In our Western Kentucky University post in the “offseason position battle” series we will look at the vacant weekend starting pitcher positions:
The departed — Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the year Matt Ridings left WKU with one of the most prestigious careers in school history. Ridings finished 2010 at 9-1 with a 3.01 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 92.2 innings pitched. The right-handed pitcher made 14 starts for WKU before suffering an injury in his final collegiate start that required Tommy John surgery. Despite the injury Ridings still was selected in the 41st round of the 2010 draft by the Kansas City Royals. WKU was 11-3 in games started by Ridings and just 24-20 in other games…Senior right-handed pitcher Shane Cameron also made 15 starts for WKU in 2010 and finished the season as the only Hilltopper pitcher other than Ridings to qualify for the ERA title.
Returning candidates — Sophomore left-handed pitcher Tanner Perkins spent most of 2010 in the WKU weekend rotation, finishing the season with 12 starts for the Hilltoppers. Perkins was 3-4 with a 5.27 ERA in 16 total appearances for WKU last season. The southpaw was 1-0 with a 4.97 ERA in six games, including four starts, for the Lexington Hustlers this summer…Redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Brian Edelen served as WKU’s midweek starter for most of 2010 but did start in three weekend series for the Hilltoppers last season. Edelen finished the year 4-2 with a 3.78 ERA and likely has an inside track at one of the weekend starting spots…Sophomore right-handed pitcher Taylor Haydel made four starts for WKU in 2010 and finished the year 3-4 with a 6.94 ERA in 21 games
Newcomers to watch — Hopkinsville native Justin Hageman comes to WKU as one of the top prep pitchers in Kentucky. Hageman, a right-handed pitcher, was the 32nd round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2010 out of Hopkinsville High School and was named first team all-state as a senior by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association…Freshman right-handed pitcher Brian Doering was also named to the all-state team by KHSBCA as a senior at Dupont Manual High School in Louisville. Doering finished his high school career with a 2.00 ERA.
Wildcard — Redshirt junior Rye Davis was almost unhittable as the WKU closer in 2010, going 3-4 with a 2.72 ERA and nine saves and was selected in the 36th round of the 2010 draft by the Cleveland Indians. Davis appeared in 33 games for WKU and struck out 63 batters in 49.2 innings. After losing Ridings to injury, WKU head coach Chris Finwood turned to Davis for the start in the first game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Davis took a no decision after surrendering five runs in four and one-third innings in WKU’s 9-8, 13 inning loss to Florida Atlantic. While Davis excelled as a closer, Finwood could opt to return the right-handed pitcher to his freshman role as a starting pitcher. Davis missed all of the 2009 season after being struck in the face by a line drive during fall practice.
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.
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.
Check out the video above of EKU interviews following the win over Murray St. and recaps and awards below from a busy day of conference tournament baseball, including what was likely WKU’s final game of the season:
In a Ohio Valley Conference tournament first-round game delayed to Thursday due to a power failure Wednesday night, Eastern Kentucky University scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning to defeat Murray State University 4-3. Freshman right-handed pitcher Anthony Bazzani earned the win after holding the Breds to three runs on six hits in eight innings. Bazzani struck out 10 and walked four. EKU Sophomore shortstop Richie Rodriguez was 4-5 with a run scored, and sophomore catcher A. J. Jamison drove home the winning run with a pinch-hit double in the ninth. Murray St. senior left fielder Bryan Propst was 2-3 with three RBI in the game, and senior right-handed pitcher Chris Craycraft held the Colonels to two runs in seven innings and struck out eight. (Box Score)
Western Kentucky University was eliminated from the Sun Belt Conference tournament with a 7-3 loss to Florida International Thursday. The loss likely ended the Hilltoppers’ season as WKU’s hopes for an at-large NCAA tournament bid were dashed. Sophomore outfielder Jared Andreoli and Kes Carter tallied two hits each in the game, and sophomore shortstop Logan Robbins drove in two runs. Senior right-handed pitcher Shane Cameron took a no decision after allowing three runs in six and one-third innings in his final start. WKU senior ace Matt Ridings did not pitch in the tournament after leaving his final regular season start with an apparent injury. (Box Score)
Following a short-turnaround from its game-one loss Murray St. scored six runs in the first inning and held off a late rally for a 13-9 win over Southeast Missouri in ten innings. Senior second baseman Kyle Tiernan put the Breds ahead with a solo home run in the tenth inning, and senior first baseman Wes Cunningham extended the lead with his own three-run shot, giving him the school career RBI record. Propsttallied four hits, three RBI and two runs scored, and senior right-handed pitcher Alex Love allowed one run over the final five innings for the win. (Box Score)
No. 9 University of Louisville lost its first game in the Big East Conference tournament with a 6-5 decision to St. Johns Thursday night. The loss could hurt UofL’s chances at one of the eight national NCAA tournament seeds, and the Cards could use a victory Friday to wrap up that honor. Freshman right-handed pitcher Matt Koch allowed just two earned runs in six and two-third innings, but the Cards bullpen behind senior left-handed pitcher Dean Kiekhefer blew the lead. Sophomore shortstop Ryan Wright was 4-4 with two RBI and one run scored in the game. (Box Score)
In its second game of the day, EKU couldn’t finish a late rally against OVC tournament one-seed Tennessee Tech and lost 7-4. Sophomore second baseman Dunstin Dunlop was 2-2 with two runs scored and two walks, but the Colonels couldn’t over come a poor pitching performance from junior left-handed pitcher Paul Duncan who surrendered seven runs in six and one-third innings. Murray St. and EKU will face off for the second time in the tournament with an elimination game at 11 a.m. (CT) Friday. (Box Score)
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
Postseason races were decided Friday across the Bluegrass and one team clinched a tournament berth. Check out recaps and awards from those games below:
No. 11 University of Louisville‘s game vs. Notre Dame was rained out and postponed as part of a double-header Saturday. UCONN has won the first two games of its weekend series, meaning a Huskies’ win or Cards’ loss Saturday will clinch the regular season Big East championship for UCONN.
The University of Kentucky was embarrassed in a 20-0 blowout loss to last-place Georgia Friday and was eliminated from Southeastern Conference tournament contention with a LSU victory. Georgia scored in each of the first five innings and removed any doubt from the outcome with a seven-run seventh inning. Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Joe Devine was the only UK pitcher to hold Georgia scoreless. Freshman left fielder Brian Adams and sophomore third baseman Andy Burns each tallied two hits in the game. (Box Score)
Western Kentucky University dropped game two of its three-game series to Middle Tennessee with a 7-2 loss Friday. Senior right-handed pitcher Shane Cameron took the loss despite only surrendering three runs in seven and one-third innings. No WKU batter recorded multiple hits in the game, and the Hilltopper bullpen surrendered four runs over the final one and two-third innings. Saturday’s rubber match between the two teams will be significant in determining Sun Belt Conference tournament seeding. (Box Score)
Murray State University was swept in its Friday double-header by Tennessee Tech, giving Tech the Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship. The Breds lost game one 15-8 and game two 8-3. Senior first baseman Wes Cunningham launched a home run in each game, and senior left fielder Bryan Propst finished the afternoon 4-7 with two home runs, three runs scored and three RBI. Senior right-handed pitcher Chris Craycraft took the loss in game one after allowing nine runs in three and one-third innings, and redshirt junior left-handed pitcher Jake Donze couldn’t record an out in the second inning in his game two loss. (Box Score GM 1) (Box Score GM 2)
Morehead State University was eliminated for OVC tournament contention with a double-header sweep by Jacksonville St with a 10-7 loss in game one and 17-0 blowout in game two. Senior pitcher/designated hitter Michael Bottoms was 4-5 in game one and allowed just three runs in seven innings on the mound. Senior shortstop Drew Lee homered in game one. Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Josh Schneider and sophomore right-handed pitcher Matthew Robertson took the two losses. (Box Score GM 1) (Box Score GM 2)
Eastern Kentucky University swept a double-header from SIU Edwardsville and clinched a spot in the OVC tournament with Morehead St.’s and UT Martin’s losses. EKU won both games by 4-1 scores. Junior left-handed pitcher Paul Duncan allowed one unearned run in six and two-third innings for the game-one win. Freshman right-handed pitcher Anthony Bazzani scored the game-two victory with one run in five innings. Junior left fielder Ryan Faidley tallied two hits in game one and junior third baseman Jayson Langfels recorded two hits in game two. (Box Score GM 1) (Box Score GM 2)
Hitter of the day: LF Bryan Popst (Murray St.)
Stats: 2 G, 4-7, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI
Honorable Mention: Wes Cunningham (Murray St.), Brian Adams (UK), Michael Bottoms (Morehead St.), Ryan Faidley (EKU)
Pitcher of the day: LHP Paul Duncan (EKU)
Stats: 1-0, 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO
Honorable Mention: Shane Cameron (WKU), Michael Bottoms (Morehead St.), Anthony Bazzani (EKU)