When the list of 103 players was whittled down to 15, senior Osprey catcher Keith Skinner’s name remained in contention for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the best catcher in the nation.
Skinner leads the Atlantic Sun with a .395 batting average and is tied for 15th in the country. The Berkeley Heights, New Jersey product started 53 of 54 games this season and is first among the Ospreys in runs (49), doubles (15) and tied for first in hits (77). Defensively, Skinner had an error-free season, and he’s thrown out fifteen players attempting to steal.
The award is named after Johnny Bench, widely considered one of the greatest catchers of all time. Bench was a 14-time All-Star as a part of the Cincinnati Red’s famed Big Red Machine in the 1970s. He was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.
Not the only Osprey in contention for a major award, Skinner faces competition from catchers from baseball powerhouses Texas, Virginia and Michigan. However, in the past four years the award’s gone to catchers from smaller schools such as Kennesaw State and James Madison. Previous winners of the Johnny Bench Award include Minnesota Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki and Buster Posey, the 2012 National League MVP and catcher for the San Francisco Giants.
The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission will narrow the 15 semifinalists to three on June 6. The final award will be presented June 30 following the end of the College World Series.
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