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Austin Cousino

Kentucky sophomore centerfielder Austin Cousino has been selected preseason Southeastern Conference Player of the Year by Baseball America, the publication announced on Thursday morning.

A native of Dublin, Ohio, Cousino was tabbed by Baseball America – which surveys conference coaches to compile its league previews – as the SEC preseason player of the year. Cousino, junior southpaw Corey Littrell and sophomore two-way star A.J. Reed were each honored as part of the extensive SEC preview.

Cousino was also rated as the best defensive outfielder in the SEC and as the second-best SEC prospect available in the 2014 MLB Draft. Reed was tabbed as the third-best prospect in the league for the 2014 MLB Draft, while Littrell was rated 10th best prospect in the league available for the 2013 MLB Draft. Baseball America also picked UK as one of three SEC NCAA Tournament Teams and for the Wildcats to finish third in the rugged SEC Eastern Division.

Cousino, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound left-handed hitting outfielder, is coming off a 2012 season where he was named SEC Freshman of the Year, a first-team freshman All-American, second-team All-SEC, as a member of the SEC All-Defensive Team and a member of the All-SEC Freshman Team. Cousino led UK in 2012 with a .319 average (83-for-260), adding 20 doubles, two triples, nine homers and 41 RBI, stealing 15 bases. After the year, he led the USA Collegiate National Team in hitting while manning centerfield.

UK's Anthony Cousino scores a run for the Cats in their 7-6 win over LSU last season. (Victoria Graff photo)

UK’s Anthony Cousino scores a run for the Cats in their 7-6 win over LSU last season. (Victoria Graff photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky sophomore centerfielder Austin Cousino – the 2012 Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year – has been voted second-team Baseball America preseason All-America by MLB scouting directors, it was announced on Thursday afternoon.

Cousino is the first UK player to earn preseason All-America honors through Baseball America and the annual MLB scouting directors vote since Chris Bisson was a third-team honoree in 2010. Baseball America annually polls major league scouting directors to vote on the team and make their selections based on performance, talent and professional potential.

Cousino joins junior southpaw Corey Littrell and sophomore two-way standout A.J. Reed as preseason All-America honorees. Littrell and Cousino were named second-team byLouisville Slugger and third-team preseason All-America by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Reed, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound lefty and first baseman, was also named third-team preseason All-America by the NCBWA.

A native of Dublin, Ohio, Cousino had one of the best seasons in program history as a freshman in 2012, leading the Wildcats to a school-record 45-win campaign. UK soared to its first ever No. 1 national ranking, sitting as the nation’s top-ranked team for three weeks, while Cousino became the first Wildcat to win SEC Freshman of the Year.

During his 2012 season, Cousino started 62 games in centerfield and as the leadoff hitter, batting a team-high .319 (83-for-260) with 61 runs, 20 doubles, two triples, nine homers, 41 RBI and 15 steals. He totaled a .408 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging mark, totaling 18 two-out hits and nine two-out RBI. He reached base safely in 59 of his 62 games and with 28 multiple-hit games, ranked second in UK single-season history. In SEC play, Cousino led UK with a .302 average, with 10 doubles, six homers and 17 RBI.

Defensively, Cousino dazzled in shattering the UK single-season record for putouts by an outfielder, hauling in 142 putouts and leading the club with eight outfield assists. He finished the year ranked third in UK freshman history in RBI, second in homers, 12th in average, second in doubles, seventh in walks and third in steals. In UK single-season history, Cousino ranked 12th in hits, 11th in doubles, second in at bats, sixth in starts and ninth in hit by pitches (13).

He ranked among the SEC leaders in nearly every category, checking in ninth in slugging, second in runs, seventh in hits, second in doubles, eighth in homers, third in total bases, sixth in HBP, fifth in steals, first in at bats and second in plate appearances.

After the year, Cousino and Reed became the first UK players to earn consensus freshman All-America accolades. Cousino was also named second-team All-SEC, to the All-SEC Defensive Team and the All-SEC Freshman Team. During the summer, Cousino was the leading hitter for the USA Collegiate National Team, pacing the club during its five-game swing in Cuba and its bronze medal finish during Honkbal Week in the Netherlands. He hit .351 during the summer to pace the 22-man USA roster, managed by Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano.

Kentucky, ranked a school-record No. 8 in the preseason, opens its 2013 season on Feb. 15 in Spartanburg, S.C., against UNC Asheville at 12 p.m. ET.

2013 Preseason All-America Teams
First Team   
C          Andrew Knapp, California
1B        Brian Ragira, Stanford
2B        JaCoby Jones, Louisiana State
3B        Colin Moran, North Carolina
SS         Trea Turner, N.C. State
OF        Phillip Ervin, Samford
OF        Aaron Judge, Fresno State
OF        Austin Wilson, Stanford
DH       Kris Bryant, San Diego
UT        Marco Gonzales, Gonzaga
SP        Mark Appel, Stanford
SP        Sean Manaea, Indiana State
SP        Carlos Rodon, N.C. State
SP        Ryne Stanek, Arkansas
RP        Colby Suggs, Arkansas
UT        Marco Gonzales, Gonzaga

Second Team
C          Spencer Navin, Vanderbilt
1B        Conrad Gregor, Vanderbilt
2B        Tony Kemp, Vanderbilt
3B        D.J. Peterson, New Mexico
SS         Brandon Trinkwon, UC Santa Barbara
OF        Michael Conforto, Oregon Stat
OF        Austin Cousino, Kentucky       
OF        Derek Fisher, Virginia
DH       Daniel Palka, Georgia Tech
UT        Michael Lorenzen, Cal State Fullerton
SP        Jonathon Crawford, Florida
SP        Ryan Eades, Louisiana State
SP        Bobby Wahl, Mississippi
SP        Trevor Williams, Arizona State
RP        Corey Knebel, Texas
UT        Michael Lorenzen, Cal State Fullerton

Third Team
C          Ty Ross, Louisiana State
1B        Kevin Cron, Texas Christian
2B        L.J. Mazzilli, Connecticut
3B        Eric Jagielo, Notre Dame
SS         Adam Frazier, Mississippi State
OF        Jared King, Kansas State
OF        Jason Monda, Washington State
OF        Mason Robbins, Southern Miss
DH       Johnny Field, Arizona
UT        Aaron Brown, Pepperdine
SP        Dillon Overton, Oklahoma
SP        Adam Plutko, UCLA
SP        Karsten Whitson, Florida
SP        Kevin Ziomek, Vanderbilt
RP        Andrew Mitchell, Texas Christian
UT        Aaron Brown, Pepperdine

Editor’s note: This is the seventh of a 10-part Kentucky baseball preseason feature, leading up to UK’s preseason media day on Feb. 4. Ranked as high as No. 8 in the preseason, Kentucky will open up its 2013 season in Spartanburg, S.C., vs. UNC-Asheville on Feb. 15. 

By Brent Ingram, UK media relations

It is a hard – nearly impossible – thing to step into the Southeastern Conference and contribute as a freshman.

When Austin Cousino opened up his collegiate career as the leadoff hitter and centerfielder at Wofford in the season opener, the Kentucky coaching staff had high expectations for the native of Dublin, Ohio. After all, Cousino entered his freshman season at Kentucky after earning first-team High School All-America honors by Baseball America at Dublin Coffman and as the MVP of the 2009 IABF World Championship with the 16-U USA National Team.

Cousino served notice that he was not a usual freshman, opening his career with a 14-game hitting streak that included 10 extra-base hits, with five coming in his first four NCAA games. That was all a prelude to a historic season that culminated with consensus freshman All-America honors and becoming the first UK player to ever earn SEC Freshman of the Year accolades.

“He had a tremendous impact,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “He brings a lot of confidence. He brings a lot of production. He is a guy that had a lot of success before he got to us and he had a tremendous freshman year. He maintained that leadoff spot in the lineup for the entire year and for a freshman in our league that is really tough to do.”

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound left-handed hitter led UK in nearly every category as the leadoff man and centerfielder for 62 of UK’s 63 games. He posted team highs in average (.319), at-bats (260), runs (61), hits (83), doubles (20), triples (two) and steals (15). Defensively, Cousino dazzled with his range and instincts, leading UK and ranking second in the league with eight outfield assists and shattering the UK record for an outfielder with 142 putouts.

“Our defense really carried us a long ways last year,” Cousino said. “This year it will be even better if not tops in the conference. With (Zac) Zellers and Lucas (Witt) out there it gives you three centerfielder types and it gives confidence to the pitchers. And with Riddle and Reida up the middle brings back that strong of a defense it just gives those pitchers confidence to know that even if someone squares them up and hits it hard, they have eight other guys back there that are going to do the job.”

UK’s defensive unit was paced in 2012 by Cousino and the up-the-middle combination of Matt Reida and J.T. Riddle. The Wildcats shattered nearly every fielding school record, including setting a new program standard with a .976 fielding percentage.

“That helps a lot because when it comes to those 3-2, 4-3, 2-1 kind of games on Friday night in the SEC, it is defense that is going to win the games,” Cousino said. “No matter how much pop you have in the lineup, or big-name guys, it really comes down to who can pitch and who can field the ball the best. That is great for our pitchers to step on the mound and have that kind of confidence in the guys behind them.”

Cousino’s freshman season had historic implications, as he set new freshman school records for hits and runs scored. Overall, he ranked 12th in UK single-season history in hits, 11th in doubles, second in at bats, sixth in starts, and ninth in hit by pitches (13).

“‘Cousi’ is a special player,” UK starting pitcher Corey Littrell said. “He is a guy that you want to have around and have on your team. He is gifted but he also has that swagger. He knows he is good. But it isn’t ever the type of confidence that gets on anyone’s nerves, he is the type of guy that everyone loves and wants to be around. He is a great leader for us at the top of the lineup with his bat and his speed. In 2012, a lot of people didn’t realize how good ‘Cousi’ was and now having a year under his belt he is going to be ever better.”

Following the year, Cousino became just the third UK player to ever earn a spot on the USA Collegiate National Team, joining the 22-man roster managed by Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano. Cousino led the star-laden team in hitting with a .351 mark, pacing the club to a bronze medal in Honkbal Week in the Netherlands.

“It helped me a lot personally to play against the great players from other programs,” Cousino said of his Team USA experience. “You face a lot of great pitching in the SEC and when you go play summer ball, whether with Team USA or somewhere else, you are playing against other great players from conferences around the country. It was neat to see how you measured up and meet new players and coaches.”

He starred during a trip to Cuba, including a 3-for-4 game in an extra-inning thriller against the host nation.

“Cuba was really fun, not just playing but experiencing the different culture of being outside of Lexington or outside my hometown or the country,” Cousino said. “It was really cool to see how much the fans and the people there just love the sport of baseball. It was really eye-opening to playing against some of the best baseball players in the world. The history of Cuba baseball was just really cool.”

Not a bad calendar year for an 18-year old freshman playing in the nation’s best conference. As he enters his sophomore year, Cousino is a preseason All-America honoree with the ability to once again spark a prolific UK offensive attack at the top of the lineup and dazzle with his skills in centerfield.

“There is a lot of stuff that we left out on the table: a regional, hosting a regional, winning a regional, winning our conference,” Cousino said. “We were ranked highly most of the season but we need to bring that into this year. We now know what to expect. With this staff, the returners and the new players, we know what this season entails, through the SEC, into the SEC Tournament and into the NCAA Tournament. We can use that knowledge as a standard of where we stand. Last year was the first year that every single one of us had been to a regional so it was a nice bar for where we stand. This year we can take it that much further.”

 

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — LSU outfielder Raph Rhymes was selected 2012 SEC Baseball Player of the Year, Chris Stratton of Mississippi State was named SEC Pitcher of the Year and Kentucky outfielder Austin Cousino was named SEC Freshman of the Year by a vote of the league’s 12 head baseball coaches.  The coaches also tabbed Kentucky skipper Gary Henderson SEC Coach of the Year. Michael Roth of South Carolina was named SEC Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

The Wildcats have had a historic season in 2012, starting with a 22-game winning streak to open the year, setting a school record for the best start and the longest winning streak in program annals. UK has posted series wins over No. 2 South Carolina, Tennessee, No. 18 Georgia, No. 10 Ole Miss, No. 9 Arkansas, No. 1 LSU and Alabama. UK’s seven series wins in 2012 mark the most in program history, equaling the 2006 SEC Championship team’s series wins. Kentucky’s 41 wins in the regular season were the most in UK school history.

Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players. The complete 2012 All-SEC Team follows:

SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR –  Raph Rhymes, LSU
SEC PITCHER OF THE YEAR – Chris Stratton, Mississippi State
SEC FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR – Austin Cousino, Kentucky
SEC SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR – Michael Roth, South Carolina
SEC COACH OF THE YEAR – Gary Henderson, Kentucky

FIRST TEAM

1B – Christian Walker, South Carolina
2B – Alex Yarbrough, Ole Miss
3B – Matt Reynolds, Arkansas
SS – Anthony Gomez, Vanderbilt
C – Mike Zunino, Florida
OF – Raph Rhymes, LSU
OF - Preston Tucker, Florida
OF – Taylor Dugas, Alabama
DH/UTL – Brian Johnson, Florida
P – Chris Stratton, Mississippi State
P – Kevin Gausman, LSU
RP – Steven Rodriguez, Florida

SECOND TEAM

1B – Matt Snyder, Ole Miss
2B – Bo Bigham, Arkansas
3B – Curt Powell, Georgia
SS – Nolan Fontana, Florida
C – Luke Maile, Kentucky
OF – Austin Cousino, Kentucky
OF – Ryan Tella, Auburn
OF – Mason Katz, LSU
DH – Drew Steckenrider, Tennessee
P – Alex Wood, Georgia
P – Corey Littrell, Kentucky
P – Bobby Wahl, Ole Miss
RP – Matt Price, South Carolina

ALL FRESHMAN TEAM

1B – A.J. Reed, Kentucky
2B – Will Maddox, Tennessee
3B – Josh Tobias, Florida
SS – Joey Pancake, South Carolina
C – Grayson Greiner, South Carolina
OF – Austin Cousino, Kentucky
OF - Tanner English, South Carolina
OF – Hunter Cole, Georgia
OF – Ben Moore, Alabama
DH/UTL – A.J. Reed, Kentucky
P – Aaron Nola, LSU
P – Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt
RP – Jonathan Holder, Mississippi State

ALL DEFENSIVE TEAM

P – Ryan Eades, LSU
P – Kendall Graveman, Mississippi State
P – Michael Roth, South Carolina
1B -Dominic Ficociello, Arkansas
2B – Alex Yarbrough, Ole Miss
SS – Nolan Fontana, Florida
3B – Matt Reynolds, Arkansas
C – Mike Zunino, Florida
OF – Evan Marzilli, South Carolina
OF – Taylor Dugas, Alabama
OF - Austin Cousino, Kentucky

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