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Johnny Bench Award to be given on Thursday

  • Published Wednesday, June 25, 2014, at 1:49 p.m.

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The 15th Johnny Bench Award presentation highlights the annual Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission banquet on Thursday night at the Hyatt Regency.

Former Denver Broncos linebacker Karl Mecklenburg is the featured speaker. Awards will also be given for outstanding male and female athlete in high school and college, as well as top local professional athlete.

A look at the finalists for the Bench Award, which is given to the nation’s top collegiate catcher:

WILL ALLEN

Mississippi

Allen wasn’t Ole Miss’ catcher last year; Stuart Turner was the starter and won the 2013 Bench Award. But Allen made the position his this season by batting a team-best .339 with seven home runs and 64 RBIs. He led the Rebels to the last four teams in the College World Series.

In Ole Miss’ NCAA regional victory, Allen drove in the tying run in the fifth inning and the go-ahead run in the 10th inning against Washington. Allen was one of five finalists for the Gregg Olson Award, given to the breakout player of the year in the college game. He was a 13th-round pick of the Tigers.

MAX PENTECOST

Kennesaw State

Pentecost may come from the smallest school of the three finalists, but he has a large resume. The 11th pick in this month’s major-league draft (Blue Jays), Pentecost led Division I with 113 hits and was second in batting average (.422). Both set records for Kennesaw State (located in Georgia) and the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Pentecost had nine home runs and 61 RBIs, striking out 26 times in 268 at-bats. He also led the Owls with 17 stolen bases as they won an NCAA regional for the first time before losing at Louisville in a super regional. He was named first-team All-American by Baseball America and other publications.

KYLE SCHWARBER

Indiana

Schwarber was the fourth pick in the major-league draft (Cubs) after batting .358 with 14 home runs with 48 RBIs. In the postseason, Schwarber batted .469 with four home runs and .938 slugging percentage, earning MVP honors in the Big Ten Tournament. He was first-team All-American by Perfect Game.

On Tuesday, Schwarber earned a quick promotion out of the Cubs’ short-season Northwest League team – going 12 for 20 with four home runs – and reported to Kane County in the Class-A Midwest League. He played left field in his debut there.

Eight of 14 Bench Award winners have reached the major leagues.

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