May 28, 2008
DALLAS, Texas - Five of college baseball's top relief
specialists have been selected as finalists for the fourth annual
National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year
Award, the NCBWA announced Thursday. The University of San Diego's AJ Griffin headlines this list of finalists.
This year's finalists include NCAA saves leader Tyler Conn of
Southern Miss, Scott Bittle of Mississippi, Joshua Fields of Georgia,
A.J. Griffin of the University of San Diego and Eric Pettis of UC
Irvine. All five relief aces helped their respective teams advance to
the 64-team field of the 2008 NCAA Baseball Tournament, which begins
this weekend at 16 regional sites across the nation.
Conn, with an NCAA-leading and C-USA single season record-breaking 18
saves, was an automatic qualifier for this year's award. The senior
southpaw from Ocean Springs, Miss., is 1-0 with a 1.02 earned run
average and 42 strikeouts in 26 relief appearances (35-1/3 innings
pitched). He has converted all 18 save opportunities while allowing but
four earned runs and two extra-base hits in helping lead USM's Golden
Eagles to a berth in the NCAA Baton Rouge (La.) Regional.
Bittle led the talent-laden field of NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award
candidates with 118 strikeouts in 26 relief appearances. He tallied
eight saves with a 6-1 mark and a 1.63 earned run average over 66-1/3
innings, helping the Rebels to a runner-up finish in the SEC Tournament
and a berth in the NCAA Coral Gables (Fla.) Regional. Though working out
of the bullpen, the junior right-hander from Texarkana, Texas, paced the
Southeastern Conference in strikeouts while holding opponents to a .142
Georgia relief ace Joshua Fields, a senior from Hull, Ga., was honored
as the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year for 2008 after
tallying 16 saves with a 2-2 record and a 1.52 earned run average.
Fields, a right-hander, totaled 53 strikeouts in 28 trips out of the
Georgia bullpen. He has allowed but five earned runs in 29-2/3 innings
while holding opponents to a .092 batting average. The SEC career saves
leader helped guide Georgia to the 2008 SEC title and a No. 8 national
seed in the upcoming NCAA Baseball Tournament in Athens, Ga.
San Diego righty A.J. Griffin helped lead USD's Toreros to their
second straight West Coast Conference title in 2008. Recently named to
the 2008 Team USA squad, Griffin posted a 13-save mark with a 1-1 record
and a 1.96 earned run average. He made 27 relief appearances,
registering 43 strikeouts while allowing nine earned runs over 41-1/3
innings. A unanimous all-conference selection and school career saves
record-holder as a sophomore, will continue competition in this
weekend's NCAA Long Beach (Calif.) Regional.
UC Irvine sophomore right-hander Eric Pettis earned first-team Easton
Big West All-Conference honors in 2008, concluding the regular season
with 15 saves, second-most in a season at UCI. Pettis, from West Hills,
Calif., made 28 relief appearances, compiling a 1.76 earned run average
with a 4-2 record and 46 strikeouts in 41 innings. Pettis' exploits
out of the bullpen have helped the Anteaters earn their third
consecutive advancement to the NCAA Baseball Tournament with competition
at the NCAA Lincoln (Neb.) Regional.
More than 50 of the nation's top collegiate relief pitchers were
included in the selection process for this year's NCBWA Stopper of the
Year Award, beginning with initial preseason nominations by baseball
contacts at NCAA Division I schools. The NCBWA's All-America
Committee will select the winner, which will be announced Wednesday,
June 4, prior to the start of NCAA Super Regional competition.
In addition to the Stopper of the Year Award, the NCBWA, founded in
1962, also presents the Dick Howser Trophy to the nation's top player
and selects a Division I All-America Team, Division I and III Players of
the Week, Division I District Players of the year and Division III
Players of the year.
Past recipients of the Stopper of the Year Award include J. Brent Cox
of Texas in 2005, Don Czyz of Kansas in 2006 and Luke Prihoda of Sam
Houston State in 2007.