In our Western Kentucky University post in the “offseason position battle” series we will look at the vacant weekend starting pitcher positions:
The departed — Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the year Matt Ridings left WKU with one of the most prestigious careers in school history. Ridings finished 2010 at 9-1 with a 3.01 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 92.2 innings pitched. The right-handed pitcher made 14 starts for WKU before suffering an injury in his final collegiate start that required Tommy John surgery. Despite the injury Ridings still was selected in the 41st round of the 2010 draft by the Kansas City Royals. WKU was 11-3 in games started by Ridings and just 24-20 in other games…Senior right-handed pitcher Shane Cameron also made 15 starts for WKU in 2010 and finished the season as the only Hilltopper pitcher other than Ridings to qualify for the ERA title.
Returning candidates — Sophomore left-handed pitcher Tanner Perkins spent most of 2010 in the WKU weekend rotation, finishing the season with 12 starts for the Hilltoppers. Perkins was 3-4 with a 5.27 ERA in 16 total appearances for WKU last season. The southpaw was 1-0 with a 4.97 ERA in six games, including four starts, for the Lexington Hustlers this summer…Redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Brian Edelen served as WKU’s midweek starter for most of 2010 but did start in three weekend series for the Hilltoppers last season. Edelen finished the year 4-2 with a 3.78 ERA and likely has an inside track at one of the weekend starting spots…Sophomore right-handed pitcher Taylor Haydel made four starts for WKU in 2010 and finished the year 3-4 with a 6.94 ERA in 21 games
Newcomers to watch — Hopkinsville native Justin Hageman comes to WKU as one of the top prep pitchers in Kentucky. Hageman, a right-handed pitcher, was the 32nd round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2010 out of Hopkinsville High School and was named first team all-state as a senior by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association…Freshman right-handed pitcher Brian Doering was also named to the all-state team by KHSBCA as a senior at Dupont Manual High School in Louisville. Doering finished his high school career with a 2.00 ERA.
Wildcard — Redshirt junior Rye Davis was almost unhittable as the WKU closer in 2010, going 3-4 with a 2.72 ERA and nine saves and was selected in the 36th round of the 2010 draft by the Cleveland Indians. Davis appeared in 33 games for WKU and struck out 63 batters in 49.2 innings. After losing Ridings to injury, WKU head coach Chris Finwood turned to Davis for the start in the first game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Davis took a no decision after surrendering five runs in four and one-third innings in WKU’s 9-8, 13 inning loss to Florida Atlantic. While Davis excelled as a closer, Finwood could opt to return the right-handed pitcher to his freshman role as a starting pitcher. Davis missed all of the 2009 season after being struck in the face by a line drive during fall practice.