College baseball: Best hitter-pitcher combos in NCAA history
These guys could do it all.
Today, we’re talking about the players who struck out the side in the top of the seventh inning and led off the bottom half with a towering blast.
Here are our top hitter-pitcher combos in college baseball history.
Todd Helton, Tennessee
Before he was an All-Star first baseman for the Colorado Rockies, Helton was dominating opposing pitchers and hitters at Rocky Top.
Helton was the National Collegiate Player of the Year in 1995. That season, he hit .407 and led the nation in homers (20), RBI (92), runs scored (86), slugging percentage (.775) and on-base percentage (.522).
But Todd, is there anything else you can do? Certainly. Helton led the SEC with a 1.66 ERA, going 8-2 while racking up 12 saves. His junior year was his signature one, but Helton was a three-year stud in Knoxville – Helton earned first-team all-SEC honors as a freshman.
These days, we think of Helton as a smooth-swinging, on-base machine. But in his early years, he could do just about everything.
A.J. Reed, Kentucky
In 2014, Reed hit more home runs than 185 college baseball teams.
The guy could flat-out rake. His 23 homers led the country that season, along with his .735 slugging percentage and 1.235 OPS. Reed became the first player in SEC history to lead the conference in big flies and pitching victories – and perhaps most impressive of all, he brought his best stuff to the mound against the best teams.
To rattle off some of the squads he beat (note -- these were their rankings at the time they played): No. 1 Virginia, No. 1 South Carolina, No. 5 Vanderbilt, No. 12 Florida.
He did his best work in the batter’s box against quality opponents, too. Of Reed’s 23 homers that year, not a single one came midweek. All were on weekends, against top-level arms.
2014 was easily Reed’s best season, but he was also a mainstay at the plate and on the mound for Kentucky in his freshman and sophomore years. He posted a 2.52 ERA as a rookie and drove in 43 runs.
John Olerud, Washington State
Best college season ever? In 1988, Olerud went 15-0, struck out 113 batters and posted a 2.49 ERA.
And he was, like, way better at the plate. The stats: .464 batting average, 23 homers, 81 RBI, .876 slugging percentage. That’s just obscene. He was a consensus All-American as both a first baseman and pitcher.
Olerud was outstanding as a freshman, too, hitting .414 and clubbing five homers while going 8-2 on the mound. The two-time World Series champion would go on to have a good pro career. But at the college level, he was a superstar.
Brooks Kieschnick, Texas
Kieschnick’s No. 23 was retired by Texas in 2009, which was well-deserved. Kieschnick is the only player to win the Dick Howser Trophy twice – he ranks in the top-three in virtually every offensive category for Texas, while also owning 34 wins and a 3.05 ERA.
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"He could get 15 strikeouts and knock in four runs," said associate head coach Tommy Harmon, Kieschnick's hitting coach during his career at Texas. "I don't know too many people who have had 15 wins and 15 home runs in the same season."
Kieschnick is a member of the first-ever College Baseball Hall of Fame class.
“I always wanted the ball -- 3-2 count, bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Kieschnick said at the time of his jersey retirement. “I wanted to be on the mound, or I wanted to be at the plate. I thrived on pressure and I thrived on being in those situations."
Jeff Ledbetter, Florida State
One of the more underrated nicknames in baseball history – Ledbetter was dubbed “Treetops” for his frequent blasts into the pine trees at Seminole Field.
A four-year star, Ledbetter racked up 97 home runs in his Florida State career, including 42 in his senior year. He is the second-leading home run hitter in NCAA history behind Oklahoma State’s Pete Incaviglia.
Ledbetter was used sparingly on the mound in his first three years, but as a senior, he tossed 78 innings and compiled a 10-1 record. He’ll go down as one of the greatest college hitters of all time, but his pitching skills shouldn’t be overlooked.