UC Santa Barbara senior third baseman/outifelder Joey Epperson has been added to the Midseason "Golden Spikes Award" Watch List, USA Baseball announced today. The Golden Spikes Award is given out annually to the top amateur baseball player in the country.
Epperson becomes the first Gaucho ever to be nominated for the award. Past Golden Spikes Award winners include accomplished Major League Baseball stars David Price, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, Jered Weaver, Pat Burrell, Robin Ventura, Will Clark, and Terry Francona.
Splitting time between the leadoff and third spots in the lineup, Epperson enters the weekend with the top batting average in the country at .462 and the second-best on-base percentage at .544. Overall, the speedster leads the Big West Conference in a litany of offensive categories including batting average, on-base percentage, hits, and runs. An all-around threat, he also ranks second on the team with three home runs and 11 stolen bases.
He has racked up three Big West Field Player of the Week nominations so far in 2014, taking home the award on Mar. 3 after hitting .588 and leading the Gauchos to a 4-0 week, including a Tuesday win over defending national champion UCLA and a three-game sweep of Princeton.
UCSB has been a different team ever since inserting Epperson into the starting lineup a year ago. Since becoming a full-timer on Apr. 14, 2013, the Gauchos are an astounding 38-16.
USA Baseball officials will trim the 50-man watchlist to 30 on May 8, before the award's semifinalists are announced at the conclusion of the regular season.
Joey and the rest of the No. 14 Gauchos host No. 15 Cal State Fullerton this weekend in a vital Big West series. UCSB, 20-7 overall, is just 2-4 in conference play.