FAYETTEVILLE – Already named the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Year, Arkansas Razorbacks senior relief pitcher Kevin Kopps Tuesday was named among 25 semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, college baseball’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy.
Kopps continues pitching himself into national awards contention while pitching the nationally No. 1 SEC champion Razorbacks into the Super Regionals with Friday’s 5 p.m. start at Baum-Walker Stadium with the best 2 of 3 game series against the North Carolina State Wolfpack with the winner advancing among the Elite Eight playing for the national championship at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
To reach the Super Regionals the Razorbacks went 3-1 in the 4-team double-elimination Fayetteville Regional they hosted at Baum-Walker.
Kopps won Friday’s come from behind 13-8 victory over the New Jersey Institute of Technology relieving in the fourth and throwing shutout ball through the sixth.
He followed Friday’s 24-pitch outing throwing 71 pitches and the final four scoreless innings saving Patrick Wicklander Saturday’s 5-1 victory.
Kopps was rested when Arkansas lost, 5-3 Sunday to Nebraska then relieved in the third inning Monday and throw seven scoreless innings logging the 6-2 championship game victory.
The ironman performances upped Kopps’ record 12-0 with 11 saves, a 0.68 earned run average and 120 strikeouts against just 15 walks and six runs for 79 2-3 innings.
Van Horn was asked to compare Kopps’ Fayetteville to Charley Boyce throwing 203 pitches in two days pitching Van Horn’s 2004 Razorbacks to a Regional championship and on to Omaha.
“You know, this is the craziest thing: when Kevin got here, we gave him Charley Boyce’s number, “ Because Charley Boyce was a very intelligent right-handed pitcher … Kevin is the same way. I didn’t know Kevin was going to jump his velocity up in the 90s because he didn’t do it really until the last couple of years. But yeah, I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’ve thought about his regional a lot and how I took a little bit of crap for pitching Charley.. I’d start walking down to talk to him (Boyce) and he’d point at me and say, ‘I’m not coming out.’ It was almost the same feeling, except Kevin is too polite to say that. He just would tell me, ‘Coach, I feel great.’ But yeah, I thought about that many a times over the last few days.”
Granted an extra year because covid cancelled the 2020 season, Kopps as a 24-year senior has the maturity but combination of intense will and easy throwing motion to handle the load, Van Horn said.
“I talked with Coach (pitching coach Matt Hobbs) about it, just making sure we’re doing the right thing,” Van Horn said of during Monday’s game. “Kevin’s like, ‘You’re doing the right thing. I’m fine. Give me the ball.’ He’s got a great arm action – it’s short, quick, a strike-throwing machine. The kid’s a warrior. He wouldn’t let us take him out of the game.”
Thanks to Kopps, Arkansas is still in the game.