HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - One of college baseball's elder observers considers Southern Miss center fielder Matt Wallner the best freshman hitter in the nation.
One day after announcing him a first-team Freshman All-American, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named Wallner its Freshman Hitter of the Year.
"This is a most deserving award for an outstanding young man, who works on his game, day in, day out," Southern Miss baseball coach Scott Berry said. "It's been fun to watch him develop and grow throughout the entire year.
"His better days of baseball are still ahead of him."
After a season where he set school records by a freshman for home runs and runs batted in, Wallner has been recognized nationally as Freshman All-America by a pair of organizations (NCBWA, Collegiate Baseball) as well second-team All-America by another (Baseball America).
Wallner, who hit .336 with 63 RBIs and a team-high 19 home runs, was honored as Conference USA's Freshman of the Year and was named second-team All-C-USA. He also earned a spot on C-USA's All-Tournament Team.
Wallner became the first Golden Eagle ever named to the NCBWA's Freshman All-America 16-man first team and the first since the organization named relief pitcher Bradley Roney a second-team Freshman All-American in 2012.
Last week, Wallner was named first-team Freshman All-America by Collegiate Baseball and joined Southern Miss junior pitcher/third baseman Taylor Braley as a second-team All-America selection by Baseball America.
Wallner, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound native of Forest Lake, Minn., helped the Golden Eagles to a school-record 50 wins and the C-USA regular-season championship. In 66 games, he hit 14 doubles and two triples, sporting a .463 on-base percentage and .655 slugging percentage,.
Wallner tied for the team lead with 18 multi-RBI games and ranked second on the team with 26 multi-hit games.
Wallner will report later this month to the USA Baseball Collegiate Team training camp, vying for a spot on the 24-man roster. The invitees will train in Cary, N.C., and play games against teams in the summer collegiate wood-bat Coastal Plains League from June 20-25.
He became the second Golden Eagle invited to the USA Baseball tryouts, joining former Golden Eagle standout pitcher Tony Phillips, who made the team in 1991.