FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – As the college baseball season came to a close Wednesday evening in Omaha, Andrew Benintendi officially etched his name into the SEC and NCAA record books.
Benintendi became the first player in Arkansas baseball history to lead the country in home runs, launching a nation-leading 20 #BennyBombs during the 2015 season. He joined elite company as one of five players in program history to hit 20-plus home runs in a season and finished four shy of the school record held by Ryan Lundquist during the 1997 campaign.
The Cincinnati native became just the third player in the 81-year history of the Southeastern Conference to lead the league in home runs and batting average, joining Mississippi State’s Rafael Palmeiro in 1984 and Kentucky’s Jeff Abbott in 1994 as the only players to accomplish the feat.
Benintendi is the only player in SEC history to win the batting title, home run crown and be named the SEC Player of the Year by the league head coaches.
He dominated every facet of the SEC in 2015, leading the conference in home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage and walks, and was the only player in the nation to rank in the top 25 nationally in every category.
Before the 2015 season started on Feb. 13 against North Dakota, Arkansas baseball had never seen an SEC Player of the Year. On June 24, Benintendi has not only captured SEC Player of the Year honors, but won four National Player of the Year awards, including the prestigious Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy.
“What Benintendi accomplished this year was remarkable,” said head coach Dave Van Horn. “He just got better and better and it’s a tribute to his work ethic.”
He is the first sophomore to win the Golden Spikes Award in 31 years and joins the likes of Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Buster Posey, David Price and Tim Lincecum as notable players who captured the honor.
“To me, he had the best season and is probably the most fun guy to watch in the country,” said former SEC Player of the Year and current ESPN analyst Chris Burke. “He plays the game with an ease and a grace, and the ball just explodes off his bat. He has tremendous balance in his swing and plays center field like a young Jim Edmonds.”
In Arkansas’ 92-year history, a player had never hit 15 home runs and stolen 20 bases in a season and Benintendi accomplished the feat in the first 47 games. He then went on to reach new heights, writing his own chapter in Razorback history as the only player to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a season.
Benintendi became the first NCAA Division I player since Western Kentucky’s Wade Gaynor in 2009 to join the 20/20 club, and the first SEC player to accomplish the feat since Vanderbilt’s Dominic de la Osa during the 2007 season.
When Benintendi was selected by the Boston Red Sox with the seventh overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, he became the third highest draft pick in program history behind Jeff King at No. 1 overall in 1986 and Kevin McReynolds at No. 6 overall in 1981.
The legacy of Benintendi, now known across the country as #BennyBaseball, is forged alongside the greatest Arkansas athletes of all time. He might have only donned a Razorback jersey for two seasons, but Baum Stadium will never be the same for the history he left behind.