Young Crop Receives Early Honors…
WICHITA, Kan. – One of the youngest groups in the decade-plus history of selections, the 12th annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association preseason All-America team has a strong element of 2011 NCAA World Series returnees and loads of exceptional 2012 season sophomores and juniors.
After back-to-back NCAA titles for South Carolina and numerous defections to the professional ranks in ‘11, the 2012 projected team may be a mini-view of the NCAA World Series next June.
The defending champ Gamecocks landed pitcher Matt Price, who led the nation with 20 saves and kept USC in the running throughout the CWS with clutch relief appearances, on the first unit, along with starting ace Michael Roth (14-3, 1.06 earned run average, 112 strikeouts in a workhorse 145 innings pitched. Also off of Ray Tanner’s title crew is 1B Christian Walker, a second team selection, after posting a .358 batting average with 10 home runs and 62 RBIs.
First team All-America catcher Mike Zunino of Florida brings back NCAA team runner-up credentials and 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year statistics – 19 homers, 67 RBIs and a .371 average. Teammates first squad utility player Brian Johnson (8-3 pitching record, .307-5-29), relief standout Austin Maddox (3-0, 0.67 ERA, 5 saves) and DH Preston Tucker (.308-15-74) – the latter two second team – graced the A-A rosters.
In consultation with individual schools’ media relations offices, the NCBWA All-America committee for pre-2012 listed both the Gamecocks’ Price and Virginia’s Branden Kline as starting pitchers, where they are projected by their coaching staffs in ’12.
In addition to the USC and UF returnees from the World Series, many other young standouts with 2011 postseason credentials were honored.
Standouts from other Series participants California, North Carolina, Texas, Texas A&M, and Virginia are throughout the dream team compilations.
Cal CWS vets 2B Tony Renda and pitcher Justin Jones joined North Carolina 3B Colin Moran. Texas pitcher Cory Knebel (2011 NCBWA Stopper of the Year and Freshman Pitcher of the Year) and 3B Erich Weiss, Texas A&M OF Tyler Naquin and pitcher Ross Stripling, and UVa’s Kline, as well known collegians on the pre-2012 squads.
Others of note were NCBWA Freshman Hitter of the Year OF Daniel Aldrich (.347-22 HR-73 RBI) of College of Charleston and national 2011 home run leader OF Victor Roache (30 dingers) of Georgia Southern and undefeated pitcher Tyler Ray (12-0) of Troy on a multi-talented group of student-athletes. LJ Mazzilli, whose father Lee Mazzilli had a long playing career and managed in the Major Leagues, of NCAA-contending Connecticut was the first team second sacker.
The combined winning percentage of .795 (58-15 composite) among the first unit pitcher compares favorably with the marks of the pre-2010 squad (67-12) and the pre-2011 NCBWA standouts (74-11). There were 15 freshmen, sophomores or juniors from the 2011 season who were either Players, Hitters or Pitchers of the Year in their respective conferences.
The 12th annual NCBWA preseason All-America group also had representatives of 19 different conferences and 37 schools from the NCAA Division I ranks. The eight starting or relief pitchers on the first squad each had earned run averages of 2.40 or less.
Most of these preseason standouts will be nominated for the 26th annual Dick Howser Trophy, presented by Easton Foundations and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Area Chamber of Commerce and voted upon by the NCBWA membership. The Howser Trophy will be awarded in Omaha, Neb., in June 2012, after an extensive nomination and national balloting process.
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