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14

Feb, 2018

Eight former PONY players garner preseason college baseball accolades

The 2018 college baseball season gets underway this week around the country. Before teams head out to the diamond for another exciting season, PONY would like to recognize eight former players who have received preseason accolades, most notably, as All-Americans.

First-Team

Kevin Milam (St. Mary’s, California) Soph. Utility Player (Brentwood, California – Brentwood PONY)
First-Team by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, Second Team by the National College Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA)

As a freshman in 2017, Milam started all 57 games for the Gaels and was named the West Coast Conference’s Freshman of the Year award for his accomplishments. Impressively, he led the team with 12 homeruns, 55 RBI, and a .547 slugging percentage, while finishing among the team leaders in every other offensive statistical category. A Swiss Army Knife for the Red and Blue, Milam also made 22 appearances on the mound as the team’s closer, finishing the season with nine saves, 31 strikeouts in 39.2 innings pitched and a .191 batting average against. Finishing the season at a respectable record of 37-20 and just two games from a conference title in 2017, Milam and the Gaels have their sights set on greater heights in 2018.

Second-Team

D.J. Artis (Liberty) Jr. Outfielder (Greensboro, North Carolina – Greensboro Youth Baseball)
Second-Team by the NCBWA and USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Preseason Player to Watch

It’s difficult to imagine outdoing your freshman campaign when you are named to four All-American teams, the conference’s Freshman of the Year, a First-Team All-Conference selection, start all 69 games and finish among the nation’s league leaders offensively, but Artis did just that in 2017. Among his top on-field accomplishments for the Flames included leading the nation in bases on balls with a program record 62 and finishing second in the nation with a .532 on-base percentage. He led the Big South Conference with a .359 batting average and 58 runs scored and finished second in the league with 23 stolen bases. Artis reached base in 30-consecutive games in 2017. His sophomore campaign ended with him being named an All-American, the Big South Player of the Year, a Big South Player of the Week three times and a member of the conference’s First-Team. The nation and pro scouts will be watching if Artis can take his game even farther in 2018.

Chris Williams (Clemson) Sr. Catcher/Infielder (Garden Grove, California – Garden Grove PONY)
Second-Team by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper

Despite missing 14 games due to a broken wrist at the beginning of the 2017 season, Williams still put together a solid junior campaign in which his Clemson team hosted a Regional. Williams was tied for 10th in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 14 homeruns and led the Tigers with 16 multiple-RBI games and two-out RBI (21), all while recording a sensational .572 slugging percentage. He also nabbed 11 of 22 would-be base stealers behind the dish. With a bevy of upperclassmen returning, including the nation’s preseason Player of the Year Seth Beer, Williams will be counted upon to once again be an offensive leader for the Tigers. Clemson Head Coach Monte Lee said yesterday Williams will play first base until he is healthy enough to catch.

Third-Team

Kris Bubic (Stanford) Jr. Starting Pitcher (San Jose, California – Los Gatos Legends)
Third- Team by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, Baseball America and the NCBWA and USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Preseason Player to Watch

A 2013 Palomino World Series champion with the Los Gatos Legends, Bubic took his game to greater heights in 2017 as a sophomore, following a freshman campaign in which he was one of Stanford’s top-end relievers. In 15 starts for the Cardinal, Bubic, a Friday night starter, went 7-6 with a 2.79 earned run average, which was good for sixth-best in the Pac-12 Conference. His ERA, as well as his 96 strikeouts, led all Stanford starters. Bubic ended the season on a high note, as he did not allow a run in his last 16.0 innings of the season, and he tossed a career-high eight innings with 11 strikeouts in his Regional start against Sacramento State. Alongside fellow former PONY player Tristan Beck, who began the 2017 season as a Preseason All-American but missed its entirety due to injury, Stanford will have a great one-two punch at the top of its rotation.

Alex McKenna (Cal Poly) Jr. Outfielder (Canyon Country, California – William S Hart PONY)
Third-Team by Baseball America

A member of the 2008 Runner-Up William S Hart Mustang World Series team, McKenna broke out as an everyday centerfielder and leadoff hitter for his Cal Poly squad in 2017. He finished the season as a First-Team All-Big West selection after leading the Mustangs with a .360 batting average, a .487 slugging percentage, a .424 on-base percentage and five homeruns. While he was an offensive machine at the plate, McKenna was arguably better in the field, as he did not commit an error in 145 chances. In the team’s final game of the season again Cal State Fullerton, McKenna went 4-for-5 with a double and a homerun. Fans will see if he can pick right up where he left off and continue to be the Mustangs’ leader both at the plate and in the field.

Chris Rivera (Long Beach State) Jr. Relief Pitcher (Watsonville, California – Watsonville PONY)
Third-Team by the NCBWA

Following a freshman season in which he finished as a Second-Team Freshman All-American, Rivera picked up right where he left off as a sophomore. Making 26 appearances out of the bullpen and notching 34.2 innings pitched, Rivera lowered his ERA from 4.60 to 2.60, all while racking up 13 saves (a team-high). He tossed 47 strikeouts and allowed opposing batters to hit just .172 against him. With 26 career saves, he’s tied for second in program history and is 20 away from tying the all-time record, which was set in 1995. Long Beach State won the Big West Conference in 2017, but come in to 2018 looking up at Cal State Fullerton, the team the Dirtbags lost to in Super Regions last year, in the preseason poll. Rivera, a 2017 All-Big West Second-Teamer, will be once again counted upon to secure the back end of the bullpen if LBSU is to go back-to-back as Big West Conference champs.

High School

Brice Turang (Santiago High School) Sr. Shortstop (Corona, California – Corona PONY)
USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Preseason Player to Watch

One of three high school student-athletes to be named to the Golden Spikes Award Preseason Players to Watch list, Turang, an LSU signee and a member of USA Baseball’s National Team, is the second rated overall high school prospect in the 2018 class, according to Baseball America. Last season, he struck out just once in 101 at-bats, all while batting .465 and recording a .526 on-base percentage with 13 doubles, two homeruns, 15 RBI and 25 runs scored.

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