OMAHA (NCBWA) – Florida's Michael Byrne was named the 2018 Stopper of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park, becoming the first Gator to capture the award since its inception in 2005.
Byrne earned First-Team All-America honors from the NCBWA to go along with All-Southeastern Conference first-team accolades following a stellar junior campaign. Saving 15 games on the season in 34 appearances, Byrne has helped his club to a school-record fourth consecutive trip to the College World Series, Florida's 12th overall and seventh in 11 years under head coach Kevin O'Sullivan with a walk-off Super Regional win over fellow conference foe Auburn last weekend.
Byrne, a 14th-round selection by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, enters play in Omaha sporting a 3-1 record with a 1.59 ERA to go along with 60 strikeouts to five walks in 56.2 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a .197 composite batting average. In Super Regional action, the right-hander appeared in all three games, working 6.1 scoreless relief frames where he fanned 10, walked one, surrendered four hits and picked up the win in the decisive Game 3.
The remaining finalists for the Stopper of the Year award included Seth Kinker (Ohio State), Jack Little (Stanford), Chris Mauloni (Jacksonville) and Brooks Wilson (Stetson).
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 Louisville's Lincoln 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.