It’s been an historic season for the Arizona Wildcats as a team, so it only makes sense a slew of their players are being honored for their efforts. Same goes with the guy in charge of it all.
Jay Johnson was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year on Thursday, the first time an Arizona skipper has won the award since Andy Lopez in 2011, while Daniel Susac became the second consecutive UA player to win Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
Susac was also one of five Wildcats to make the All-Conference Team along with designated hitter Jacob Berry, first baseman Branden Boissiere, right-handed pitcher Chase Silseth and centerfielder Donta’ Williams. It’s the third time under Johnson that Arizona has had five all-conference picks.
Williams and Susac were also named to the Pac-12’s All-Defensive Team, only the second time in school history that’s happened, while second baseman Kobe Kato, right fielder Ryan Holgate and right-hander Vince Vannelle earned all-conference honorable mention honors.
Oregon’s Aaron Zavala was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, the first Duck to win the award. Stanford’s Brendan Beck won Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, while ASU’s Drew Swift was picked as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Johnson, in his sixth year with Arizona, led the Wildcats to their first 40-win regular season since 2007 and the program’s first outright conference title since 1989. The UA earned the No. 5 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and opens play Friday at 7 p.m. PT against Grand Canyon in the Tucson Regional at Hi Corbett Field.
Susac, a right-handed hitting catcher, is batting .344 with a team-high 20 doubles along with 12 homers and 59 RBI. He was exceptionally good in Pac-12 play, setting UA freshman conference records with 12 doubles, 21 extra-base hits, 83 total bases and 45 hits and tying the UA freshman conference marks in homers (8) and RBI (34). He led the Pac-12 in XBH and total bases in league play and tied Berry for the conference lead in hits in league competition.
The last two Pac-12 Freshman of the Year winners have been Wildcats, as Austin Wells won the award in 2019 (none was given last year due to the season being cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic).
Thursday also saw Berry and Susac get named to Collegiate Baseball’s All-America Team, with Berry making the first team and Susac landing on the second team. Berry is Arizona’s first Collegiate Baseball 1st-team All-American since Alex Mejia in 2012.
“In the first team you’re talking about 10 hitters in the entire country, so what an accomplishment for Jacob, and it’s well deserved,” Johnson said. “You’re talking about arguably the best hitter in the country in Jacob and you’re talking about one of the two best catchers in the country in terms of Daniel.”
Berry, a switch-hitting third baseman/designated hitter, leads Arizona in batting (.371), home runs (15), RBI (64), triples (5), extra-base hits (36), total bases (149), slugging (.710) and OPS (1.173). He is tops in the Pac-12 in RBI, triples, extra-base hits and total bases, with his XBH and total bases tallies both UA freshman records.