The Golden Spikes award, perhaps the most prestigious trophy in college baseball, is given to the top amateur baseball player in the country by USA Baseball. Arkansas’s Kevin Kopp won the award in 2021, and other past winners include top prospects Adley Rutschman (2019), Kris Bryant (2013), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), and Buster Posey (2008).
The organization released a list of 31 semifinalists for the award on Tuesday, and two former Valley Leaguers made the cut. First of all, Auburn’s Sonny DiChiara (Strasburg 2019) made the semifinals with his outstanding spring. Aaron Fitt wrote the following about the big man:
DiChiara was already an established power hitter well before his first season at Auburn this spring. He spent his first three seasons at Samford, smashing 21 homers as a freshman and 18 more last year, while hitting .293 in 2019, .328 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and .273 last year. But the SoCon is an offensive league, and there is unquestionably a big step up to the caliber of pitching DiChiara has faced in the SEC — but the big first baseman has not only made that adjustment smoothly, he’s become better than ever.
DiChiara leads all of Division I with a 1.457 OPS, slashing an absurd .448/.601/.856 with 12 homers, 15 doubles and 38 RBIs. He always drew his share of walks, but this year he is controlling the strike zone at a rare level (especially for a power hitter), with 45 walks against just 24 strikeouts.https://www.usabaseball.com/golden-spikes-award/news/topic/golden-spikes/gsa-spotlight-auburn-s-sonny-dichiara
The second player to make the list in none other than the D-III standout and former Staunton (2019, 2021) shortstop Ryan McCarty. McCarty’s season is truly one for the ages:
Also earning semifinalist honors in 2022 is Ryan McCarty (Penn State Abington), who put together an unmatched regular season in which he won the NCAA Division III Triple Crown and paced college baseball offensively throughout the year. McCarty finished his historic senior season with the DIII single-season record for total bases (220) and led all of the NCAA in batting average (.529), hits (100), RBIs (91), slugging percentage (1.164), and total bases, while his 29 home runs and 89 runs scored led Division III and tied for the top mark in all of NCAA baseball. He looks to become the first Golden Spikes Award winner from a non-Division I program since Bryce Harper won the award in 2010.https://www.usabaseball.com/golden-spikes-award/news/topic/golden-spikes/2022-golden-spikes-award-semifinalists-revealed
In fact, only two non-Division I players have ever won the award: Harper, as mentioned above, and Alex Fernandez, who won in 1990 while pitching for Miami-Dade Community College. (He went 12-2, 1.19 with 123 strikeouts that year. No big deal.)
Both of these young men were top hitters in the Valley League; DiChiara in 2019, and McCarty in 2021. You could say, kind of, that we saw it coming?
Congratulations to both!