Top Performers Shine During Opening Weekend
CollegeBaseball360.com has recognized a group of players from throughout the nation for their “primetime performances” during the season’s opening weekend (Feb. 19-21). Leading the way are three top honorees – as New Mexico senior centerfielder Max Willett (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and Oregon sophomore second baseman Danny Pulfer (Cypress, Calif.) share the inaugural honor as Co-Primetime Players of the Week while Ball State senior righthander Morgan Coombs (West Terre Haute, Ind.) is the first Primetime Pitcher of the Week. These three players headline the first Primetime Performers Weekly Honor Roll (listed below).
Willette batted 7-for-11 (RBI, 3R, 2B) in leading New Mexico to a series win at top-ranked Texas, while Pulfer hit .412 (7-for-17) and had a hand in nearly 40% of Oregon’s 32 runs (6 RBI, 6 R) during the Ducks’ breakout southern-California roadswing (highlighted by wins over #3 Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State). Coombs delivered in a pressure-packed situation at #15 Arkansas, closing Ball State’s 5-2 win with 5.0 strong innings (UER, 4H, 8K) despite 8,000-plus spirited Razorbacks fans cheering against him.
Similar to the weekly awards presented on sister site CollegeSoccer360.com, the CB360 Primetime Performer honors various players based on any/all of the following “primetime” criteria…not solely based on raw stats.
Primetime Performer Award Criteria
• Must have been playing for or against a CB360 top-50 team (in the Composite National Rankings) or performed a high level in a game that could be key to a team’s conference/NCAA postseason qualification.
• Involved in clutch performances, such as late game-winning hits, noteworthy comebacks, game-changing plays, team leadership, etc.
• Performing at a top level against a team rated highly nationally (or within its conference), with bonus consideration given for key performances away from home field.
• Overcoming adversity or extreme circumstances (for the team and/or individual).
Additional information and bio. data on the Primetime Performers, along with headshots and action photos, is being added to this release.
The other 17 members of the CB360 Primetime Performer Weekly Honor Roll include New Mexico senior 1B Justin Howard, two sophomores (LHP/1B Danny Hultzen and 3B Steven Proscia) from the Virginia team that took 2-of-3 at East Carolina en route to the #1 national ranking, and two players (so. RHP Jordan Pries, jr. SS Jake Schlander) from the Stanford team that swept Rice, along with the following clutch performers: Northwestern State so. OF/1B Colin Bear … Hawaii so. RF Collin Bennett … Georgia Tech so. LHP Jed Bradley … East Carolina so. LHP Kevin Brandt … Louisiana-Monroe jr. RHP Wil Browning … Pepperdine jr. LHP Matt Bywater … Florida sr. CF Matt den Dekker … TCU fr. RF/C Josh Elander … Gonzaga sr. CF Drew Heid … Kentucky so. RHP/1B Braden Kapteyn … Baylor sr. RHP Willie Kempf … and Fresno State jr. 1B Jordan Ribera.
The 20 honorees include nine pitchers (pair of 2-way players; 5 RHP/4 LHP), five first baseman (including both 2-way players, plus one who also played OF), three centerfielders, three corner outfielders (one also played 1B, one C), one second baseman, one shortstop, one third baseman and one catcher (also played OF). TCU’s Elander is the only freshman among the Primetime players, which also include a fifth-year senior, six seniors, three juniors and a big sophomore-class representation of nine honorees.
The group includes four Texas natives – Bear, Elander, Howard and Kempf – and four more from California (Bywater, Pries, Pulfer and Ribera), along with two Primetime players from Washington and one each from Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New York and North Carolina.
(from left) Oregon second baseman Danny Pulfer, Ball State closer Morgan Coombs and New Mexico centerfielder Max Willett headline CB360’s first group of Primetime Performers (photos courtesy of each school).
WILLETT – batting from the #6 spot – combined with Howard to lead a Lobos offense that hit .284 with 10 extra-base hits in a three-game road series versus #1-ranked Texas and its vaunted pitching staff. UNM shocked the college baseball world by taking the series in Austin (2-6/6-5/3-1), with Willett batting 7-for-11 (.636, RBI, 3 R, 3B, 2B, HBP, SF) and playing error-free in center field.
After a solid showing in the opener (2-for-4, 2B), Willett went 3-for-4 in UNM’s game-2 upset. He led off the 6th by placing and opposite-field triple into the right-center gap and scored moments later for a 5-4 deficit. Three innings later, moments after Howard’s game-tying home run, Willett delivered in a situational plate appearance – flying out the left field for a sacrifice fly that plated Devon Conley as the eventual winning run.
Willett’s game-3 effort (2-for-3, 2R, 2B) helped produce another win over the Longhorns. He hit a 1-out single up the middle and scored the game’s first run in the 4th, later adding the game’s final run in the 8th (after a 2-out double down the leftfield line).
A second team all-Mountain West Conference selection in 2009 (.355, 46 RBI, 4 HR, 15 2B, 12-13 SB, 15 sac. bunts, 0 errors), Willett played sparingly in his first three seasons at UNM – totaling only 59 games played and 31 starts spanning the 2006-08 seasons. He batted only .229 as a sophomore in 2007 before seeing his junior season (12 GS) cut short by a hand injury. He is a product of Colorado’s Thunder Ridge High School, where he played on state-championship teams in both baseball and football.
Primetime Performer Weekly Honor Roll (Feb. 19-21)
“It’s not so much what you do, as it is when you do it.”
Player (Pos.) … School … Yr., Ht./Wt. … Hometown … Stats & Notes
Colin Bear (OF) … Northwestern St. … So., 6-3/210 … Houston, TX
Collin Bennett (RF) … Hawaii … So., 6-1 … Bellevue, WA
Jed Bradley (LHP) … Georgia Tech … So., 6-4/210 … Huntsville, AL
Kevin Brandt (LHP) … East Carolina … So., 6-2/190 … Fuquay Varina, NC
Wil Browning (RHP) … La. Monroe Jr., 6-3/200 … Kosciusko, MS
Matt Bywater (LHP) … Pepperdine … Jr., 6-2/195 … Thousand Oaks, CA
*Morgan Coombs (RHP) … Ball State … Sr., 6-1/190 … West Terre Haute, IN
Matt den Dekker (CF) … Florida … Sr., 6-1/210 … Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Josh Elander (RF/C) … TCU … Fr., 6-0/205 … Round Rock, TX
Drew Heid (CF) … Gonzaga … Sr., 5-10/175 … Touchet, WA
Justin Howard (1B) … New Mexico … Sr., 6-0/205 … Ennis, TX
Danny Hultzen (LHP/1B) … Virginia … So., 6-3/200 … Bethesda, MD
Braden Kapteyn (RHP/1B) …Kentucky … So., 6-4/220 … Lansing, IL
Willie Kempf (RHP) … Baylor … Sr., 6-0/195 … Castroville, TX
Jordan Pries (RHP) … Stanford … So., 6-0/190 … Alameda, CA
Steven Proscia (3B) … Virginia … So., 6-2/215 … Suffern, NY
*Danny Pulfer (2B) … Oregon … So., … 5-10/190 … Cypress, CA
Jordan Ribera (1B) … Fresno State … Jr., 6-0/220 … Fresno, CA
Jake Schlander (SS) … Stanford … Jr., 6-2/195 … Scottsdale, AZ
*Max Willett (CF) … New Mexico … Sr., 5-10/190 … Highlands Ranch, CO
* – Note: Pulfur and Willett shared the CB360 Primetime Player of the Week award, while Coombs was the inaugural Primetime Pitcher of the Week