Villines named to Midseason Stopper of the Year Watch List

LAWRENCE, Kan. – The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) named senior captain and right-handed closer for the Kansas baseball team Stephen Villines to the 2017 Midseason Stopper of the Year Watch List, as announced by the association Wednesday.
In its 13th year, the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award is given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball. A total of 40 names appear on the midseason watch list, with 15 of the players on the list already amassing double-digit saves.
“Villines has had an outstanding career at the University of Kansas,” head coach Ritch Price said. “I am really proud of him not only as a baseball player, but as a person too. He is an outstanding leader on our team and a team captain. He has that unique delivery and has no fear, and that has allowed him to be so successful in the closer role.”
Villines has racked up 11 saves in 23 appearances on the season and holds a career mark of 37 which ranks No. 1 all-time in the KU history books. That number also ranks first in the Big 12 Conference and tied for first in the NCAA for the most saves in a career by an active pitcher. Villines is tied with George Washington’s Eddie Muhl for the top spot and is the only Power Five closer in the top-10 in active career saves.
Currently, Villines ranks No. 23 all-time in NCAA history with 37 saves and would need six more to crack the all-time top-10. In addition, his 37 saves rank tied for second all-time in the Big 12 with UT’s Corey Knebel (2011-13), with another Longhorn (Huston Street, 2002-04) holding the top spot at 41.
“Let’s hope we keep winning and give him a chance to set that conference record,” Price said. “There has been a lot of big-time closers in this conference and I was in the league when Huston Street was here so that puts Villines in elite company. That is the best compliment he can receive.”
Villines has been the most reliable reliever out of the Kansas bullpen the last four seasons and has accepted every role Price has asked him to pitch in. He has been named to the All-Big 12 Second Team (2016), All-Big 12 Honorable Mention Team (2014 & 2015), Big 12 All-Freshman Team (2014) and the NCBWA Freshman All-American Second Team (2014) during his tenure on the hill.
In his career, Villines has logged 182 and 1/3 innings in 105 appearances out of the bullpen – both more than any other reliever during that span. He has compiled a 2.52 ERA and has struck out 166 batters compared to 39 walks allowed, all while holding opponents to a .253 batting average. In the process, Villines surpassed KU great Don Czyz (31) – who won the Stopper of the Year Award in 2006 – for the most saves in a career at Kansas with a perfect ninth against Texas on April 2.
“Being mentioned on a list with all those great relievers is pretty cool,” Villines said. “It speaks to how well our bullpen has performed this season with Blake Weiman and Zack Leban setting the table for me. They have been playing well and it makes my job a lot easier.”
So far in 2017, Villines has posted a 3.23 ERA in 30 and 2/3 innings pitched and struck out 29.4 percent of the batters he has faced (40-of-136). In his last 12 appearances, Villines has earned eight saves, and has converted on seven of his last eight save attempts.
Kansas closes out its road swing at Grand Canyon Wednesday, before returning to Hoglund Ballpark to open up an 11-game homestand on Friday, April 28, beginning with a three-game series against Baylor.  The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more. 
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