No one is ever going to call Conor Harber a one-dimension player.
Two straight All-American honors and two different paths to the award certainly highlight the Western Nevada College baseball player’s versatility. Harber became the first Wildcat to earn back-to-back All-American honors when the National Junior College Athletic Association named the sophomore pitcher to the third team earlier this week.
Last year, Harber (Astoria, Ore.) was a NJCAA honorable mention outfielder when he hit better than .400 for the Wildcats. As a sophomore, Harber received the distinction because of an unbeaten pitching record.
“That’s an incredible feat,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore, also noting that Harber was the only player from Region 18 to land on an All-American team. “Conor has a rare combination of incredible talent, great work ethic and fierce competitiveness. He has the kind of in-game leadership that propels teams to championship seasons. He just won’t let you lose when you give him a chance to make a difference.”
The NJCAA selected 12 players for the first, second and third teams, and recognized 18 players with honorable mention.
“Nice,” said Harber upon learning about the honor. “I knew from the start of the season that I was going to be focusing as a pitcher.”
Harber is one of four Wildcats to have earned All-American honors. Pitcher Dylan Baker was selected as a NJCAA first-team All-American in 2012, while outfielder Brian Barnett was honorable mention in 2009 and catcher Chuck Howard received honorable mention in 2008.
As a freshman, Harber eclipsed two WNC records. He became the first Wildcat to hit better than .400 with his .411 average, and his 11 triples shattered another mark.
In 2014, Harber focused on becoming more of a contributor on the mound. After a limited number of relief appearances in 2013, Harber unflinchingly served the roles of the pitching staff’s ace and closer, compiling an 8-0 record, 2.49 earned run average and two saves.
“I definitely gave up some hitting to improve my pitching, but I’m glad I did,” Harber said. “I’m in a pretty good spot now, and pitching is something I want to continue to do.”
During his two-year WNC career, Whittemore has referred to Harber as the best position player in program history and a player with a skill set featuring five tools: speed, power, fielding, throwing and batting average.
Although Harber became the Wildcats’ best pitching option this season, he still delivered his team’s best batting average: .331. He also led the Wildcats with three triples and 13 stolen bases.
Harber has signed to play for the University of Oregon next season but figures to be drafted for the second time during the Major League Baseball draft that started Thursday and continues through Saturday.
Last year, Harber was taken in the 38th round by the Baltimore Orioles.