FAYETTEVILLE — The Golden Spikes Award is given to the top amateur baseball player each year and both Tennessee’s Tony Vitello and Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn think Kevin Kopps should win it.
Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi won it in 2015. While relief pitchers don’t normally win it, Kopps’ credentials are outstanding. He is 10-0 with 10 saves and an ERA of 0.81. In 28 appearances, all in relief, Kopps has pitched 66.1 innings, allowed 37 hits, six runs (all earned), walked 15, struck out 105, three home runs and opposing batters are hitting .161 against him.
“Well you know that’s based on a few things,” Van Horn said. “Statistics and Kevin’s statistics are incredible. You look at the saves, the amounts of wins. How many games did he help us win, 18, 20 games. You take Kevin Kopps off the No. 1 ranked team in the country throughout most of this season and we’re not here. So how important was he to our team? Hugely important. So if you take those factors into consideration I think Kevin has as good a chance as anybody.”
Following the game on Sunday which Arkansas won 7-2 Vitello made reference to Kopps when talking about the quick turnaround.
“Yeah, I wanted a quick turnaround,” Vitello said. “I don’t think they did. I think they were in love with the environment today, the opportunity to do something. You saw the way they played. I mean, if there’s ever a situation for your team to quit, it’s with the Golden Spikes award winner on the mound and a pretty sizable lead.”
Van Horn used Kopps three innings on Sunday something that was planned.
“Yes,” Van Horn said. “Yeah, we were going to try to get through the six with the guys we pitched, and if we had a chance to win, we were definitely going to bring him in with nine outs to go.”
Staying in the winner’s bracket and having Kopps helped Arkansas and Van Horn not tax the pitching staff in Hoover as the Fayetteville Regional now begins on Friday at 2.
“Probably felt as good as I felt about our pitching staff right now,” Van Horn said. “We did not use them that much. Kevin went twice, but he always does. I think he threw a total of 70 pitches the whole week here. He’ll be fine. Lael (Lockhart) got a little bullpen in today, a little extra work, good deal.”
On Tuesday, June 8, USA Baseball will announce the semifinalists for the 2021 Golden Spikes Award. The list of semifinalists will then be sent to a voting body consisting of baseball media members, select professional baseball personnel, current USA Baseball staff and the previous winners of the award, representing a group of more than 200 voters. As part of this selection process, all voters will be asked to choose three players from the list of semifinalists. On June 24, USA Baseball will announce the finalists, and voting for the winner will begin that same day.