Logan Darnell Inks Pro Contract with Minnesota Twins

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. -- Kentucky junior southpaw Logan Darnell has signed a professional contract with the Minnesota Twins as a sixth-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, it was announced.

A native of Joelton, Tenn., Darnell was selected in the sixth round of the MLB Draft in June, recently inking a professional contract with the Twins. A 6-foot-2, 210-pound lefty, Darnell will be assigned to the Elizabethton Twins, joining former UK slugger Gunner Glad, a free-agent signing of the Twins. Former UK outfielder Lance Ray was also on the Elizabethton Twins as an eight-round pick but was recently promoted to low-class A Beloit.

“I am really excited to start my professional career,” Darnell said. “It is every kid’s dream to go play baseball at an SEC school and then get drafted. Just the fact that I get to come down here and play with Gunner (Glad) and get my career started is just a blessing. It is great to have Gunner down here, we played summer ball last year together in Alaska and we were always good friends at UK so it is good because you know you have him here to lean on if you need it. It makes things a lot easier.

“(Kentucky) Coach (Gary) Henderson has had a lot of influence on my baseball career. I almost have to give him all of the credit because I came in out of high school, not really knowing which way to go and he has pointed me in a good direction and he has helped me during the last three years at UK, just to be a better pitcher then I ever thought I could be. So I owe him most of the credit, he is a great coach.”
 
A Louisville Slugger High School All-American out of Goodpasture High School in the Nashville area, Darnell was utilized effectively as a late-inning reliever during his first two seasons, seeing time in several save situations during the 2009 season. In his career, Darnell appeared in 57 games and made 11 starts, totaling four saves in 137.1 innings pitched, walking 62 and striking out 114. Darnell posted a 10-9 career record and a 5.05 career ERA. UK moved Darnell to the starting rotation entering the 2010 season and he flourished early in the season, winning starts at top-15 foes Coastal Carolina and San Diego in his first three career starring assignments.

“Playing in the SEC means you are playing in the best conference in the country and playing against the best players,” Darnell said. “It has really prepared me to come down here and face this competition. All of the background and all the work that we have done over the last three years have really prepared me for this step. I am ready for this level and I feel like if you play in the SEC, you are a step ahead of everyone else down here.”

During the 2010 season, Darnell functioned as a lead weekend arm, starting 11 weekend games and appearing in 14 total outings. Darnell posted a 5-3 record and a 5.62 ERA in 73.2 innings, allowing only 28 walks and striking out 55, recording one save. Darnell opened up the season off to a great start, posting a 3-1 record and a 3.09 ERA in his first five career starts. His best outing of the season came in a non-conference tilt at San Diego, a team that finished the season ranked in the top 15. Darnell tossed a complete-game shutout against the Toreros, needing just 90 pitches and 70 strikes to blank the hot-hitting West Coast power. After suffering a minor injury and missing two week late in the season, Darnell returned to the UK pitching staff as a power-pitching reliever. He pitched the final 1.2 innings Sunday against eventual Southeastern Conference Tournament champion and defending NCAA champion, No. 20 LSU. Darnell allowed only one hit and one walk in the relief outing, picking up the win in relief, helping UK sweep the Tigers for the first time in 19 years.

“The organization said there is a chance that I was going to start but the will keep me in the pen right now to start out,” Darnell said. “They think I can be best out of the pen. So in the next couple of days I am going to come out of the pen and start throwing and get my career started. I am real excited to get it going.”

Darnell was one of eight 2010 Kentucky players or former UK players to be drafted or sign a professional contract in the 2010 MLB Draft. Former UK junior second baseman Chris Bisson was the highest UK player selected, going in the fourth-round to the San Diego Padres, inking a professional contract and beginning his professional career with the Eugene Emeralds, in Eugene, Ore.

STREAKING Marcus Nidiffer

Former Kentucky catcher Marcus Nidiffer is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak and has charted multiple-hit games in four straight contests for the rookie-level Greeneville Astros in the Houston Astros minor league system.

Nidiffer, a native of Bristol, Tenn., has swung an exceptionally hot bat in the first 20 games of his professional career, batting .351 (26-for-74) with eight doubles, five homers and 11 RBI. Over his last seven games, Nidiffer has belted three homers and totaled five RBI, batting .444 (12-for-27).

During his five-year Kentucky career, Nidiffer – a free agent signing of the Astros following the draft – totaled a .284 average (121-for-426) in 153 games, charting 18 doubles, two triples, 25 homers and 84 RBI, stealing 7-of-8 bases. In 2010, Nidiffer hit .320 (47-for-147) with seven doubles, 10 homers and a career-best 35 RBI.

Michael Williams NAMED NECBL ALL-STAR

Kentucky junior catcher Michael Williams has been selected to the New England Collegiate Baseball League All-Star team, it was announced.

Williams, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., has batted .256 (22-for-86) with four doubles, three homers and 11 RBI in the first 26 games of the summer for the Danbury Westerners in the NECBL.

In his first two years, Williams – a Louisville Slugger High School All-American selection in 2008 – has hit .208 (11-for-53) with five doubles, one homer and 10 RBI in 31 games and 16 starts. Williams has functioned as a backup catcher to veteran Marcus Nidiffer in his first two seasons. In 2010, Williams hit .241 (7-for-29) with four doubles, six RBI and three runs scored.