Bulldog starting pitcher JP Sears, the NCAA Division I leader in strikeouts, has been selected the Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year, it was announced Monday by the conference office.
Sears was the consensus pitcher of the year in the conference coaches and media polls. He completed one of the best regular seasons across the nation as he leads Division I with 138 strikeouts heading into the postseason.
Additionally, Sears has been placed on the All-SoCon First Team by both the coaches and media. Junior third baseman Jonathan Sabo has also been named to the All-SoCon Second Team in the coaches poll. Starting pitcher Will Abbott and catcher Bryce Leasure each have been selected to the SoCon All-Freshman Team.
Sears made 13 starts for The Citadel in the regular season, recording a 7-2 record, 2.03 earned run average and limited opposing hitters to a .198 batting average over 93 innings pitched. The junior also ranks fourth in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings with 13.35, 21st in strikeout-to-walk ratio at 6.27 and 24th with a 0.94 WHIP.
The Sumter, South Carolina, native allowed more than three runs in a start just twice this season and limited opponents to one run or less in seven of his 13 starts.
The south paw has been the ultimate strikeout artist this year, recording double-digit strikeouts in seven starts. In the best start of his career on March 24 against VMI, Sears threw a two-hit, complete-game shutout with 20 strikeouts. The 20 strikeouts are tied for the most in program history, the most by a single pitcher in Division I this season and gives Sears two of the top-six strikeout games in SoCon history.
Sears also struck out 15 batters over seven shutout innings at College of Charleston on March 3 and another 15 over eighth shutout innings on April 13 at Samford.
Over his final three starts of the season against ETSU, UNCG and Wofford, Sears went 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 23 innings. He posted double-digit strikeouts in all three games.
Sears garnered multiple awards this season including becoming a three-time SoCon Pitcher of the Week, SoCon Pitcher of the Month for March, a two-time Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week and D1Baseball.com Pitcher of the Day. Sears was also named to the prestigious Golden Spike Midseason Watch List and the College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year Watch List.
This season, Sears jumped into third place in The Citadel record book with 313 career strikeouts. He is just 10 strikeouts away from passing Brian Rogers (1996-98) for second place. The left hander's 138 strikeouts this season are also good for the fifth most in a single season in program history and eighth best in SoCon history.
Sears is The Citadel's 11th hurler to earn the SoCon Pitcher of the Year award with the last by James Reeves (2015).
Sabo earned the second team selection at third base after leading the Bulldogs in nearly every offensive category. The Charleston, South Carolina, native wrapped up the regular season with a .303 batting average, 10 home runs, 31 runs batted in and 44 runs scored. He started all 50 games for The Citadel, making nearly every start at the hot corner.
The junior transfer out of USC Lancaster had three two-homer games this season. Sabo helped lead the offense to its best day in program history in a 34-8 victory over Winthrop on March 14. On the day, Sabo went 5-for-8 at the plate with two home runs, six runs scored and five runs batted in.
Abbott became the Bulldogs' No. 2 starter early in the year, making 12 starts in his first collegiate season. The freshman went 1-7 with a 4.96 ERA and ranked second on the team in the regular season with 65.1 innings pitched and 58 strikeouts. He won his first career game on April 14 at Samford, holding the Bulldogs to two unearned runs over 5.2 innings with eight strikeouts.
Leasure made 40 starts for The Citadel including 26 behind the backstop. The freshman was moved into the No. 3 hole in the lineup late in the season and hit .254 with six doubles and 15 RBI. Behind the plate, Leasure made no errors with just two passed balls in 255 defensive chances.
The Citadel moves onto postseason play, facing VMI in the opening game of the Southern Conference Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases on Tuesday at 10 a.m. Sears will make the start having recorded 49 strikeouts in his last three starts against the Keydets.