PEARL, Miss. – Memphis junior infielder Chad Zurcher headlines the league’s top individual baseball awards, as announced on Tuesday in Pearl, Miss., the site of the 2011 Conference USA Baseball Championship presented by Trustmark. He is the first Tiger to be named Player of the Year in Conference USA and the first Memphis player to earn conference Player of the Year recognition since Mark Little won the Great Midwest Conference’s top honor in 1994.
Southern Miss senior right-hander Todd McInnis was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year for the second time, while Newcomer of the Year honors went to UAB junior right-hander Dillon Napoleon, the first major award winner for a Blazer in Conference USA. Rice right-hander Austin Kubitza was named Freshman of the Year, the Owls third rookie of the year award recipient in five years. The Keith LeClair Coach of the Year award went to second-year Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry. The award that is named for the former East Carolina skipper who courageously battled ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) before his passing in 2006.
Voting was done by a panel consisting of each head coach, each team’s sports information director and a media representative from each city.
Zurcher continues to lead the nation with a .455 batting average, eight points better than the C-USA single-season record of .447, set by UCF’s Chris Duffy last season. He has also drawn 33 walks and been hit by pitches 16 times, helping him to a nation’s-best .560 on-base percentage. Zurcher has recorded two or more hits in a game 28 times and has produced three-or-more hits on 11 occasions. He has also recorded 18 doubles, scored 45 runs, driven in 33 and stolen 12 bases.
McInnis, the 2009 C-USA Pitcher of the Year, logged 80.2 innings over 13 starts this season and ranks sixth in the conference with a 2.79 ERA. The three-time first team all-conference selection owns a 7-2 record with 73 strikeouts and just 28 walks this season. McInnis has won his last six decisions and has allowed three earned runs or less in 11 of his 13 starts. The fifth-year senior is the Golden Eagles all-time leader in victories (33) and games started (66).
Napoleon, a transfer from Heartland CC, is the fourth-straight pitcher to garner Newcomer of the Year recognition, following a trio of ECU hurlers. The April 4 C-USA Pitcher of the Week leads UAB and ranks fifth in the league in ERA (2.69), posting a 5-2 record in 12 starts. Napoleon has struck out 51 batters and walked 26 in 77 innings pitched, notching one complete game.
Kubitza headlines an outstanding group of freshmen at Rice and ranks second in the conference in earned run average at 1.85. He has made 13 starts and owns a 6-3 record with one complete game and two shutouts. In 87.2 innings pitched,. Kubitza has recorded a league-high 90 strikeouts and walked only 21 batters. He is the only player in C-USA to be named Pitcher of the Week twice this season.
In just his second season at the helm of the Golden Eagle program, Berry guided Southern Miss to a share of its first regular season Conference USA title since 2003. Southern Miss has been ranked as high as No. 12 this season, its highest ranking since the end of the 2009 season, when he help the Eagles to the College World Series as Associate Head Coach of Southern Miss. The Eagles won five of their first six C-USA series’ this season and were the only school to post three sweeps in league play. Berry enters the C-USA Championship with a two-year record of 74-39.
Regular season co-champion Southern Miss had the most total All-Conference selections with seven, including a league-high five first- team members. Fellow co-champion Rice had three first-team selections, while East Carolina had five total all-conference members. Seven of the league’s nine teams had at least one representative on the first team. East Carolina and Rice led the way with three selections apiece to the All-Freshman team, which included at least one player from seven schools.
2011 CONFERENCE USA BASEBALL AWARDS
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Chad Zurcher, Jr., IF, Memphis
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Todd McInnis, Sr., RHP, Southern Miss
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Austin Kubitza, Fr., RHP, Rice
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Dillon Napoleon, Jr., RHP, UAB
KEITH LECLAIR COACH OF THE YEAR
Scott Berry, Southern Miss
FIRST TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE
IF Jonathan Griffin, Sr., UCF
IF Michael Ratterree, So., Rice
IF B.A. Vollmuth, Jr., Southern Miss
IF Chad Zurcher, Jr., Memphis
OF Jamal Austin, Jr., UAB
OF Marc Bourgeois, Sr., Southern Miss
OF Tyler Koelling, Sr., Southern Miss
C Jeremy Schaeffer, Jr., Tulane
DH/UT Anthony Rendon, Jr., Rice
P Austin Kubitza, Fr., Rice
P Seth Maness, Sr., East Carolina
P Todd McInnis, Sr., Southern Miss
P Geoffrey Thomas, So., Southern Miss
RP Nick Pepitone, Jr., Tulane
SECOND TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE
IF Nick Crawford, Sr., UAB
IF Adam Doleac, Sr., Southern Miss
IF T.J. Rich, Jr., Memphis
IF Kenny Socorro, Sr., Marshall
OF Drew Martinez, Jr. Memphis
OF Caleb Ramsey, Sr., Houston
OF Trent Whitehead, Sr., East Carolina
C Zach Wright, Jr., East Carolina
DH/UT D.J. Hicks, So., UCF
P Kevin Brandt, Jr., East Carolina
P Brad Mincey, Sr., East Carolina
P Dillon Napoleon, Jr., UAB
P Ryan Woolley, Sr., UAB
RP Collin Cargill, Jr., Southern Miss
C Jared Bales, Southern Miss
SS Jack Reinheimer, East Carolina
3B Shane Hoelscher, Rice
OF Ben Fultz, East Carolina
OF Landon Appling, Houston
DH Chase McDonald, East Carolina
P Aaron Blair, Marshall
P Austin Kubitza, Rice
P John Simms, Rice
P Alex Facundus, Tulane
P Ben Lively, UCF