Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Kevin Kopps wins Golden Spikes Award
Arkansas reliever Kevin Kopps celebrates Friday, May 21, 2021, after the final out of the top of the ninth inning of play against Florida at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)
FAYETTEVILLE — Kevin Kopps was as dominant during college baseball’s award season as he was for the Arkansas Razorbacks during the spring.
Kopps won the Golden Spikes Award on Thursday to sweep the major awards presented to college baseball’s national player of the year. Kopps also won the Dick Howser Trophy in June and is the 20th player to win both awards in the same season.
Vanderbilt pitchers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker were also finalists for the Golden Spikes Award.
Kopps is the first relief pitcher to win the Golden Spikes Award since Wichita State’s Darren Dreifort in 1993. Kopps was the first reliever to win the Howser Trophy.
Kopps is Arkansas’ second winner of the Golden Spikes Award. Outfielder Andrew Benintendi was the winner in 2015.
The Razorbacks are the fifth program with multiple Golden Spikes winners, joining Florida State (4), Arizona State (3), Cal State Fullerton (3) and San Diego State (2).
The Golden Spikes Award is presented by USA Baseball based on a vote of a 200-plus-member panel of past winners, media members and professional baseball personnel.
In 33 appearances, Kopps went 12-1 with 11 saves. His ERA (0.90) and WHIP (0.76) were the lowest in college baseball.
Kopps struck out 131 and walked 18 in 89 2/3 innings. Opponents hit .162 against him.
The Razorbacks were 28-5 in games during which Kopps pitched. Arkansas finished the season with a 50-13 record and won SEC regular-season and tournament championships.
Kopps entered a game in relief 32 times. His only start lasted eight-plus innings in the Razorbacks’ season finale, a 3-2 loss to North Carolina State in the decisive game of the NCAA Fayetteville Super Regional on June 13.
Kopps allowed three runs in the start — the only runs he allowed in 23 1/3 innings of NCAA postseason play.
Kopps’ 2021 season is the most decorated for an Arkansas player. In addition to the sport’s two most prestigious awards, Kopps was named national player of the year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and D1Baseball, national pitcher of the year by the College Baseball Foundation, Perfect Game and American Baseball Coaches Association, and was voted SEC pitcher of the year by league coaches. He also won the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award as the nation’s best relief pitcher.
Kopps, 24, was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the third round of the MLB Draft on Monday with the 99th overall pick. He is expected to sign with the Padres and turn pro.
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