Andy Hodges

Nobody expected before season Kopps best player, but he is

Hogs reliever Kevin Kopps was expected to improve this year, but nobody could have predicted winning top college player in nation award.

Before Arkansas’ baseball season got rolling, Clay Henry at Hawgs Illustrated relayed a heads-up he was given about reliever Kevin Kopps.

Pitching coach Matt Hobbs told Henry he was going to see a vastly-improved Kopps this year.

Nobody figured he was talking about the best player in college baseball. That had never happened in college baseball.

Until Thursday.

Kopps was named the National Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, becoming the first relief pitcher in history to earn the award from the nation’s oldest baseball publication.

Kopps, who owns an NCAA-best 0.81 ERA in 66 1/3 innings this season, has 10 wins and 10 saves on the year, striking out 105 batters and allowing only 15 walks along the way.

The right-hander has given up just six runs in 28 appearances, logging stretches of 19.2 and 20.2 consecutive scoreless innings at points this season.

Opponents are batting .161 against Kopps, who ranks third nationally with a 0.78 walks and hits per innings pitched and seventh with 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

The reliever enters the NCAA Regionals with the program record in numerous categories, including single-season ERA (0.81, minimum 45 innings pitched), consecutive strikeouts (11) and consecutive batters retired (28).

The award is one of the many honors Kopps has racked up during his historic campaign. He was also voted SEC Pitcher of the Year and became the first player to earn National Pitcher of the Month in consecutive months from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

Kopps is on the watch list for the NCBWA’s Stopper of the Year Award, which goes to the nation’s best relief pitcher.

He is in contention for the Golden Spikes Award as well as the Dick Howser Trophy, which both recognize the best college baseball player in the country.

Kopps is the second Arkansas student-athlete to be named Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year.

Andrew Benintendi earned the honor in 2015, also winning the Golden Spikes Award and Howser Trophy that year.

Information from Arkansas Communications is included in this story.

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