NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – The New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) is pleased to unveil the winners of its annual End-of-Year Awards, as announced by Commissioner Sean McGrath on Thursday.
2021 NECBL Annual End-Of-Year Awards
Stephen Strasburg Top Pro Prospect – Logan Bravo (North Shore/Harvard)
The league-leader in home runs (14) and top-two in RBI (32) helped lead North Shore to secure their first Northern Division title since 2010, when they won the NECBL championship series, in the organization’s first season back competing in the NECBL since 2011. Bravo boasted a .287 batting average for the summer on 39 hits in 136 at-bats while accumulating 91 total bases, 22 extra-base hits ranking second in the league with 35 runs scored and fourth in slugging (.669). The rising sophomore at Harvard had six doubles on the year and drew 19 walks.
Christopher Ashmos 10th Player Award – Addison Kopack (Mystic/URI)
Mystic’s utility player, a student-athlete who can quite literally play any position whether that be in the infield, outfield, as a designated hitter, catching or pitching, did it all for the Schooners in 2021, helping lead his team to a tie for second place in the regular season standings. The rising URI senior’s three triples were tied for the most in the league this summer. The primary infielder batted .259 on the season with 36 hits in 139 at-bats, 31 runs scored, nine doubles, five homers and 27 RBIs while drawing 26 walks.
Robin Roberts Best Starting Pitcher – Jackson Nezuh (Martha’s Vineyard, Florida State)
Nezuh – a righty who posted a 1.80 ERA through seven games started, one of the best in the league this summer – finished the season with a 2-0 record and the fourth-most strikeouts (49) over 30 innings pitched. The rising sophomore at Florida State allowed just three walks all season and boasted a .87 WHIP, a 2.103 strikeout percentage and a measly .205 batting average against.
Best Defensive Player – Mason LaPlante (Valley/Yale)
The rising Yale senior and Valley product was considered the finest defensive player in the New England League this summer. LaPlante, a primary shortstop with the Blue Sox this summer by playing the majority of contests to the left of second base, committed just six errors all season, good for a .931 fielding percentage, both in the top-10 for the league-best. He also played one ballgame at second base and committed no errors through all nine innings. At second base, LaPlante made 30 putouts and 51 assists. Offensively, the infielder recorded 35 hits, scored 32 runs, tallied 26 RBI, drew 22 walks and stole 22 bases on top of hitting three home runs and plating six doubles with a .275 batting average.
Joe Nathan Top Relief Pitcher – Ryan Towle (Upper Valley/UMass-Lowell)
No student-athlete secured more saves than Towle this season, as the UMass Lowell and Valley right-handed pitcher logged six stops and four relief wins to represent the league’s top-ranked relief pitcher. Towle saw action in 17 games, tied for third-most by any pitcher in the league this summer, and finished with a record of 4-0 with a stellar 0.96 ERA over 28 innings pitched with 46 strikeouts, the sixth-most by any pitcher in the NECBL, and allowing just 10 walks over that span. The UMass product touted a .89 WHIP and a 1.993 strikeout percentage in 2021, as well.
Rookie of the Year – Travis Honeyman (Ocean State/Boston College)
The NECBL’s 2021 batting champion (.430) shined bright in his first summer with the New England League, ranking in the top-10 in total hits (40) in just 93 at-bats. The star left fielder and rising Boston College sophomore mashed seven home runs and drove in 26 runs while scoring the same number himself, collected eight doubles, drawing 15 walks and stealing 14 bases. Thanks to a historic summer in the batter’s box, Honeyman logged the best slugging percentage (.763) and best on-base percentage (.530) through the 2021 season as well as the fourth-best OPS in the league this summer (1.293) through 30 games played.
Batting Champion – Travis Honeyman (Ocean State/Boston College)
The NECBL’s 2021 Rookie of the Year was simultaneously crowned the Batting Champion, courtesy of owning a .430 average, and broke the previous New England League batting record by one decimal point, a longtime record previously set in 1997 and held by Jim Deschaine. The Boston College phenom certainly put together a historic season for the ages at the plate by breaking the record and compiling 40 hits, tied for the eighth-most in the league, hitting seven home runs, tied for the sixth-most, seventh-most RBI with 26 and drawing 14 walks and recording eight doubles. Honeyman also hit one triple, owned the best slugging percentage (.763) and the highest on-base percentage (.530) thanks to the fourth-best OPS in the league (1.293).
Most Improved Player – Thomas Joseph (Keene/Jacksonville)
After finishing the 2019 season with a .202 batting average with 18 hits in 30 games for Keene, Joseph returned to Keene and the NECBL and made incredible strides this summer, batting .313 – tied for 12th-best in the league – with 45 hits, fourth-most this summer, as well as 31 RBI, 23 runs, 10 walks drawn, seven doubles and stolen bases and five home runs. The rising Jacksonville State senior boasted a .832 OPS on top of a .456 slugging percentage and a .367 on-base percentage.
Joel Cooney Manager of the Year – Ian Ratchford (Danbury/UConn Avery Point)
In just his first season as the manager of the Danbury Westerners, Ratchford led his team to third place in the Southern Division standings, just one-and-a-half games back of the top spot, and brought home the Fay Vincent Sr. Cup for the first time in the 26-year history of the organization. Amidst a high amount of rained-out ballgames and up-and-down play throughout the summer, Ratchford kept his team’s eye on the prize. After finishing as the No. 4 seed heading into the postseason, Ratchford guided his team first through a Wild Card round victory, followed by a Divisional Semifinal upset, a Divisional Final upset and — finally — Danbury’s long-awaited return to the NECBL Championship Series, in which Ratchford’s Westerners swept the North Shore Navigators to, at last, hoist the Cup.
Umpire of the Year – Al Libardoni (United Collegiate Umpires)
A longtime baseball and basketball official at all college levels in Greater New England, Al Libardoni exemplifies what it means to be an umpire. A veteran professional who “cares deeply about enforcing rules of the game diligently and getting the calls right”, said NECBL Commissioner Sean McGrath of Libardoni, is widely respected in the world of college New England sports. “Umpiring at any level is difficult and is often a thankless job as about 50% of the fans may not agree with every ruling, so we are delighted to be able to give thanks and recognition to all of our umpires this summer by recognizing one of the best with this award”, McGrath continued.
United Collegiate Umpires CEO Alex Skandalis similarly had high praise for the ump, saying, “Al’s leadership and experience in officiating at the Division I level are such a great asset to the league especially this season as we got down towards the end of the season. 2021 was a year filled with tough weather decisions and of course, COVID-19, leadership amongst our umpires was always at a premium and Al was a guy, UCU President Chris Marshall and I, as well as the entire New England League, could always count on”.