Big Green shortstop Joe Sclafani ’12 was selected as one of 50 candidates from Division-I baseball teams across the country for the Brooks Wallace Award Watch List. The Wallace Award, named after former Texas Tech University shortstop and assistant coach Brooks Wallace, is given by the College Baseball Hall of Fame to the nation’s top shortstop each year.
Co-captain Sclafani led the Dartmouth baseball team to its fifth consecutive Red Rolfe Division crown and came within one game of advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The shortstop finished the season hitting .288 with a .401 on-base percentage and a .442 slugging percentage. The Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conferences paced all conferences with seven players on the watch list, while the Ivy League had Sclafani as its lone representative.
“It’s a pretty cool honor to be considered one of the best 50 shortstops in the country,” Sclafani said. “I don’t think they usually consider many players from small schools, as they mainly pick from the power conferences, so this is a great honor.”
Sclafani started in all 42 of the team’s games this season and led the team with 32 runs, 13 doubles and three triples. The team’s leadoff hitter walked 27 times during the season while striking out just 15 times, boasting the best marks among the Big Green’s regulars in both categories.
“Joe is a big part of our team,” teammate Kyle Hunter ’13 said. “He leads off and gets the whole team going if he gets a hit or gets on base.”
The loss in the Ivy League Championship Series last weekend ended Sclafani’s impressive four-year career at Dartmouth. The shortstop finished his tenure as the career Ivy League leader in triples with 19 and the Big Green all-time leader with 100 walks, 172 games played, 170 games started, 675 at-bats and 516 defensive assists. His 220 career hits and 163 runs scored ranked second in program history, while his 331 total bases, 40 doubles and 116 RBIs put him third, fifth and eighth, respectively, on the all-time Dartmouth leader board.
Although 2012 may not have been Sclafani’s best season in the batter’s box he had batting averages of over .300 in each of his first three seasons at Dartmouth he improved on defense and was a steady force at shortstop for the Big Green all year. Sclafani sported a career-best .955 fielding percentage while making a career-low eight errors this season.
“As the shortstop, Joe gets the most plays on the infield,” Hunter said. “As a pitcher, it’s great to have him behind me.”
The Big Green won the Red Rolfe Division in all four years of Sclafani’s career and secured two NCAA Tournament berths. Dartmouth’s last NCAA Tournament appearance before 2009 came in 1987. This past season, Dartmouth finished with a 14-6 regular season league record and a 13-2 record at home. The team lost in the deciding game of the Ivy League Championship Series at Cornell University in the 11th inning by a walk-off two-run home run.
“I’m really proud of our team this year as we had a big group of young players,” Sclafani said. “We played some really good teams at the beginning of the year, and we weren’t playing as well as we could, but we really came back strong during Ivy season and put ourselves in a spot where we only needed one win in the final weekend to clinch the division.”
As most of his underclassman teammates get ready to play summer ball in leagues across the country, Sclafani will focus on the next goal of his baseball career getting drafted by an MLB organization. Being selected as one of the final candidates for the Brooks Wallace Award will help put him on the radar of more major league clubs, according to Sclafani.
“I think this definitely helps,” he said. “Hopefully it will put more of a spotlight on me and help me get a bit more attention.”
Until 2008, the Wallace Award was presented to the most outstanding player in the nation regardless of position. Past winners include current major league players, such as Kurt Suzuki, Alex Gordon, David Price and Buster Posey. Last year’s recipient was Clemson University shortstop Brad Miller, who was selected in the second round of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft by the Seattle Mariners.
The Big Green has had seven players selected in the MLB draft in the past four years, including right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks ’12, who was picked by the Texas Rangers in the eighth round last year. Two of the drafted players Mitch Horacek ’14 and Chris O’Dowd ’13 decided to postpone their professional careers and played for Dartmouth this season.
“It’s been my dream since I was a little kid to play professional baseball,” Sclafani said. “I have talked to a few teams, and if I’m fortunate enough, I’m just hoping that I can get drafted.”
The Brooks Wallace Award will be presented on June 30 in Lubbock, Texas as part of the College Baseball Hall of Fame’s Night of Champions.