In the third Western Kentucky University post in the “offseason position battle” series we will look at the Hilltoppers’ vacant first-base position:
The departed — Infielder Jake Wells, a 2010 senior, started all but the first six WKU games of 2010 at first base. Wells was one of just four Hilltoppers to start all 58 games in 2010. He batted .312 with two home runs and 41 RBI on the season. Wells scored 42 runs and boasted an .802 OPS. The first baseman committed six errors on the season and finished 2010 with a .988 fielding percentage.
The returning candidates — Junior infielder Casey Dykes was the only other Hilltopper to record a start at first base in 2010, earning the nod in the first six games of the season. Dykes is listed as a “C/UTL” on the WKU roster and made 45 starts at third base in 2010, so head coach Chris Finwood may look elsewhere for his infield cornerstone. Sophomore Blake Crabtree made the final seven games of the 2010 season at third so Dykes could make a position change…Sophomore catcher/infielder Ryan Huck didn’t appear at first base in 2010, but Finwood suggested during the fall world series most of his playing time would come there this season. Huck batted .287 with seven home runs, 30 RBI and 24 runs scored in 2010 as a freshman, so WKU needs to get his bat in the lineup if at all possible. He is blocked behind the plate by All-Sun Belt Conference catcher Matt Rice.
Newcomers to watch — Incoming freshman infielder Jordan Cessna excelled during WKU’s fall practice according to the school’s media relations department. At 6-1 he could conceivably fill in when Huck catches or serves as the designate hitter…In a news release recapping the fall World Series WKU also highlighted Canadian freshman infielder Scott Wilcox as a standout in fall practice. At 6-0 Wilcox could also fill in at first base…Freshman right-handed pitcher and infielder Brian Doering was listed as a corner infielder when he signed with WKU in 2009. Doering was named first-team all-state by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association after his senior season at Dupont Manual High School.
Wildcard — WKU boasts a plethora of outfielders with 11 players listed on the roster who can play the position. If Huck gets most of the playing time at first base, head coach Chris Finwood could try one of his surplus outfielders at first base when Huck catches. Junior college transfer Ryan Hutchison is 6-4 and could fit at first base. Sophomore outfielders Matt Borgschulte and Monte Ketchum each appeared in at least 41 games for WKU in 2010, so Finwood could be looking for a way to get them into the Hilltoppers’ lineup. If Finwood wanted to give Rice some time off from catching at 6-3 he might profile well as a first baseman as well.
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:
- 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.
After Saturday’s rain-shortened schedule the Sunday slate of Kentucky baseball was jam packed with five of six teams playing in doubleheaders. Check out recaps and awards from those games below:
- No. 13 University of Louisville dropped its series finale 8-6 to Seton Hall. Senior shortstop Adam Duvall, redshirt sophomore right fielder Stewart Ijames and freshmen third basemen Kyle Grieshaber and Cade Stallings each homered in the game for the Cards. Duvall led UofL with three hits. Junior right-handed pitcher Gabriel Shaw suffered his first loss of the season after allowing four runs in four innings. (Box Score)
- Western Kentucky University swept a doubleheader from Florida International with a walk-off 8-4 win in game one and an 8-4 win in game two. Sophomore center fielder Kes Carter was 6-9 with three runs scored and one RBI. Junior outfielder Monte Ketchum gave WKU the win in game one with a pinch-hit, walkoff grand slam. Relievers Rye Davis and Bart Carter were credit with the two wins. (Box Score GM 1) (Box Score GM 2)
- The University of Kentucky rallied for an 8-7 win in game one of a double-header with Auburn, but dropped game two 6-5 to lose a pivotal conference series. Senior first baseman Gunner Glad was 4-7 with a home run, three runs scored and two RBI. Junior right fielder Lance Ray homered in game two. Junior right-handed reliever Matt Little picked up the win in game one after allowing two unearned runs in four innings. (Box Score GM 1) (Box Score GM 2)
- Morehead State University‘s recent offensive outburst was slowed Sunday as the Eagles were swept in a doubleheader by Tennessee Tech with a 5-3 loss in game one and a 12-4 defeat in game two. Sophomore outfielder Cameron Flynn homered and drove in three runs in game one. Senior right-handed pitcher Michael Bottoms and junior right-handed pitcher Matthew Robertson were handed the two losses. (Box Score GM 1) (Box Score GM 2)
- Eastern Kentucky University swept its Sunday doubleheader against UT Martin with a 7-3 win in game one and a 7-4 victory in game two. Senior first baseman Anthony Ottrando drove in four in the doubleheader, and freshman designated hitter Austin Grisham tallied three hits in game one. Junior left-handed pitcher Paul Duncan allowed three runs in six innings for the game one win, and sophomore left-handed pitcher Greg Terry was credited with the game two win. (Box Score GM 1) (Box Score GM 2)
- Murray State University was swept in its Sunday doubleheader by Eastern Illinois after a 8-6 loss in game one and a 7-4 defeat in game two. Senior first baseman Wes Cunningham and freshman shortstop Brandon Elliott each tallied four hits on the afternoon. Senior right-handed pitcher Chris Craycraft and redshirt junior left-handed pitcher Jake Donze were credited with the two losses. (Box Score GM 1) (Box Score GM 2)
Hitter of the Day: OF Jared Andreoli (WKU)
- Stats: 5-10, 1 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI
- Honorable Mention: Kes Carter (WKU), Kyle Grieshaber (UofL), Adam Duvall (UofL), Keenan Wiley (UK), Gunner Glad (UK), Taylor Davis (Morehead), Anthony Ottrando (EKU), Wes Cunningham (Murray St.)
Pitcher of the Day: LHP Paul Duncan (EKU)
- Stats: 1-0, 7 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO
- Matt Little (UK), Brian Edelen (WKU), Shane Cameron (WKU), Tony Zych (UofL), Anthony Bazzani (EKU)
Senior right-handed pitcher Matt Ridings allowed just one run on eight hits in eight innings to lead No. 22 Western Kentucky University to a 6-1 blowout of Louisiana Monroe. Ridings struck out four and walked just one. Sophomore outfielder Jared Andreoli was 1-3 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored.
Senior second baseman Matt Payton, junior designated hitter Monte Ketchum and sophomore third baseman Casey Dykes each tallied two hits in the game. Payton also scored twice. Redshirt sophomore reliever Rye Davis closed the game with a scoreless ninth inning. WKU improved to 18-5 on the season. (Box Score)
BluGrass Baseball POG: Matt Ridings — One came after setting the new WKU career wins record, Ridings was back to his old tricks with eight innings of one-run ball. Ridings is now 5-0 on the season in six starts.
Sophomore center fielder Kes Carter and junior catcher Matt Rice each launched a home run and drove in five runs to lead Western Kentucky University to a 17-2 blowout of Vanderbilt. Junior right-handed pitcher Brian Edelen earned the victory after shutting out the Commodores on three hits in six innings.
Edelen struck out three and walked three batters. Senior second baseman Matt Payton, sophomore outfielder Jared Andreoli and junior designated hitter Monte Ketchum each had two hits in the game for the Hilltoppers. WKU improved to 13-4 on the season. (Box Score)
BluGrass Baseball POG: Matt Rice — The junior catcher was 4-6 with a home run, five RBI and one run scored in the game. On the season Rice is now batting .386 with five home runs, 25 RBI and 15 runs scored.
Western Kentucky University rode three home runs to a 14-4 blowout of Illinois-Chicago in game one of a three-game series. The Hilltoppers received long balls from senior second baseman Matt Payton, junior left fielder Monte Ketchum and sophomore shortstop Logan Robbins. Ketchum, Robbins, senior first baseman Jake Wells, freshman designated hitter Ryan Huck, junior center fielder Kes Carter and sophomore left fielder Jared Andreoli each drove in multiple runs in the game.
Senior right-handed ace Matt Ridings earned his second win of the season after allowing four runs in six innings. Ridings surrendered six hits, struck out three and walked two. Junior right-handed reliever Scott Pedersen and freshman right-handed reliever Caleb Hanes held Illinois-Chicago scoreless over the last three innings. WKU improved to 7-2 on the season. (Box Score)
BluGrass Baseball POG: Monte Ketchum — In a game of standout offensive performances Ketchum’s was the best. The left fielder was 3-4 with a home run, three RBI and three runs scored in the game. Ketchum had no hits in four at-bats on the season entering the game.