2021 Hank Aaron all-star team
C–Cameron Thorning, Michigan: The Hank Aaron Player of the Series was a force in all facets and nearly homered in each of his last four games entering Sunday’s national final. Only an amazing home run saving catch by Hawaii center fielder Kaikea Patoc-Young prevented that from happening. Thorning exacted revenge in the Aaron final when he hit a two-run homer which made the difference in the 2-1 victory. Thorning hit .500 over the first five games, crushing a tournament-best three home runs and driving in a Series-high nine runs. He also scored six times, smashed a double and produced four multi-hit games. Super on defense as well, Thorning also allowed no runs in five innings pitched, earned a save against Texas in a game which he also hit a grand slam and struck out 13.
IF–Hunter Nepple, Nebraska: The only debate here was whether choosing Nepple as a pitcher or infielder since he was dominant in all areas. A slick-fielding shortstop and first baseman, Nepple put on a hitting show over his four games, batting. 700, slugging a home run, adding two doubles and driving in seven runs. Nepple produced a hit in all four games, hit a game-tying, three-run home run to force extra innings against Hawaii and scored three times. He was every bit as stellar on the mound, going 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA. Nepple allowed just four hits in 10 innings, threw a complete game two-hitter against Washingon and struck out 13 while helping Nebraska reach the Aaron Bracket’s Final 4.
IF–Kekoa Payanal, Hawaii: Payanal can probably start making instruction videos on playing shortstop because he is so good at his position. Payanal made some ridiculously good plays while helping Hawaii finish third in the U.S. Oh yeah, he was quite a hitter, too. Payanal hit .545, going 6 for 11 and compiled a .583 on-base percentage. He tripled, doubled and scored five runs, helping Hawaii finish among the country’s top three finishers for a sixth straight time.
IF–Carter Nelson, Texas: An excellent third baseman, Nelson did a bit of everything to help Texas finish third in the bracket. In addition to going 1-0 and striking out 11 in 5 1/3 innings, Nelson provided ample offensive production. He batted .500 in five games, hitting safely in each one. Nelson also produced a .625 on-base percentage and scored four runs. Nelson played his position well, threw a gem against New Jersey in an elimination game and bolstered the middle of Texas’s lineup.
IF–Jackson Surma, Michigan: The Aaron bracket’s leader in doubles (4), Surma consistently produced big hits to help Michigan reach its first Series championship since 1959. A tough out in the middle of Michigan’s order, Surma hit .375 and added four RBIs and four runs. He shined brightest in a 15-6 win against Texas which sent Michigan to Saturday’s Aaron championship, going 3 for 4 with three doubles. Surma also threw two innings of perfect relief in that victory and struck out four.
OF–Cason Parrish, Texas: A consummate leadoff hitter, Parrish wore out opposing pitchers and collected at least one hit in all five Series games. The team’s spark plug hit .467 and had a .579 on-base percentage. He also made his hits count and drove in five runs while scoring five times. Parrish hit a triple and a double and scored both runs in a hard-fought 2-1 win against New Jersey. He also reached base 11 times, efficiently setting up the heart of Texas’s lineup.
OF–Stevan Malato, New Jersey: Speaking of fantastic leadoff hitters, Malato played that role so well for New Jersey. Malato was one of the toughest hitters to keep off the bases at the Series, compiling a .727 on-base percentage. He also hit .625, going 5 for 8. Malato hit a triple and produced a hit and a run in all three games. Also a versatile defender, Malato made no errors and helped New Jersey erase a three-run deficit against Connecticut.
OF–Jakob Furkas, Michigan: The cool shades give Furkas a distinctive look when he’s pitching, but his performance is what really has stood out. Poised and talented, Furkas helped Michigan in all three areas, hitting .433 with a .533 on-base percentage. He scored four times, added a double and went 3 for 3 in the big win against Texas. Furkas was equally valuable on the mound. He earned the win in Saturday’s final against Hawaii and totaled a 1.39 ERA, striking out seven in 8 2/3 innings.
Utility–Chasen Uyetake, Hawaii: Talk about making the most of one’s opportunities. Hawaii was so deep that Uyetake did not always bat, but when he did, he was one of the toughest outs at the Series. Uyetake hit .800, going 4 for 5 with two RBIs. Also a reliable catcher, Uyetake hit safely in each Hawaii victory and also scored twice.
Pitcher–Ryan Keanu, Hawaii: After surrendering a home run to open the Series, Keanu went into shutdown mode and did not allow another run. Hard-throwing and featuring a potent arsenal, Keanu went 2-0, posting a 0.50 ERA. A strike-throwing machine, Keanu gave up just three hits in 12 innings, threw two complete games and was the first pitcher to stymie Michigan’s powerful offense this season. Keanu, who nearly hit for the cycle against Nebraska, threw a one-hit shutout against Michigan, throwing just 60 pitches in the 2-0 victory.
Pitcher–Eli Jones, Washington: He did not receive as much attention as South Dakota phenom Gavin Weir, but Jones shared the honor of not allowing a hit at the Series. A tremendous shortstop as well, Jones threw a no-hitter against Florida and went 7 1/3 innings in South Williamsport without surrendering a hit. He also threw 1 1/3 hitless innings against Texas and fanned eight at the Series. Jones also collected a hit in all three games, doing a bit of everything to help his team.