Baseball Notebook: All-Star Season


SALT LAKE CITY -- Former Kentucky first-team All-America outfielder Collin Cowgill earned a starting assignment as the leading vote-getter in the Triple-A All-Star Game, played on Wednesday night at Spring Mobile Ballpark.

Cowgill, who led all Pacific Coast League All-Stars in votes, started in centerfield and hit leadoff for the PCL in the contest vs. the International League. The Lexington, Ky., native and Henry Clay High School product has hit .355 (123-for-346) through 86 games for the Reno Aces, with 20 doubles, seven triples, 12 homers and 59 RBI, stealing 26-of-29 bases and posting a 46-54 walk-strikeout ratio.

A fifth-round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2008 MLB Draft after an All-America campaign at UK, Cowgill has twice earned PCL Player of the Week accolades and has run up hitting streaks of 17 games and 15 games this season.

During his storied four-year career at Kentucky, Cowgill helped the Wildcats win their first ever Southeastern Conference Championship as a sophomore in 2006, batting .298 (67-for-225) with 16 homers and 61 RBI. After missing 2007 due to a hand injury, Cowgill returned for an All-America campaign in 2008, joining fellow All-America selection Sawyer Carroll in the outfield. The first-team Academic All-American batted .361 in 2008 with 15 doubles, two triples and 19 home runs, adding 60 RBI and stealing 23-of-27 bases in 2008. Following the 2008 season, Cowgill earned first-team All-America honors from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and second-team honors from Rivals.com and Baseball America. In his UK career, Cowgill batted .306 (171-for-558) in 165 games, totaling 166 runs, 35 doubles, 37 homers, 140 RBI and 32 stolen bags.

RIDDLE STARTS GLCSL ALL-STAR GAME

Kentucky standout two-way player J.T. Riddle was selected to the 2011 Great Lakes Collegiate Summer League All-Star team and played in the contest at Great American Ballpark on Wednesday night, home of the Cincinnati Reds.

Riddle, a native of Frankfort, Ky., and the 2010 Kentucky High School Mr. Baseball selection, has hit .260 (19-for-73) as the shortstop for the Lexington Hustlers in 22 games this summer, totaling five doubles, one triple and five RBI, including a 13-10 walk-strikeout ratio. A talented right-hander on the bump, Riddle has appeared in four games with two starts, posting a 2-1 record and a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings, striking out 10 and allowing five walks and nine hits. Riddle's best outing on the mound came on June 16, going four innings and allowing just one base runner with five strikeouts.

In the all-star game, Riddle registered three at bats as the starting shortstop, drawing a walk and scoring a run. It is not the first time Riddle has played in a MLB ballpark in the last few months, also making three starts at the 2011 Houston College Classic, hosted by the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Riddle - who made a name for himself as an eye-popping defender in rightfield as a freshman - made several staggering grabs during the HCC in the spacious Minute Maid Park outfield.

As a freshman in 2011, Riddle immediately stepped into the UK lineup and excelled offensively and defensively. A 6-foot-3, 180-pound left-handed hitter, Riddle hit .288 (47-for-163) as a freshman with UK, charting nine doubles, three homers and 25 RBI, also stealing seven bases. Riddle got off to a great start, owning a .355 average entering SEC play and earning SEC Freshman of the Week accolades after powering UK to a series win over Tennessee. A shortstop in high school at Western Hills, Riddle transitioned to rightfield and second base during his freshman season, making 15 starts at second and 28 in rightfield, hitting primarily No. 4 (five times), No. 5 (14 times) and No. 6 (eight times) in the batting order. A 35th round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft out of high school, Riddle finished the year with 10 multi-hit games and seven multi-RBI outings.

MAILE NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Kentucky catcher Luke Maile has been selected Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Player of the Week after hitting .522 with nine RBI over a seven-game span, it was announced.

Maile, a native of Crestview Hills, Ky., and the 2009 Kentucky High School Mr. Baseball has split his time between the Cape Cod League and the PGCBL and has played 11 games since joining the PGCBL. In those 11 games, Maile has hit .486 with five doubles, four homers and 11 RBI, drawing eight walks and striking out eight times, with a 1.550 OPS (on-base + slugging percentage). In 10 games in the Cape, Maile collected three hits and a double, adding two walks.

During his blistering week, Maile hit .522 (12-for-23) with two homers and nine RBI, scoring seven runs, drawing seven walks with eight doubles. On July 4th, Maile went 4-for-5 with three RBI, two doubles and a homer, including the game-winning hit in the 10th inning. Defensively, Maile picked off two runners on second base during a game with Watertown.

As a two-year catcher/first baseman for the Wildcats, Maile has hit .269 (57-for-212) in 62 starts, launching 12 homers with 42 RBI, Maile has added 10 doubles, three triples and eight stolen bases. As a sophomore in 2011, Maile hit .269 in 50 starts, clubbing 10 doubles, three triples, nine homers and 36 RBI.

GOTT/WIJAS SHOWING LATE-INNING PROWRESS

Kentucky right-handers Trevor Gott and Walter Wijas have been excelling in late-inning relief situations during the summer, with Gott leading the Cape Cod League in saves and Wijas ranking third in the New England Collegiate Baseball League in saves.

A native of Lexington, Ky., Gott has dominated in the Cape through 11 relief outings, posting a 0.69 ERA and a league-leading seven saves. In 13 innings, Gott has fanned 17 and allowed only three walks and seven hits, with opponents batting .159.

As a freshman reliever for UK in 2011, Gott made 23 appearances and totaled two saves, coming against Utah in the 2011 Houston College Classic and against Arkansas in Lexington. Overall, Gott totaled a 2-4 record and a 3.62 ERA, striking out 34 in 27.1 innings. Without two bad outings late in the season, Gott was dominating, posting a 2-3 record and a 1.38 ERA.

Wijas, a right-hander out of Elk Grove, Ill., has totaled five saves through 10 relief outings in the NECBL, striking out 11 in nine innings, with only two walks allowed. With his five saves, Wijas ranks third in the league. In his two-year career at UK, Wijas has totaled 34 outings and one start, posting a 3-0 record and a 4.18 ERA in 60.1 innings, with 49 strikeouts. As a sophomore, Wijas appeared in a career-high 20 games in relief, striking out 30 in 35.1 frames.

ALBERS PROMOTED TO DOUBLE-A

Former Kentucky standout southpaw Andrew Albers has been promoted to the Double-A Eastern League New Britain Rock Cats by the Minnesota Twins, it was announced.

Albers, a native of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, has posted dominating numbers in high class A through 22 games and two starts. A 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, Albers has saved four games in 52.1 innings, allowing only 48 hits and seven walks, striking out 46. In his 20 relief outings alone - without the two starts - Albers has a 4-0 record and a 0.83 ERA, striking out 41 in 43.1 frames.

Drafted after a storied career at Kentucky in 2008, Albers suffered an injury that ended his initial stay in affiliated baseball. After dominating in the independent baseball leagues last year, the Twins signed Albers to a minor league contract and started him in high class A.

As one of the top pitchers in program history, Albers helped transform the UK pitching staff into a championship caliber unit as a tremendous leader. Albers totaled 20 career wins at UK as a reliever and closer, making 81 appearances with 31 starts. He recorded 12 saves in his career, ranking third-best in UK baseball history. The lefty tossed 239.1 career innings with 185 strikeouts. As a senior in 2008, Albers was a workhorse out of the bullpen for a team that set the school-record with 44 wins, making 31 appearances and one start, saving five games and fanning 64 in 56.1 innings.

UK BASEBALL MLB ALL-STAR CONNECTIONS

As usual the SEC helped fill out the rosters for the 2011 MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on Tuesday night, as former Vanderbilt lefty David Price, Arkansas southpaw Cliff Lee, Alabama catcher Alex Avila and Alabama righty David Robertson represented the conference on the all-star roster.

Three of those former SEC standouts recently faced off with Kentucky during their career, with UK having the most success against Price. In three starts vs. UK from 2005-07, Price allowed 16 runs in 14.1 innings, allowing 15 hits and seven walks with 19 strikeouts. Robertson made one appearance vs. the Wildcats in 2005, tossing 2.2 innings and allowing only one run and one hit, fanning seven of the 11 outs he recorded. While playing shortstop in 2005, former UK star John Shelby recorded the only hit Robertson allowed vs. the Wildcats, a solo homer.

Avila served as the backstop for the Crimson Tide in 2008, when UK was racking up 44 wins. The Wildcats swept Avila's Tide in 2008 in Lexington, before facing Alabama twice in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. UK posted four wins in the five meetings, with Avila batting .318 (7-for-22) in the five games with two doubles, one homer and five RBI, striking out eight times without a walk.

GREEN BACK ON REHAB TRAIL

Former Kentucky standout righty Scott Green has battled through injury to return to the Detroit Tigers minor league system.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Green has made his first seven appearances of 2011 in MiLB since tossing only four innings during the 2010 season. Green has appeared in seven games in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, totaling one save in 5.1 innings. Before suffering the injury, Green excelled in class A in the Florida State League, posting a 3-4 record and a 3.25 ERA in 32 relief outings, totaling 11 saves and striking out 35 in 36 innings.

During his three-year career at Kentucky, Green functioned as a starter and a reliever for the Wildcats, making 47 appearances and 15 starts. He totaled a 10-8 record and a 4.54 ERA, with six saves and 114 strikeouts in 117 innings. As a junior in 2008, Green posted a 6-4 record and a 4.76 ERA with two saves, striking out 64 in 56.2 innings.

NIDIFFER HITS WALKS OFFS

Throughout his college and professional baseball career, Marcus Nidiffer has had a flair for delivering clutch hits and walk-off moments. On July 11, Nidiffer connected on a walk-off single to lift his class A Cedar Rapids Kernels to a win.

In 2011, Nidiffer has hit .246 (28-for-114) with seven doubles, one triple, six homers and 18 RBI through 41 games, stealing two bases. In 2010, while playing for the rookie-level affiliates of the Houston Astros, Nidiffer batted .286 (70-for-245) with 13 doubles, three triples, 14 homers and 36 RBI.

In his five-year UK career, Nidiffer made 121 starts and played in 153 games, batting .284 with 18 doubles, two triples and 25 homers, driving in 84 RBI. As a senior, Nidiffer launched 10 homers for the second consecutive year, batting .320 with 35 RBI in 43 starts.

During his career at Kentucky, Nidiffer had a penchant for delivering clutch hits and walk-off homers. As a senior, during UK's back-against-the-wall series against defending NCAA Champion LSU, Nidiffer launched a go-ahead grand slam to erase a three-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth inning off LSU All-America closer Matty Ott, lifting UK to a sweep. In 2008, Nidiffer launched a walk-off home run during UK's series sweep over Purdue, connecting on a pitch from flame-throwing Boilermaker closer Josh Lindblom, currently a reliever with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

WILDCATS TAKE OVER NY-PENN LEAGUE

Just two months after finishing their collegiate seasons in a series at SEC Champion Florida on May 21, five Kentucky baseball stars have begun their professional careers and all five are playing in the same rookie-level New York-Penn League.

Kentucky's 2011 roster has since graduated five players into the New York-Penn League, including Taylor Black (Williamsport Crosscutters), Jordan Cooper (State College Spikes), Braden Kapteyn (Lowell Spinners), Neiko Johnson (Tri-City ValleyCats) and Chad Wright (Connecticut Tigers).

Black recently launched his first professional homer on Monday as part of a three-hit game. He is batting .239 (17-for-71) with five doubles, one homer and seven RBI through his first 22 professional games.

Cooper has made two starts in his professional debut and is coming off a three-inning start that saw him allow only one earned run with three punchouts. Johnson has appeared in 17 games as a second baseman and shortstop, batting .220 (11-for-50) with three doubles and five RBI. Known for his disciplined approach at the plate and as one of the top base thieves in the SEC, Johnson has drawn 13 walks to just nine strikeouts, stealing 4-of-5 bases.

A 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, Kapteyn was drafted as a first baseman but has since transitioned back to the mound, In three relief outings, Kapteyn has tossed two shutout appearances, fanning four in his last two hitless innings of work. Wright has continued his hot hitting from his three-year career in Lexington, batting .286 (22-for-77) through his first 21 professional games, totaling two doubles and three RBI. Wright owns a 10-7 walk-strikeout ratio, stealing 4-of-6 bases.