In the final post of the third lap in the “offseason position battle series” we will look at the vacant Morehead State University weekend starting pitcher positions.
The departed — Morehead St. lost the closest thing it had to an ace in 2010 to graduation in the form of right-handed pitcher and first baseman Michael Bottoms. The two-way player led Morehead St. with 12 starts on the season and finished the season at 4-4 with a 6.57 ERA and 40 strikeouts to go with 28 walks in 74 innings pitched. Bottoms continued his career after graduation by pitching in the South Australian Baseball League…Right-handed pitcher Quentin Morgan, a 2010 senior, was 3-1 with a 9.95 ERA in 10 games, including eight starts, for the Eagles in 2010. Morgan struck out 25 batters and walked 16 in 38 innings pitched.
Returning candidates — Senior right-handed pitcher Jeff Arnold made 12 starts for Morehead St. as a junior in 2010, going 4-1 with a 9.10 ERA and 31 strikeouts to go with 14 walks in 58.1 innings pitched…Junior right-handed pitcher Matt Robertson made eight starts for the Eagles as a sophomore in 2010, going 1-5 with a 9.40 ERA in 45 innings pitched…Senior right-handed pitcher Trey Smith was 3-2 with a 7.93 ERA in 16 games, including three starts, as a junior for Morehead St. in 2010. Smith struck out 16 batters in 10 innings over two starts during the Fall World Series…Sophomore right-handed pitcher Cody Gibson made just one start as a freshman in 2010, but struck out 10 batters over six innings in a start during the Fall World Series. Gibson was 1-2 with a 7.92 ERA and three saves in 16 games in 2010…Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Josh Schneider made five starts as a sophomore in 2010 but pitched well in a starting role during the Fall World Series…Junior left-handed pitcher Tyler Hieneman made seven starts as a sophomore for Morehead last season but struggled to the tune of a 10.70 ERA.
Newcomers to watch — Freshman left-handed pitcher Noah Smallwood comes to Morehead from West Jessamine High School, where he was named second-team all-state by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association following his senior season. Smallwood made a start for the Eagles during the Fall World Series…Freshman left-handed pitcher Brice Smallwood was also named second-team all-state by KHSBCA following his senior season at Dixie Height High School. Brice was 10-0 with a 1.21 ERA as a senior…Freshman left-handed pitcher and outfielder Duran Elmore struck out 106 batters in 77 innings pitched as a senior at Danville High School.
Wildcard — Sophomore left-handed pitcher Garrick Whittle did not make any starts for Morehead as a freshman, a rarity on a pitching staff that had no pitcher with multiple appearances finish with an ERA under 6.57, but started a game during the Fall World Series. Whittle struck out eight batters over five shutout innings during that start, positioning him as a serious candidate for a starting rotation spot in 2011. Whittle did not record a decision as a reliever in 2010 and posted a 10.38 ERA in nine appearances…Junior college transfer Kyle Williams is still new to pitching after converting to the position. He originally signed with Shawnee Community College as an outfielder.
In the second Morehead State University post in the “offseason position battle” series we will look at the vacant outfield position.
The departed — All-Ohio Valley Conference outfielder J. D. Ashbrook, a 2010 senior, led Morehead St. in batting (.432), home runs (18), runs scored (69), stolen bases (14), slugging percentage (.795) and on-base percentage (.540) in 2010. The right-handed hitter signed a free agent contract with the Chicago White Sox after not being selected in the 2010 MLB draft. Ashbrook started all but one game in center field for the Eagles last season. His .540 on-base percentage led all Kentucky division one collegians in 2010. Outfielder Cameron Flynn, a 2010 sophomore who transferred following the 2010 season, was the only other Eagle to record a start in center field last season.
Returning candidates — Morehead St. senior Daniel Pugh and junior Luke Bainer return in 2011 after making the majority of the starts in left and right field respectively in 2010…Redshirt freshman outfielder Ryan Conner slugged three home runs during the fall Blood Bowl series after sitting out the 2010 season. Morehead St. coach Jason Neal said of Conner following the fall scrimmage series: “It seems that Ryan Conner has given us a big hit every time we have needed one this whole series. His home run in the seventh [inning of game four] to answer their run in the top of the inning was huge.”…Junior utility man Andrew Deeds made two starts in left field in 2010…Sophomore outfielder Winston Brodrick appeared in 15 games for Morehead St. in 2010, going 1-8 on the season. According to Brodrick’s MSU bio he batted a ridiculous .650 with 52 stolen bases as a senior in high school…Freshman outfielder Nick Duff also redshirted during the 2010 season.
Newcomers to watch — Freshman outfielder and left-handed pitcher Duran Elmore is the only new outfielder listed on the Morehead St. roster. Elmore comes to the Eagles after excelling as the primary center fielder for Danville High School. Elmore was honored with a Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association’s first-team all-state selection following his senior year. As a junior Elmore batted .408 with 46 stolen bases.
Wildcard — Conner was the standout among outfield candidates during the fall Blood Bowl series, so the real wild card in this race may come if head coach Jay Sorg decides to move one of the incumbent corner outfielders (Pugh and Bainer) to center and play Conner or another returner in left or right field. At 6-6 Conner may profile better defensively in a corner outfield role than the vacant center field position.
Two signees from the University of Louisville and Morehead State University have been named Louisville Slugger All Americans by the Collegiate Baseball newspaper. One of the four players, Duran Elmore, attended a Kentucky high school. Check out the list of players with Kentucky connections below or look at the entire list here:
- RHP Dace Kime — Defiance HS (Ohio) — UofL
- C Jake Depew — Granite City HS (Ill.) — UofL
- OF/LHP Duran Elmore — Danville High School — Morehead St.
- C Caden Cleveland — Christian Heritage Academy (Okla.) — Morehead St.
Check out the first and second Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association All-State teams:
- Brock Downey — Murray High School
- Justin Hageman — Hopkinsville High School
- Kyle Gibson — Henderson County High School
- Cole Isom — Christian County High School
- Cole Sturgeon — Owensboro Catholic High School
- Ty Downing – Greenwood High School
- Shane Waldrop — Warren Central High School
- Brandon Alphin — Bullitt East High School
- Corey Littrell – Trinity High School
- John Fidanza – Ballard High School
- Kyle Cornett – Eastern High School
- Brian Doering – Manual High School
- Jared Martin — Harrison County High School
- Trevor Gott — Tates Creek High School
- J.T. Riddle — Western Hills High School
- Lucas Witt — Lexington Christian Academy
- Louie Helmburg — West Jessamine High School
- Duran Elmore — Danville High School
- Tyler Saltsman — Grayson County High School
- Mikey Scott — Grayson County High School
- Matt Bowles — Bullitt East High School
- Taylor Banks — Pleasure Ridge Park
- Ryan Messex — Louisville Male High School
- Matt Spalding — St. X
- Spencer Drake — Eastern High School
- Corey Bays — Henry Clay High School
- Eric Standafer — Shelby County High School
- Austin Pugh — Conner High School
- Brice Smallwood — Dixie Heights High School
- Logan Dailey — Harrison County High School
- Taylor Martin — Lexington Catholic High School
- Evan Stephens — Lexington Christian Academy
- Aaron Watts — McCreary Central High School
- Noah Smallwood — West Jessamine High School
- Chandler Shepherd — Lawrence County High School
- Gavin Miller — Pikeville High School
You can see the honorable mention team with player’s from each region here.