Feb. 17, 2009
The West Coast Conference continues to receive preseason accolades as it placed four players on this year's NCBWA Preseason Stopper of the Year Watch List. The four players marks the second highest total of players from any conference behind the ACC, who placed nine players on the list. The Big 12 also placed four, while the SEC and Pac-10 both placed three players on this year's list.
Gonzaga's Cody Martin (SO, RHP) will return as the team's leading pitcher after ranking third in the league in saves with nine and fifth in the conference in ERA at 2.80. For his efforts, he was named a 2008 NCBWA second team freshman All-American.
Pepperdine's Nick Gaudi (SR, RHP) led the WCC in saves last season with 15 on the year and was named to the WCC All-First team. This year he was named a second team preseason All-American by the NCBWA.
San Diego's AJ Griffin (JR, RHP) is coming off a season in which he ranked second in the league in ERA at 2.15 and was second in saves with 14. This season, he has racked up numerous preseason nominations including being named to this year's Blake Wallace Award watch list and a first team All-American by the NCBWA.
Santa Clara's Thain Simon (SO, RHP) was third in the league in ERA at 2.59 while tying for second in wins with nine en route to earning the WCC Freshman of the Year award. He has also been named to this year's Blake Wallace Award watch list, joining seven other WCC players.
Forty players have been named to the initial watch list for the fifth annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball, as announced by the association Tuesday.
With two of the finalists for the 2008 honor back for another season (Scott Bittle of Ole Miss and Eric Pettis of UC Irvine), as well as an impressive list of All-Americans, another exciting race for this year's Stopper of the Year Award is anticipated. Georgia relief ace Joshua Fields, a first-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners and the Southeastern Conference's all-time saves leader, claimed last year's award. Nine of this year's nominees were included in the 2009 NCBWA Preseason All-America Team announced by the organization in December.
The Atlantic Coast Conference led the way with nine players named to the preseason watch list. The Big 12 and the West Coast Conference added four pitchers each on this year's watch list, while the SEC and Pacific-10 Conference are represented by three players each.
Nominations for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award were made by baseball sports information/media relation contacts. The initial list will be updated with a mid-season release the week of April 16, including the national saves leaders. At the conclusion of the regular season, the Division I national saves leader and four other relief pitching standouts will be selected as finalists and released Wednesday, May 27, prior to start of NCAA regional tournament competition.
The NCBWA's All-America Committee will then select the winner, with this year's recipient to be announced in early June.
Texas hurler J. Brent Cox won the inaugural Stopper of the Year Award in 2005, with Don Czyz of Kansas claiming the honor in 2006, Luke Prihoda of Sam Houston State winning it in 2007 and Fields topping the field in 2008.
The NCBWA, founded in 1962, presents the Dick Howser Trophy to the nation's top player. It also selects a Division I All-America Team, Division I Freshman All-Americans, Division I and III Players of the Week, Division I District Players of the Year and Division II and III Players of the Year. For more information on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year, contact Chuck Dunlap at the Southeastern Conference at 205-458-3000 or Russ Anderson at Conference USA at 214-774-1351.