GREEENVILLE, N.C. (NCBWA) – Fifty-two players have been named to the initial Watch List for the 14th annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I Baseball, the association announced Monday.
Florida’s Michael Byrne, North Carolina’s Josh Hiatt and Oregon’s Kenyon Yovan were all finalists from a year ago for an award that was captured in 2017 by Louisville’s Lincoln Henzman.
The Southeastern Conference had the most representation with eight players finding their names on the watch list. That group is headlined by Byrne, who registered a nation-leading 19 saves while sporting a 1.67 ERA in 38 appearances. Hiatt (13 saves) is one of seven players from the Atlantic Coast Conference, while Yovan (15 saves) is one of four from the Pac-12.
More than a third of the players on this list recorded double-digit saves a season ago and 15 were named to the 2018 NCBWA Preseason All-American team. Four of those preseason All-Americans posted a sub-1.50 ERA’s last year in Louisville’s Sam Bordner (0.41 ERA, 16 saves), Purdue’s Ross Learnard (0.58 ERA, 4 saves), Oregon State’s Jake Mulholland (1.20 ERA, 6 saves) and Cal State Fullerton’s Brett Conine (1.39 ERA, 15 saves).
In total, 18 conferences are represented on this list with at least two players coming from 12 different leagues.
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 and Luke Prihoda of Sam Houston State winning it in 2007. Georgia’s Joshua Fields topped the field in 2008, San Diego State’s Addison Reed grabbed the honor in 2009 and Texas’ Chance Ruffin earned the honor in 2010. The Longhorns’ Corey Knebel won in 2011, with Southeastern Louisiana's Stefan Lopez picking up the honor in 2012. UCLA’s David Berg was crowned the winner in 2013, Louisville’s Nick Burdi took home the 2014 honor and Berg became the award's first two-time winner in 2015. Miami (Fla.)’s Bryan Garcia was honored as the 2016 recipient followed by the Cardinals’ Henzman in 2017.
The NCBWA, founded in 1962, presents the Dick Howser Trophy to the nation's top player. It also selects All-America Teams for all Divisions, a Division I Freshman All-American team, Division I, II and III Players of the Week and Division I, II and III Players of the Year.