May 31, 2011
By Jon Cooper
On Tuesday afternoon, USA Baseball confirmed what Georgia Tech and its opponents have known all season long — Mark Pope is one of the best pitchers in the nation. Pope was named one of 30 semifinalists for USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award. The award has been given to the nation’s top amateur baseball player since 1978.
Various watch lists were narrowed down to the 30 semifinalists by a committee working with sports information directors and media around the country. A group of nearly 200 voters will select the three finalists and winner.
Fans are encouraged to vote for their favorite player by going to GoldenSpikesAward.com. The award will be presented on the MLB Network at 6:00 p.m. on July 15.
Pope finished the 2011 regular season with an 11-3 record and a 1.54 ERA (18 earned runs in 105 1/3 innings). He struck out 85 while walking only 21 and allowing only 81 hits. He led the ACC in wins, innings pitched, complete games (5) and shutouts (3), while his ERA was fourth. In conference play he was 7-3 with 1.85 ERA (16 earned runs in 77 2/3 innings), with a pair of shutouts.
In three seasons, Pope has gone from closer to midweek starter to the Friday night starter. He was a horse at the top of Tech’s rotation, pitching at least six innings in every start this season. Pope tallied a 30-inning scoreless streak during the year and he threw the school’s first one-hitter since 1997. Pope’s three complete-game shutouts, gave him four for his career, a modern-day school record, while his five complete games this season were more than any other team in the ACC.
Pope is one of four ACC players to make the semifinalists cut. Virginia’s Danny Hultzen, Florida State’s Sean Gilmartin, and Clemson’s Brad Miller also made the list (Pope, Hultzen and Gilmartin also are in the run for the College Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2011 Pitcher of the Year Award). The four ACC players rank second only to the SEC, which had five.
Georgia Tech has been represented well in Golden Spikes voting since the inception of the award. Catcher Jason Varitek won the award in 1994, beating out fellow finalists Jay Payton and Nomar Garciaparra (Varitek also was a finalist in ’93), Mark Teixeira was a finalist in 2000, and Ty Griffin was the first Yellow Jacket to be named a finalist in 1988.
The last five winners of the award are 2010 and 2009 MLB overall No. 1 Draft picks Bryce Harper (2010) and Stephen Strasburg (2009), 2010 National League Rookie of the Year Buster Posey (2008), Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price (2007) and two-time defending N.L. Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum (2006), while other past winners include distinguished Major Leaguers Bob Horner (Arizona State, 1978), current Red Sox Manager Terry Francona (1980, Arizona), Will Clark (Mississippi State, 1985), Robin Ventura (Oklahoma State, 1988), Mark Kotsay (Cal State Fullerton, 1995), J.D. Drew (Florida State, 1997), Pat Burrell (Miami, 1998), Rickie Weeks (Southern, 2003) and Jered Weaver (Long Beach State, 2005), amongst others.