LeBlanc Earns Prestigious Honor

DURHAM, NC -- Throughout the 2004 season, Wade LeBlanc was considered one of the best freshman ever to wear a baseball uniform for the University of Alabama. 

 On Friday, he became the best freshman in the 111-year history of the Crimson Tide's storied baseball program as Baseball America tabbed the rookie as the 2004 Baseball America National Freshman of the Year.  LeBlanc is the first Alabama player honored as freshman fo the year by the publication, which has been selecting the top players in college baseball since 1982.

"This a tremendous honor," LeBlanc said via telephone from his home in Lake Charles, La.  "It really shocks me that Baseball America thinks I am the best freshman in the country.  It really means a lot to me."

LeBlanc is the first pitcher to earn BA's top freshman honor since Stanford's Kyle Peterson in 1995. He's also the first Southeastern Conference player to earn the honor since Tennessee's R.A. Dickey in 1994, and the first lefthanded pitcher (who is not also a hitter) to win it since Texas' Greg Swindell in 1984.

LeBlanc became just the fifth player in SEC history to earn BA's National Freshman of the Year honors joining future Hall of Famer Rafael Palmiero (Miss. State, 1983), Todd Walker (LSU, 1992), Brett Laxton (LSU, 1993) and Dickey (1994).

 LeBlanc finished his outstanding freshman season as he set Alabama freshman records for innings pitched (112.2), strikeouts (98) and complete games (8) and tied the UA freshman record with eight wins on the mound.  

In 16 games, including 15 starts, LeBlanc posted an 8-4 record and 2.08 ERA this season.  He worked 112 2/3 innings and allowed 87 hits, 37 runs and 26 earned runs, with 26 walks and 98 strikeouts.  He also threw eight complete games and pitched three shutouts for the Crimson Tide.

"Wade LeBlanc had an outstanding season," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said.  "He gave us a chance to win each time he stepped on the mound.  You rarely see that with a freshman.  He was so confident, much more mature than most freshman.  I am very proud of his accomplshments this season."  

In addition to his freshman records, LeBlanc also ranks among the school's Top 10 single-season leaders in several categories.  

His eight complete games tied Gene Lary (1955) for second place on the school's single-season list.  The three shutouts also tied Mike Innes (1968) and Drew Blocker (1974) for third-place on the single-season shutout charts.  

LeBlanc's 112 2/3 innings pitched tied Dean Hayes (1983) for seventh place on the single-season innings list.  The 98 strikeouts tied Jarrod Kingrey (1998) and Steve Shoemaker (1994) for 10th place on the single-season charts at UA.

In addition to being named BA's National Freshman of the Year, LeBlanc was also named the co-Freshman of the Year by Collegiate Baseball newspaper earlier this month.  He was also named third team All-American by Baseball American and the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Associaiton.

LeBlanc was also named the 2004 SEC Freshman of the Year and was voted as Second-Team All-SEC selection by league's 12 head coaches.

LeBlanc said he hopes that this year's experiences will make him a better player next year for the Crimson Tide.

 "It's one of those confidnece boosters for next season," he said.  "After the season I had this year, I have to come back and prove myslef again as a sophomore.  It gives me confidence that I can do it again next year."

The Alabama freshman was also one of two SEC players named to the 2004 Baseball America First Team Freshman All-American team, joining Georgia's Josh Morris (first base).  Three other SEC players were named second team selections, including Arkansas' Jake Dugger (outfield), Ole Miss' Alex Pressley (outfield) and LSU's Clay Dirks (pitcher).

FIRST TEAM Pos. Player, School   AVG HR RBI SB C Jordan Abruzzo, San Diego .375 9 49 3 1B Josh Morris, Georgia  .319 16 71 5 2B Jim Negrych, Pittsburgh  .378 7 45 12 3B Shelby Ford, Texas Christian .301 16 56 6 SS Chris Valaika, UC Santa Barbara .347 7 38 7 OF Chad Huffman, Texas Christian .383 9 44 3 OF Jon Jay, Miami   .368 6 56 19 OF Drew Stubbs, Texas   .310 8 47 27 DH Matt LaPorta, Florida  .285 14 37 1 UT Anthony Smith, G. Washington .369 15 69 6         W-L ERA IP SO SP Ian Kennedy, USC (1 SV)  7-2 2.91 93 120 SP Wade LeBlanc, Alabama  8-4 2.08 113 98 SP Tim Lincecum, Washington 10-3 3.53 112 161 SP Jason Meyer, Texas A&M (3 SV) 8-2 2.89 106 111 RP Danny Gil, Miami (5 SV)  8-0 3.03 39 49 UT Anthony Smith, G. Washington 6-3 5.29 82 67   SECOND TEAM C--Nick Salotti, UC Riverside (.346-10-51). 1B--Ryne Malone, Florida State (.330-12-54). 2B--Chris Campbell, Charleston (.332-5-63). 3B--Austin Boggs, Texas A&M (.331-5-52). SS--Jason Donald, Arizona (.322-9-45). OF--Jake Dugger, Arkansas (.293-8-44, 12 SB); Clark Hardman, Cal State Fullerton (.351-0-31); Alex Presley, Mississippi (.311-6-32). DH--Brock Ungricht, San Diego State (.373-3-48). SPs--Daniel Bard, North Carolina (8-4, 3.88); Clay Dirks, Louisiana State (8-2, 3.43, 1 SV); Andrew Miller, North Carolina (6-3, 2.93); Ryan Zink, Illinois-Chicago (9-3, 2.07, 3 SV). RP--Blair Erickson, UC Irvine (1-3, 4.10, 17 SV). UT--Zech Zinicola, Arizona State (.280-3-26; 4-2, 3.36, 8 SV).   FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD PREVIOUS WINNERS 1982--Cory Snyder, 3b, Brigham Young 1983--Rafael Palmeiro, of, Mississippi State 1984--Greg Swindell, lhp, Texas 1985--Jack McDowell, rhp, Stanford; Ron Wenrich, of, Georgia 1986--Robin Ventura, 3b, Oklahoma State 1987--Paul Carey, of, Stanford 1988--Kirk Dressendorfer, rhp, Texas 1989--Alex Fernandez, rhp, Miami 1990--Jeffrey Hammonds, of, Stanford 1991--Brooks Kieschnick, rhp/dh, Texas 1992--Todd Walker, 2b, Louisiana State 1993--Brett Laxton, rhp, Louisiana State 1994--R.A. Dickey, rhp, Tennessee 1995--Kyle Peterson, rhp, Stanford 1996--Pat Burrell, 3b, Miami 1997--Brian Roberts, ss, North Carolina 1998--Xavier Nady, 2b, California 1999--James Jurries, 2b, Tulane 2000--Kevin Howard, 3b-ss, Miami 2001--Michael Aubrey, lhp-1b, Tulane 2002--Stephen Drew, ss, Florida State 2003--Ryan Braun, ss, Miami 2004--Wade LeBlanc, lhp, Alabama

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