Marcus Nidiffer Named to Johnny Bench Award Watch List

WICHITA, Kan. -- Kentucky senior catcher Marcus Nidiffer has been named to the watch list for the 2010 Johnny Bench Award, presented to the top catcher in college baseball, it was announced Monday afternoon by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission.

A 6-foot-2, 200-pound fifth-year senior, Nidiffer, was among the listing of the 53 best catchers in college baseball for the 2010 Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award delivered by Papa John’s Pizza. Nidiffer, a native of Bristol, Tenn., is in his third year as UK’s primary backstop and has now played in 110 games with 83 starts over his career. In five games this season, Nidiffer has hit .308 (4-for-13) with two RBI and a team-high six walks.

The physical and vocal leader of the 23rd-ranked Wildcats, Nidiffer has hit .267 (78-for-292) over his four-year career, belting 15 homers and adding 51 RBI, including a .987 fielding percentage behind the dish.

Last season, Nidiffer totaled a .312 (49-for-157) average in 50 games, leading the team with 10 homers and charting 32 RBI. Halfway through the 2009 season, Nidiffer was leading the Southeastern Conference in hitting with a .444 average, before breaking the thumb on his catching hand. Without a experienced backup, Nidiffer elected to play through the pain with a young UK team making a late-season postseason push. After the injury, Nidiffer hit .242, committing seven of his eight errors while playing hampered. In games UK won last year, Nidiffer hit .395 and in games the Wildcats dropped, he batted .211. He regained his health towards the end of the season, ripping homers in four of the final five games of the season and in all three games of the season-finale weekend at Florida. Defensively in 2009, Nidiffer checked in second in the league in pickoffs by a backstop. During the summer, Nidiffer played for the Harwich Mariners in the prestigious Cape Cod League, throwing out 34-percent of would-be base stealers.

The Johnny Bench Award Watch List will be narrowed down to 10 semifinalists, to be announced May 19, 2010. The award winner will be announced on July 1, 2010, with all finalists invited to the 13th-annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet. The award is named in the honor of Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench, a 17-year veteran of the Cincinnati Reds.

Kentucky, ranked as high as No. 23 in the Baseball America poll released Monday, returns to action Tuesday, hosting Morehead State at Cliff Hagan Stadium for a 2 p.m. ET matchup. The game can be heard live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action.