Gillheeney, Cutler Make NCBWA Stopper Watch List
RALEIGH, N.C. NC State’s Jimmy Gillheeney and Joey Cutler are among 40 players who 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. The watch list was announced by the association Tuesday.
Gillheeney, an NCBWA All-American as a sophomore a year ago, will move back into the Wolfpack’s starting rotation this season, but his stats as the Pack’s closer were eye-opening. He went 2-0 with a 1.12 ERA and 10 saves in 11 opportunities.
Cutler, who will be a candidate to replace Gillheeney as NC State’s closer, is a career closer with the Pack. He was 5-0 with a 2.74 ERA and a save as a junior in 2008, and has a 9-2 career mark with a 2.67 ERA and four saves. In 54 career appearances, all but one of them out of the bullpen, Cutler has worked 97 2/3 innings and allowed 78 hits while striking out 97 and walking 28.
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 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.