College baseball: 8 closers leading the nation in saves this season
While the starting rotation can carry a team far, it's up to the closers to get results in late-game situations. Throughout the 2016 season, these closers have proven themselves when called upon by their teammates.
Here are the top eight Division I leaders in saves through games as of April 18.
Sam Donko | Jr. | VCU | 14 saves | 37.1 IP
The JuCo transfer, who won NJCAA title at Iowa Western, is making the most of his first season in Richmond. Donko tied the VCU single-season record set by Daniel Concepcion last season with his 14th save of the year against LaSalle on Sunday. He also leads the team with a 1.69 ERA in 19 appearances and has struck out 33 batters while allowing only 10 walks. Donko's longest outing came in a 13-inning thriller against Marist back on March 6. In the 7-6 win, the right-hander struck out four in 5.2 innings.
Max Kuhns | Jr. | Santa Clara | 11 saves | 26.2 IP
During his first two seasons in Santa Clara, Kuhns was the only Bronco to serve as a position player and a relief pitcher. But this season, his duties have been focused solely on his relief efforts. The right-hander has made 19 appearances on the mound, coming away with 11 saves and three losses on the year. Kuhns has tossed 26 strikeouts and walked 10 batters in 26.2 innings pitched. In Sunday's 7-5 win over San Diego, Kuhns tied Reece Karalus' 2014 single-season mark, which ranks second in Santa Clara history.
Chris Rivera | Fr. | Long Beach State | 11 saves | 16.1 IP
The pitching staff with its 2.98 collective ERA has been a main contributor to No. 18 Long Beach State's success in 2016. Included in those numbers, closer Chris Rivera hasn't looked like a freshman in his 15 appearances of relief. The right-hander has given up only nine hits, five runs and two walks in 16.1 innings pitched to collect a 2.76 ERA. Rivera came through big for the Dirtbags in this weekend's series against UC Irvine, earning his first victory in a 12-inning walk-off win.
Bryan Garcia | Jr. | Miami (Fla.) | 10 saves | 21.2 IP
Garcia is the active career leader with 35 saves and needs just five more to set the school record. The Miami native has kept up the impressive numbers for the hometown program, collecting a 2.08 ERA in 18 appearances so far. With a month left in the regular season, Garcia has already matched his save numbers from last season and needs just two more strikeouts to match his 36 in 2015. The junior was named to NCBWA's 2016 Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List and could see his name on the midseason watch list released next week on April 27.
Max Engelbrekt | Jr. | Oregon State | 10 saves | 23.1 IP
Engelbrekt was expected to be the top reliever in 2015 but the pitcher had to sit out the whole season after having knee surgery to repair an ACL tear. Needless to say, Oregon State is glad to have the junior back in the bullpen this season. The southpaw has tossed 25 strikeouts and has walked only eight in 23.1 innings pitched. His 10 saves are currently the most in the Pac-12 and his 18 appearances are tied for fourth. Engelbrekt picked up his first win on Monday night against rival Oregon.
Josh Reagan | Jr. | South Carolina | 10 saves | 30.2 IP
Reagan made an immediate impact his freshman year and led the team with 0.36 ERA and 3-0 record in 25.1 innings pitched. Two years later, the lefty remains a threat for South Carolina in the SEC during his junior season. He already has 27 strikeouts in his 30.2 innings pitched with .88 ERA and not even a kidney stone earlier this month could keep Reagan off the mound for the Gamecocks. Reagan is holding his opponents to an .152 batting average in 2016.
Mike Cassala | Fr. | Jacksonville | 10 saves | 18.0 IP
Cassala's career couldn't have gotten off to a better start, given his first career save came against one of the top baseball programs in the country. Cassala pitched 1.1 innings of relief in the tough road win over Florida State back on March 1. Now a month later, Cassala leads the Atlantic Sun with 10 saves through 16 appearances. The right-hander can get it done at the plate for the Dolphins too as the reliever has made 33 plate appearances with a .333 batting average.
Ryan Thomas | Jr. | Marist | 10 saves | 21.1 IP
Known for his special pitching style as a submariner, Thomas has already tied his save mark set last season after earning his 10th save against Niagara on April 10. The 2014 MAAC Co-Relief Pitcher of the Year boasts a career-high .84 ERA in 19 appearances so far this season. Thomas pitched a perfect 1-2-3 ninth on April 3 against Iona to break the all-time Marist saves record. The right-handed junior picked up his 25th career save to surpass Rob Ryan's mark set from 2004-07.