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Kopps a finalist for Dick Howser Trophy

by Matt Jones | June 10, 2021 at 2:06 p.m.
Arkansas pitcher Kevin Kopps (facing) is greeted by catcher Casey Opitz after the Razorbacks recorded the final out of an NCAA regional game against Nebraska on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas pitcher Kevin Kopps is one of five finalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, which is presented by baseball writers to the national college baseball player of the year.

Kopps enters the Razorbacks’ NCAA super regional matchup with North Carolina State with the nation’s best ERA (0.68) and best WHIP (0.73).

He ranks second nationally with 12 wins and 10th with 11 saves. He has struck out 120 and walked 15 in 79 2/3 innings, and opponents are batting .156 against him.

Kopps is coming off a regional during which he pitched 13 1/3 scoreless innings in three appearances against NJIT and Nebraska. The outings have the attention of the Razorbacks' opponent this week.

"He has kind of gotten so much publicity lately for what he has done for this team all year, but as we get to the postseason it becomes more recognizable and it gets more attention," North Carolina State coach Elliott Avent said. "What he has done is unbelievable and amazing."

Kopps pitched the final seven innings of the Razorbacks’ regional championship game against the Cornhuskers on Monday, when he threw 90 pitches to bring his weekend total to 185. Kopps struck out eight Nebraska batters and allowed three hits.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said Kopps feels "great" after some initial body soreness Tuesday.

Kopps, who was the SEC pitcher of the year, was named national player of the year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper earlier this month. He is also one of 25 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which along with the Howser Trophy is one of the sport's two most prominent national player of the year awards.

Kopps could become the second Arkansas player to win the Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes. Outfielder Andrew Benintendi won both awards in 2015.

NC State designated hitter Terrell Tatum called Kopps "one of the best pitchers, if not the best pitcher in the country."

"For him to come out of the bullpen every single time he’s called upon and to shut teams down is unbelievable," Tatum said.

Other finalists for the Howser Trophy are Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung, Vanderbilt starting pitchers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker, and Florida State catcher Matheu Nelson. The winner will be announced June 18.

Jung was the Big 12 player of the year and is batting .343 with 21 home runs and 67 RBI entering the Red Raiders’ super regional against Stanford. Nelson batted .330 with 23 home runs and 66 RBI.

Rocker and Leiter have provided Vanderbilt with the nation’s most dominant duo of starting pitchers. Rocker (12-3) has a 2.65 ERA in 98 1/3 innings and Leiter (9-3) has a 2.22 ERA in 89 innings. Leiter threw a 16-strikeout no-hitter against South Carolina in March.

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