GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Michigan State baseball senior catcher Matt Byars has been named to the 2017 Johnny Bench Award Watch List, announced Thursday by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission and presented by presented by BaseballSavings.com.
A total of 85 catchers were nominated for the award by their coaches. Because the award is given annually to the top Division I collegiate catcher, the list will be updated to include other candidates until May 1, 2017.
The watch list will be narrowed down to the semifinalists, whom will be announced May 17, 2017. Ballots will be sent to the national voting panel at the end of May for a vote to determine the three finalists. The finalists will be announced June 5, 2017. A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series. All finalists will be brought to Wichita and the winner will be announced at the 20th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on June 29, 2017.
Byars was selected in the 24th round and No. 723 overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft, but opted to return to Michigan State for his senior season. This season, he has started all 11 games at catcher, is batting .262 with three doubles and one home run as part of six RBI. Behind the plate he has thrown out three potential base stealers and helped manage a Spartan pitching staff, helping 14 different MSU pitchers, compile a 3.86 ERA.
Byars is one of six catchers from the Big Ten on the Johnny Bench Award Watch List, joined by Nick Dalesandro of Purdue, Ryan Fineman of Indiana, Ryan Sloniger of Penn State, Harrison Wenson of Michigan and Jesse Wilkening of Nebraska.
MSU is 9-2 overall and so far 3-1 on its Spring Break swing after playing No. 9 Clemson Wednesday night. Michigan State will remain in the Palmetto State for the rest of the weekend, heading to Columbia, South Carolina to square off with No. 10 South Carolina in a three-game series, Friday-Sunday, March 10-12. Friday’s series-opener is slated for a 7 p.m. start, followed by 4 p.m. on Saturday before wrapping up on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.