GREENVILLE, N.C. (NCBWA) Seventy players have been named to the initial Watch List for the 16th 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.
UCLA's Holden Powell, the 2019 Stopper of the Year recipient, along with 2019 finalists Garrett Acton (Illinois) and Tyler Brown (Vanderbilt) headline this year's group of talented relievers all three were tabbed as first-team preseason All-Americans. Powell, the second Bruin to win the award since its inception in 2005, boasted a 1.84 ERA with a 4-3 record and notched 17 saves. His save total was tied for second, both in the country in 2019 and in the all-time UCLA single-season record book, trailing only the NCAA-record 24 by David Berg in 2013.
Acton notched an NCAA-best 19 saves on his way to First-Team NCBWA All-America and District Player of the Year honors in 2019. The righty appeared in a team-high 30 games while sporting an Illini-best 2.18 ERA. Brown, who helped the Commodores win the 2019 College World Series title, tallied 17 saves with a 2.19 ERA. The right-hander recorded three of his 17 saves in the CWS and struck out 65 batters while walking just nine in 31 contests (49.1 innings).
The Atlantic Coast Conference had the most representation with nine players finding their names on the watch list. That group is headlined by preseason All-America selections Thomas Girard (Duke/third-team) and Carson Spiers (Clemson/third-team). Girard registered nine saves in 28 appearances with a 2.33 ERA, while Spiers notched 11 saves in 30 outings. The Southeastern Conference had eight while the Big 10 had six land on the list. Joining Brown from the SEC are second-team selection Cody Greenhill (Auburn/12 saves and 3.45 ERA) and third-team preseason All-America pick Redmond Walsh (Tennessee/9 saves and 1.38 ERA).
Iowa's Grant Leonard earned second-team preseason All-America accolades after posting a 2-3 record with 14 saves and a 3.37 ERA a year ago. He is joined on the list by Acton and third-team preseason All-America selection Willie Weiss (Michigan), who tallied nine saves and helped the Wolverines to the 2019 CWS title series.
Twelve players recorded double-digit saves a season ago with nine of those earning inclusion to the 2020 NCBWA Preseason All-America team. Other preseason All-America notables include Burl Carraway (Dallas Baptist/third-team), Alek Jacob (Gonzaga/first-team), Reid McLaughlin (BYU/third-team), Jason Ruffcorn (Oklahoma/second-team) and Nick Wohlbold (UT Martin/second-team).
In total, 22 conferences are represented on this list with at least two players coming from 18 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 the Cardinal's Lincoln Henzman in 2017, Florida's Michael Byrne in 2018 and Powell last year.
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.