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Prior Named College Player of the Year

DURHAM, N.C.--A dominant performance that ranks as one of the greatest seasons of all time made Southern California junior righthander Mark Prior an easy choice as Baseball America's 2001 College Player of the Year.

Prior, 20, becomes the first Trojan to win the award despite the program's long, storied history and 12 national championships. (The award originated with Baseball America's inception in 1981.) He's the fourth player to win the award while exclusively pitching, joining Stanford's Jeff Austin (1998), Clemson's Kris Benson (1996) and Louisiana State's Ben McDonald (1989).

The Chicago Cubs selected Prior with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 first-year player draft. He separated himself in a year deep with pitchers thanks to his command and his ability to dominate opposing hitters, using a mid-90s fastball and knee-buckling curve that always seemed to be around the strike zone.

He also helped the Trojans win the Pacific-10 Conference championship. Prior went 15-1, 1.69 and became just the 14th pitcher in Division I history to cross the 200-strikeouts plateau. He had 202 while walking just 18 in 139 innings, and had 13 double-digit strikeout efforts. He capped his season with 13 strikeouts in an 11-5 victory against Georgia in the College World Series.

Prior's college career started fitfully with a 4-6 season at Vanderbilt, but his career took off after he transferred to Southern California. He went 10-7, 3.56 with 150 strikeouts in 136 innings as a sophomore, helping the Trojans to Omaha.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

1981--Mike Sodders, 3b, Arizona
1982--Jeff Ledbetter, of/lhp, Florida State
1983--Dave Magadan, 1b, Alabama
1984--Oddibe McDowell, of, Arizona State
1985--Pete Incaviglia, of, Oklahoma State
1986--Casey Close, of, Michigan
1987--Robin Ventura, 3b, Oklahoma State
1988--John Olerud, 1b-lhp, Washington State
1989--Ben McDonald, rhp, Louisiana State
1990--Mike Kelly, of, Arizona State
1991--David McCarty, 1b, Stanford
1992--Phil Nevin, 3b, Cal State Fullerton
1993--Brooks Kieschnick, dh-rhp, Texas
1994--Jason Varitek, c, Georgia Tech
1995--Todd Helton, 1b-lhp, Tennessee
1996--Kris Benson, rhp, Clemson
1997--J.D. Drew, of, Florida
1998--Jeff Austin, rhp, Stanford
1999--Jason Jennings, dh-rhp, Baylor
2000--Mark Teixeira, 3b, Georgia Tech

--John Manuel
Senior Writer

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