STARKVILLE, Miss. (NCBWA) –
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
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
junior 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 on all 18 save opportunities while allowing
but four earned runs and two extra-base hits in helping lead the
Golden Eagles to a berth in the NCAA Baton Rouge 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 batting average.
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 Dictrict 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.
For additional information on the Stopper of the Year Award,
contact Joe Dier at Mississippi State University at 662-325-8040
or Russ Anderson at Conference USA at 214-774-1351.
2008 NCBWA Stopper of the Year key dates:
• Thurs., Feb. 14: Watch List announced
• Thurs., April 17: Midseason Watch List announced
• Thurs., May 29: Stopper of the Year finalists
• Wed., June 4: NCBWA Stopper of the Year announced