LUBBOCK, Texas – The NCAA’s allowance for players from the shortened 2020 season to complete in 2021 without losing a year of eligibility meant one thing – a wealth of talent in college baseball. That extra season for many players resulted in a vast pool of shortstops eligible for the Brooks Wallace Award.
Evidence of that talented group of players is apparent in this year’s finalists – the six best shortstops in the nation who represent both national powerhouses and outstanding mid-majors, all of whom put together outstanding seasons.
The six finalists for the Brooks Wallace Award are senior Liam Spence from Tennessee, junior R.J. Yeager from Mercer, sophomores Trey Sweeney from Eastern Illinois and Collin Burns from Tulane, and redshirt freshmen Cal Conley from Texas Tech and Brooks Lee from Cal Poly.
“Baseball is back in full swing, and it’s great to get out to NCAA ballparks,” said Tom Quigley, co-chair of the Brooks Wallace Award. “Shortstops seem to be really hitting the ball well at this point as we have our top six finalists still hitting above .300 with power, too. We recognize defensive fielding percentages with high emphasis as well for finalists. We look forward to the excitement building as we whittle down our Brooks Wallace Award list for 2021. These players represent the best of this year’s shortstops.”
The award, sponsored by Mizuno, honors the nation’s top shortstop and will be presented this summer by the College Baseball Foundation. It is named for former Texas Tech shortstop Brooks Wallace, who played for the Red Raiders from 1977 to 1980. Wallace died of leukemia at the age of 27.
Here is a closer look at the six finalists:
- Collin Burns, RS-Soph., Tulane: Burns had an outstanding season in leading the Green Wave to a second-place finish in the American Athletic Conference and the team’s first appearance in the AAC semifinals since 2016. On the year, he hit .353 with eight home runs and 50 RBI and showed his prowess with the glove, committing just five errors for a .974 fielding percentage.
- Cal Conley, RS-Fr., Texas Tech: Conley continued the long tradition of outstanding Texas Tech shortstops and was a mainstay in the Red Raiders lineup, starting all 51 games this season. Entering the NCAA postseason, he is hitting .337 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI while compiling a .960 fielding percentage.
- Brooks Lee, RS-Fr., Cal Poly: Lee helped lead the Mustangs to a very solid season in the Big West Conference and is poised for a big season in 2022. He hit .342 with 10 home runs and 57 RBI and had one of the highest fielding percentages in the nation among shortstops with a .974 average, committing just six errors on the season.
- Liam Spence, Sr., Tennessee: The Volunteers have experienced a resurgence in 2021 and are poised to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament after winning the SEC West and reaching the league tournament title game. On the season, Spence hit .353 with three home runs and 30 RBI and committed just four errors in compiling a .975 fielding percentage.
- Trey Sweeney, RS-Soph., Eastern Illinois: The Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, Sweeney helped lead the Panthers to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1998-99. He was outstanding throughout the year, hitting .382 with 14 home runs and 58 RBI and a .975 fielding percentage, committing just five errors on the year.
- R.J. Yeager, Jr., Mercer: Yeager was a key cog for the Bears, who finished second in the Red Division of the Southern Conference. Yeager started all 57 games for the Bears in 2021, hitting .308 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI to go with a .969 fielding percentage.
For more information on the Wallace Award or the Night of Champions event, visit www.collegebaseballhall.org.