Baseball Notebook: Five Wildcats Sign Pro Contracts

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Former Kentucky baseball stars Sawyer Carroll, Collin Cowgill and James Paxton have been named MiLB All-Stars and Paxton was named to the 2011 Futures Game World team roster.

The trio each earned midseason all-star accolades in their respective minor league organization and level. Cowgill earned the highest all-star honor as he was the highest vote getter in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and will start in the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 13 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Carroll was named an all-star in the Double-A Texas League and Paxton earned all-star accolades in the Single-A Midwest League. Paxton was recently promoted to the Double-A Southern League and will participate as a member of the World Team roster in the prestigious Futures Game on July 10 in Phoenix as part of MLB All-Star Week at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Paxton is the first former UK player to play in the Futures Game.

A first-team All-America outfielder, Cowgill has been on a blistering pace at the highest level of the minor leagues. The former Kentucky High School Mr. Baseball selection out of Lexington’s Henry Clay High School, Cowgill is the PCL leader in runs scored (80) and hits (119). He ranks among the PCL leaders in nearly every offensive category, including ranking third in average (.366), 11th in slugging (.578), fourth in on-base percentage (.439), ninth in OPS (1.017), second in stolen bases (25) and fourth in triples (seven). Cowgill has run up hitting streaks of 17 games and his current stretch of 14 games during his 81-game season. Overall, Cowgill has totaled 19 doubles, seven triples and 12 homers, driving in 56 RBI and posting a 42-48 walk-strikeout ratio.

Carroll has been suiting up with San Antonio Missions in the Texas League and has batted .289 (71-for-246) with 15 doubles, four triples, 10 homers and 38 RBI through 71 games, stealing 8-of-9 bases. During his senior season at UK, Carroll was a consensus first-team All-America outfielder in 2008 after batting .419 with 19 homers and 83 RBI. Carroll came off the bench in the Texas League All-Star Game to get an at bat and play centerfield.

A native of Ladner, British Columbia, Paxton has had a dynamic start to his affiliated professional baseball career, making 10 starts in the high class A before earning a promotion to Double-A. In his 10 class A starts, Paxton tossed 56 innings with a 2.73 ERA, striking out 80 in 56 innings.

Wildcats Make Professional Debuts
Four 2011 Kentucky baseball standouts have opened their professional careers after signing professional contracts, including Taylor Black, Neiko Johnson, Braden Kapteyn and Chad Wright. In addition, Jordan Cooper signed a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a 23rd round selection in the 2010 MLB Draft.

A native of Easley, S.C., Black was a 16th round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. Black signed and reported to the Williamsport Crosscutters in the New York Penn-League. Through his first 15 games, Black owns five doubles and five RBI.

Johnson signed with the Houston Astros as a free agent following his five-year career at UK. Johnson reported to the Tri-City ValleyCats in the New York Penn-League and made his professional debut on June 20. Through his first 10 games, Johnson owns three doubles, three RBI and a stolen base.

Kapteyn, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, was drafted as a first baseman in the 15th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox but signed as a starting pitcher and was sent to the Lowell Spinners in the New York Penn-League. He made his debut on July 2.

Wright, a native of Paducah, Ky., signed with the Detroit Tigers as the ninth round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. He opened his career on June 21 with the class A short-season New York-Penn League Connecticut Tigers. Through his first 14 professional games, Wright has hit .294 (15-for-51) with a double and an RBI, stealing three bases.

Summer League Update
Several Kentucky Wildcats are honing their skills during the summer in collegiate baseball leagues.

Three UK players are currently in the prestigious Cape Cod League, including catcher Luke Maile, left-hander Taylor Rogers and right-hander Trevor Gott. Gott headlines the trio, owning five saves and a 0.98 ERA through eight relief outings, striking out 12 in 9.1 innings with only three walks. Rogers has made three starts in the Cape and owns a 1-2 record and a 3.21 ERA, striking out 13 in 14 innings. His best start of the summer came in six shutout innings on June 24, striking out nine. Maile has appeared in 10 games during the summer, totaling a double and two walks in 18 at bats.

UK two-way star J.T. Riddle has been playing on the Lexington Hustlers in the Great Lakes Collegiate Summer League. A native of Frankfort, Ky., Riddle has appeared in three games with two starts on the mound this summer, totaling a 1-1 record and a 3.11 ERA, striking out nine in nine innings. At the plate, Riddle – a middle infielder and standout defensive outfielder – has posted a .245 average through 16 games, totaling five doubles and five RBI.

Speedy outfielder Lucas Witt has been a fixture in the Asheboro lineup in the Coastal Plains League, making 23 starts. A native of Lexington, Ky., Witt has a .320 average with four doubles, two triples, two homers and 10 RBI, stealing three bases.

Infielder and catcher Thomas Bernal has been playing summer baseball in California, owning three doubles, one homer and 15 RBI through 17 games.

In the Northwoods League, UK infielders Matt Reida and Thomas McCarthy, along with outfielder Cameron Flynn have excelled. Reida owns five doubles, two triples and 15 RBI through 29 games, while McCarthy – a first-team All-Southeastern Conference third baseman – has launched two homers and totaled 18 RBI in 24 games. Flynn, a graduate of Henry Clay in Lexington, has belted three homers and added 15 RBI, posting a .261 batting average through 22 games.

In the New England Collegiate Baseball League, infielder Paul McConkey has played in 14 games, charting six RBI and six walks. The pitching star of the summer has been southpaw Alex Phillips, who owns a 5-1 record and a 1.80 ERA in seven games and six starts in the West Coast League. Phillips has tossed 40 innings and struck out 46, with only five walks and 24 hits allowed. His best start of the summer came in a 13-strikeout game on June 28, allowing no runs and only four hits in seven frames.