A day ahead of playing in its 14th straight NCAA Tournament, Arkansas has its first Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year.
Razorback sophomore Andrew Benintendi (.391, 18 HRs, 52 RBIs, 22 stolen bases) was named the country’s best 2015 player on Thursday morning by Collegiate Baseball magazine.
It comes a year after Benintendi hit .276 as a freshman with one home run in 225 at bats.
“I knew I had something like this in me, but I’ll admit even I have been surprised by what has happened,” Benintendi said earlier this season. “I just worked hard, got great coaching and have had great teammates that have put me in great position to succeed."
Benintendi, who will lead Arkansas (35-22) against Oral Roberts University (41-14) Friday at noon in Stillwater, Okla., becomes the first Razorback baseball, football or basketball player to ever be named the top player nationally.
"It's been such a fun year as a coach to watch him develop, just watch him play," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "He's done a great job of just getting better as the year goes on, and that's what a lot of the great ones do.
"They kind of get heated up, and that's what he's done."
Benintendi (5-10, 175) leads the SEC in batting average, home runs, slugging percentage (.738) and walks and is also the only player in the nation to rank in the top 25 in every one of those categories.
He is also one of only two players in the country to rank in the top 15 in home runs and batting average and one of two players with 15-plus home runs and 20-plus stolen bases.
Benintendi, who hit .443 in SEC regular season games, becomes the 14th SEC Player of the Year to earn the honor.
Some of the other SEC stars named National Player of the Year in the past include Will Clark, Derick Lilliquist, Todd Helton, Mike Zunio and Ben McDonald.
A Cincinnati native, Beinintendi hit .562 with 12 home runs, 55 RBIs and 37 stolen bases as senior at Madeira High and set state records for runs scored in a season (60) and career (199) while finishing second in career hits (213). He was the national high school player of the year.
He was a 31st-round draft pick in the 2013 Major League Draft by his hometown Reds, but chose to come to Arkansas instead.
His only struggle came at last week’s SEC Tournament where Benintendi was 1-of-14 with one homer and one RBI while leaving 10 runners stranded.
"It's over with," Benintendi said Tuesday. "I'm not thinking about it at all…. It's baseball. I didn't play well. It happens. Mentally, I was fine. I just didn't put the ball in play as much as I wanted to."
Benintendi Named National Player Of The Year
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