By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It's been an impressive preseason so far for the Tennessee Tech baseball team with both high rankings and significant honors slowly becoming the norm for the program. The Golden Eagles now boast another distinction as senior Zach Stephens has earned Preseason All-America Third-Team honors from Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
For Stephens it marks his second Preseason All-America recognition this year and third of his career. The first baseman, who was named to the Preseason All-America Third Team by the NCBWA last year and Preseason All-America Second Team by the NCBWA this season, is coming off another incredible season, helping lead the Golden Eagles to a program record 40 wins and Ohio Valley Conference record 24 conference victories on their way to a regular season title.
Of those players named Preseason All-America Stephens recorded the most RBI last season, driving in an un-worldly 71, six more than any other player on the three selected teams. He also finished second in the group in home runs, smashing 15 in 2013, only three shy of Indiana's Kyle Schwarber.
The Hixson, Tenn. native is used to hearing his named called by awards committees and receiving honors for his play, having earned OVC Preseason co-Player of the Year (2013), Preseason All-OVC First Team (2013), Louisville Slugger Preseason All-America Honorable Mention (2013), All-OVC Second Team (2012, 2013), and numerous other honors and awards throughout his career.
With just one more year left at Tech, Stephens will look to continue his great success after leading the Golden Eagles in runs scored (59), hits (77), home runs (15), RBI (71), walks (38), and slugging percentage (.616) in 2013.
He also ranked in the top five in the OVC in slugging percentage, runs, total bases, and walks. The Soddy-Daisy High School product recorded a solid .341 batting average and improved dramatically on the defensive side of the ball in 2013, owning a .994 fielding percentage after 57 games at first base. In just three seasons, Stephens has already made on impact on the Tech record books, posting his names among the best hitters to don a Golden Eagle uniform.
His 43 career long balls already ranks second on the all-time home runs list, just eight behind former Tech slugger A.J. Kirby-Jones and 10 off the all-time OVC record . He also ranks second for career RBI, racking up 172 so far in his career, just 36 shy of the OVC record. Stephens already ranks among the top 10 hitters in Tech history as his 216 hits are good enough for eighth. He is also among the top 10 in career doubles (seventh), slugging percentage (sixth), total bases (third), and walks (10th) and is approaching the top 10 in runs scored, triples, and at bats.
Other awards donned by Stephens in his time at Tech include: ABCA/Rawlings South Region Second-Team honors (2012), Collegebaseballinsider.com All-America Honorable Mention honors (2012), Invitation to the 2012 College Home Run Derby, Collegiate Baseball newspaper National Player of the Week (Mar. 19, 2012), 2012 semifinalist for NCBWA's Dick Howser Trophy, and several OVC Player of the Week honors from the OVC and College Sports Madness.
To take a closer look at those selected as 2014 Preseason All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, click here.