May 25, 2010
University of Pittsburgh junior third baseman Joe Leonard was named the 2010 Big East Player of the Year, becoming just the third Panther to win the award, the conference announced Tuesday night during the opening festivities at Bright House Field.
Joining Leonard on the All-Big East First Team is catcher Cory Brownsten, designated hitter Kevan Smith and pitcher Corey Baker. Pitcher Matt Iannazzo and left fielder John Schultz were named to the All-Big East Second Team while first baseman David Chester earned All-Big East Third Team honors.
In all, seven players earned All-Big East Conference honors, the most in a single season in Pitt history, besting the 2004 squad which had six. The four first-team members is also a Pitt record.
Leonard joins P.J. Hiser (2004) and Josh Tyler (1994) as the only Panther players to be tabbed Big East Conference Player of the Year. Leonard enters the conference tournament batting .436 on the year and helped guide the Panthers to a third-place finish during the regular season, etching his name in the Pitt record books along the way.
The Dawson, Pa., native has set single season records for hits (99), doubles (23), RBI (68), at bats (227), saves (8) and total bases (160). Leonard set his single season hit record at home against Akron in dramatic fashion with a two-run homer. He was recently named one of 25 semifinalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, awarded annually to the top player in collegiate baseball, and is on the watch list for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year award. Leonard has eight saves on the year and owns the single season and career records in that category.
The Panthers, picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll, enter the Big East Championship as the No. 3 seed after finishing the season with a 37-16 overall and 18-8 mark in conference play. The 37 wins are just two shy of tying the most in a single season while the 18 conference wins is the most ever by a Panther ballclub.
Baker holds an 11-2 mark on the year and is tied for third in the nation in wins. He has pitched a career-high 99.2 innings and thrown two complete games on the year to go along with 71 strikeouts and a 4.88 earned run average.
Brownsten has been nothing short of spectacular at the plate as well as behind the plate. The senior enters the conference tournament with a .393 batting average, nearly 170 points higher than last season. He has 68 hits and 43 RBI on the season and is known as one of the best defensive catchers in collegiate baseball.
Smith is playing just his second season of collegiate baseball after having played quarterback for the Panther football team. The Cranberry Township native is hitting .339 on the season with 75 hits, 44 RBI and five home runs.
Sophomore lefty Iannazzo stands at 10-2 on the year and is currently tied for sixth in the nation in wins. Iannazzo has a team-low 3.68 earned run average and has thrown 85.2 innings, racking up 54 strikeouts.
Schultz, a junior from West Lawn, Pa., is one of two Pitt players to carry over a .400 batting average. He has started in all 53 games this season, batting .406. He ranks second on the team in hits with 86 and has driven in 48 runs while drawing a single-season record 53 walks.
Chester, a junior college transfer from Collinsville, Okla., is enjoying a stellar season as the Panthers' starting first baseman. Chester carries a .342 batting average and has 66 hits on the year. Among those 66 hits is a team-leading 15 home runs and 10 doubles. Chester is slugging .637 for the year.
Pitt will open up action tomorrow, May 26 at 10 a.m. against No. 6 seeded Rutgers here at Bright House Field.
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