Offseason position battle: Murray St. starting pitchers

College Baseball

In the fifth Murray State University post of the “offseason position battle series we will look at the vacant weekend starting pitching slots.

The departed — Right-handed pitcher Chris Craycraft, a 2010 senior, served as the Murray State ace for each of the last two seasons, being named second-team all-Ohio Valley Conference following the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Craycraft was 6-4 with a 5.05 ERA in 16 games, including 15 starts, for the Breds in 2010. The Lexington native struck out 72 batters and walked 35 in 92 and two-third innings pitched…Right-handed pitcher Alex Love, a 2010 senior, was 8-1 with a 5.63 ERA in 19 games, including eight starts, for the Breds last season. Love struck out 35 batters and walked 23 in 70 and one-third innings pitched…Right-handed pitchers Marc Harmon and Dan Huff, both 2010 seniors, combined to make 13 starts for Murray St. last season but neither finished the year with an ERA below 8.35.

Returning candidates — Senior left-handed pitcher Jake Donze made 16 starts for Murray St. in 2010 and finished the season at 6-6 with a 6.02 ERA. Donze struck out 71 batters and walked 56 in 83.2 innings pitched and enters 2011 as the Breds de facto ace…Sophomore right-handed pitchers Joe Major, Will Handlin, and Ben Lady each made one start for Murray St. in 2010. Major was the only returning Murray St. pitcher to finish 2010 with a sub-4.00 ERA, but he logged just 10 innings pitched on the season.

Newcomers to watch — Junior college transfer Bryan Babin pitched four shutout innings in the decisive game of the Murray St. Fall World Series. Babin, a junior left-handed pitcher, was 5-1 with a 3.46 ERA in 39 innings pitched as a sophomore at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College…Junior college transfer Luke Shuemaker, a junior left-handed pitcher, was 4-2 with a 5.15 ERA in 50 and two-third innings pitched for Rend Lake College in 2010…Junior college transfer Mark Roberts, a junior left-handed pitcher, was 5-3 with a 4.42 ERA in 55 innings pitched for Lincoln Trail College in 2010…Freshman left-handed pitchers Kyle Cornett and Brock Downey were both named first-team all-state as a seniors by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association…Freshman right-handed pitcher Cameron Finch was named first-team all state as a senior in Collierville, Tenn., and pitched eight complete games and two no-hitters in 2010.

Wildcard — The Breds have no shortage of starting pitcher candidates as head coach Rob McDonald brought in nine new pitchers to the 2011 pitching staff. Junior Tyler Beers, a junior college transfer, may be needed to man the vacant first base position for the Breds, but he also logged experience as a right-handed pitcher at Mineral Area college. Beers was 2-7 with a 6.12 ERA as a sophomore, but proved to be an innings eater after striking out 55 in 64 and two-third innings pitched.

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Draft Preview: Ohio Valley Conference

College Baseball, Major League Baseball

Wes Cunningham: BluGrass Baseball photo

The state’s three Ohio Valley Conference teams don’t have multiple draft prospects, so we’ll lump them all together for the next preview post. These players will test the importance of college state because several of them posted video game numbers this season:

The test cases

  • Murray State University senior first baseman Wes Cunningham was named OVC player of the year in a season where he batted .408 with 22 home runs, 86 RBI and 77 runs. The third team Louisville Slugger All-American doesn’t have a great fit on defense, struggles against left-handed pitching and is undersized for a first baseman. Cunningham will get drafted, probably in the first 30 rounds for his numbers alone, but will have to prove himself at every level of professional baseball. Baseball America projects he’ll need to move to second base as a pro, where he would have slightly above average speed.
  • Eastern Kentucky University junior third baseman Jayson Langfels struggled toward the end of 2010, which certainly didn’t help his draft status, but has boasted back-to-back .350-plus seasons. He batted over .400 as a sophomore and slugged 16 home runs as a junior. Langfels could probably use another year of college and will likely head back to EKU unless he’s drafted surprisingly high.

Senior standouts

  • Morehead State University hitters’ offensive numbers are boosted by the school’s small park, but senior shortsop Drew Lee and senior outfielder J. D. Ashbrook still boasted abnormally impressive performances. Lee batted .412 while Ashrook hit .432 on the season. Lee slugged 17 home runs, and Ashbrook added 18 long-balls of his own. Both players will hope to be late-round senior signs where they’ll look to prove detractors wrong.
  • EKU senior first baseman Anthony Ottrando slugged 17 home runs and drove in 66, but will hope a team selects him late as an organizational filler due to his limited upside.
  • Murray St. senior right-handed pitcher Chris Craycraft underperformed as a senior but could profile as a middle reliever if given the chance, and Morehead St. senior catcher Taylor Davis batted .350 on the season.

Other possible senior signs:

  • C Joey Stevens (EKU)
  • RHP Michael Bottoms (Morehead St.)
  • OF Bryan Propst (Murray St.)
  • LHP Matt McGaha (Murray St.)

Season Review: Murray State University

College Baseball

In the second season review post we’ll look at Murray State University, which finished 28-28-1. Check out these highlights and awards for Breds’ players:

  • Hitter of the year: 1B Wes Cunningham — Cunningham’s selection should come as no surprise as he was named the BluGrass Baseball state player of the year. The senior first baseman led Murray St. in every major offensive category, batting .408 with 22 home runs, 86 RBI and 77 runs scored. Cunningham had a .476 on-base percentage, slugged .824 and even stole 10 bases on the season. The Ohio Valley Conference player of the year will look to be a mid-to-late round selection in this summer’s draft.
  • Pitcher of the year: RHP Matt McGaha — McGaha started only one game this season for Murray St., and that start didn’t come until the OVC tournament. Despite making 26 relief appearances, McGaha qualified for the state ERA title with 67 innings pitched. The senior left-handed pitcher finished the year at 5-3 with a 3.90 ERA, 52 strikeouts and 13 walks. McGaha also saved three games this season.
  • Season high point: Senior right-handed pitcher Alex Love threw 180 pitches in two days to earn wins on back-to-back days in the OVC tournament. Love’s complete-game win in the OVC tournament ended up being his final collegiate appearance.
  • Season low point: With a chance to clinch to OVC regular season title outright, Murray St. was swept in a three game series by second-place Tennessee Tech to finish the season. The Breds entered the OVC tournament at the three seed instead of the one seed after the sweep and lost its first round game to Eastern Kentucky University.
  • Miscellaneous: The Breds received strong performances from freshmen Colton Moore (.328, 39 RBI, 23 R) and Brandon Elliott (.347, 25 RBI, 41 R)…Senior outfielder Bryan Propst was a consistent threat in the Breds’ lineup and slugged 14 home runs and drove in 56 runs…Senior ace Chris Craycraft had an up-and-down season with six wins but a 5.05 ERA. Craycraft pitched two complete games.

BluGrass Baseball Pitching Leaderboad: June 1

College Baseball

Check out the pitching leaderboard updated through conference tournament action. Stats are final for every team except UofL, which is still playing in the NCAA tournament. To qualify for the ERA and batting average against, pitchers must have a minimum of 1.0 IP per team game, which makes Murray St. left-handed pitcher Matt McGaha the only eligible full-time reliever. Stats are current through Sunday. The college leaderboard is now permanently accessible on its own page on the left sidebar here.

ERA

  • Thomas Royse — UofL — 2.91
  • Matt Ridings — WKU — 3.01
  • Matt McGaha — Murray St. — 3.90
  • Justin Amlung — UofL — 4.01
  • Dean Kiekhefer — UofL — 4.31

Wins

  • Matt Ridings — WKU — 9-1
  • Thomas Royse — UofL — 9-1
  • Neil Holland — UofL — 8-0
  • Alex Love — Murray St. — 8-1
  • Derek Self — UofL — 7-0
  • Josh Schneider — Morehead St. — 7-5

Strikeouts

  • Thomas Royse — UofL — 94
  • Matt Ridings — WKU — 90
  • Shane Cameron — WKU — 80
  • Chris Craycraft — Murray St. — 72
  • Jake Donze — Murray St. — 71

Innings Pitched

  • Thomas Royse — UofL — 99.0
  • Matt Ridings — WKU —92.2
  • Chris Craycraft — Murray St. — 92.2
  • Shane Cameron — WKU — 87.1
  • Jake Donze — Murray St. — 83.2

Saves

  • Neil Holland — UofL — 16
  • Ryne Purcell — EKU — 12
  • Rye Davis — WKU — 9
  • Matt Little — UK — 7
  • Dan Huff — Murray St. — 4

Batting Average Against

  • Matt Ridings — WKU — .218
  • Thomas Royse — UofL — .252
  • Dean Kiekhefer — UofL — .264
  • Shane Cameron — WKU — .270
  • Jake Donze — Murray St. — .278

Appearances

  • Rye Davis — WKU — 33
  • Ryne Purcell — EKU — 30
  • Matt Harris — EKU — 29
  • Neil Holland — UofL — 27
  • Gabriel Shaw — UofL — 27
  • Matt McGaha — Murray St. — 27

BluGrass Baseball Conference Tournament Awards

College Baseball

Check out the final weekly awards from the Kentucky collegiate baseball season, including a pitching performance that saw one Murray State pitcher throw 180 pitches in two consecutive games.

Hitter of the week: OF Bryan Propst (Murray St.)

  • Stats: 13-22 (.591), 1 HR, 6 2B, 11 RBI, 6 R
  • Honorable mention: Richie Rodriguez (EKU), Wes Cunningham (Murray St.), Logan Robbins (WKU), Ryan Wright (UofL)

Pitcher of the week: RHP Alex Love (Murray St.)

  • Stats: 2-0, 2 G, 1 GS, 1 CG, 14 IP, 13 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO, 180 pitches in two days (his final two collegiate appearances)
  • Honorable Mention: Jake Donze (Murray St.), Anthony Bazzani (EKU), Chris Craycraft (Murray St.), Shane Cameron (WKU), Justin Amlung (UofL), Matt Koch (UofL)

Freshman of the week: RHP Anthony Bazzani (EKU)

  • Stats: 1-0, 8 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 10 SO
  • Honorable Mention: Brandon Elliott (Murray St.), Justin Amlung (UofL), Matt Koch (UofL)

BluGrass Baseball Thursday Review: Conference Tournaments

College Baseball


Check out the video above of EKU interviews following the win over Murray St. and recaps and awards below from a busy day of conference tournament baseball, including what was likely WKU’s final game of the season:

  • In a Ohio Valley Conference tournament first-round game delayed to Thursday due to a power failure Wednesday night, Eastern Kentucky University scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning to defeat Murray State University 4-3. Freshman right-handed pitcher Anthony Bazzani earned the win after holding the Breds to three runs on six hits in eight innings. Bazzani struck out 10 and walked four. EKU Sophomore shortstop Richie Rodriguez was 4-5 with a run scored, and sophomore catcher A. J. Jamison drove home the winning run with a pinch-hit double in the ninth. Murray St. senior left fielder Bryan Propst was 2-3 with three RBI in the game, and senior right-handed pitcher Chris Craycraft held the Colonels to two runs in seven innings and struck out eight. (Box Score)
  • Western Kentucky University was eliminated from the Sun Belt Conference tournament with a 7-3 loss to Florida International Thursday. The loss likely ended the Hilltoppers’ season as WKU’s hopes for an at-large NCAA tournament bid were dashed. Sophomore outfielder Jared Andreoli and Kes Carter tallied two hits each in the game, and sophomore shortstop Logan Robbins drove in two runs. Senior right-handed pitcher Shane Cameron took a no decision after allowing three runs in six and one-third innings in his final start. WKU senior ace Matt Ridings did not pitch in the tournament after leaving his final regular season start with an apparent injury. (Box Score)
  • Following a short-turnaround from its game-one loss Murray St. scored six runs in the first inning and held off a late rally for a 13-9 win over Southeast Missouri in ten innings. Senior second baseman Kyle Tiernan put the Breds ahead with a solo home run in the tenth inning, and senior first baseman Wes Cunningham extended the lead with his own three-run shot, giving him the school career RBI record. Propst tallied four hits, three RBI and two runs scored, and senior right-handed pitcher Alex Love allowed one run over the final five innings for the win. (Box Score)
  • No. 9 University of Louisville lost its first game in the Big East Conference tournament with a 6-5 decision to St. Johns Thursday night. The loss could hurt UofL’s chances at one of the eight national NCAA tournament seeds, and the Cards could use a victory Friday to wrap up that honor. Freshman right-handed pitcher Matt Koch allowed just two earned runs in six and two-third innings, but the Cards bullpen behind senior left-handed pitcher Dean Kiekhefer blew the lead. Sophomore shortstop Ryan Wright was 4-4 with two RBI and one run scored in the game. (Box Score)
  • In its second game of the day, EKU couldn’t finish a late rally against OVC tournament one-seed Tennessee Tech and lost 7-4. Sophomore second baseman Dunstin Dunlop was 2-2 with two runs scored and two walks, but the Colonels couldn’t over come a poor pitching performance from junior left-handed pitcher Paul Duncan who surrendered seven runs in six and one-third innings. Murray St. and EKU will face off for the second time in the tournament with an elimination game at 11 a.m. (CT) Friday. (Box Score)

Hitter of the day: OF Bryan Propst (Murray St.)

  • Stats: 6-8, 5 RBI, 3 R, 5 2Bs
  • Honorable Mention: Ryan Wright (UofL), Logan Robbins (WKU), Wes Cunningham (Murray St.), Richie Rodriguez (EKU)

Pitcher of the day: RHP Anthony Bazzani (EKU)

  • Stats: 1-0, 8 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 10 SO
  • Honorable Mention: Chris Craycraft (Murray St.), Matt Koch (UofL), Shane Cameron (WKU), Alex Love (Murray St.)

Conference tournaments schedule: Day 2

College Baseball

The day two conference tournament schedule gets a little confusing since Murray St. and EKU have to play two games each. WKU has been eliminated with a morning loss, and Murray St. faces elimination in its afternoon game. I’ve updated the schedule below after EKU defeated Murray State in this morning’s game:

  • 9 a.m. (CT): Western Kentucky University (8) vs. FIU (4) — Sun Belt Conference Tournament — L (7-3) — Box Score
  • 9 a.m. (CT): Murray State University (3) vs. Eastern Kentucky University (6) — Ohio Valley Conference Tournament — RHP Anthony Bazzani (4-3, 5.71) vs. Chris Craycraft (6-4, 5.25) — 4-3 — Box Score
  • 12:30 p.m. (CT): Murray St. vs. SE Missouri — OVC Tournament — Live Stats*
  • 8 p.m. (EST): No. 9 University of Louisville (1) vs. St. Johns (4) — Big East Conference Tournament — Live Stats
  • 8:30 p.m. (EST): EKU (6) vs. Tennessee Tech (1) — OVC Tournament — Live Stats

* — Denotes an elimination game

Conference tournament schedule: Day 1

College Baseball

In lieu of the normal mid-week schedule item, I’ll be posting daily schedules for the conference tournament action including Kentucky teams this week. Four schools will be battling for automatic bids to the NCAA tournament in the Big East Conference, Sun Belt Conference and Ohio Valley Conference. Day one is highlighted by a matchup between two Kentucky schools in EKU and Murray St. Teams’ tournament seeds are included in parentheses below:

  • 12:30 p.m. (CT): Western Kentucky University (8) vs. Florida Atlantic (1) — Sun Belt Tournament —Live Stats
  • 5 p.m. : University of Louisville (1) vs. West Virginia (8) — Big East Tournament — Live Stats
  • 8 p.m.: Eastern Kentucky University (6) vs. Murray State University (3) — OVC Tournament — RHP Anthony Bazzani (4-3, 5.71) vs. Chris Craycraft (6-4, 5.25) — Live Stats

Royse, Cunningham, Ridings receive conference awards; 29 Kentucky players named to all-conference teams

College Baseball

Tuesday saw the naming of all-conference teams across the country and the awarding of pitcher and player of the year honors. Kentucky collegiate players received their fair share of recognition, and I’ve listed those honors below:

  • University of Louisville (9) junior right-handed pitcher Thomas Royse was named the Big East Conference pitcher of the year.
  • Western Kentucky University senior right-handed pitcher Matt Ridings was named the Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the year.
  • Murray State University senior first baseman Wes Cunningham was named the Ohio Valley Conference player of the year.
  • First team All-Southeastern Conference: 3B Zack Cox (Arkansas, PRP)
  • Second team All-SEC: 2B Chris Bisson (University of Kentucky)
  • First team All-Big East: P Neil Holland (UofL), P Thomas Royse (UofL), 1B Andrew Clark (UofL), 2B Ryan Wright (UofL)
  • Second team All-Big East: C Jeff Arnold (UofL), 3B Phil Wunderlich (UofL), SS Adam Duvall (UofL), OF Stewart Ijames (UofL)
  • First team All-Big Ten Conference: SS Jonathan Roof (Michigan St., Paducah)
  • First team All-Sun Belt: RHP Matt Ridings (WKU), RP Rye Davis (WKU), C Matt Rice (WKU), OF Kes Carter (WKU)
  • Second team All-Sun Belt: 2B Matt Payton (WKU)
  • First team All-OVC: 1B Wes Cunningham (Murray St.), SS Drew Lee (Morehead State University), 3B Jayson Langfels (Eastern Kentucky University), OF J. D. Ashbrook (Morehead St.).
  • Second team All-OVC: 1B Anthony Ottrando (EKU), UT Michael Bottoms (Morehead St.), SP Chris Craycraft (Murray St.), RP Matt McGaha (Murray St.)
  • Freshman All-OVC: RHP Anthony Bazzani (EKU), OF Austin Grisham (EKU), SS Brandon Elliott (Murray St.), 3B/DH Colton Moore (Murray St.)
  • Honorable Mention All-Missouri Valley Conference: SP Patrick Cooper (Bradley, Danville)

BluGrass Baseball Pitching Leaderboard: May 25

College Baseball

Check out the final regular season pitching leaderboard below. As with the offensive categories, stats will continue to update for postseason teams, but this represents the final update for Morehead St. and likely UK. To qualify for the ERA and batting average against, pitchers must have a minimum of 1.0 IP per team game, which makes Murray St. left-handed pitcher Matt McGaha the only eligible full-time reliever. Stats are current through Sunday. The college leaderboard is now permanently accessible on its own page on the left sidebar here.

ERA

  • Thomas Royse — UofL — 2.71
  • Matt Ridings — WKU — 3.01
  • Matt McGaha — Murray St. — 3.36
  • Dean Kiekhefer — UofL — 4.28
  • Shane Cameron — WKU — 4.89

Wins

  • Matt Ridings — WKU — 9-1
  • Thomas Royse — UofL — 9-1
  • Neil Holland — UofL — 7-0
  • Derek Self — UofL — 7-0
  • Josh Schneider — Morehead St. — 7-5

Strikeouts

  • Matt Ridings — WKU — 90
  • Thomas Royse — UofL — 88
  • Shane Cameron — WKU — 74
  • Jake Donze — Murray St. — 64
  • Chris Craycraft — Murray St. — 64

Innings Pitched

  • Thomas Royse — UofL — 93.0
  • Matt Ridings — WKU —92.2
  • Chris Craycraft — Murray St. — 85.2
  • Taylor Rogers — UK — 83.0
  • Shane Cameron — WKU — 81.0

Saves

  • Neil Holland — UofL — 15
  • Ryne Purcell — EKU — 11
  • Rye Davis — WKU — 9
  • Matt Little — UK — 7
  • Dan Huff — Murray St. — 4

Batting Average Against

  • Matt Ridings — WKU — .218
  • Thomas Royse — UofL — .249
  • Dean Kiekhefer — UofL — .258
  • Matt McGaha — Murray St. — .272
  • Shane Cameron — WKU — .275

Appearances

  • Rye Davis — WKU — 32
  • Matt Harris — EKU — 28
  • Ryne Purcell — EKU — 28
  • Neil Holland — UofL — 25
  • Gabriel Shaw — UofL — 25
  • Matt McGaha — Murray St. — 25