COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Accolades continue to flood in for Tennessee Tech juniors and new MLB draftees Chad Oberacker and A.J. Kirby-Jones, who have both recently been named second team All-America by Ping!Baseball.
The selection of the two Golden Eagle sluggers by Ping!Baseball marks the first time that any Tennessee Tech player has been selected to two All-America teams, as both were recently also honored as first and second team all-Americans by TPX Louisville Slugger Collegiate Baseball News.
Additionally, the significance of these two players being honored is heightened by the fact that Tennessee Tech has not had more than one All-American named to one team in a single decade, let alone in a single season. Four other Golden Eagles have received past accolades - Cole Helms in 2002, Mark Maberry in 1997, Scott Baerns in 1988 and Mike Winchester in 1975.
Add to that the respect of being recently drafted to two different Major League Baseball franchises, and Oberacker and Kirby-Jones are certainly continuing to build upon their baseball resumes. Kirby-Jones went to the Oakland A’s with the 275th pick of the draft, while Oberacker earned the 589th pick to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Named second team All-America by Ping!Baseball AJ Kirby-Jones, the 6’0” utility player out of Knoxville, Tennessee slugged a monumental .859 this season as Tech’s designated hitter - a statistic that ranks second in the NCAA, led the Ohio Valley Conference and shattered the single season record at Tech. His career slugging percentage of .686 ties Jeremy Bonczyski for first place in the Tech record books. He finished second in the nation, first in the OVC in home runs with 26, and with 51 career home runs takes the number one spot in Tech history.
He also ranks first at Tech in career total bases with 409, runs scored with 143, hits with 207, doubles with 49, runs batted in with 190 and walks with 128.
Kirby-Jones led the OVC and the Golden Eagles with 58 walks this season, which puts him fifth in the nation for base-on-balls, and holds the single season record for intentional walks with nine in 2010.
Starting the past 114 games consecutively, including all 56 competitions in the 2010 season as the designated hitter or first baseman, he batted in 70 runs this year, breaking his own school record for RBIs in the 2009 season to earn the two spot in the Tech single season record books. His 2010 on-base percentage of .531 ranks second in the OVC, as do his RBI and total base (177) stats. He holds the three spot in the conference for total plate appearances with 275.
“AJ is a great person, first and foremost, and very consistent in his approach to the game every day,” said Bragga. “No matter how he played in the last game he has a tendency to stay very level and understands the game very well.”
Kirby-Jones was named National Player of the Week in March, was named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week for week five of the 2010 season and 2010 first team All-OVC. Kirby-Jones is also a finalist for TTU’s Male Athlete of the Year Award and is on the 2010 Dick Howser Trophy watch list.
An Erie, Pennsylvania native, Oberacker finished his season ranked no. 3 in the nation, leading the Golden Eagles and the Ohio Valley Conference with a batting average of .452. Batting in the clean-up position, Oberacker consistently hit over .400 for the entire season, and finished fourth in the nation in total hits with 108 – a statistic that ranks first in the OVC - 40 of which were for extra bases. His career batting average of .395 takes top honors in Tech history.
Throughout the season he maintained an on-base percentage of .527 and slugged .690, batting in 70 runs and becoming just the fourth athlete in Tech history to bring in over 60 runs in one season, earning him the three spot in Tech record books. He set single season records in 2010 for hits and doubles with 29, which ranks first in the OVC, and he ranks second in Tech’s single season history in total bases with 165. Oberacker is also tied for the top spot in Tech record books with nine career triples.
Being the only Golden Eagle to play and start all 56 games in a field position this year, Oberacker recorded a conference-high 281 total plate appearances, rounding the bases 67 times and logging five triples, six homers and 34 walks for 2010. He also recorded an outstanding 36 multi-hit games and fielded .992 on the season.
“Chad is a tremendous athlete, we’ve always known he was a special baseball player,” said Tech Head Coach Matt Bragga. “He was a huge part of our championship team last year and had another great year this year.”
Additionally, Oberacker received Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week accolades for week 13 of the season, was named first team All-OVC and second team Academic All-District. He becomes the first baseball player in history to be named to an All-America team as well as to an Academic All-District team. He was named to the 2010 OVC all-tournament team, is also one of 10 finalists for Tennessee Tech University’s Male Athlete of the Year award, and is on the 2010 John Olerud Two-Way Player watch list.
“The bottom line is that those guys are not only tremendous baseball players but great guys, they’re leaders and ambassadors to our team,” Bragga said.
“This is a huge accomplishment for these young men and the program,” said Tennessee Tech Director of Athletics Mark Wilson. “It serves as an excellent indicator for the future of Tech baseball under Coach Bragga.”