Led by All-Everything pitcher Jered Weaver of Long Beach State, the "dream team" is a solid collection of student-athletes who have excelled on all levels in '04 and are prevalent in the NCAA World Series at Omaha from June 18-28.
Weaver, a two-time NCBWA All-America first teamer, posted numbers unseen in the Big West Conference and nationally for the campaign. He was 15-1 overall with 201 strikeouts in 136 1/3 innings pitched, just 19 walks, 25 earned runs, a 1.65 ERA, and a .161 opponents' batting average.
The 2003 and '04 Co-Big West Player of the Year with teammates Abe Alvarez and P Jason Windsor, respectively, led coach Mike Weathers' squad to the finals of the NCAA Long Beach Super Regional. Two extra-inning losses to Arizona of the Pacific-10 Conference stood in the way of a Dirtbags' trek to the 2004 World Series.
On the mound side with Weaver are two of the NCBWA's preseason All-America starting hurlers from defending national champion Rice. Philip Humber was among the Top Seven in Division I total wins nationally with a 13-2 record and 1.80 ERA. Teammate Wade Townsend, who was almost unhittable in RU's 2003 drive to the NCAA crown, went undefeated at 11-0 in '04 with a team-leading 1.68 ERA. Each Owls' moundman had 141 strikeouts for coach Wayne Graham's squad. 2004 preseason All-America Jeff Niemann was an almost certain choice for the first unit before being sidelined for part of the year by injuries. The Rice aces were all among the first 10 selections in the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft.
Texas junior lefty J.P. Howell (14-2, 2.26 ERA, 153 strikeouts in 123 2/3 innings of work to lead all Big 12 Conference pitchers in the first three categories) rounded out the initial starters selected after tossing coach Augie Garrido's Longhorns to the NCAA World Series for the fourth time in five years.
Relief pitchers on the first unit had similarly-stunning numbers. Southern Miss standout Austin Tubb had a hand in 18 winning decisions (8-0 record with 10 saves) in his 32 relief appearances and had a 0.93 ERA for the Conference USA power coached by Corky Palmer. Three-time All-America RHP Huston Street of Texas came on strongly toward the latter part of the season to save 12 games in 27 appearances and increase his Texas and Big 12 Conference career record for saves to 42.
A cavalcade of Division I's top hitters for average and power batsmen is reflected in all three units. New Mexico State 1B Billy Becher returns with .42 home runs per game (25 in 59 outings) to lead the nation in that category. All-Conference USA 2B Jarrett Hoffpauir of Southern Miss adds some of the best extra-base numbers of any middle infielder with 11 homers, 92 RBI and a .405 batting average. C-USA Player of the Year Ryan Jones of East Carolina helped the Pirates move to within two triumphs of a first-ever trip to Omaha with his 18 homers and 66 RBI in the first 49 games of the season.
Shortstop Dustin Pedroia of Arizona State also returns as the first team member from the 2003 contingent after pacing the Pacific-10 Conference contender to back-to-back NCAA appearances. Catcher Landon Powell, the Southeastern Conference Co-Player of the Year, slimmed down some 35 pounds in the offseason and jumped up his statistical numbers t> o 19 homers and 64 RBI for the World Series-bound Gamecocks. Fellow SEC slugger OF Jon Zeringue of LSU hit close to the .400 all year and led the Tigers back to their almost-annual trek to Omaha.
Promising a solid future for Division I baseball, youngsters such as Nebraska sophomore 3B Alex Gordon (Big 12 Player of the Year with 18 homers, 75 RBI and a .754 slugging percentage), William & Mary sophomore OF Chris Rahl (20 homers, 70 RBI) and Florida State soph OF Eddy Martinez-Esteve (.385 average, 19 home runs, 81 RBI) are just some of the second-year standouts represented on the first unit. A total of 48 different schools and nine student-athletes in the dent in 2004 NCAA World Series is on either the first, second or third squads in this year's voting by NCBWA membership.
In 2004 the NCBWA, St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Xanthus to select the national collegiate player with the Xanthus Dick Howser Trophy-embodying a collegian with standout athletics' ability as well as off-field character for Division I diamondman of the year. The '04 announcement and award ceremony are set for 9:30 a.m. (CDT) at the Omaha (Neb.) Courtyard by Marriott, 101 South 10th Street, 2nd Floor meeting area, on Friday, June 18.
Founded in 1962, the NCBWA is dedicated to the advancement of college baseball. Membership is open to writers, broadcasters and publicists of the sport. Members receive a membership card, directory, newsletter updates and official votes in the Howser Award Player of the Year, Regional Player of the Year and NCBWA All-America voting. The NCBWA also sponsors preseason All-American awards, publication and writing contests.