UCLA junior catcher Tyler Heineman, has been selected as one of the 12 finalists to receive the highly anticipated Johnny Bench award this year. The award has been given out since 2000, to honor division one’s premier catcher in college baseball.
Tyler played a role for the Wisconsin Woodchucks in the summer of 2011, appearing in 21 games. Tyler contributed by knocking in eight runs off of nine hits, with 49 at bats.
Heineman, who hails from Pacific Palisades, Calif., ranks second in on base percentage, and eighth in the Pac-12 Conference with a .359 batting average; currently placing him fourth in the conference to his teammate, Jeff Gelalich.
Heineman has hit safely in 39 of 47 games and enters this weekend's Pac-12 series at California carrying a modest six-game hitting streak. In addition, he has totaled one home run, 24 RBI and 35 runs.
Among UCLA's most valuable assets this season, Heineman has thrown out 15 of 35 attempted base stealers (42.9 percent). The switch-hitting catcher played in just 37 games (14 starts) the previous two seasons before assuming UCLA's starting catcher duties this spring.
From what started as a list of 64 catchers from around the country, dwindled to the 20 semifinalists, then to the 12 finalists, and lastly, to the remaining three. At that point, coaches will select a final winner in Wichita, Kansas on June 28th.
The other 11 semifinalists among Heineman include: Derrick Chung (Sacramento State), Zachary Fisher (New Mexico State), Tucker Frawley (Coastal Carolina), Mitchell Garver (New Mexico), Joe Hudson (Notre Dame), Jeremy Lucas (Indiana State), Josh Ludy (Baylor), Jeff Melillo (Rutgers), Kevin Plawecki (Purdue), Jeremy Schaffer (Tulane) and Mike Zunino (Florida).
UCLA opens a three-game Pac-12 stretch at California on Friday afternoon. Game time at Evans Diamond in Berkeley, Calif., is 2:30 p.m. The Bruins and Golden Bears continue their series Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.