Feb. 17, 2009

Courtesy of NCBWA

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Forty players have been named to the initial watch list for the fifth annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball, as announced by the association Tuesday.

With two of the finalists for the 2008 honor back for another season (Scott Bittle of Ole Miss and Eric Pettis of UC Irvine), as well as an impressive list of All-Americans, another exciting race for this year's Stopper of the Year Award is anticipated. Georgia relief ace Joshua Fields, a first-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners and the Southeastern Conference’s all-time saves leader, claimed last year's award. Nine of this year’s nominees were included in the 2009 NCBWA Preseason All-America Team announced by the organization in December.

The Atlantic Coast Conference led the way with nine players named to the preseason watch list. The Big 12 and the West Coast Conference added four pitchers each on this year's watch list, while the SEC and Pacific-10 Conference are represented by three players each.

Nominations for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award were made by baseball sports information/media relation contacts. The initial list will be updated with a mid-season release the week of April 16, including the national saves leaders. At the conclusion of the regular season, the Division I national saves leader and four other relief pitching standouts will be selected as finalists and released Wednesday, May 27, prior to start of NCAA regional tournament competition.

The NCBWA's All-America Committee will then select the winner, with this year's recipient to be announced in early June.

Texas hurler J. Brent Cox won the inaugural Stopper of the Year Award in 2005, with Don Czyz of Kansas claiming the honor in 2006, Luke Prihoda of Sam Houston State winning it in 2007 and Fields topping the field in 2008.

The NCBWA, founded in 1962, presents the Dick Howser Trophy to the nation's top player. It also selects a Division I All-America Team, Division I Freshman All-Americans, Division I and III Players of the Week, Division I District Players of the Year and Division II and III Players of the Year.  For more information on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year, contact Chuck Dunlap at the Southeastern Conference at 205-458-3000 or Russ Anderson at Conference USA at 214-774-1351.

PITCHER                                  SCHOOL                              YR
Colin Bates                              North Carolina                      So.                    
Michael Belfiore                         Boston College                      Jr.                     
Kyle Bellamy                             Miami (Fla.)                        Jr.
Scott Bittle                             Ole Miss                            Sr.                     
Louis Coleman                            LSU                                 Sr.                     
Zach Calhoon                             UT-San Antonio                      Jr.
Jordan Conley                            Xavier                              Sr.
Joey Cutler                              NC State                            Sr.                     
Chase Dempsay                            Houston                             So.
Matt Evers                               Rice                                So.                    
Nick Gaudi                               Pepperdine                          Sr.
Jake Geglein                             Cincinnati                          Sr.                     
Jimmy Gillheeney                         NC State                            Jr.                     
AJ Griffin                               San Diego                           Jr.                     
Jake Hale                                Ohio State                          Sr.
Stephen Harrold                          UNC Wilmington                      So.                    
Alex Hassan                              Duke                                Jr.                     
James Hayes                              Rider                               Sr.                     
Brendan Lafferty                         UCLA                                Sr.
Greg Lane                                Binghamton                          Sr.                     
Cody Martin                              Gonzaga                             So.                    
Alex McRee                               Georgia                             Jr.                     
J.D. Melton                              Navy                                Jr.
Brian Moran                              North Carolina                      Jr.
Matt Packer                              Virginia                            Jr.                     
Eric Pettis                              UC Irvine                           Jr.                     
Kevin Rhoderick                          Oregon State                        So.                    
Thomas Rooke                             Kansas State                        So.                    
Thain Simon                              Santa Clara                         So.                    
Paul Smyth                               Kansas                              Sr.                     
Travis Smink                             VMI                                 Jr.                     
Jimmy Stanley                            Belmont                             Sr.                     
Travis Starling                          Texas A&M                           Jr.                     
Jason Stoffel                            Arizona                             Jr.
Drew Storen                              Stanford                            So.                    
Josh Storm                               Troy                                Sr.
Daniel Tenholder                         Austin Peay                         Jr.
Kyle Thebeau                             Texas A&M                           Sr.                     
Matt Vaughn                              Clemson                             Sr.                     
Derek Ward                               UL-Monroe                           Sr.