baseball Edit

Kopps completes sweep of national awards with Golden Spikes

Kevin Kopps is the second Arkansas player to win the Golden Spikes Award.
Kevin Kopps is the second Arkansas player to win the Golden Spikes Award. (SEC Media Portal)

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Kevin Kopps added one more award to his trophy case Thursday night before leaving Fayetteville and beginning his professional career.

Just three days after the San Diego Padres made him a third-round draft pick, the Razorbacks’ star pitcher was named the winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award as the best player in college baseball during a presentation on ESPN.

Beating out the Vanderbilt duo of Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, Kopps is just the second Arkansas player ever to win the award, joining 2015 recipient Andrew Benintendi. Only four other schools have produced multiple winners: Florida State (3), Arizona State (3), Cal State-Fullerton (3) and San Diego State (2).

Presented annually since 1978, with the exception of last year because of the pandemic, the Golden Spikes Award had never been won by a player whose only role was as a relief pitcher. In 1993, Wichita State reliever Darren Dreifort won it, but he was a two-way standout who stayed in the lineup when he wasn’t on the mound.

Thursday completed Kopps’ clean sweep of college baseball’s major awards. In addition to being a unanimous first-team All-American, he has also won the Dick Howser Trophy, Collegiate Baseball and D1Baseball National Player of the Year awards, Perfect Game/Rawlings and College Baseball Foundation Pitcher of the Year awards and the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award.

Those accolades have come on the heels of arguably the most dominant season by a relief pitcher in the history of college baseball. He led the country with a 0.90 ERA and 0.76 WHIP, helping him go 12-1 with 11 saves.

Kopps’ ERA broke the UA single-season record previously held by Phillip Stidham (0.95 in 1990), while his victory and save totals each rank among the Razorbacks’ 10 best single seasons ever. Leading the team in innings (89 2/3) and appearances (33), he also racked up 131 strikeouts, which ranked 10th nationally and is third in school history, with only 18 walks.

Making those numbers even more incredible is just how versatile he was for Arkansas this season. He usually pitched multiple times per weekend, routinely going three or more innings each time. During the Fayetteville Regional, he threw 185 pitches in 13 1/3 scoreless innings across three appearances in a four-day span.

In the Razorbacks’ final game of the season, Kopps was asked to make his first start of the year and he was sensational. Facing a potent North Carolina State lineup, he threw 118 pitches and allowed only three runs in eight-plus innings. Unfortunately, the final pitch of his collegiate career was a home run that gave the Wolfpack a 3-2 win in Game 3 of the Fayetteville Super Regional, sending them to Omaha and ending Arkansas’ season.

Almost exactly one month later, Kopps was the first Arkansas player selected in the 2021 MLB Draft when the Padres picked him in the third round Monday afternoon. Despite being a sixth-year senior and already 24 years old, he went 99th overall and is expected to sign a professional contract ahead of the Aug. 1 deadline.