OMAHA, Neb. – St. Edward's starting pitcher Brannon Easterling, an A&M Consolidated grad, has been named the winner of the 2013 inaugural Josh Willingham Award presented by College Baseball Lineup and D2BaseballNews.com on Monday afternoon. Easterling received the news on a phone call from Willingham, who is in Kansas City with the Minnesota Twins, himself this afternoon.
The Josh Willingham Award is an annual honor that is presented to DII college baseball's most valuable player. The award is to bestowed upon a player who not only excels on the field, but in the dugout, clubhouse and practice field as well, and leads his team to national championship caliber status. Because the award honors players who help propel their teams to an elite level, only players from teams who advance to the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship are eligible.
Easterling, a College Station, Texas native, and Texas Tech transfer, was outstanding on the mound for the Hilltoppers this season. The righthander had a 14-3 record, with 2.10 earned-run average. Easterling has been a workhorse from day one on the Hilltop. He led the nation in innings pitched (132.2) and complete games (14). He finished with 86 strikeouts and opposing batters only hit .237 off of him. His performance at the NCAA South Central Regional was legendary. After picking up the win in the opening game of the regional, throwing eight strong innings against Angelo State, Easterling came back on two days rest and had a complete-game victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville in the championship game.
He didn't stop there. The junior went the distance again in an opening-round 1-0 shutout of Grand Canyon in the NCAA DII World Series. His 14 wins this season tied for first in the nation and also broke the school single-season record for victories at St. Edward's.
“I am honored and feel privileged to receive the Josh Willingham Award,” Easterling said. “Receiving that call and having the opportunity to visit with a current major leaguer will be something I will always remember. As a recipient of this award, I hope that I can go out there everyday and prove that this award was well deserved. I would like to thank St. Edward's, my fellow players and coaches because without their support this opportunity would not have presented itself.”
After the season, Easterling was named to the second team on the American Baseball Coaches Association All-America Team, and was a third-team selection on the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association All-America Team.
St. Edward's Head Coach Rob Penders had this to say about Brannon:
“The best thing about Brannon is that he completely lives in the moment. He doesn't care about what happened yesterday, one hour ago or one minute ago all he cares about is what is happening now. This is the attitude that all winners posses. They don't dwell on what went wrong or what could go wrong in the future. Instead, they completely engross themselves in winning the moment no matter what the consequences may be. This is what Brannon does better than any college player I have ever coached. “
“Brannon comes to the field everyday ready to compete. Whether he is scheduled to pitch that day or not, he always wants his teammates to win. After the regional this year, when he threw 17 innings over four days his first instinct was to praise his teammates and the effort they gave. Little did he know, his teammates fed off the herculean effort that he made to win the championship. In my 16 years of coaching college baseball, I am positive that I have never seen a greater competitor than Brannon. I've had more talented players that could win you a game at any point during the season, but if I had to choose between them or Brannon in a crucial situation I would choose Brannon hands down. He could win at checkers, chess, or the OK Corral. He is a winner, and I'll take him on my team any day.”
The determination of a winner was made by a select panel of baseball sports information contacts and media members, along with an Internet vote is planned to contribute to the selection of the winner.
Below is a full list of finalists that Brannon beat out:
NAME YEAR POSITION SCHOOL
Matt Borgschulte Sr. OF Drury
BRANNON EASTERLING (College Station, Texas) Jr. RHP St. Edward's
Trevor Graham Jr. RHP Franklin Pierce
David Harris Sr. SS Southern Arkansas
Peter Jay Sr. RHP New Haven
Fico Kondla Jr. 1B Coker College
Pat Kregeloh Jr. UTIL Shippensburg
Adam Pendleton Sr. C Tampa
Jordan Peterson So. RHP St. Joseph's
Taylor Taska Jr. UTIL TAMU-Kingsville
Brad Zambron Sr. LHP Grand Valley State
Easterling is just the second student-athlete in St. Edward's history to achieve this status. Taj McWilliams-Franklin, a former women's basketball standout on the Hilltop, and two-time WNBA Champion with both the Detroit Shock and Minnesota Lynx, was also named the National Player of the Year after the 1992-93 season.
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