Brennan Stuprich named Southland Freshman of the Year
HAMMOND, La. – Southeastern Louisiana pitcher Brennan Stuprich was named the Southland Conference Freshman of the year, six Lions earned All-Conference honors and yet another picked up All-Defensive honors, the league office announced Monday.
Will Warren joined Stuprich in earning first-team honors. First baseman Preston Faulkner, shortstop Evan Keller and utility player Jacob Burke picked up second-team honors while center fielder Tyler Finke grabbed a spot on the third team. Senior catcher Gaby Cruz was named to the conference’s All-Defensive squad.
Stuprich leads the Southland with 2.17 ERA while also ranking seventh in both wins (6) and innings pitched (74.1), ninth in opponent batting average (.225) and 13th in strikeouts (62).
Along the way, the Brother Martin (H.S.) grad picked up Southland pitcher of the week honors (April 12) after logging eight shutout innings over regular-season champ Abilene Christian and was voted the Louisiana Pitcher of the Week by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (April 26) after he tossed a shutout on the road against conference-leading New Orleans.
Taking advantage of an opportunity, Stuprich stepped into the starting rotation following a season-ending injury to sophomore Grant Upton. The right-hander from Kenner, Louisiana becomes the third Lion to win the Southland’s top freshman award, joining alums Andro Cutura (2012) and Brennan Breaud (2016).
Warren, a first-team selection, leads the Southeastern staff in wins (7), innings pitched (84.1), strikeouts (85) and opponent batting average (.219). A junior from Brandon, Mississippi, he ranked third, second, fourth and fifth in the conference in those same categories, respectively, while also finishing fourth in ERA (2.67).
Twice he was named the Southland’s pitcher of the week: April 19 after he set a career-high with 11 strikeouts in a win at Stephen F. Austin, as well as this week following a shutout of Houston Baptist in which he tied his career-high in strikeouts. He has recorded double-digit strikeout totals four times during the 2021 season.
Faulkner backed up his preseason All-Conference selection by hitting .275 with a team-leading eight home runs and 47 RBIs. The junior from Denham Springs, Louisiana ranks fourth in the Southland in both RBIs and sacrifice flies (4), along with eighth in home runs, 12th in HBPs (10) and 13th in walks.
Keller, the Lions’ primary leadoff hitter this season, reached base in a team-high 39 consecutive games from a non-conference contest against Tulane (March 3) through the first game of a May 14 doubleheader at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The junior from Destrehan, Louisiana is hitting .315 with a team-high 14 doubles and 43 runs scored. His 18 stolen bases rank third on the team and fifth in the Southland. He also ranks eighth in runs scored and 12th in on-base percentage (.422).
Burke earned second-team honors as a utility player, having spent significant time this season in left field as well as at both first and third base. The second-year freshman from St. Francisville, Louisiana is hitting .256 with a team-high 43 runs scored and 20 extra-base hits, including seven home runs. His 22 stolen bases are tied for the conference lead. He also ranks second in HBPs (15), eighth in runs scored and 12th in both home runs and RBIs.
Finke led Southeastern with a .333 batting average this season and his 19 stolen bases rank third in the Southland. He also ranks eighth in on-base percentage (.430), 11th in slugging percentage (.522) and 12th in batting average. Slowed by a nagging injury for the first month of the season, Finke turned it on after returning to the lineup on a full-time basis. Since returning March 19 at Incarnate Word, the sophomore from Columbus, Indiana hit .347 with all of his extra-base hits and all but two of his stolen bases.
Cruz, a transfer from Bryant University, stepped in to provide a calming influence on the pitching staff following a season-ending injury to returning starter Connor Manola in the fall. The senior hit .250 with three home runs, 22 RBIs and five stolen bases while posting a .989 fielding percentage and throwing out 35 percent of would-be base stealers.
Regular-season champion Abilene Christian placed the most players on the All-Conference teams with seven. Southeastern and UNO placed six players each on the squads while Lamar and McNeese had five apiece. The five Lions on the first and second teams were the most of any Southland school.
Southeastern (30-22, 22-17 SLC), which won at least 30 games for the 14th consecutive full season, has had at least one player earn a postseason award in six of the last seven full seasons.
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