes (NAIA), respectively.

Jordan Lawlar (Dallas Jesuit High School) and Andrew Painter (Calvary Christian High School) are the only high school baseball players recognized by the advisory board for the 2021 preseason watch list. Lawlar and Painter are the first players from their respective schools to be named to the Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list.

Sixteen different collegiate athletic conferences are represented on the 2021 preseason watch list with eight of those conferences boasting multiple selections, including the American Athletic, Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Big West, Pac-12, Sun Belt and Southeastern Conferences.

Florida leads the list of schools represented with three players on the 2021 list, followed closely by Arkansas, Boston College, Louisville, Miami, Ole Miss, Tennessee, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Virginia, and Wake Forest, which all boast a pair of athletes.

Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman took home the prestigious award most recently in 2019, joining a group of recent winners that include Andrew Vaughn (2018), Brendan McKay (2017), Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008) and David Price (2007).

Fan voting will once again play a part in the Golden Spikes Award in 2021. Amateur baseball fans will be able to vote for their favorite players on GoldenSpikesAward.com, starting on June 8 with the naming of the Golden Spikes Award semifinalists. USA Baseball will announce the finalists for the award on June 24 and fan voting will open at GoldenSpikesAward.com concurrently, remaining open through July 2.

The winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be named in July. To stay up-to-date on the 2021 Golden Spikes Award visit GoldenSpikesAward.com and follow @USAGoldenSpikes on Twitter and Instagram.

  •  

  • The 2021 Golden Spikes Award timeline:
  • April 14: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list announced
  • June 8: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists announced, fan voting begins
  • June 15: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists fan voting ends
  • June 24: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists announced, fan voting begins
  • July 2: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists fan voting ends
  • July: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award trophy presentation
  •  

  • A complete list of the 55-player USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list is as follows:
  •  

  • Name; Position; School; Conference
  • Andrew Abbott; LHP; Virginia; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Kevin Abel; RHP; Oregon State; Pac-12 Conference
  • Hunter Barco; LHP; Florida; Southeastern Conference
  • Alex Binelas; 3B; Louisville; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Mason Black; RHP; Lehigh; Patriot League
  • Tyler Black; 2B; Wright State; Horizon League
  • Brooks Carlson; 2B; Samford; SoCon Conference
  • Parker Chavers; OF; Coastal Carolina; Sun Belt Conference
  • Maxwell Costes; 1B; Maryland; Big 10 Conference
  • Colton Cowser; OF; Sam Houston; Southland Conference
  • Ryan Cusick; RHP; Wake Forest; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Henry Davis; C; Louisville; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Adrian Del Castillo; C; Miami; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Trenton Denholm; RHP; UC Irvine; Big West Conference
  • Josh Elvir; OF; Angelo State; Lone Star Conference
  • Jud Fabian; OF; Florida; Southeastern Conference
  • Max Ferguson; 2B; Tennessee; Southeastern Conference
  • Richard Fitts; RHP; Auburn; Southeastern Conference
  • Christian Franklin; OF; Arkansas; Southeastern Conference
  • Sal Frelick; OF; Boston College; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Zack Gelof; 3B; Virginia; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Hunter Goodman; C/UTL; Memphis; American Athletic Conference
  • Peyton Graham; INF; Oklahoma; Big 12 Conference
  • Steve Hajjar; LHP; Michigan; Big 10 Conference
  • Mo Hanley; OF/LHP; Adrian; Michigan Intercollegiate Conference
  • Jaden Hill; RHP; LSU; Southeastern Conference
  • Gunnar Hoglund; RHP; Ole Miss; Southeastern Conference
  • Grant Holman; RHP/1B; California; Pac-12 Conference
  • Jordan Lawlar; INF; Dallas Jesuit High School
  • Jack Leiter; RHP; Vanderbilt; Southeastern Conference
  • Seth Lonsway; LHP; Ohio State; Big 10 Conference
  • Tommy Mace; RHP; Florida; Southeastern Conference
  • Christian MacLeod; RHP; Mississippi State; Southeastern Conference
  • Ty Madden; RHP; Texas; Big 12 Conference
  • Robby Martin; OF; Florida State; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Michael McGreevy; RHP; UC Santa Barbara; Big West
  • Matt McLain; SS; UCLA; Pac-12 Conference
  • Troy Melton; RHP; San Diego State; Mountain West Conference
  • Robert Moore; 2B; Arkansas; Southeastern Conference
  • Cody Morissette; 3B; Boston College; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Dylan Neuse; OF; Texas Tech; Big 12 Conference
  • Doug Nikhazy; LHP; Ole Miss; Southeastern Conference
  • Braden Olthoff; RHP; Tulane; American Athletic Conference
  • Andrew Painter; RHP; Calvary Christian High School
  • Connor Pavolony; C; Tennessee; Southeastern Conference
  • Zach Pettway; RHP; UCLA; Pac-12 Conference
  • Connor Prielipp; LHP; Alabama; Southeastern Conference
  • Kumar Rocker; RHP; Vanderbilt; Southeastern Conference
  • Bobby Seymour; 1B; Wake Forest; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Alex Toral; 1B; Miami; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Jose Torres; INF; NC State; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Luis Vargas; OF; Wayland Baptist; Sooner Athletic Conference
  • Luke Waddell; SS; Georgia Tech; Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Jordan Wicks; LHP; Kansas State; Big 12 Conference
  • Ethan Wilson; OF; South Alabama; Sun Belt Conference
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USA Baseball to Forgo Presenting 2020 Golden Spikes Award

The 43rd winner of the Golden Spikes Award will be named following the 2021 season
April 11, 2020
CARY, N.C. -- USA Baseball announced today it will not name a Golden Spikes Award winner for the 2020 baseball season after athletic programs across the country were shut down early due to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The organization will resume the identification and selection process for the award
CARY, N.C. -- USA Baseball announced today it will not name a Golden Spikes Award winner for the 2020 baseball season after athletic programs across the country were shut down early due to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The organization will resume the identification and selection process for the award in the 2021 season.
2020 would have marked the 43rd consecutive year USA Baseball has honored the top amateur baseball player in the United States, beginning with the inaugural winner, Bob Horner (Arizona State), in 1978.
"USA Baseball will forgo naming a Golden Spikes Award winner for the 2020 season amid the ongoing effects surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the game of baseball this season," said USA Baseball Executive Director and CEO Paul Seiler. "We applaud the successes earned by the countless amateur athletes vying for this award prior to the suspension of their seasons; however, we feel this decision fortifies our commitment to uphold the longstanding tradition of excellence associated with this prestigious award and aptly honors the accomplishments of the previous forty-two recipients of the Golden Spikes Award."
Over the past 42 years, Golden Spikes Award winners have gone on to have tremendous success in Major League Baseball. Three Golden Spikes Award winners have won MLB MVP honors (Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper and Buster Posey), two were awarded a Cy Young (Tim Lincecum and David Price) and five were named the Rookie of the Year (Bryant, Harper, Horner, Jason Jennings and Posey).
Additionally, 11 have gone on to win a World Series championship as a player or manager¬-winning 17 total championships-and 18 previous winners have made one more All-Star Game appearances as a player or manager, combining for 56 total selections.
The Golden Spikes Award will resume in 2021 with the naming of its preseason watch list in February. For more information on the Golden Spikes Award and its past winners, visit GoldenSpikesAward.com and follow @USAGoldenSpikes on Instagram and Twitter.
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