We've been hyping up Andrew Zellner for a while and the American Athletic Conference has taken notice. Its probably more because of Zellner's on-field performance than some musings on a website, but who can say? (Its 100 percent because of Zellner's on-field performance).
The left-hander from Farmersville, Ohio was named to the AAC's All-Conference First Team on Monday, as the Bearcats prepare to begin play in the league's tournament later this afternoon. Zellner is the second UC player to make the first team in the American, following Ian Happ, he of the first-round draft selection, who was a first-teamer in 2014 and 2015.
Zellner finished off the season with a 2.21 ERA and led the entire conference in innings pitched (101 2/3). He is the only hurler in the league to eclipse the 100-inning mark. He also tied for second in wins (if you care about such antiquated things) and games started (14) while throwing four complete games and five contests of nine innings. Dan Osterbrock was the last UC pitcher to throw at least four complete games, putting up five in 2007. You'd have to go further back in the archives to find a Bearcat pitcher with a season-end ERA lower than Zellner's. Specifically, you'd have to return to 1979 when Bob O'Brien recorded a 2.17 mark.
The success Zellner has enjoyed this season is exceptional especially considering his lack of swing-and-miss stuff. A pitcher that trusts his defense and relies on location more than a blazing heater, Zellner has 63 punchouts overall. Additionally, he has been just as effective in AAC play as he has been outside, with a 2.31 ERA in 62 1/3 innings in league contests. He also is rolling into the postseason, having thrown complete games in each of his last two starts.
While Zellner got the attention he deserves, there were some snubs for Cincinnati. (Sue us for being biased). J.T. Perez (6-5, 2.97 ERA) threw three complete games this season and has been an exceptional Saturday starter for the cause. In addition, Connor McVey (/293/.373/.420, 4 home runs, 27 RBI, 27 stolen bases) led the AAC in thefts but was still left off both the first and second teams.
Perhaps the largest snub was felt on the bench, as Ty Neal fell short in the Coach of the Year race. To be fair, UConn's Jim Penders, who took home the trophy, was a deserving winner, having orchestrated the best offense in the conference while leading the Huskies to 33 wins. Still, it would have been nice to see Teal get more recognition after he helped a team that was picked last in the preseason poll lead the way for a large portion of the season before finishing off in fourth place. Obviously, if UC had held on in first place, Neal would have been a more slam-dunk choice.