Samford relief pitcher Wyatt Burns received yet another preseason honor Monday as the Bulldogs' junior native of Pinson, Alabama, was named to the 2017 Stopper of the Year Watch List by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), it was officially announced by the organization's headquarters. Burns, who earned Preseason All-Southern Conference honors last week, heads into the season as one of the top closers in the nation. Last year, the Bulldogs' right-handed sidewinder finished the campaign with eight saves and 40 strikeouts in 42.1 innings pitched. Burns closed out his sophomore year with a team-high 37 appearances. Each season, the Stopper of the Year Award is given to the top relief pitcher In NCAA Division I baseball.
Virginia Commonwealth's Sam Donko is the only returner among last year's five finalists for an award that was captured in 2016 by Miami's Bryan Garcia. Donko led the nation in saves a season ago with 20, while compiling a 9-2 record to go with a 2.93 ERA and 54 strikeouts for the Rams.
The Pacific-12 Conference had the most representation with nine players finding their names on the watch list. That group is headlined by Oregon State's Max Engelbrekt, who went 3-3 with 11 saves for the Beavers a season ago. His 11 saves top the list of returning relievers in the conference. More than a third of the players on this list recorded double-digit saves a season ago and 10 were named to the NCBWA Preseason All-American team. Two of those preseason All-Americans posted sub-1.00 ERA's a season ago as Baylor's Troy Montemayor (0.78) and Louisiana's Dylan Moore (0.91) both notched 14 saves for their respective teams. In total, 23 conferences are represented on this list with the Southeastern Conference following the Pac-12 with seven representatives. Conference USA and the Big West each had four players on this list. 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 and Luke Prihoda of Sam Houston State winning it in 2007. Georgia's Joshua Fields topped the field in 2008, San Diego State's Addison Reed grabbed the honor in 2009 and Texas' Chance Ruffin earned the honor in 2010. The Longhorns' Corey Knebel won in 2011, with Southeastern Louisiana's Stefan Lopez picking up the honor in 2012. UCLA's David Berg was crowned the winner in 2013, Louisville's Nick Burdi took home the 2014 honor and Berg became the award's first two-time winner in 2015. Miami (Fla.)'s Bryan Garcia was honored as the 2016 recipient. The NCBWA, founded in 1962, presents the Dick Howser Trophy to the nation's top player. It also selects All-America Teams for all Divisions, a Division I Freshman All-American team, Division I, II and III Players of the Week and Division I, II and III Players of the Year. The Samford University baseball team will open its 2017 campaign with four straight home games. The Bulldogs kick-off the season Feb. 17, against UNC Asheville in the opening contest of a three-game weekend series. Samford is slated to play at 4 p.m., on Friday, 2 p.m., on Saturday, and 1 p.m., on Sunday. The next Tuesday, on Feb. 21, the Bulldogs will play host to in-state rival Troy at 4 p.m., at Joe Lee Griffin Field. For quick score updates, breaking news and links to all of your favorite articles featuring the Bulldogs, please follow @SamfordBaseball and @Samford_Sports on Twitter.