Goss: Six finalists for mythical award
April 13, 2012 11:18PM
Tony Bucciferro, of Michigan State. | Supplied photo
Updated: June 14, 2012 1:51AM
There is no official award for the NCAA Division I College Baseball Player of the Year from the Joliet area.
But for fun, let’s say there is. And let’s assume we all have a vote to determine who that is.
Whom do you like? After reviewing the statistics of numerous former area standouts who are getting the job done in Division I baseball, I have come up with six potential finalists for our mythical player of the year.
The regular season and conference tournaments will conclude in late May, so there is time to add or subtract players from consideration. But with 30 or more games in the books for everyone entering this weekend, we are working with a nice sample size.
Here is my list of finalists, in alphabetical order, along with their credentials. If you pay attention to high school baseball in our area, you will recognize the names.
Perhaps you disagree with one or more being on the list, or feel someone else should be there. That’s fine. But remember, we are dealing here with Division I programs only.
Tony Bucciferro, Michigan State: The senior right-handed pitcher from Minooka, who is adding finishing touches to an excellent college career, entered this weekend 3-2 with a 3.15 ERA. He is in the weekend (conference) rotation for the defending Big Ten champion Spartans (20-11, 3-3). In eight starts he has pitched 541/3 innings, allowing 50 hits and a measly eight walks while striking out a Big Ten-leading 48. Opponents are batting .245.
Brandon Hohl, Illinois: The junior third baseman from Lincoln-Way East bats cleanup for the Illini (18-13, 3-3), which alone says plenty. He leads the team in home runs with five and is tied for the lead with 30 RBI. He is hitting .299 (35-for-117) with a .373 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage for an .810 OPS (on-base plus slugging). He also has a .927 fielding percentage at the demanding hot corner.
Mike Hollenbeck, Illinois State: The sophomore rifle-armed catcher from Joliet Township, a draft pick of the Boston Red Sox out of high school, bats in the middle of the order for the Redbirds (20-10, 2-4 Missouri Valley). The left-handed hitter is batting .330 (35-of-106) with a team-high nine doubles to go with one triple, two home runs and 22 RBI. He has a .438 on-base percentage and .491 slugging mark for a .929 OPS. And, he has committed only one error.
Brandon Magallones, Northwestern: The freshman right-hander from Providence’s Class 4A state runner-up team of a year ago has stepped right into the weekend (conference) rotation for the Wildcats (10-19, 3-6 Big Ten). Despite Northwestern’s record, he won his first five decisions before a 3-1 loss to nationally ranked Purdue last weekend. He carries a 3.86 ERA. In six starts and eight appearances, he worked 42 innings, allowing 41 hits and 16 walks while striking out 44. Opponents are hitting .259.
Nick Ratajczak, Louisville: The junior left-handed-hitting second baseman from Joliet Catholic, after two productive seasons at Gulf Coast Community College in Florida, transferred to Louisville and assumed the No. 2 slot in the order for the nationally ranked Cardinals (24-9, 7-2 Big East). He’s batting .371 (49-for-132) with eight doubles, one triple and 12 RBI, leads the team in runs with 37, has stolen four bases in six attempts and has struck out just five times, once every 31-plus plate appearances. He has a .471 on-base percentage and .449 slugging percentage for a .920 OPS and sports a .955 fielding percentage.
Sam Travis, Indiana: The freshman slugger from Providence’s Class 4A state runner-up team of 2011, when he hit .504 with 17 homers and 75 RBI, has divided time between third base and first base for the Hoosiers (15-18, 5-4 Big Ten). He bats in the heart of the order, usually third, and is hitting .371 (46-for-124) with a team-best 11 doubles, four homers and team-leading 29 RBI. He boasts a .467 on-base percentage and .556 slugging percentage for a 1.023 OPS. His fielding percentage is .953.
Take a minute to crunch all the above numbers and what they are telling us about what each player has meant to his team. You will agree all of them have impressive resumes.
But in lieu of calling it a six-way tie at this juncture in the season, here’s how I would rank them on my player of the year ballot:
1. Ratajczak, 2. Travis, 3. Bucciferro, 4. Hollenbeck, 5. Hohl, 6. Magallones.
Let’s plan to revisit these six and any others who may have moved into consideration for our mythical award when the season concludes.