Draft Preview: Western Kentucky University

College Baseball, High School Baseball, Major League Baseball

Matt Rice bats for WKU: BluGrass Baseball photo

The draft is already underway, but we’ll continue our previews for schools with some players projected to go in later rounds. You can follow the Kentucky-related draft news all day from BluGrass Baseball via Twitter. Check out prospects from Western Kentucky University below:

The Headliners

  • One would think a catcher that has hit as well as Matt Rice has would be a top draft prospect, but a variety of factors have diminished his prospect status. First, he’s a little oversized for the position and doesn’t look pretty at times on defense. But perhaps even more relevant to his draft hopes is his status as a candidate to become WKU’s first Rhodes Scholar. Baseball America projected the potential honor would move Rice down teams boards as they are leery of the prospects of trying to sign him away from Rhodes. Still Rice should go off the board on day two.
  • Senior right-handed pitcher Matt Ridings, the Sun Belt pitcher of the year, was projected to be drafted in the first ten rounds before Tommy John surgery ended his season just before the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Still when asked by BluGrass Baseball, Jim Callis of Baseball America said of Ridings: “Area scouts love him. Someone will take a flier.” Ridings doesn’t have great stuff or eye-popping size, but he’s demonstrated an excellent feel for pitching through his WKU career.
  • Redshirt sophomore closer Rye Davis missed 2009 with an eye injury, but was unhittable during his return this season. Davis saved nine games and struck out 63 in 49.2 innings. Opponents batted just .249 against Davis, who even made a start during the Sun Belt tournament. As a draft-eligible sophomore Davis figures to go late in the draft to a team who hopes it can sign him away from returning to WKU for his junior season.

Senior hoping for chance

  • Senior second baseman Matt Payton batted .354 in 2010 with seven home runs and 55 RBI. Payton figures to be a late senior sign in the draft and will hope to impress a team enough to stick around during short-season ball.
  • Left-handed pitcher Bart Carter was ranked among the top 25 draft prospects in the state by Baseball America after experiencing mixed success in the WKU bullpen in 2010. Carter finished the year 3-1 with a 5.61 ERA, but could get a chance late in the draft as a lefty specialist.

Other eligible juniors

  • OF Matt Bracken
  • OF Chris Bullard
  • OF Monte Ketchum
  • RHP Scott Pederson
  • OF Kory Petri
  • RHP Brian Edelen
  • LHP Garrie Krueger

Other eligible seniors

  • RHP Shane Cameron
  • 1B Jake Wells

High school signees

  • RHP Justin Hageman of Hopkinsville High School was listed by Baseball America as one of the state’s top 25 draft prospects and could be the best candidate of Kentucky high schoolers to sign.

BluGrass Baseball Thursday Review: Week 14

College Baseball

Recaps from the a rare Thursday slate of games in the  college season:

  • No. 11 University of Louisville recorded a come-from-behind 6-3 win over Notre Dame capped by a three-run, ninth-inning home run from junior catcher J. J. Ethel. Cards junior right-handed ace Thomas Royse surrendered just three runs in six and two-third innings, but the UofL offense could only plate two runs against Notre Dame pitcher Brian Dupra through the first eight innings. The Fighting Irish left Dupra in to start the ninth, but his performance fell apart as he surrendered four runs in the frame. Senior catcher Jeff Arnold was 2-5 with a homerun, two RBI and two runs scored. (Box Score)
  • The University of Kentucky‘s postseason hopes were dealt a serious blow with a 8-6 loss to last-place Georgia in game one of a three-game series. The loss dropped the Cats into a tie for ninth place in the Southeastern Conference, one game out of the final SEC tournament bid. Junior shortstop Taylor Black was 2-4 with a home run, three RBI and one run scored. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer took the loss after surrendering five runs in two and one-third innings. (Box Score)
  • Western Kentucky University lost its best pitcher after senior right-handed ace Matt Ridings left the game with an apparent injury, but the Hilltoppers bullpen pitched admirably in relief in a 5-1 win over Middle Tennessee. Ridings held Middle Tennessee scoreless through the first four innings but had to leave the game in the fifth after allowing three consecutive batters to reach base. Freshman right-handed pitcher Taylor Haydel recorded the final two outs in the inning without allowing a run to score and held Middle Tennessee to one run over three and two-third innings. WKU pounded out 15 hits in the game and was led by senior first baseman Jake Wells, who was 3-4. (Box Score)

Hitter of the day: C Jeff Arnold (UofL)

  • Stats: 2-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
  • Honorable Mention: J. J. Ethel (UofL), Taylor Black (UK), Jake Wells (WKU), Logan Robbins (WKU)

Pitcher of the day: RHP Thomas Royse (UofL)

  • Stats: ND, 6.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO
  • Honorable Mention: Matt Ridings (WKU), Taylor Haydel (WKU), Tony Zych (UofL), Sam Kidd (UK)

BluGrass Baseball Sunday Review Week 13


Sunday saw huge postseason implications for several Kentucky schools both good and bad. Check out the UK Athletics’ video of Marcus Nidiffer’s game-winning grand slam above and recaps and awards from Sunday’s games, which included a tie between two Kentucky teams:

  • Redshirt sophomore outfielder Stewart Ijames led No. 9 University of Louisville to an 8-4 win over St. Johns with two home runs. Ijames ended the game with three hits, three runs scored and six RBI. Redshirt freshman right-handed pitcher Justin Amlung earned the win after allowing three runs in five and two-third innings. He struck out two and walked three. Junior right-handed closer Neil Holland allowed one run over the final two and two-third innings to record his 13th save of the season. (Box Score)
  • In the final home at-bat of his University of Kentucky career, senior catcher Marcus Nidiffer launched an eighth-inning grand slam to give the Cats the lead and send them to a 6-4 win and series sweep of LSU. The win moved UK into a tie for seventh place in the Southeastern Conference, and the Cats now control their own destiny for a conference tournament bid. The game saw UK walk 12 LSU batters and hit two but also strand 16 Tigers on base. Junior left-handed pitcher Logan Darnell earned the win in his first relief appearance of the season after missing two weeks with shoulder tendonitis. (Box Score)
  • Western Kentucky University likely saw its at-large hopes for an NCAA tournament bid vanish Sunday with a 4-3 loss at Louisiana-Lafayette. The loss ensured WKU would lose its third consecutive conference series. Senior first baseman Jake Wells and senior second baseman Matt Payton each tallied two hits in the game, but Louisiana-Lafayette scored three runs in the seventh inning to tie the game and won on a walk-off double in the bottom of the tenth inning. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Phil Wetherell took the loss. (Box Score)
  • In a game that was actually played Saturday but not considered official until Sunday, Murray State University and Morehead State University ended their rain-shortened series with a 4-4 tie. The game was suspended in the eighth inning Saturday, but more rain Sunday prevented the teams from finishing the contest or playing the scheduled game three. Morehead senior shortstop Drew Lee and junior first baseman Michael Fear each tallied two hits for the Eagles. Murray St. senior left fielder Bryan Propst and junior catcher Drew Pixley also recorded two hits. Both starting pitchers, sophomore Matthew Robertson for the Eagles and redshirt junior Jake Donze for the Breds, allowed four runs in seven innings, though all four of Robertson’s runs were unearned. (Box Score)
  • Eastern Kentucky University dropped the rubber match of its series with Jacksonville State in an 11-3 blowout Sunday. The Colonels are currently sixth in the Ohio Valley Conference, but will have to wait for other teams to finish their conference schedule next week to see if they earn one of the six OVC tournament bids. Junior third baseman Jayson Langfels, junior left fielder Ryan Faidley and sophomore second baseman Dustin Dunlop each tallied two hits in the game for EKU Sunday. Junior right-handed pitcher Stephen Hefler took the loss. (Box Score)

Hitter of the day: OF Stewart Ijames (UofL)

  • Stats: 3-4, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, 1 2B
  • Honorable Mention: Marcus Nidiffer (UK), Jake Wells (WKU), Bryan Propst (Murray St.), Drew Lee (Morehead St.), Jayson Langfels (EKU)

Pitcher of the day: Matthew Robertson (Morehead St.)

  • Stats: ND, 7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO
  • Honorable Mention: Justin Amlung (UofL), Nick Kennedy (UK), Logan Darnell (UK), Tanner Perkins (WKU), Jake Donze (Murray St.)

BluGrass Baseball Week 10 Awards

College Baseball

Awards from a weather-shortened week of Kentucky baseball: (Morehead State only played two games and lost both with no standout performances worthy of nomination)

BluGrass Baseball Player of the Week: OF Lance Ray (UK)

  • Stats: 9-16 (.563), 2 HR, 5 2Bs, 8 RBI, 3 R
  • Honorable Mention: Jayson Langfels (EKU), Anthony Ottrando (EKU), Jared Andreoli (WKU), Matt Rice (WKU), Jake Wells (WKU), Stewart Ijames (UofL), Brandon Elliott (Murray St.)

BluGrass Baseball Pitcher of the Week: RHP Brian Edelen (WKU)

  • Stats: 1-0, 2 GS, 10.1 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO
  • Honorable Mention: Tony Zych (UofL), Justin Amlung (UofL), Thomas Royse (UofL), Matt Ridings (WKU), Paul Duncan (EKU), Anthony Bazzani (EKU)

BluGrass Baseball Freshman of the Week: RHP Justin Amlung (UofL)

  • Stats: 1-0, 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO
  • Honorable Mention: Matt Koch (UofL), Brandon Elliott (Murray St.), Anthony Bazzani (EKU), Austin Grisham (EKU), Kyle Grieshaber (UofL)

BluGrass Baseball Friday Review: Week 10

College Baseball

Recaps from Friday baseball:

  • No. 13 University of Louisville scored twice in the eighth inning to secure a series-opening 4-2 win over Seton Hall. Sophomore right-handed reliever Derek Self moved to 6-0 on the season and 13-0 in his career with three and one-third scoreless innings out of the Cards’ bullpen. Junior right-handed closer Neil Holland saved his ninth game of the year. Sophomore second baseman Ryan Wright drove in two and scored twice in the game. (Box Sc0re)
  • Western Kentucky University dropped its series opener at Florida International in a 7-6, extra-inning decision. Redshirt sophomore closer Rye Davis took the loss after blowing the save in the ninth and giving up two more runs in the top of the tenth inning. Junior right-handed pitcher Matt Ridings surrendered four unearned runs in eight innings. Senior first baseman Jake Wells homered and drove in three runs. (Box Score)
  • The University of Kentucky looked overmatched in game one of its crucial series with Auburn in a 13-6 loss. The two teams are competing for the final berth in the Southeastern Conference tournament. Junior right fielder Lance Ray slugged three doubles in the game, and sophomore designated hitter Braden Kapteyn homered in the game. Junior left-handed pitcher Logan Darnell took the loss after allowing nine runs in six and one-third innings. (Box Score)

Hitter of the Day: 1B Jake Wells (WKU)

  • Stats: 2-5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R
  • Honorable Mention: Casey Dykes (WKU), Lance Ray (UK), Braden Kapteyn (UK), Ryan Wright (UofL), Andrew Clark (UofL)

Pitcher of the Day: RHP Matt Ridings (WKU)

  • Stats: 8 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO
  • Honorable Mention: Derek Self (UofL), Thomas Royse (UofL), Neil Holland (UofL)

WKU embarrasses UK 24-8 to sweep season series

College Baseball

Matt Rice bats for WKU: BluGrass Baseball photo

The University of Kentucky has had a hard time scoring runs recently, so when the Cats plated eight runs against Western Kentucky University Tuesday, one would think that was a good thing. The Hilltoppers had other plans though with a 24-8 drubbing of UK, highlighted by a 16-run second inning. WKU junior catcher Matt Rice was 5-6 with a home run, three RBI and three runs scored.

Sophomores Jared Andreoli, Kes Carter and Logan Robbins also homered for the Hilltoppers, and seniors Matt Payton and Jake Wells each tallied three hits. Redshirt junior Brian Edelen recorded the win after allowing one run in five innings. Andreoli drove in five runs and scored four times in the game.

There weren’t many highlights for UK as the Cats were down 18-0 before recording an out in the second inning, but junior designated hitter Lance Ray was 3-4 with a home run, two RBI and one run scored. The game marked Ray’s second consecutive three-hit effort. Sophomore third baseman Andy Burns tallied two hits and three RBI. (Box Score)

BluGrass Baseball POG: C Matt Rice — The junior catcher was 5-6 with a home run, three RBI and three runs scored. Rice had a double and a home run in the 16-run second inning. On the season, Rice is batting .392 with nine home runs and 52 RBI.

BluGrass Baseball Saturday Review: Week Seven

College Baseball

Player of the Day2B Travis Redmon (Morehead State)

  • Stats: 5-6, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R
  • Honorable Mention: Zack Cox (Arkansas, PRP), Jake Wells (WKU), Adam Duvall (UofL), Cameron Flynn (Morehead), Michael Fear (Morehead), Daniel Pugh (Morehead), Richie Rodriguez (EKU), Wes Cunningham (Murray State)

Pitcher of the Day — Alex Love (Murray St.)

  • Stats: 1-0, 6IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 2 SO
  • Honorable Mention: Shane Cameron (WKU), Matt McGaha (Murray St.), Gabriel Shaw (UofL), Ryne Purcell (EKU), Hunter Hewitt (Morehead)

Athletic Department Recaps

UK vs. WKU, the day after; EKU defeats Marshall

College Baseball
Matt Payton bats against UK Wednesday: BluGrass Baseball photo

Matt Payton bats against UK Wednesday: BluGrass Baseball photo

You can read my full commentary of the UK/WKU game in the previous post, but there were plenty of state media at the game. Check out their takes below as well as a recap of EKU’s Wednesday contest.

  • Western Kentucky University defeated the University of Kentucky 6-3 behind four hits from senior first baseman Jake Wells and three RBI from senior shortstop Matt Payton. Freshman right-handed reliever Taylor Haydel recorded the win after allowing one unearned run in one inning. UK freshman right-handed pitcher Jordan Cooper took the loss, and the Cats were led by senior third baseman Gunner Glad who was 1-3 with a home run and three RBI. (Box Score)
  • Junior left fielder Ryan Faidley launched two home runs to lead Eastern Kentucky University to a 10-6 win over Marshall Wednesday. Freshman second baseman Matt Phipps and senior first baseman Anthony Ottrando each had two hits. Freshman right-handed pitcher Alex Rexroat was credited with the win despite pitching just two innings in his start. (Box Score)
  • Mike Stunson of the College Heights Herald reports WKU was excited to get the win over its in-state rival.
  • Aaron Smith of the Kentucky Kernel recaps the WKU/UK game and reports UK coach Gary Henderson is concerned about the Cats’ inability to drive in runs.
  • WKU shortstop Payton told Mark Maloney of the Lexington Herald-Leader the Hilltoppers were glad to come through with clutch hits despite leaving 12 men on base.
  • Nick Baumgardner of the Bowling Green Daily News writes WKU is no longer chasing UK in his preview of yesterday’s showdown.

Western Kentucky sophomores continue to outshine their more heralded University of Kentucky counterparts

College Baseball

Jared Andreoli bats against UK: BluGrass Baseball photo

Western Kentucky University (17) rallied for a 6-3 win Tuesday against in-state rival University of Kentucky behind four hits from senior first baseman Jake Wells and three RBI from senior shortstop Matt Payton, but it was WKU’s sophomores than made the most interesting statement of the game. The Cats’ sophomore class has been counted on for production since it entered campus as the fourth-best recruiting class in the country in 2009, but as conference play gets underway one could easily argue that the unheralded Hilltopper sophomores are having a bigger impact on their team.

WKU’s second-year players are headlined by a pair of relative unknowns entering the 2010 season in outfielders Jared Andreoli and Kes Carter. Still doubtful of their importance in the WKU lineup? Just look to the sixth inning Tuesday when UK head coach Gary Henderson elected to intentionally walk Carter to load the bases with two outs and face preseason All-American Matt Rice. Andreoli leads the Hilltoppers with a .389 batting average, Carter ranks second at .387. Andreoli ranks second in the state with 39 runs scored and Carter ranks fourth in the state with 33 RBI.

Meanwhile UK’s heralded sophomores spent all of 2009 counted on to lead a team to the NCAA tournament, an amount of pressure that was probably unfair to place on a group of freshman. The class has been led by its least heralded member in outfielder Chad Wright, who ranks second on the team with a .349 average and 20 RBI. Slugger Cory Farris has shown his token power stroke in limited action this season with six home runs, but hasn’t been able to break out of the right-field platoon. Designated hitter, pitcher and first baseman Braden Kapteyn is batting .266, and third baseman Andy Burns, arguably the most highly touted position player to ever sign with UK, is batting just .237.

WKU sophomore infielder Casey Dykes is excelling to the rate of a .340 average and four home runs after starting ever game this season. On the mound sophomore relievers Tyler Gilliand and Craig Stem both have sub-3.00 ERAs and over ten appearances in 2010. Just sophomore relievers Phil Whetherell and Aaron Mayfield with their over-6.00 ERAs and sophomore infielder Logan Robbins with his under-.200 batting average have struggled this season.

UK’s sophomore pitchers have enjoyed at least mixed success in 2010. Right-handed starting pitcher Alex Meyer, arguably the most talented pitcher in the state, has four wins but has struggled with his control to the tune of a 6.15 ERA. Sometime midweek starter Sean Bouthilette has a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings after a stellar six-inning performance Tuesday. Kapteyn hasn’t given up an unearned run in 6.2 innings this season, and righty Chase Greene pitched a scoreless inning in his only performance this year. Heralded catcher Michael Williams now finds himself in a battle for the backup time with freshman Luke Maile.

You can’t quite chalk up the success of the WKU incoming class of 2009 to inferior competition either. The Hilltoppers currently have more wins (2) against Southeastern Conference opponents than the Cats (1). The UK incoming class of 2009 has had the spotlight shined on it since its members reportedly made a pact to not sign professional contracts when drafted out of high school unless they received first-round money. I wrote my first feature about them just weeks after fall classes started their freshman year, but so far performance hasn’t quite matched up to the hype. The common thinking goes that the Cats have struggled because they are young, but they aren’t that young anymore. Just ask the sophomores to the west in Bowling Green.

Vandy blows out WKU 17-6 to earn series split

College Baseball

Vanderbilt University avenged a Tuesday home loss to Western Kentucky University with a 17-6 blowout win Wednesday. Sophomore center fielder Kes Carter paced the Hilltopper offense with two hits and a home run. Senior shortstop Matt Payton, sophomore third baseman Casey Dykes and senior first baseman Jake Wells also had two hits in the game.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Taylor Haydel took the loss after allowing ten runs in just one inning. Junior right-handed reliever Scott Pedersen was the most successful WKU reliever with two and two-third scoreless innings out of the pen. WKU fell to 13-5 on the season. (Box Score)

BluGrass Baseball POG: Kes Carter — Carter continued his breakout 2010 campaign with another home run and two hits Wednesday. Carter also drove in two runs and scored one in five at-bats. On the season, Carter has a team-high five home runs and ranks second on the team with 24 RBI.