Offseason position battle: Murray St. closer

College Baseball

We are closing out the “offseason position battle” series with a look at the three vacant Kentucky closer positions, starting today with Murray State University.

The departed — Left-handed pitcher Matt McGaha, a 2010 senior, was Murray State’s top reliever last season, finishing the season at 5-3 with a 3.90 ERA. McGaha pitched enough innings out of the Breds’ bullpen to qualify for the ERA title and recorded three saves on the season. The right-handed pitcher struck out 52 batters and walked 13 in 67 innings pitched on the season…Right-handed pitcher Dan Huff, a 2010 senior, led Murray St. with four saves in 2010. Huff was 1-4 with an 8.35 ERA in 18 games, including six starts.

Returning candidates — No returning Murray St. reliever recorded a save in 2010, but sophomore right-handed pitcher Joe Major had the most success out of the pen of any Breds returner. Major did not record a decision and posted a 3.60 ERA in four appearances, including one start. Major struck out four batters and walked nine in 10 innings pitched…Sophomore right-handed pitcher Ben Lady is the returning reliever with the most innings pitched at 20 and one-third innings, but struggled to the tune of a 7.97 ERA in 2010…No returning Murray St. reliever other than Major posted an ERA below 6.35 in 2010.

Newcomers to watch — Junior college transfer Bryan Babin had moderate success as a reliever for Mississippi Gulf Coast College in 2010, going 5-1 with a 3.46 ERA in 39 innings pitched. Babin struck out 23 batters and walked 11 in 13 appearances…Junior college transfer Luke Shuemaker proved able to miss bats with 40 strikeouts in 50 and two-third innings pitched for Rend Lake College in 2010…Junior college transfer Mark Roberts posted a save and five wins for Lincoln Trail College in 2010 while striking out 35 batters and walking 25 in 55 innings pitched…Freshman left-handed pitcher Kyle Cornett was named first-team all state by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association as a senior at Eastern High School and could serve as a valuable reliever if he does not start for the Breds…Freshman right-handed pitcher Tyler Saltsman was named second-team all-state by KHSBCA as a senior at Grayson County High School.

Wildcard — Freshman two-way player Brock Downey may be called on to pitch and play outfield for the Breds in 2011. As a senior left-handed pitcher at Murray High School Downey posted a 2.18 ERA and 102 strikeouts. KHSBCA named him first-team all-state and the Region 1 player of the year as a senior. Downey batted .550 and stole 52 bases as a senior at the plate. Considering no Murray St. reliever posted more than four saves in 2010 there is a good chance head coach Rob McDonald may use a revolving set of pitchers in the late innings all season.

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