As another thrilling baseball season winds down and the SEC Tournament is one day from getting underway, it is finally awards season. In a premier baseball conference like the SEC, plenty of deserving candidates can be found on nearly every team, but one team in particular managed to clean up the conference’s biggest awards.
The Kentucky Wildcats, under the direction of first-year head coach Nick Mingione, stunned everyone by going from a team with a 32-25 (15-15 SEC) record that just missed NCAA Tournament action to a team that posted a 38-18 (19-11 SEC) record and earned a 3 seed in the SEC Tournament; they are considered by some to be a surefire national seed. It’s a spectacular turnaround that basically no one saw coming.
For that reason, Nick Mingione was named SEC Coach of the Year, a fact that no one should take issue with.
As for the other awards, Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker was named as the SEC’s Player of the Year. Rooker, the redshirt junior, posted a stellar .415/.519/.873 this season, all while driving in 73 runs and hitting 20 dingers (he led the league in both of those categories, as well as in many others).
Pitcher of the Year honors went to Kentucky’s Sean Hjelle, who went 9-2 this season with a 3.17 ERA. Even better, Hjelle posted a 1.90 ERA en route to a 7-1 SEC record. The Wildcat pitcher struck out 81 batters in 88 IP, and was dominant all season long on the mound for the top-10 Cats.
Freshman of the Year went to Texas A&M’s Braden Shewmake. In his first year playing for the Aggies, Shewmake posted a .342/.388/.553 stat line. Not only was that impressive, but Shewmake also found his way into the top 10 in most statistical batting categories, finishing second in the league with the 64 RBIs. Overall, it was an outstanding year for a player seeing the collegiate diamond for the first time.
Finally, Scholar Athlete of the Year was awarded to Kentucky’s Zach Logue. Logue (6-5, 5.03 ERA, a junior pitcher, struck out 76 batters this season, but it was his fantastic performance in the classroom that earned him this accolade.
All of the players mentioned above should have great attention paid to them in the coming weeks as postseason action gets underway. We’re no doubt in for a fun summer leading up to Omaha.