Oberacker and Kirby-Jones earn first and second team All-America honors

Oberacker and Kirby-Jones earn first and second team All-America honors

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Tech juniors Chad Oberacker and A.J. Kirby-Jones have been named All-America by TPX Louisville Slugger Collegiate Baseball News, as announced Thursday, June 3. With the selection of the two Golden Eagle sluggers, Tech joins the ranks of some of the nation’s premier college baseball programs.

Only seven teams in the nation boast multiple first and/or second team All-Americans for the 2010 season. The other six programs are ranked within the top eight in the NCAA. Tech’s two honorees places TTU amongst the ranks of #2 Arizona State, #3 Texas, #4 Coastal Carolina, #6 TCU, #7 Cal State Fullerton and #8 UCLA.

The significance of these two players being honored is heightened by the fact that Tennessee Tech has not had more than one All-American named in a single decade, let alone in a single season. Four other Golden Eagles have received past accolades - Cole Helms in 2002, Mark Maberry in 1997, Scott Baerns in 1988 and Mike Winchester in 1975.

Named first-team All-America, center fielder Chad Oberacker of Erie, Pennsylvania finished his season ranked no. 3 in the nation, leading the Golden Eagles and the Ohio Valley Conference with a batting average of .452. Batting in the clean-up position, Oberacker consistently hit over .400 for the entire season, and finished fourth in the nation in total hits with 108 – a statistic that ranks first in the OVC - 40 of which were for extra bases. His career batting average of .395 takes top honors in Tech history.

Throughout the season he maintained an on-base percentage of .527 and slugged .690, batting in 70 runs and becoming just the fourth athlete in Tech history to bring in over 60 runs in one season, earning him the three spot in Tech record books. He set single season records in 2010 for hits and doubles with 29, which ranks first in the OVC, and he ranks second in Tech’s single season history in total bases with 165. Oberacker is also tied for the top spot in Tech record books with nine career triples.

Being the only Golden Eagle to play and start all 56 games in a field position this year, Oberacker recorded a conference-high 281 total plate appearances, rounding the bases 67 times and logging five triples, six homers and 34 walks for 2010. He also recorded an outstanding 36 multi-hit games and fielded .992 on the season.

Oberacker went 6-for-13 with two home runs and seven RBIs to fuel the Golden Eagle sweep of Murray State in the final regular season series of the year to claim the OVC title and no. 1 seed outright for the first time since 1997.

“Chad is a tremendous athlete, we’ve always known he was a special baseball player,” said Tech Head Coach Matt Bragga. “He was a huge part of our championship team last year and had another great year this year. We’re excited for him, this is a big honor, there are not many men in the country who can be first team All-America.”

Additionally, Oberacker received Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week accolades for week 13 of the season, was named first team All-OVC and second team Academic All-District. He becomes the first baseball player in history to be named to an All-America team as well as to an Academic All-District team. He was named to the 2010 OVC all-tournament team, is also one of 10 finalists for Tennessee Tech University’s Male Athlete of the Year award, and is on the 2010 John Olerud Two-Way Player watch list.

“Getting recognized is a huge honor,” Oberacker emphasized. “But it has a lot to do with everyone around me.”

Everyone around him includes teammate and fellow honoree A.J. Kirby-Jones, who was named second team All-America.

“A.J. [Kirby-Jones] works hard in every at-bat to make sure I get my turn at the plate,” Oberacker said of Kirby-Jones, who hits in the number three spot for the Golden Eagles. “It’s exciting to have both of us recognized since it was such a great year,” the two agree.

“I have to give a lot of credit to Chad [Oberacker] for stepping in behind me and being one of the best hitters in the country,” Kirby-Jones responded. “It’s shown by him being a first-team pick.”

The 6-foot utility player out of Knoxville, Tenn., slugged a monumental .859 this season as Tech’s designated hitter - a statistic that ranks second in the NCAA, led the Ohio Valley Conference and shattered the single season record at Tech. His career slugging percentage of .686 ties Jeremy Bonczynski for first place in the Tech record books. He finished second in the nation, first in the OVC in home runs with 26, and with 51 career home runs takes the number one spot in Tech history.

He also ranks first at Tech in career total bases with 409, runs scored with 143, hits with 207, doubles with 49, runs batted in with 190 and walks with 128.

Kirby-Jones led the OVC and the Golden Eagles with 58 walks this season, which puts him fifth in the nation for base-on-balls, and holds the single season record for intentional walks with nine in 2010.

Starting the past 114 games consecutively, including all 56 competitions in the 2010 season as the designated hitter or first baseman, he batted in 70 runs this year, breaking his own personal record for RBIs to earn the two spot in the Tech single-season record books. His 2010 on-base percentage of .531 ranks second in the OVC, as do his RBI and total base (177) stats. He holds the three spot in the conference for total plate appearances with 275.

“AJ is a great person, first and foremost, and very consistent in his approach to the game every day,” said Bragga. “No matter how he played in the last game he has a tendency to stay very level and understands the game very well.”

Kirby-Jones started for the Golden Eagles as a freshman, had a record-breaking sophomore year and topped it in his junior year. A major part of the team’s success over the past two years, he not only filled the role as Tech’s designated hitter, but also flashed the leather periodically throughout his career as a first baseman and a relief pitcher.

After hitting five home runs and two doubles, bringing in 13 RBIs and scoring eight runs, earning seven walks and maintaining a .526 batting average, .655 on-base percentage and a 1.421 slugging percentage, Kirby-Jones was named National Player of the Week in March. Additionally, he was named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week for week five of the 2010 season and 2010 first team All-OVC. Kirby-Jones is also a finalist for TTU’s Male Athlete of the Year Award and is on the 2010 Dick Howser Trophy watch list.

“We’re so proud of these guys, they’re both fantastic ball players and it has been my privilege to coach them and watch them grow as athletes and as young men over the past few years,” said Bragga. “The bottom line is that those guys are not only tremendous baseball players but great guys, they’re leaders and ambassadors to our team,” Bragga continued. He believes that their performances have set a standard for the program at Tech and will serve to motivate the team and future players to strive for individual and team success.

“This is a huge accomplishment for these young men and the program,” said Tennessee Tech Director of Athletics Mark Wilson. “It serves as an excellent indicator for the future of Tech baseball under Coach Bragga.”