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The Mountain West Conference announced Monday that Utah's C.J. Cron is the conference baseball player of the year for the second season in a row.
The Utes had anticipated the accolade for the junior first baseman, but coach Bill Kinneberg said it was nice to finally hear it was official.
"We kind of knew that with the year he had, he was going to get it, but you don't really know until you hear it," he said. "I think he was the overall favorite from everybody. When you watch teams pitch to him, they know what his bat means to us."
The 6-4, 230-pound Cron established himself as one of the most feared hitters in college baseball this, leading the MWC in home runs (8), slugging percentage (.848) and on-base percentage (.509). He is the only player to ever earn conference player of the year twice in his career, and he's projected by some to be a first-round pick in the upcoming MLB draft this summer after being drafted in the 44th round out of high school.
"It's kind of surreal," Cron said. "I never had that in my mind when I went to the plate. I just tried to approach every at-bat the same way, and try and do some damage. Everything sort of fell into place this year, and to be the only player to have won it twice is remarkable. I'm proud of that."
The MWC also announced its annual all-conference team, and Utes dotted the roster. The first team includes second baseman Michael Beltran, outfielder Shaun Cooper and pitchers Rich Anton and Tyler Wagner. The second team includes shortstop James Brooks and third baseman Trey Nielsen.
The team finished second in conference play this year behind TCU, but they hope a strong showing in the upcoming MWC tournament will put Utah in the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. Cron said his award and the all-conference teams are a reflection of the program's rising prestige as it prepares to enter the Pac-12.
"I think we played very well all-around this year, and we were tough to beat," Cron said. "I'm real proud of the guys, and hopefully if we can win this tournament this year, we'll really put Utah baseball on the map."
BYU had the conference freshman of the year in outfielder Jaycob Brugman, who hit four triples on the season to lead the conference and who ranked the top 10 in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, hits, RBI and home runs. Brugman was a first-team honoree, and was joined by second-teamer pitcher Matthew Neil.