May 14, 2013

The best is yet to come: Honors and awards follow 2013 TTU baseball team

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- It has been a whirlwind of a season for the Tennessee Tech baseball team, full of record-breaking performances, emotional moments, signature wins, and plenty of awards and recognition to go around.

The Golden Eagle players have recieved so much recognition, in fact, that frankly, it's been a whirlwind in itself just keeping track of all the honors and awards they have received. Several different members of the 2013 squad have been recognized throughout the season, on both the conference level and nationally. As the team steams into the final week of the regular season, it's a great time to look back on the long list of recognitions that have been bestowed upon coach Matt Bragga's players.

It all started in December, a time of the year when the last thing on the minds of the sports world is baseball. It was then that Tech fans were able to catch a glimpse of what this season might hold. Junior slugger Zach Stephens earned preseason All-America third-team honors from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), one of the premier college baseball organizations in the country.

Stephens has done more than enough to live up to those great expectations, ranking first in the OVC in both home runs (13) and RBI (60) while leading the Golden Eagles to unprecedented levels of success. Tech has already won 36 games, the second-highest total in program history and just three behind the Tech record of 39 set by the 1997 squad. The team also owns 22 Ohio Valley Conference wins with three to play, the most in school history and second-most in league history behind the 2008 Jacksonville State squad's 23 victories.

The Golden Eagles also pulled off the biggest win in program history this season, upsetting then-ranked No. 2 Vanderbilt in Nashville, 10-9. The victory over the Commodores, who were recently ranked the No. 1 team in the nation, marked the first over a top 10 opponent in program history. Vanderbilt is also the highest-ranked opponent that any Tech program has beaten.

Tech's success has been far from a one-man operation, however, as the team ranks nationally in several statistical categories including second in strikeouts per nine innings (8.9), fifth in slugging percentage (.469), 10th in fielding percentage (.980), and 13th in scoring (7.2 runs/game).

Tech leads the OVC in batting average (.306), slugging percentage (.469), on base percentage (.401), runs (362), hits (530), RBI (332), doubles (112), home runs (47), sacrifice flies (34), strikeouts (433), fielding percentage (.980), and fewest errors (37). The Golden Eagles' ability to lead nearly every major offensive category, plus several pitching and fielding categories, has come from a balanced attack across the board.

This balanced attack has been awarded multiple times as five different Golden Eagles have earned adidas OVC Player or Pitcher of the Week. Among the recipients have been Stephens, junior designated hitter Brandon Thomasson (twice), sophomore right handed pitcher Jacob Honea, senior ace Tristan Archer, and junior third baseman Daniel Miles (twice).

Miles was so good one week that he garnered not just adidas OVC Player of the Week, but also Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week from both Collegiate Baseball newspaper and CollegeBaseballInsider.com.

The most recent honors have been especially impressive as they have ranked Tech players among the nation's best among their respective positions.

After spending his entire freshman campaign at second base, sophomore Dylan Bosheers has done more than just transition over to shortstop for the Golden Eagles. His ability to not just hit the ball, but man the shortstop position has led to his inclusion on the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Watch List, sponsored by Mizuno.

He's not the only player being recognized for his defensive skills as junior catcher Jordan Parris earned a place on the 2013 Johnny Bench Award Watch List presented by BaseballSavings.com. Only the nation's best catchers get named to the list as the award has gone to players such as last season's first round pick of the Seattle Marineers, Mike Zunino, and 2012 National League MVP, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants.

Also being recognized as one of the best in the nation at his position has been sophomore closer Seth Lucio. In just his first season of anchoring the Tech bullpen, Lucio has already racked up a Golden Eagle single-season record of 10 saves and is just two behind the career record of 12. He is on pace to post the first sub 1.00 ERA in program history as he currently sits at a mark of 0.96 this season. He has yet to surrender a home run in 2013 and owns a 12.29 strikeouts per nine innings mark. Combine all of the that and you get a reliever who clearly earned his spot on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Mid-Season Watch List.

The Golden Eagles have accomplished much this season and will put it all on the line on Thursday as the team will take on second place Belmont in an OVC series to decide the regular season championship. With two wins, Tech would clinch outright its first regular season title since 2010 as well as set a new league record for conference wins in a season. First pitch for Thursday and Friday's contests is set for 6 p.m. CDT.

Take a closer look at the honors and awards earned by the 2013 Golden Eagles so far:

PRESEASON
Michael Morris - Preseason All-OVC Second-Team            
    College Sports Madness
Zach Stephens - 2013 Louisville Slugger Preseason All-America H.M.
    CollegeBaseballInsider.com
Zach Stephens - Preseason All-America Third-Team     
    NCBWA
Zach Stephens - Preseason All-OVC First-Team     
    College Sports Madness
Zach Stephens - Preseason All-OVC First-Team
    Ohio Valley Conference
Zach Stephens - Preseason co-Player of the Year
    Ohio Valley Conference
Austin Wulf - Preseason All-OVC Second-Team
    College Sports Madness

FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 2
Brandon Thomasson - adidas® OVC Player of the Week
    Ohio Valley Conference

MARCH 17 - 23
Brandon Thomasson - OVC Player of the Week
    College Sports Madness

APRIL 1-6
Tristan Archer - adidas® OVC Pitcher of the Week
    Ohio Valley Conference
Tristan Archer - OVC Player of the Week
    College Sports Madness

APRIL 7 - 13
Daniel Miles -  adidas® OVC Player of the Week
    Ohio Valley Conference
Daniel Miles - Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week
    Collegiate Baseball newspaper
Daniel Miles - Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week
    CollegeBaseballInsider.com

APRIL 14 - 20
Brandon Thomasson - adidas® OVC Player of the Week
    Ohio Valley Conference

APRIL 21 - 27
Jacob Honea - adidas® co-OVC Pitcher of the Week
    Ohio Valley Conference
Daniel Miles - adidas® co-OVC Player of the Week
    Ohio Valley Conference
Dylan Bosheers - Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Watch List
    Mizuno
Seth Lucio - Stopper of the Year Mid-Season Watch List
    NCBWA

APRIL 28 - MAY 4
Zach Stephens - adidas® OVC Player of the Week
    Ohio Valley Conference
Zach Stephens - OVC Player of the Week
    College Sports Madness

MAY 5 - 11
Jordan Parris - 2013 Johnny Bench Award Watch List
    BaseballSavings.com