Tanner Allen, Kevin Kopps, Enrique Bradfield Jr. and Tony Vitello take our top SEC baseball honors
Chris Lee • 5/22/2021 in Baseball
Allen, Kopps, Bradfield Jr. and Vitello win our top Southeastern Conference baseball awards as the regular season has concluded.
Mississippi State right fielder Tanner Allen is our Southeastern Conference Baseball Player of the Year, while Arkansas pitcher Kevin Kopps (Pitcher of the Year), Vanderbilt center fielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. (Freshman of the Year) and Tennessee coach Tony Vitello take top honors in our Southeastern14.com baseball superlatives with the regular season now over.
Allen hit .387/.460/.618 for the regular season, winning the league's batting title while leading State to a 40-13 overall record and a 20-10 league mark. MSU's regular right fielder, a four-year starter for the Bulldogs, did not commit an error all season while playing in (and starting) all but one of State's games. He finished second in the league in hits (79) and fifth in runs scored (54) and RBIs (53).
But it was Allen's play in SEC games that set him apart. He led the league in batting average in conference games (.411), ranking second in slugging (.702) and third in on-base percentage (.472) while leading the league with 34 RBIs.
To say Kopps had an incredible season may be an understatement. The redshirt senior reliever appeared 25 times in the regular season, going 10-0 with eight saves, an 0.75 ERA, 97 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 60 1/3 innings.
Somehow, Kopps was even better in SEC games, where he had an 0.53 ERA, seven wins and seven saves in 18 appearances. In conference play, he led the league in ERA while tying for the league in wins and tying for second in saves.
Kopps made multiple appearances in seven of the Razorbacks' 10 league series, including appearances in all three games vs. Auburn.
At Tennessee, Kopps threw 66 pitches, firing three scoreless innings while picking up the win in 6-5 win on May 14. Two days later, Kopps returned to fire 59 pitches, allowing one run in 3 2/3 innings to again get a win in a 3-2 Arkansas victory.
With the league title on the line this weekend, Kopps shut out Florida for three innings on Thursday, then, picked up the win with a perfect ninth as the Razorbacks clinched the SEC title outright.
Vandy's Bradfield Jr. hit leadoff throughout most of conference play for the Commodores, hitting .366 with a .478 on-base mark in all games while tying for ninth with 50 runs scored. Through games of May 19, his 41 steals leads the country.
Bradfield finished fourth in the league in batting average in conference play (.373) and third in on-base percentage (.474).
Vitello has completely revitalized Tennessee's baseball program since taking over as its head coach for the 2018 season. Vitello led the Vols to their first NCAA tournament since 2005 in 2019 and this year, led Tennessee to a 42-14 regular-season record and 20-10 mark in league play, good enough for the Eastern Division title.
The Vols are one of 20 finalists to host a regional for next month's NCAA tournament, and are expected to be one of the 16 teams chosen for the final spots.
The toughest decision came in the Freshman of the Year contest, where Bradfield edged LSU first baseman Tre´Morgan and right fielder Dylan Crews in a banner year for first-year SEC players.
Allen's closest Player of the Year competition was Tennessee shortstop Liam Spence, while Kopps beat out Vanderbilt starters Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter as well as Ole Miss starter Doug Nikhazy for pitching honors in what was our easiest choice.
Vitello edged Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn and Vandy's Tim Corbin for coaching honors.
The Razorbacks were picked third in the West in the league's preseason poll and didn't receive a vote as overall league champion, but Van Horn instead had the Razorbacks ranked in the top spot nationally much of the season.
Vanderbilt was picked to finish second in the East and got one vote as overall champion, however, the Commodores--who didn't a single regular hitter from their 2019 NCAA title team--suffered a rash of pitching and hitting injuries to key players throughout the year, but managed to stay in title contention until the final weekend.
For more SEC baseball coverage, follow Southeastern 14 on Twitter and subscribe to our daily SEC podcast on Apple Podcasts.