Baseball Lands NCAA's 16th-best Recruiting Class
TUCSON, Ariz. -- After landing the fourth-best and sixth-best classes in college baseball in his first two seasons as head coach, Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson's 2011 class of newcomers has been ranked No. 16 in the NCAA, in an annual listing released by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
In the preseason ranking of the top 40 newcomer classes in college baseball, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper listed Kentucky at No. 16 in the NCAA and as the sixth-best class in the talent-rich Southeastern Conference. The honor is the third consecutive highly ranked class for Henderson and his coaching staff, with UK's 2009 class ranking a school-record No. 4 by Baseball America and the 2010 class ranking No. 6 by Collegiate Baseball.
LSU, the 2009 NCAA Champions, headlined the listing as the top-ranked recruiting class in college baseball. Eleven teams in the SEC were mentioned, with Tennessee not ranking in the top 40, checking in among the other top recruiting classes. Florida (No. 5), 2010 NCAA Champion South Carolina (No. 7), Vanderbilt (No. 10) and Arkansas (No. 14) all checked in ahead of UK, with Mississippi State ranking No. 18, and Ole Miss (No. 21), Auburn (No. 26) and Alabama (No. 37) rounding out SEC teams in the top 40. Big East power Louisville ranked No. 29, one of three of UK's 2010 non-conference opponents ranked in the top 40.
"We are extremely excited about this group of newcomers," Henderson said. "Over the last few years, Kentucky baseball has become a fixture on the national recruiting scene and we continue to bring in some of the top talents in amateur baseball. Brad (Bohannon) and Brian (Green) have done an amazing job in finding the type of well-rounded student-athletes we want to represent UK. We can't wait to get these guys on the field and start getting ready for the 2011 season."
Henderson, along with assistant coaches Brad Bohannon and Brian Green, brought in another talent-laden class, including the top prospects in the state of Kentucky and five drafted newcomers. Included in the new UK class is Louisville Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year, left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell and Kentucky High School Mr. Baseball, J.T. Riddle. UK brought in a total of 17 newcomers, including a total of seven in-state products. The Wildcats added the top four prospects in the state, including Littrell, Riddle, Lexington Christian Academy outfielder Lucas Witt and Tates Creek right-hander Trevor Gott.
"It is very important for us to own the state of Kentucky, to continually get the best players in the state to play at home in Lexington, and we feel like we have done that with this group," Henderson said. "There were lots of talented prospects in Kentucky this season and we are thrilled to give them an opportunity to compete in the best conference in college baseball."
The highest drafted newcomer to report to campus is 6-foot-4, 200-pound freshman right-handed pitcher Jonathan Paquet, a native of Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec. Since Henderson arrived in Lexington before the 2004 season, UK has had great success with Canadian products, including some of the best players in program history, left-handers Andrew Albers and James Paxton, and All-America infielder Chris Bisson. Paquet was a 22nd-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2010 MLB Draft and a 46th-round selection of the Anaheim Angels in the 2009 MLB Draft. A member of the Canadian Junior National Team since 2008, Paquet pitched well in three games at the Word Junior Baseball Championships in Thunder Bay, Ontario, in 2010, making three appearances with two starts, striking out 12 in 10.1 innings and charting a 3.48 ERA and a 1-0 record.
Riddle, the second consecutive Kentucky Mr. Baseball to attend Kentucky (Luke Maile - 2009), was a two-way standout for Western Hills High School in Frankfort, Ky. A 35th-round selection in the 2010 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox, Riddle batted .514 with seven homers, 62 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 2010, posting an 8-0 record and a 1.26 ERA on the mound, striking out 90 in 60 frames.
A product of Trinity High School in Louisville, Littrell was honored as the Louisville Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year. A 6-3, 190-pound southpaw, Littrell was a 43rd-round draft pick in 2010 by the Washington Nationals after charting an 8-3 record and a 1.90 ERA on the mound, tossing seven complete games and striking out 101 in 77.1 innings.
Gott and Witt bring more talented local products into the program, as Gott was named the Gatorade Kentucky High School Player of the Year after a standout career at Tates Creek in Lexington. Gott, a six-foot, 190-pound right-handed pitcher, struck out 76 in 47.1 innings, posting a 6-0 record and a 1.12 ERA. In a voting of coaches and media members, Gott was voted as the top player in the state in a ranking of the top 100 prospects compiled by IHigh.com.
Witt was a highly accomplished high school quarterback and outfielder at LCA, before being a 37th-round draft pick in 2010 by the Los Angeles Dodgers. A 6-1, 190-pound right-handed hitter, Witt was a first-team all-state honoree as a senior. In 2009, he batted .378 with eight doubles, four homers and 20 RBI, swiping 13 bases. On the gridiron, Witt showcased tremendous athleticism, throwing over 100 touchdown passes in a four-year career, setting school records for completions, attempts, passing yards, rushing yards and quarterback rating, earning all-state accolades as a junior and senior.
Infielder Matt Reida, a 5-11, 175-pound freshman out of Russiaville, Ind., was a 47th-round selection in the 2010 MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox. Reida was a teammate of UK standout sophomore southpaw Taylor Rogers in 2009 on the Midland Redskins, with the duo winning the Connie Mack World Series title in Farmington, N.M.
UK also added corner infielder Dallen Reber, a six-foot, 215-pound native of St. George, Utah. Reber, who hit .495 with eight homers as a senior, was a two-time first-team all-state selection at Dixie High School. Another dynamic football talent, Reber was named first-team all-state as a senior on the gridiron.
Kentucky has had tremendous success recruiting in Tennessee in recent years, with standouts like Logan Darnell and Michael Williams playing key roles in the program. UK added another talented Knoxville, Tenn., product in Paul McConkey, a 5-11, 185-pound infielder. McConkey earned all-state honors at Halls High School, batting .486 with 14 doubles, nine homers and 42 RBI as a senior.
Among the other talented prospects, include infielder Thomas Bernal, a 6-foot, 195-pound native of Paso Robles, Calif. Bernal was an all-state honoree in 2010 as a senior, hitting .430 with 27 RBI, three doubles and four homers in 27 games.
Two-way talent Tyler Raymond, a 6-4, 210-pound left-handed hitter out of Grove City, Ohio, will have the ability play both on the mound and at first base. In 2010, Raymond hit .480 with 25 RBI, 82 runs, 15 doubles and nine stolen bases, also pitching 30 innings with 47 strikeouts, a 5-1 record and a 3.20 ERA.
The Wildcats will welcome five junior college standouts, including sidearm right-hander Sean Kelly, a 6-2 native of Carriere, Miss., and product of Pearl River Community College. Infielder Thomas McCarthy, a native of Corvallis, Ore., hit .415 with 14 doubles, three homers and 36 RBI at third base in 2010 at Feather River College. Tenino, Wash., native Alex Phillips, a 6-4 southpaw, led Lower Columbia College to the NWACC championship in 2010, pitching 71 innings, with a 1.52 ERA and striking out 83. Hopkinsville, Ky., catcher/outfielder Jordan Williams rounds out the transfers for UK in 2011, after spending a season at Pensacola Junior College, batting .316 in 22 games. UK also added sophomore right-hander Tyler Dunaway, a product of Louisville's Eastern High School. Last year, Dunaway played at Wabash Valley College, striking out 33 in 25.2 innings pitched as a freshman.
In 2010, UK finished just one win shy of advancing to the Southeastern Conference Tournament. The Wildcats posted 31 wins, including 13 in SEC play, highlighted by a series sweep over 2009 NCAA Champion LSU and a series win over the eventual national champion, South Carolina, on back-to-back weekends.
UK returns several standouts from the 2010 team, including Braden Kapteyn and Chad Wright, two players who participated in the prestigious Cape Cod League all-star game at Fenway Park during the summer. UK also welcomes back senior shortstop Taylor Black, a 28th-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2010 MLB Draft, a year after hitting .270 (48-for-178) with 11 homers, 37 RBI and 12 stolen bases in his first year in Lexington. On the mound, UK returns its entire weekend pitching rotation, including sophomore standouts Rogers (4-7, 6.40 ERA) and Jordan Cooper (4-5, 5.71 ERA), along with 6-9 junior righty Alex Meyer (5-3, 7.06 ERA). In the bullpen, Kapteyn (2-0, 3.60 ERA, two saves), Mike Kaczmarek (1-0, 5.32 ERA), Nick Kennedy (4-1, 4.21 ERA, one save) and Walter Wijas (0-0, 3.60 ERA) will give UK an experienced relief corps.
Collegiate Baseball Top-40 Recruiting Classes
2. San Diego
6. Georgia Tech.
7. South Carolina
8. Cal. St. Fullerton
9. Arizona St.
12. Oregon St.
17. Florida St.
18. Mississippi St.
20. Central Florida
21. Ole Miss
22. Southern California
23. Miami (Fla.)
24. Wichita St.
25. North Carolina
27. Oklahoma St.
28. Fresno St.
32. Oral Roberts
35. U.C. Irvine
36. San Diego St.
38. New Mexico
39. Texas Christian
Other Top Recruiting Classes: Arizona, Coastal Carolina, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Pepperdine, Texas A&M, Baylor, Tennessee, Sacramento St., Appalachian St., Tulane, N.C. Charlotte, East Carolina, Alabama-Birmingham, Washington, Washington St., Stetson, Creighton, Long Beach St., U.C. Santa Barbara, Cal. Poly, Michigan, Ohio St., Iowa, Jacksonville St., Central Michigan, Missouri, Texas Tech., St. John's, San Jose St., Southern Mississippi, Illinois, Samford, Bradley, Old Dominion, Marshall, Arkansas-Little Rock, Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Gonzaga, N.C. State, Santa Clara, S.E. Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Miami (Ohio), Eastern Michigan, Georgia Southern, Ohio, South Alabama, Florida International, Bethune-Cookman, Butler, East Tennessee St., Georgia St., James Madison, Manhattan, Memphis, Middle Tennessee St., N.C. Greensboro, Nevada, Pittsburgh, Virginia Military Institute, Winthrop, Rhode Island.