May 16, 2012
WICHITA, Kan.-- For the second year in a row, Purdue baseball's Kevin Plawecki has been selected among the 12 semifinalists nationally for the Johnny Bench Award, which recognizes the top NCAA Division I catcher.
Plawecki was the only Big Ten catcher among the semifinalists but he's one of three backstops from universities in the state of Indiana to be on the updated watch list. Indiana State's Jeremy Lucas and Notre Dame's Joe Hudson were also among the semifinalists revealed Wednesday by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission.
Meanwhile, Plawecki is one of only two catchers among the semifinalists for the second year in a row. Florida's Mike Zunino, a leading candidate for Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, is the other two-time semifinalist.
Along with Lucas and Hudson, Purdue has gone up against another semifinalist this season, UCLA's Tyler Heineman.
Ballots will be sent to the national voting panel at the end of May for a vote to determine the three finalists. The finalists will be announced June 4. A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series. All finalists will be brought to Wichita and the winner will be announced at the 15th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on June 28.
Twelve former winners are currently playing in Major League Baseball, including Buster Posey (2008), Kurt Suzuki (2004), Ryan Garko (2003) and Kelly Shoppach (2001). James Madison's Jake Lowery was the 2011 winner.
Plawecki was listed as a Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft second-round talent in Baseball America's annual draft preview edition that hit newsstands this month. He has started all 50 games for the Boilers (40-10) this season, helping lead the team to its first Big Ten title since 1909 and a school-record win total. The junior leads the team with 17 doubles, 24 extra-base hits, 47 runs scored and a .451 on-base percentage, while also ranking second in batting average (.360) and walks (23). With only eight strikeouts in 189 at-bats, he is once against the most difficult batter to strikeout in the Big Ten.
Plawecki enters the weekend leading the Big Ten in runs scored. He has started 40 of the 50 games behind the plate, including 19 of the 20 Big Ten contests, and batted cleanup in all 50. While calling his own game, the Carmel, Ind., native has worked with a Purdue pitching staff that enters the weekend leading the Big Ten with a 2.96 team ERA. Defensively, he has committed only one error and thrown out 14 of 31 would-be basestealers (45 percent).
From Feb. 26 through April 11, Plawecki reached base safely in 25 consecutive games, the longest single-season streak on the team this year. Entering the final series of the year at Iowa, he has hit safely in every game of a Big Ten series but one (Illinois April 13-15).
David Miller (Brooks Wallace Award), Lance Breedlove (College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year) and Nick Wittgren (Stopper of the Year) are the other Boilers on watch lists for prominent national awards as well.
The Johnny Bench Award semifinalists are (in alphabetical order):
Derrick Chung, Sacramento State
Zachary Fisher, New Mexico State
Tucker Frawley, Coastal Carolina
Mitchell Garver, New Mexico
Tyler Heineman, UCLA
Joe Hudson, Notre Dame
Jeremy Lucas, Indiana State
Josh Ludy, Baylor
Jeff Melillo, Rutgers
Kevin Plawecki, Purdue
Jeremy Schaffer, Tulane
Mike Zunino, Florida