Baseball Tabbed No. 19 in Preseason Poll

Dec. 22, 2008

TUSCON, Ariz. -- For the third consecutive season, the Kentucky baseball program has received a preseason ranking, as the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper tabbed the Wildcats No. 19 in its annual preseason top-40.

Kentucky, coming off a school-record 122 wins in the last three years, joins the rest of the Southeastern Conference in the poll, as all 12 teams either received votes or ranked among the CBN top-40. UK head coach Gary Henderson improved the strength of the Wildcat 2009 schedule, as 16 of UK’s 29 opponents are receiving votes or ranked in the top-40. LSU, who joined Georgia at the College World Series in Omaha in 2008, tops the ranking.

The Wildcats have been ranked in three consecutive preseason polls, earning a No. 20 ranking in 2008 and a No. 27 spot in 2007 by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. UK was also ranked No. 25 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association in the 2008 preseason.

Kentucky, the SEC’s ERA leader in 2008, returns one of the top pitching staffs in college baseball, highlighted by first-team All-SEC selection Chris Rusin. Rusin, a senior southpaw and member of the Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch List, had a career year in 2008, pacing the conference in ERA among starting pitchers throughout the season. Rusin finished the year with a 3.33 ERA and a 6-3 record in 13 starts, posting two complete games. The Canton, Mich., native worked 83.2 innings and struck out 65. Saturday starter James Paxton – a 6-foot-4, 215-pound southpaw – also returns, a year after earning a 4-2 record, a 2.92 ERA in 52.1 innings, with 43 strikeouts.

Offensively, freshman All-America shortstop Chris Wade returns to anchor in the middle of the defense that led the conference with a .979 fielding percentage in 2008. Wade, who led the SEC with 24 doubles in 2008, hit .296 with five homers and 51 RBI. In addition, UK returns arguably the top third baseman in the conference, senior Chris McClendon. In his first year in Lexington during 2008, McClendon battled minor injuries but still managed to hit for a .346 average, with 11 doubles, one triple, three homers and 33 RBI, stealing 7-of-10 bags in 2008, playing in 48 games. A Richmond, Ky., native, Keenan Wiley will roam centerfield for the Wildcats, giving UK one of the best defensive centerfielders in the SEC. In 2008, Wiley hit .327 with 13 doubles, two triples, two homers and 38 RBI.

Kentucky opens its season on Feb. 20, facing Troy in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in the Coastal Carolina preseason tournament. UK enters the season have won 67 of its last 73 regular-season non conference games, including 20 consecutive non-conference home wins. Over the last three years, UK ranks fourth in the SEC in terms of total wins, running up a school-record 122 wins, with Vanderbilt’s 133 wins leading the way.

Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's 
NCAA Div. I Pre-Season Poll
(As of Dec. 22, 2008)
 
 
Rank  School ('08 Final Record) Points
1.  LSU (49-19-1)   495
2.  North Carolina (54-14)  494
3.  Rice (47-15)   489
4.  Georgia (45-25-1)  486
5.  Stanford (41-24-2)  484
6.  Arizona St. (49-13)  482
7.  Florida St. (54-14)  479
8.  Louisville (41-21)  476
9.  Texas A&M (46-19)  473
10.  Texas (39-22)   470
11.  Mississippi (39-25)  467
12.  Georgia Tech. (41-21)  465
13.  Cal. St. Fullerton (41-22)  462
14.  Oklahoma St. (44-18)  459
15.  Baylor (32-26)   457
16.  Fresno St. (47-31)  456
17.  San Diego (44-17)  453
18.  Miami, Fla. (53-11)  451
19.  Kentucky (44-19)   448
20.  U.C. Irvine (42-18)  445
21.  UCLA (33-27)   443
22.  Missouri (39-21)   440
23.  Pepperdine (38-21)  439
24.  Southern California (28-28) 436
25.  Florida (34-24)   435
26.  Clemson (31-27-1)  432
27.  Notre Dame (33-21-1)  430
28.  Coastal Carolina (50-14) 428
29.  Michigan (46-14)  425
30.  U.C. Santa Barbara (35-21) 423
31.  East Carolina (42-21)  422
32.  Missouri St. (40-17)  420
33.  Southern Mississippi (42-22) 417
34.  Tulane (39-22-1)  415
35.  Arizona (42-19)   414
36.  Wichita St. (48-17)  410
37.  Texas Christian (44-19)  409
38.  Oregon St. (28-24)  406
39.  California (33-21-2)  402
40.  Alabama (35-28)  398

OTHER TEAMS RECEIVING VOTES: Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Arkansas, Auburn, Long Beach St., Oregon, Virginia, North Carolina St., Houston, Kent St., Santa Clara, U.C. Riverside, Oral Roberts, Nebraska, Kennesaw St., Ohio St., Oklahoma, San Diego St., Tennessee, Mississippi St., New Mexico, Jacksonville St., Elon, Western Kentucky, Dallas Baptist, N.C. Charlotte, South Florida, St. John's, Winthrop, Purdue, James Madison, Marshall, Central Florida, Washington, Washington St., Georgia Southern, Northwestern St., Lamar, Texas-San Antonio, Southern, Louisiana-Monroe, New Orleans, Hawaii, San Jose St., San Francisco.