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.
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Offseason position battle: Morehead St. outfielder

College Baseball

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.

Morehead St. inks six during early signing period

College Baseball

Colleges around the state are beginning to release their 2010 early signing classes with Morehead State University the first Kentucky school to do so. The Eagles signed four Kentucky high school players in the six-man early signing period class. Check Morehead’s early signing list below with a news release quote from coach Jay Sorg:

INF Taylor Sears — Somerset High School

  • 2010 Stats: .411, 32 RBI, 32 SBs
  • Sorg: “There are not enough great things I can say about Taylor. He is a very high character person and a great athlete. Defensively he will specialize in the middle infield but is versatile enough to play all around the diamond.”

RHP Aaron Goe — Grant County High School

  • 2010 Stats: 2.04 ERA, 59 SO, 55 IP
  • Sorg: “He features a fastball that can reach into the low 90s and a big breaking ball. Aaron has an extreme amount of upside and certainly projects as a starter. Aaron is a strong student-athlete who we believe will be recognized both on the field and in the classroom during his time at Morehead State University.”

RHP Craig Pearcy — Dupont Manual High School

  • Career HS Stats: 15-5, 1.96 ERA, 119 SO, 118 IP
  • Sorg: “He fills up the strike-zone with three pitches. Mechanically he is very sound with a loose arm. We project him to be a starter, but he is a versatile pitcher and can fill a lot of roles. Craig is a high makeup guy and a good student. He will be very successful in our program.”

RHP Blake Smith — LaFayette High School

  • 2010 Stats: 3-2, 1.63 ERA, 3 CG
  • Sorg: “We are excited to sign Blake. He has an electric fast arm that allows him to run his fastball into the lower 90s. He fills up the strike zone with all his pitches. His breaking ball is sharp and he can play right now. He is a young senior and we see a tremendous upside as he continues to grow into his body. We know he has been well coached in both high school and summer ball. He should be ready to go for us in the fall.”

RHP Matt Duncan — Southeastern Iowa Junior College

  • Career JC Stats: 3-2, 30 SO, 11 SV, 21.2 IP
  • Sorg: “Matt has a very strong lower half and an explosive delivery which allows him to run his fastball into the low to mid 90s. I really like bullpen roles and as a true closer he gives next year’s club the opportunity to have a different 7th, 8th, and 9th inning pitcher.”

3B Kane Sweeney — Belleville, Ind.

  • 2010 Stats: 16 HR and 64 RBI between HS season and summer ball
  • Sorg: “Kane is a big, strong, physical left-handed hitter with quick hands. We project him to be a middle of the order hitter for our club with high power and RBI production.”

You can read the Morehead St. news releases here, here and here.