Wildcats Excel on Fenway Stage
By Brent Ingram, UK Media Relations
BOSTON -- Ted Williams. Carl Yastrzemski. Johnny Pesky. David Ortiz.
Some of the most recognizable players in the history of the game have suited up and stepped on the storied dirt and grass at Fenway Park, home of the tradition-laced Boston Red Sox.
Now, Kentucky baseball star pitchers Taylor Rogers and Trevor Gott can add their names to that list, after pitching in the 2011 Cape Cod League All-Star Game, held Friday night at Fenway Park.
Every summer, the top college baseball players venture to the prestigious Cape for the most challenging competition they will face until graduating into the higher levels of professional baseball. The CCL is routinely packed with the best amateur talent in the game and attracts a bevy of radar-toting MLB scouts, creating a pressure-laden situation to impress and move up draft boards and prospect rankings.
Not only did the two hurlers get to pitch in the prestigious game, Rogers picked up the win and Gott the save in his inning of work, with the Wildcat pitchers sweeping the decisions. Gott was voted as the top pitcher in the CCL All-Star Game after his outing.
"First of all it was just a great honor to be the starting pitcher here at Fenway," Rogers said at the packed postgame press conference at Absolute Lounge in Fenway Park. "Everyone on the staff came in and shut the door. It was just a great accomplishment and opportunity for everyone."
The UK duo are continuing a tradition dating back to 2007 that has seen a Wildcat earn Cape All-Star accolades, including Braden Kapteyn (2010), Chad Wright (2010), Chris Bisson (2009), Keenan Wiley (2008), Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Collin Cowgill (2007) and Antone DeJesus (2007).
A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers entered the game owning a 2-3 record and a 1.76 ERA through six starts in the CCL, earning the Eastern Division starting pitcher honor, believed to be the first UK pitcher in program history to start the CCL All-Star Game. Rogers had allowed only 25 hits and four walks in his 30.2 innings, striking out 25 in the CCL regular-season.
In his inning of work in the all-star game, Rogers allowed an unearned run, as a botched throw to third base by Jacksonville State first baseman Ben Waldrip sailed into the stands, allowing a run to score. He was named the winning pitcher as the East Division took the lead for good in the second inning.
"It was a cool environment," Rogers said. "I mean we have all known these guys for two maybe three hours and we are all out there cheering each other on and high fiving. It was so much fun to play at Fenway with all these guys."
Gott, a Lexington, Ky., native and a product of Tates Creek High School, has emerged as the top late-inning reliever in the CCL, ranking as the league leader with 11 saves in 16 relief outings, with a sparkling 0.95 ERA in 19 innings, walking only four and fanning 23 in the regular season.
"It has been going great," Gott said about his summer. "I don't know if I expected to do this well, facing the best players in college. It has been going really good. I have learned to pitch with the curveball a lot up here. That is something I didn't have as a freshman."
The 2010 Gatorade Kentucky High School Player of the Year, Gott entered in the bottom of the ninth inning with a three-run lead, locking up his 12th save of the summer with a perfect frame that saw two strikeouts.
"It was awesome (to pitch at Fenway Park)," Gott said. (To be on the same field that) all of the big leaguers have been on it exciting. To be in the all-star game with Taylor and for him to get the win and for me to get the save, it was a great moment for our program and for us."
Gott and Rogers are not the only currently Wildcats standouts to earn all-star accolades in their respective summer leagues. Senior southpaw Alex Phillips was named the winning pitcher in the West Coast League All-Star Game, sophomore infielder Paul McConkey ripped an RBI double in the New England Collegiate Baseball All-Star Game and sophomore two-way star J.T. Riddle started at shortstop in the Great Lakes Collegiate League All-Star Game, held at the Cincinnati Reds Great American Ballpark.
"The summer leagues present such a great opportunity for our student-athletes to experience baseball with wooden bats, a minor league setting and get away from their comfort zone for a couple of months," UK head coach Gary Henderson said after watching the duo excel at Fenway. "To have so many of our kids perform so well during the summer is extremely encouraging. It was a lot of fun to watch Taylor and Trevor perform tonight on the Fenway Park stage. We are very proud of them and their continued progress throughout the summer."