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.
Kopps a finalist for Golden Spikes
Arkansas Kevin Kopps (45) throws against North Carolina State during an NCAA college baseball super regional game Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas pitcher Kevin Kopps is one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award.
Other finalists for USA Baseball’s national player of the year award are Vanderbilt pitchers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter. All three players — along with Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung and Florida State catcher Matheu Nelson — were finalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, which Kopps won last week.
Along with the Golden Spikes, the Howser Trophy is one of the two most prestigious national player of the year awards. The Howser Trophy is voted on by baseball writers and the Golden Spikes is voted on by a panel of former award winners and MLB personnel.
The Golden Spikes winner will be announced at a date to be determined in July.
Kopps could become the 20th player to win both awards. The Golden Spikes is in its 43rd season and the Howser Trophy is in its 34th.
Kopps went 12-1 with 11 saves and led college baseball in ERA (0.90) and WHIP (0.76) this season.
Opposing hitters had a .162 batting average against Kopps and he struck out 131 and walked 18 in 89 2/3 innings.
Thirty-two of Kopps’ 33 appearances came out of the bullpen and he was the first relief pitcher to win the Howser Trophy. The last reliever to win the Golden Spikes was Wichita State’s Darren Dreifort in 1993.
Arkansas has not had a Golden Spikes winner since outfielder Andrew Benintendi in 2015.
USA Baseball did not include Kopps among 45 players on the Golden Spikes midseason watch list released April 14, but he earned his way onto the semifinalist list that was released just after he threw a combined 13 1/3 innings of scoreless relief against NJIT and Nebraska during an NCAA regional earlier this month.
Kopps was named SEC pitcher of the year by league coaches over Rocker and Leiter, who were All-SEC starters for the Commodores. Kopps was also named national pitcher of the year by the College Baseball Foundation and Perfect Game, and national player of the year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
Kopps also won the Stopper of the Year Award, which goes to college baseball's best relief pitcher.
Unlike Kopps, whose season ended in the super regionals, both Vandy pitchers have a chance to influence voters before the Golden Spikes' July 2 voting deadline. The Commodores will face North Carolina State on Friday in the semifinals of the College World Series.
Rocker (13-3, 2.58 ERA) is expected to start Friday’s must-win game for Vanderbilt. The right hander has 162 strikeouts and has walked 36 in 111 2/3 innings.
Leiter (10-4, 2.08) has 171 strikeouts and 42 walks in 104 innings. On March 20, Leiter threw a no-hitter against South Carolina.
Rocker and Leiter are projected to be among the first five selections in next month’s MLB Draft. Baseball America ranks Kopps as the 235th-best prospect in the draft.
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