GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Three Southern Conference relievers were named to the 2017 Stopper of the Year Watch List by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Monday. Mercer’s Robert Broom, UNCG’s Andrew Wantz and Samford’s Wyatt Burns were named to the 60-member watch list for the award that honors the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I.
Broom, a sophomore, is one of two pitchers from the state of Georgia listed.
A native of Chicamauga, Georgia, Broom led the Bears with a 3.57 ERA last season in 41 appearances on the mound, finishing the year with a 4-3 record and four saves. He allowed only 61 hits in 237 at bats faced while striking out 75 and walking 25.
Burns, who earned Preseason All-Southern Conference honors last week, heads into the season as one of the top closers in the nation. Last year, the Bulldogs’ right-handed sidewinder from Pinson, Alabama, finished the campaign with eight saves and 40 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings pitched. Burns closed out his sophomore year with a team-high 37 appearances.
After going 6-1 with four saves in 2016, Wantz was named first-team All-Southern Conference by both the league’s media and coaches and was named the Southern Conference’s Co-Pitcher of the Year by the league’s media. Wantz was the SoCon’s pitcher of the week the week of April 3, while earning a pair of national pitcher of the week honors from Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA.
Wantz led UNCG with 97 strikeouts, working in a team-high 34 contests. In his 78 2/3 innings, opponents hit for a .199 average, earning a 6-1 record with four saves.
During his summer season, Wantz pitched for the Bourne Braves in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. Wantz appeared in 11 games, earning a 2.16 ERA and struck out 24 batters in 16 2/3 innings of work, while being named a CCBL All-Star.
More than a third of the players on this list recorded double-digit saves a season ago and 10 were named to the NCBWA Preseason All-American team. Two of those preseason All-Americans posted sub-1.00 ERA's a season ago as Baylor's Troy Montemayor (0.78) and Louisiana's Dylan Moore (0.91) both notched 14 saves for their respective teams.
In total, 23 conferences are represented on this list with the Southeastern Conference following the Pac-12 with seven representatives. Conference USA and the Big West each had four players on this list.
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.
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.