NEW ORLEANS, La. - East Carolina headlined the league's top individual awards, winning three of the five major awards as announced on Tuesday in New Orleans, the site of the 2008 Entergy Conference USA Baseball Championship. Senior C Corey Kemp was named Player of the Year, right-handed pitcher Seth Maness grabbed Freshman of the Year honors and junior right-hander Justin Bristow earned Newcomer of the Year recognition. Tulane right-hander Shooter Hunt was named Pitcher of the Year and Rice skipper Wayne Graham took home his third consecutive Keith LeClair Conference USA Coach of the Year award. Voting was done by a panel consisting of each head coach, each team's sports information director and a media representative from each city.
Kemp has been one of the most productive hitters in Conference USA all season long, leading the league in home runs (15) and RBI (66), while batting .358 with a .637 slugging percentage. He has produced 20 multi-hit and 17 multi-RBI games and has produced 11 game-winning RBI. In 24 conference games, he batted .319 with 10 homers and 38 RBI. A finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, Kemp was a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy and became the second Pirate catcher in three years to earn first team All-C-USA honors. He becomes the second Pirate to take home Player of the Year honors following Ryan Jones (2004).
Maness became just the second freshman in East Carolina history to win nine games, tying for the C-USA lead in victories. Maness is 9-1 on the season with a 2.79 ERA, third-lowest in the league. He has a team-best 75 strikeouts and has walked just 17 batters in 84 innings pitched. Maness had two games in which he did not allow an earned run and had five outings in which he allowed one walk or less walks. Maness is the second Pirate to be named C-USA Freshman of the Year following Darryl Lawhorn's selection in 2002. Lawhorn was also named Co-National Freshman of the Year by Collegiate Baseball.
Bristow, a transfer from Auburn, has had a highly-successful first season in a Pirate uniform, posting an 8-2 record with a 3.05 ERA and 73 strikeouts with 22 walks. He has tossed a pair of complete-game shutouts and has allowed just three home runs in 82.2 innings pitched.
Joining first-teamers Kemp and Maness as an All C-USA performer was senior outfielder Harrison Eldridge, while junior Stephen Batts was named second-team all-conference alongside Bristow. Freshman shortstop Dustin Harrington was named to the All-Freshman team with Maness, who became the second Pirate to be named first-team All C-USA and All-Freshman in the same season, following Lawhorn (2002).
Hunt became the fourth Tulane hurler in as many years to post 100 strikeouts in a single season and now has 110 Ks in 2008. Hunt is 9-2 on the year with a 2.10 ERA, while holding opposing batters to a .148 average. Since joining the Green Wave prior to the 2007 season, Hunt is a combined 15-8 with a 2.39 ERA and a .197 opponent batting average. A finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, he was the only player to earn C-USA Pitcher of the Week honors three times.
Graham led the Owls' to their third consecutive C-USA regular season championship and the number five ranking in the nation heading into this week's conference championship. Rice has won 21 of its last 22 games to post a 42-11 overall record. The Blue & Gray finished 21-3 in C-USA play and are a sparkling 65-7 in league play since becoming a member of Conference USA.
In his 17th season at the helm of the Rice program, Graham is no stranger to receiving coaching honors. In addition to winning the previous two Keith LeClair Coach of the Year honors, he was named the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1998, 1999, 2002 and the co-coach of the year in 2003. The Austin American-Statesman named Graham its Southwest Conference Coach of the Year in 1995.
The Keith LeClair Coach of the Year award is named after the former East Carolina head coach who courageously battled ALS, or as it is more commonly known as, Lou Gehrig's Disease. Diagnosed with the disease in 2001, LeClair continued to attend Pirate home games and support ECU baseball until passing away in July, 2006.
Regular season champion Rice had the most total All-Conference selections with seven and East Carolina had five, while Southern Miss and Tulane each produced four. Seven of the league's nine teams had at least one representative on the first team, with ECU and Southern Miss each placing three players on the first team. Four different schools tied with four selections to the All-Freshman team.
2008 CONFERENCE USA BASEBALL AWARDS
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Corey Kemp, C, East Carolina
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Seth Maness, RHP, East Carolina
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Justin Bristow, RHP, East Carolina
KEITH LeCLAIR COACH OF THE YEAR
Wayne Graham, Rice
FIRST TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE
IF - James Ewing, Jr., Southern Miss
IF - Ryan Keedy, Sr., UAB
IF - Bryan Pounds, Sr., Houston
IF - Diego Seastrunk, So., Rice
OF - Harrison Eldridge, Sr., East Carolina
OF - Nate Lape, Jr., Marshall
OF - Jake Stewart, Sr., Houston
C - Corey Kemp, Sr., East Carolina
DH/UT - Anthony Scelfo, Jr., Tulane
P - Ryan Berry, So., Rice
P - Barry Bowden, Sr., Southern Miss
P - Shooter Hunt, Jr., Tulane
P - Seth Maness, Fr., East Carolina
RP - Tyler Conn, Sr., Southern Miss
SECOND TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE
IF - Stephen Batts, Jr., East Carolina
IF - Brian Dozier, Jr., Southern Miss
IF - Seth Henry, Jr., Tulane
IF - Rob Segedin, Fr., Tulane
OF - Colin Arnold, Jr., UCF
OF - Phil Bell, Sr., UAB
OF - Jared Gayheart, Jr., Rice
OF - Aaron Luna, Jr., Rice
C - Adam Zornes, Jr., Rice
DH/UT - Victor Gomez, Fr., Marshall
P - Steve Blevins, Jr., Marshall
P - Justin Bristow, Jr., East Carolina
P - Chris Kelley, Sr., Rice
P - Wes Musick, So., Houston
RP - Cole St.Clair, Sr., Rice
Nick Crawford, 2B, UAB
Chase Dempsay, RHP, Houston
Matt Evers, LHP, Rice
Victor Gomez, DH, Marshall
Rick Hague, SS, Rice
Dustin Harrington, SS, East Carolina
Blake Kelso, SS, Houston
Seth Maness, RHP, East Carolina
Todd McInnis, RHP, Southern Miss
Nick Pepitone, RHP, Tulane
Rob Segedin, 3B/RHP, Tulane