UK picked to finish fourth in SEC East; OVC coaches talk opening weekend; Rauch in 4-way battle for Blue Jays’ closer

College Baseball, Major League Baseball

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball:

  • The Southeastern Conference coaches have picked the University of Kentucky to finish fourth in the SEC East.
  • The Ohio Valley Conference announced Tuesday that beginning in 2012 teams, including Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead State University and Murray State University, will play Friday, Saturday, Sunday series in conference play.
  • The OVC has also posted the audio from its preseason teleconference with 10-minute segments from EKU head coach Jason Stein, Morehead St. head coach Jay Sorg and Murray St. head coach Rob McDonald. The three Ky. OVC coaches said little in the way of breaking news, but Stein did confirm freshmen Byran Soloman and Sean Hagen would start for the Colonels. Sorg also noted the senior Trey Smith, redshirt junior Josh Schneider and sophomore Cody Gibson are the favorites to begin the season in the weekend rotation.
  • Troy E. Renck profiles on right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook, who was born in Fort Campbell, and his improved mechanics.
  • Seth Livingston of USA Today profiles former UK right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton, who he call’s the “forgotten man” in the Phillies’ all-star rotation.
  • Seth Stohs of the The Star-Tribune lists Lexington Catholic alum Ben Revere among the 2011 impact prospects for the Twins, noting Revere could step into center field and the leadoff spot if Denard Span goes is injured.
  • Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun breaks down the four-way battle for the Blue Jays closer, which includes former Morehead St. right-handed pitcher Jon Rauch.

BluGrass Baseball preseason all-newcomer team


Over the past few weeks BluGrass Baseball has been counting down the top 2011 returning Kentucky collegians. Freshmen and junior-college transfers were excluded from that list, but don’t worry the newcomers are about to get their due. Check out the preseason all-newcomer team below. The team is focused on players who are projected to receive major playing time for their respective schools.

CatcherSean HagenEastern Kentucky University

Hagen is projected to start at catcher for the Colonels. After Hagen signed with EKU out of high school, Colonels head coach Jason Stein said, “Sean will fill an immediate need at catcher following the graduation of 2010. He is a complete catcher who can catch, throw and block. But he is also a very offensive-minded player, as well.”

Honorable mention: Murray St. junior-college transfer Jacob Rhodes figures to be a mainstay in the Breds’ lineup at either catcher or designated hitter.

First Base — Tyler Beers — Murray State University

There is no clear first base candidate among the 2011 Kentucky newcomers, Beers may start for the Breds so he takes this spot almost by default. Beers batted .300 with five home runs and 25 RBI as a sophomore at Mineral Area College.

Honorable mention: UK head coach Gary Henderson said freshman infielder J. T. Riddle could see time at first base if carries his strong spring offensive performance over to the season.

Second Base — Matt Reida — University of Kentucky

Henderson hasn’t officially named a starter at second base for the Cats, but all signs point to Reida as the likely winner of that position battle. Reida may struggle with the bat early on, but as a plus defender he figures to get plenty of playing time at the position.

Honorable mention: Murray St. junior-college transfer Travis Isaak batted .420 with eight home runs and 19 doubles as a sophomore at Lincoln Trail Community College.

Shortstop — Alex Chittenden — University of Louisville

On Monday UofL head coach Dan McDonnell announced Chittenden would start at shortstop for the Cards. Chittenden batted .588 with eight home runs and 19 stolen bases as a senior in high school.

Honorable mention: Morehead St. freshman infielder Bud Morton may not start for the Eagles to begin the season, but he adds an excitement factor to the lineup the Eagles could use.

Third base — Thomas McCarthy — University of Kentucky

McCarthy comes to UK after batting over .400 for two seasons in junior-college baseball. UK head coach Gary Henderson doesn’t predict that for his third baseman this season, but Henderson said “he’s going to be able to get a hit.”

Honorable mention: EKU freshman infielder Bryan Soloman, who head coach Jason Stein called “a complete third baseman,” is projected to start for the Colonels.

Outfield — Ryan Hutchinson — Western Kentucky University

Baseball America recently ranked Hutchinson, who was an all-American at 2010 NJCAA World Series champion Iowa Western Community College, the No. 3 newcomer in the Sun Belt Conference. WKU head coach Chris Finwood expects Hutchinson to provide a middle-of-the-order power presence for the Hilltoppers this season.

Outfield — Lucas Witt — University of Kentucky

In an interview with College Baseball Daily, UK head coach Gary Henderson singled Witt out as a the freshmen outfielder who was making the best case to start in right field. Witt may not be the full-time starter to begin the season, but he figures to see plenty of playing time in 2010.

Outfield — Paul Ritzheimer — Murray State University

Ritzheimer batted .405 with three home runs and 20 RBI as a freshman at Kaskaskia College in 2010, and he should push for playing time in the Murray State outfield this season.

Honorable Mention — UK freshman infielder and outfielder Dallen Reber probably has the most power on the UK roster and will likely push for playing time in right field for the Cats.

Designated hitter — Ivan Hartle — Western Kentucky Unviersity

Junior-college trasnfer Ivan Hartle will start at second base for WKU this season and only is included at DH here to get him into the starting lineup. Hartle was named the NJCAA Division I defensive player of the year in 2010 while playing for the NJCAA World Series champion, Iowa Western Community College.

Honorable mention — UofL freshmen infielder Adam Engel will start for the Cards at designated hitter to begin the season.

Starting pitcher — Corey Littrell — University of Kentucky

Freshman left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell will be UK’s primary midweek starting pitcher to begin the season and stands to be the first option on the weekend in the event of injury or poor performance by one of UK’s top three starters. Littrell was all-state as a senior at Trinity High School and was the 43rd-round pick of the Nationals in 2010.

Starting pitcher — Justin Hageman — Western Kentucky University

WKU head coach Chris Finwood says freshman right-handed pitcher Justin Hageman, the 2010 32nd round pick of the Royals, has as much talent as any pitcher he saw on a Friday night during his time in the Southeastern Conference, but it remains to be seen what Hageman’s role will be with the Hilltoppers. He figures to begin the season as a midweek starting pitcher, but will move to the weekend rotation if he proves himself in that role.

Starting pitcher — Kyle McGrath — Eastern Kentucky University

Freshman left-handed pitcher Kyle McGrath figures to begin the season as a midweek starting pitcher for the Colonels, but you have to figure he will be given every shot to carve out a more substantial role with the team considering the Colonels’ poor pitching performance in 2010. McGrath was all-state at Butler High School.

Honorable mention — Due to the overall depth of UofL’s pitching staff, freshman right-handed pitcher Dace Kime may not start for the Cards this season but as the highest-drafted player attending a Kentucky college this season he figures to push for playing time in some role.

Offseason position battle: EKU catcher

College Baseball

In the third Eastern Kentucky University post in the “offseason position battle” series we will look at the vacant catching position.

The departed — Two-year starter Joey Stevens, a 2010 senior, started 42 games for the Colonels in 2010. On the season he batted .276 with two home runs, 24 RBI and 19 runs scored. Stevens recorded a .335 on-base percentage and .368 slugging percentage. Opposing runners were successful in 35 of 43 stolen base attempts (86 percent) against Stevens on the season. Stevens was charged with six passed balls and two errors in 2010.

Returning candidates — Junior A. J. Jamison served as Stevens’ primary backup in 2010, starting seven games and appearing in 19 games total. Jamison batted .208 with one home run, six RBI and four runs scored on the season. Opposing runners were successful in all eight stolen base attempts against Jamison last season…Junior Brian Shrimpton also saw some time behind the plate for EKU in 2010, especially early in the season. Shrimpton started six games and appeared in 11 total. On the season he was 1-22 (.045), and opposing runners were successful in 19 of 21 stolen base attempts (91.3 percent) against him.

Newcomers to watch — EKU added two catchers to the 2011 roster in the form of freshmen Sean Hagen and Steve Ferraro. In a news release announcing Hagen’s signing EKU head coach Jason Stein described him as a “complete catcher who can catch, throw and block,” adding he was a very offensive-minded player, as well.” As a junior at Reading High School in Pennsylvania, Hagen batted .469 with six home runs and 29 RBI. Stein said Hagen would fill an immediate need at catcher with Stevens’ graduation.

Wildcard — With four catchers on the Colonels’ roster any wildcard in this race would have to come from nowhere. EKU has nine infielders on the roster so if an unlikely position change were to occur that would likely be the first place to look.

Offseason position battle: EKU first baseman

College Baseball

We continue our second lap in the “offseason position battle” series with a look at the vacant Eastern Kentucky University first base position.

The departed — Senior first baseman Anthony Ottrando batted .335 with 17 home runs, 67 RBI and 47 runs score while starting 54 games for EKU in 2010. Ottrando led the team in home runs, RBI and doubles (15). For good measure he added 11 stolen bases in 13 attempts. Ottrando made seven erros on the season while posting a .986 fielding percentage. The slugger was honored as the second team All-OVC first baseman following the 2010 season. Ottrando started all but one game at first for EKU in 2010 with the other start going to freshman Kyle England, who is not listed on the current EKU roster. In August Ed Richter of the Middletown Journal in Ohio reported England and one other man had been indicted on charges of sexual battery after a 16-year-old girl accused them of assaulting her during a party at England’s home.

Returning candidates — The only returning Colonel to appear in a game at first base in 2010 is junior Dustin Dunlop who played one game at the position. Dunlop spent most his time playing second base for the Colonels in 2010 and also appeared at third base during his freshman and sophomore years…Junior Jacob Daniel has served as the EKU designated hitter for the last two seasons but could conceivably move to first base if needed…Sophomore infielder Alex Hughes didn’t appear in a game during 2010 for EKU but at 6-4 he has the size to fill in at first base.

Newcomers to watch — Freshman infielder Mitch Durbin signed with EKU as a corner infielder and left-handed power bat. In Nov. 2009 EKU head coach Jason Stein said “Following graduation and the draft of 2010, we will probably have two immediate needs and, as a left-handed bat with power and a corner infielder, Mitch fills both of them.”…At 6-2 and 6-0 respectively freshman infielders Alex Arovits and Dillon Pelfrey both also could fill in at first base.

Wildcard — The only wildcard in the EKU first base battle appears to be a position change from one of the catchers or outfielders. Senior outfielder Bryce Labhart is listed as an OF/INF on the roster but played left field primarily in 2010 and came to EKU from Onley Central Junior College as a second baseman/outfielder. Sophomore outfielders Michael Buschmann and Jeff Emerich are likely reserves. Juniors A. J. Jamison and Brian Shrimpton are the returning catchers on the roster.

Offseason position battle: EKU third baseman

College Baseball

The offseason position battle series moves to Richmond today with a look at Eastern Kentucky University‘s vacant third base position:

The departed: Junior third baseman Jayson Langfels started ever game at third base for EKU in 2010 and batted .353 with 16 home runs, 52 RBI and 61 runs scored. Langfels has since moved on to professional baseball as the 16th round pick of the Colorado Rockies. Langfels’ 61 runs scored and .696 slugging percentage led the team and his 18 career triples are a Ohio Valley Conference record.

Returning candidates: Rising junior infielder Dustin Dunlop was the only other Colonel to appear in a game at third base in 2010 after pinch running for Langfels against the University of the Cumberlands. Dunlop spent most of his time at second base in 2010 but did play some third base as a freshman in 2009. Rising senior Bryce Labhart, rising sophomore Alex Hughes, rising junior Richie Rodriguez and rising sophomore Matt Phipps are the other returning infielders on the roster. Rodriguez and Phipps ended 2010 as the starting shortstop and second baseman respectively.

Newcomers to watch: Incoming freshmen infielders Bryan Solomon, Alex Arovits and Mitch Durbin each boasted strong performances during the EKU fall World Series. When Solomon signed with the Colonels head coach Jason Stein called him “a complete third baseman” who could hit for average and power while playing great defense with a “great arm.” Solomon may also pitch for the Colonels.

Wildcard: The candidates for EKU’s vacant infield positions appear to be fairly straight forward, so don’t look for any surprises. Head coach Jason Stein could conceivably move one of the team’s surplus outfielders to the infield or rearrange incumbents Rodriguez, Phipps and Dunlop.

UofL to host open scrimmages; Bats, Hot Rods release schedules; Venters may close in 2011

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball:

  • The University of Louisville will continue fall practice with three scrimmages open to the public this weekend.
  • The Louisville Bats have released their 2011 schedule.
  • The Bowling Green Hot Rods have also released their 2011 schedule.
  • Eastern Kentucky University head coach Jason Stein will host a Fall Elite Camp on Oct. 17 for high schoolers.
  • Jason Stark of reports Atlanta Braves left-handed reliever Jonny Venters, born in Pikeville, will get the first shot at the closer job in Spring Training if Billy Wagner retires as expected this offseason.
  • Kelly Hill of The Grand Rapids Press reports Michigan prep right-handed pitcher Cam Wysocki, who had drawn interest from the University of Kentucky, has committed to the University of Michigan.