Herrera on Bench watch list

Vol junior Javi Herrera is among 32 baseball players on the watch list for the Johnny Bench Award, given annually to the top catcher in college baseball. The award is given by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission.

The list will be narrowed to 10 semifinalists on May 20, with the finalists being announced June 2. All finalists will be brought to Wichita, Kan., for the College World Series, and the winner will be announced at the Greater Wichita Sports Banquet.

This is the fourth year of the award, named in honor of Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. Two Southeastern Conference catchers, LSU's Brad Cresse in 2000 and Alabama's Jeremy Brown in 2002, have taken home the honor in the past three years.

Herrera, who was a third-team preseason All-America by Baseball America, leads the 2003 Vols with a .394 batting average and ranks third in the SEC in on-base percentage at .506.

He rates as one of the top catchers in the nation, having played on the USA National Team in 2001. He would have been invited back for 2002 had he not gotten injured.

In the Feb. 15 Baseball America Prospects Plus, he ranked as the No. 23 college prospect and the No. 3 catcher behind South Carolina's Landon Powell and Florida State's Tony Richie. Herrera, who is listed as the top collegiate player in the state, ranks No. 20 among the top 50 juniors in nation.

He was ranked as the No. 4 draft preseason prospect in the SEC by Baseball America behind Powell of South Carolina, pitcher Paul Maholm of Mississippi State and shortstop Aaron Hill of Louisiana State.

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