We are closing out the “offseason position battle” series with a look at the three vacant Kentucky closer positions, starting today with Murray State University.
The departed — Left-handed pitcher Matt McGaha, a 2010 senior, was Murray State’s top reliever last season, finishing the season at 5-3 with a 3.90 ERA. McGaha pitched enough innings out of the Breds’ bullpen to qualify for the ERA title and recorded three saves on the season. The right-handed pitcher struck out 52 batters and walked 13 in 67 innings pitched on the season…Right-handed pitcher Dan Huff, a 2010 senior, led Murray St. with four saves in 2010. Huff was 1-4 with an 8.35 ERA in 18 games, including six starts.
Returning candidates — No returning Murray St. reliever recorded a save in 2010, but sophomore right-handed pitcher Joe Major had the most success out of the pen of any Breds returner. Major did not record a decision and posted a 3.60 ERA in four appearances, including one start. Major struck out four batters and walked nine in 10 innings pitched…Sophomore right-handed pitcher Ben Lady is the returning reliever with the most innings pitched at 20 and one-third innings, but struggled to the tune of a 7.97 ERA in 2010…No returning Murray St. reliever other than Major posted an ERA below 6.35 in 2010.
Newcomers to watch — Junior college transfer Bryan Babin had moderate success as a reliever for Mississippi Gulf Coast College in 2010, going 5-1 with a 3.46 ERA in 39 innings pitched. Babin struck out 23 batters and walked 11 in 13 appearances…Junior college transfer Luke Shuemaker proved able to miss bats with 40 strikeouts in 50 and two-third innings pitched for Rend Lake College in 2010…Junior college transfer Mark Roberts posted a save and five wins for Lincoln Trail College in 2010 while striking out 35 batters and walking 25 in 55 innings pitched…Freshman left-handed pitcher Kyle Cornett was named first-team all state by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association as a senior at Eastern High School and could serve as a valuable reliever if he does not start for the Breds…Freshman right-handed pitcher Tyler Saltsman was named second-team all-state by KHSBCA as a senior at Grayson County High School.
Wildcard — Freshman two-way player Brock Downey may be called on to pitch and play outfield for the Breds in 2011. As a senior left-handed pitcher at Murray High School Downey posted a 2.18 ERA and 102 strikeouts. KHSBCA named him first-team all-state and the Region 1 player of the year as a senior. Downey batted .550 and stole 52 bases as a senior at the plate. Considering no Murray St. reliever posted more than four saves in 2010 there is a good chance head coach Rob McDonald may use a revolving set of pitchers in the late innings all season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 2010 collegiate season is officially over for every Kentucky Division One school except UofL, so this is the perfect time to unveil the BluGrass Baseball season awards.
Player of the year: 1B Wes Cunningham (Murray St.)
Stats: .408/.476/.824, 22 HR, 86 RBI, 77 R, 10 SB
Cunningham led the state in home runs, RBI, runs scored and slugging percentage and ranked tenth in home runs, ninth in RBI and fifth in slugging percentage in all of D1 baseball during the regular season. He was named Ohio Valley Conference player of the year and ranked in the top five in OVC batting average, hits, runs scored, RBI, triples, home runs and total bases. Cunningham led Murray State University in every major offensive category.
Honorable Mention: Zack Cox (Arkansas, PRP), J. D. Ashbrook (Morehead State University), Drew Lee (Morehead St.), Jayson Langfels (Eastern Kentucky University), Matt Rice (Western Kentucky University), Ryan Wright (UofL)
Pitcher of the year: RHP Thomas Royse (UofL)
Stats: 9-1, 2.91 ERA, 99 IP, 94 SO, 25 BB, .252 BA against
Royse led Kentucky pitchers in ERA, wins, strikeouts and innings pitched in 2010 . The Big East Conference pitcher of the year led the University of Louisville to the No. 7 overall seed in the NCAA tournament as its weekend ace. Royse outdueled WKU senior ace Matt Ridings, who ranked second in most pitching categories and led in batting average against, for the pitcher of the year honor.
Honorable Mention: Matt Ridings (WKU), Neil Holland (UofL), Matt McGaha (Murray St.), Justin Amlung (UofL), Rye Davis (WKU)
Freshman of the year: RHP Justin Amlung (UofL)
Stats: 5-1, 4.01 ERA, 19 G, 9 GS, 60.2 IP, 51 SO, 12 BB, .281 BA against
Almung redshirted during the 2009 season, but wasted no time making an impact in his first season on the diamond for UofL, first as a mid-week starting pitcher and reliever and later as a weekend starter. Amlung led all Kentucky freshman in wins, ERA, strikeouts and batting average against.
Honorable Mention: Matt Koch (UofL), Taylor Rogers (University of Kentucky), Jordan Cooper (UK), Ryan Huck (WKU), Colton Moore (Murray St.), Anthony Bazzani (EKU), Austin Grisham (EKU)
The state’s run in its various conference tournaments ended Saturday with losses by UofL and Murray St. The Cards still have the NCAA tournament to look forward to, but the loss ends the season for Murray St. Check out recaps and awards from those games below:
No. 9 University of Louisville was eliminated from the double-elimination Big East Conference tournament with a 5-3 loss to St. Johns Saturday. Senior catcher Jeff Arnold, senior first baseman Andrew Clark and junior center fielder Josh Richmond each tallied two hits in the game for UofL. Junior left-handed pitcher Bob Revesz took the loss in a rare start after allowing four runs in four and two-third innings. (Box Score)
Murray State University saw its season come to an end after Ohio Valley Conference tournament one-seed Tennessee Tech scored 10 runs in the fourth inning in route to a 15-6 victory. Murray St. finished 28-28-1 on the season. Freshman shortstop Brandon Elliott was 3-4 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored. Senior left fielder Bryan Propst added a home run in the last game of his career. Junior left-handed pitcher Matt McGaha took the loss in his first start of the season after allowing eight runs, only four of which were earned, in three and two-third innings. (Box Score)
Hitter of the day: SS Brandon Elliot (Murray St.)
Stats: 3-4, 1 HR, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 2 R
Honorable Mention: Bryan Propst (Murray St.), Andrew Clark (UofL), Josh Richmond (UofL)
Pitcher of the day: RHP Brad Rowland (Murray St.)
Stats: .2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO
Honorable Mention: No honorable mentions in the weakest pitching performance day of the season for Kentucky 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.
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.
Now that the collegiate regular season is officially over it’s time to name the BluGrass Baseball postseason All-State team. You can see the preseason and mid-season teams on the All-State team page here. I had to do a little maneuvering to fill out the team, for instance both the first and second team include a pitcher who didn’t start on the weekend in the final SP slot. Matt McGaha qualified for the ERA title, so I had no problem including him despite only pitching in relief, but Brian Edelen was the best of a lackluster group of candidates for the third SP spot on the second team. He made 11 starts on the season. UK utility man Gunner Glad spent most of his time at first base, but his outfield time gives him the nod for the final second-team outfield position. Check back tomorrow for the player, pitcher and freshman of the year awards.
Stats are listed as batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage for batters.
C — Matt Rice — Western Kentucky University — .373/.446/.579, 10 HR, 63 RBI, 49 R
1B — Wes Cunningham — Murray State University — .415/.484/.835, 20 HR, 77 RBI, 69 R
2B — Ryan Wright — University of Louisville — .361/.412/.635, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 52 R