Originally predicted to finish last in the SEC West, a trio of Auburn teammates overachieved for the baseball team this season, earning them All-SEC honors, the league office announced on Monday.
Among the three, first baseman Sonny DiChiara was not only chosen for First Team All-SEC, but he was tabbed as a SEC Co-Player of the Year. No. 17 is just the third Auburn player to ever win the league's highest award, being placed beside the likes of Tim Hudson (1997) and Hunter Morris (2010).
The awards just won't stop rolling in for the senior transfer from Samford, and he has been named as a semifinalist for college baseball's most prestigious award, the Dick Howser Trophy .
This comes as a result of leading the conference in on-base percentage (.561) and slugging percentage (.782), while ranking second in the league in batting average (.382). His patience at the plate plays a big factor into this, as he drew the most walks in the country this season and the second most ever in program history with 62.
Not only is the native of Hoover, Alabama one of the best hitters in the conference, but his numbers put him among the best in the nation. His OBP is the best in the country, and his slugging percentage ranks fifth in the nation. He is also tied for third in career home runs (58) among active Division 1 players, with 17 dingers coming this season, tied with Edward Julien for the most by an Auburn player since 2010.
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Earning All-SEC Second Team honors, Auburn closer Blake Burkhalter is the first Auburn reliever to join a first or second team honors since John Madden in 2005. The junior pitcher also put himself among the best in the conference and the nation, as his 13 saves are three more than any other pitcher in the SEC and matches the best total among Power Five pitchers.
Burkhalter was not an ordinary closer. He entered the game in a variety of situations, and got the Tigers out of many daunting situations this season prior to the ninth inning. He also worked for multiple innings in the majority of his team-leading 25 appearances.
When he entered the game, it was good news for Auburn. He earned a win or a save in 17 of his 25 outings, and finished the season with a 4-1 record to go alongside his 13 saves. He also had a 3.44 ERA and 55 Ks, giving up runs in just eight of his appearances on the season.
Last but not least, redshirt junior Blake Rambusch was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team. In his first season with the Tigers after transferring. in from junior college, the Texas native was one of two players to start every contest of the season. 51 of his starts came from the hot corner at third base, despite starting the season in right field where he got his other four starts.
One of the most reliable players in the nation, Rambusch recorded a .964 fielding percentage and initiated 12 of the club's 44 double plays.
While only getting a defensive honor, the leadoff hitter showed off his skills from both sides of play this year, turning in a .351 batting average after leading Grayson College with a .444 average in his sophomore year. He made teams pay when he got on base, too. While racking up a league-best 80 base hits, he also tied for third in the league with 16 stolen bases.
With the help of these three, Auburn started the season unranked and projected to finish at the bottom of its division, and ended things ranked No. 20 after getting inside the top 20 several times throughout the year. It finishes the campaign at 37-18 and 16-13 in SEC play and will begin its postseason run as the SEC Tournament as the No. 5 seed against Kentucky on Tuesday night in Hoover.
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