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Arizona shortstop Nik McClaughry named Rawlings Gold Glove Award finalist

Also, OF Mac Bingham and C Cameron LaLiberte are in the portal, though Bingham should get drafted

arizona-wildcats-baseball-nik-mcclaughry-shortstop-rawlings-gold-glove-finalist-2023-pac12-dpoy Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The best defender in the Pac-12 may also be the best defensive shortstop in the country.

Arizona’s Nik McClaughry is one of three finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award, given annually to the top fielder at every position in college baseball. The other finalists are Jim Jarvis of Alabama and Grant Smith of Kentucky, and the winner will be announced Wednesday.

McClaughry, a senior, led the Pac-12 with 180 assists and helped turn 27 of Arizona’s 46 double plays. He committed five errors in 280 chances, for a .980 fielding percentage, becoming the UA’s first P12 DPOY since Alex Mejia in 2012. He also hit .325 with four home runs, 39 RBI and 71 runs scored.

Jarvis, a member of the SEC’s All-Defensive Team, had seven errors and a .974 fielding percentage while Smith had three errors and a .988 fielding percentage.

If McClaughry were to win it would mean two Gold Glove awards for Arizona. Softball’s Allie Skaggs won it for second base after going the entire season without an error and winning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Bingham, LaLiberte enter NCAA transfer portal

Mac Bingham still has a year of eligibility remaining, and he appears to be keeping his options open if he doesn’t get drafted next month or chooses not to sign.

The fourth-year junior centerfielder, who participated in Arizona’s Senior Day ceremony in May, is in the NCAA transfer portal. It’s a route several other draft-eligible Wildcats have done the past few seasons, including 2023 teammate TJ Nichols.

Bingham hit .360 with 10 home runs and 51 RBI, with team highs in hits (91) and doubles (20). For his career he batted .318 with 214 hits in 190 games played over four seasons.

Baseball America has Bingham ranked as the No. 362 prospect for the 2023 MLB Draft, set for July 9-11 in Seattle. Fellow UA outfielder Chase Davis is 28th, right-hander Nichols is 157th, first baseman Kiko Romero is 436th and righty reliever Chris Barraza is 442nd.

It’s a different story for catcher Cameron LaLiberte, who isn’t likely to get drafted but apparently wants to play somewhere else for his final season of eligibility.

LaLiberte split catching duties in 2023 with sophomore Tommy Splaine, starting 33 games and hitting .331 with one homer, 17 RBI and 13 doubles. He threw out 10 potential base stealers, most by a UA catcher since Cesar Salazar in 2018, but started one of Arizona’s six Pac-12 and NCAA tournament games.