Category: UK Baseball

Troy Squires Named 2018 Senior CLASS Award Winner

Troy Squires, No. 16. (Photo by Quinn Foster I UK Athletics)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky senior Troy Squires is the winner of the prestigious 2018 Senior CLASS Award, it was announced on Friday. The award honors seniors who excel both on and off the field of play.

To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. 

More honors for Kole Cottam, Luke Heyer

Kole Cottam (Photo By Barry Westerman | UK Athletics)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky junior catcher/first baseman Kole Cottam and senior infielder/outfielder Luke Heyer each continued to garner awards for their performance during the 2018 season, it was announced Wednesday.

Cottam was named to the ABCA/Rawlings South All-Region Team as the first-team first baseman, while Heyer earned Third-Team All-America honors from Perfect Game/Rawlings. The two combined to hit 37 home runs this season, the fifth-highest total in school history for combined home runs in a season.

Alabama AD Greg Byrne says Mitch Barnhart “the best at caring” for every athlete

Mitch Barnhart with Tim Duckworth after he won the national championship in Oregon. (UK Athletics Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Greg Byrne was associate athletics director at Kentucky under Mitch Barnhart from 2002-2005 before becoming AD at Mississippi State, then Arizona and now Alabama.

He admits working for Barnhart taught him a lot of lessons.

“Mitch is the best I have ever seen at caring about every young man and every young woman in the athletics department,” Byrne said. “No matter the sport, just the passion he has for them to have success as a team and individual. He is so good at it that you can’t help but notice and want to do the same.”

Kentucky Tops 2018 MLB Draft with School-Record 13 Selections

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Seven Kentucky players were selected on the final day of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft, bringing the three-day total to 13, the most of any program in the country. The Wildcats also have the most total picks the past two seasons with 21 draftees.

The 2018 total set a new program-record for most draftees in a single year, shattering the previous mark of nine. Coupled with eight in 2017 the program has two more than any other school in the past two drafts. Additionally, UK now has had 12 players drafted in the first 10 rounds over the past two seasons, which also ranks as the highest total in the country.

Kentucky leads Major League Draft with six selections in 10 rounds

Tristan Pompey (UK Athletics Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Five Kentucky players were selected on day two of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft, bringing the total number of Wildcats picked in the first 10 rounds to six and making UK one of just three schools to have that many players taken to this point.

The Wildcats drafted on Tuesday included: OF Tristan Pompey (3rd round, Miami), C/1B Kole Cottam (4th, Boston), RHP Zach Haake (6th, Kansas City), INF/OF Luke Heyer (8th, LA Dodgers) and 2B Luke Becker (9th, San Diego). Junior right-handed pitcher Sean Hjelle was taken with the 45th overall pick by the San Francisco Giants on Monday night.

Former UK AD C.M. Newton passes away at age 88

LEXINGTON, Ky. – C.M. Newton, former student-athlete and director of athletics at the University of Kentucky, passed away Monday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was 88.

“C.M. Newton is a giant in the history of the University of Kentucky, the Southeastern Conference and in the sport of basketball,” said current UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart. “As a student-athlete, he was a national champion basketball player and star baseball pitcher. He returned to his alma mater when he was needed most and provided stability, leadership and growth for UK Athletics for more than a decade. His coaching accomplishments and honors at Transylvania, Alabama and Vanderbilt speak for themselves.

Brothers helped push UK signee Keldon Johnson to develop toughness he now has

Keldon Johnson (McDonald’s All-American Games Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Chris Johnson can remember when his youngest son, Keldon, was a little boy and would be playing basketball outside — sometimes when the temperature was close to 100 degrees — and had to be forced to quit playing before he would come inside.

“No matter how hot it was, he wanted to keep playing,” Chris Johnson said. “His work ethic was just amazing. We were truly blessed with how hard he wanted to work to be the best player he could be.”

Collegiate Baseball Names Kole Cottam, Luke Heyer All-America

Luke Heyer (UK Athletics Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky junior catcher/first baseman Kole Cottam and senior infielder/outfielder Luke Heyer have been named to the Collegiate Baseball All-America teams, it was announced Thursday.

Cottam was the second-team first baseman, while Heyer was the third baseman on the third-team. The two combined to hit 37 home runs this season, the fifth-highest total in school history for combined home runs in a season.

UK Baseball: When good is not good enough

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

Sometimes in life you hear someone try to explain a confusing situation and you have to stop, shake your head and say, “what, wait a minute, did they just really say that?”  That was my feeling while reading the statement made by NCAA Division 1 Selection Committee Chairman Ray Tanner as he tried to explain why the University of Kentucky Baseball Team was not selected for the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
The University of Kentucky team that was 16-16 against Top 50 teams. The same UK team that won weekend series against No. 8 Georgia, No.11 Texas Tech, No. 21 Auburn and No. 24 South Carolina and split with No. 25 U of L. That team.
The one that had a No. 30 RPI and had a road record of 15-13.  The one that plays baseball in the most difficult conference in the country — the SEC.

By the way the SEC placed 10 teams in the tournament and four of the top eight seeds are SEC schools. That means almost 20 percent of the teams playing in the NCAA Baseball Tournament are from the SEC.

Now for the head shaking, confusing part of this whole story. Ray Tanner — the Ray Tanner that is the former Baseball Coach and current Athletic Director at South Carolina — said that UK did not get selected as an at-large participant because they were 13-18 in the SEC. They had a losing record. Nothing about poor RPI, weak schedule, not enough wins against Top 50 schools or poor road record.
No, even though UK hit every metric one would think would be meaningful to judge a team’s overall performance by, he decided to pull out its SEC record as a final determining factor. A losing record in a league that has eight teams ranked in the Top 25, ten teams in the tournament and makes up almost 20 percent of the tournament field. And it’s not like Tanner is unfamiliar with the difficulty of an SEC baseball schedule. He used to coach there.

So what happened? Why would a group of otherwise intelligent committee members that know baseball – headed up by a former SEC baseball coach – come up with a boneheaded statement like this to explain why they would make such a poor decision.
The statement in question was, “So there were some things that weren’t perfect, (referring to UK’s overall resume) but the sub-.500 stood out to the committee, (not all of UK’s otherwise good attributes) and you know, had it been a game or two, it might not have made much difference but it ended up being in total four in the regular season and five if you include the tournament.” The logic here is incredible. It goes like this. “UK is a very good team. They had all the metrics. But they had a losing record in the SEC.”
OK. Doesn’t seem like a viable reason to leave them out but they are the committee and they get to decide. But then he says, “but the sub-.500 stood out to the committee, and you know, had it been a game or two, it might not have made much difference but it ended up being in total four in the regular season and five if you include the tournament.”
How is that logical? If you have a losing conference record then, ok, you have a losing record and you don’t get in but to go on and say if it was only a losing record by one or two games that is acceptable but it was four or five it’s not. Makes a person wonder if UK had only been three games under .500 do they get in? How does a team overcome that incredibly poor logic. If the committee has a standard – no conference losing records – then stick with it. Don’t say maybe only two games under .500 gets you in but not four or five under. 
 
Tanner also had this to say in reference to Northeastern, a team in the Colonial League, that was selected as an at-large team even though their record against Top 50 teams was 3-9. He said, “Well, there’s emphasis put on your overall body of work, and you know, Northeastern didn’t have the same opportunities or the same body of work maybe comparing them to an ACC or an SEC team but they won the regular season and they played in the conference championship.”  
What? How does that make sense. The logic here is that Northeastern got in because even though they had a worse RPI at 35 and performed poorly against tournament caliber competition at 3-9 and lost in their conference championship game to UNCW they had a winning record in the Colonial Conference so that trumped all of UK’s positive attributes. Really?
 
That argument didn’t hold water last year for Mt. Saint Mary’s when they were left out of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The logic of the basketball selection committee then was Mount Saint Mary’s overall and conference record was good but they didn’t have enough wins against Top 50 competition. The committee said they should have scheduled more difficult out-of-conference games.
But in a complete about face according to the baseball committee’s logic each team that plays in a weak conference but has a good record should get in because they play in a weak conference. The baseball committee is penalizing teams for playing a difficult schedule – and winning – because after all UK’s overall final record was 34-22. Northeastern’s overall record was 36-19 playing in the weak Colonial League. 
 
This just shows once again the wishy-washy logic the NCAA uses to make it’s selections for at-large tournament participants… in any sport. At some point the leadership of the NCAA needs to quit flip-flopping on every decision they make – from at-large selection criteria to sanctions against schools that violate the rules – and develop criteria for decision making that is both logical and consistent. Until then college sports fans will have to continue to suffer through head-scratching decisions like the one we saw on Monday.
 
 By the way Ray Tanner’s school – the South Carolina Gamecocks – received a three-seed in the East Carolina Regional. They finished the season with an RPI of 43. Thirteen places below UK. Their record against the Top 50 was 16-18. Go figure. 

NCAA Tournament chairman says UK’s sub-500 SEC record kept Wildcats out of tournament

Nick Mingione (Vicky Graff Photo)

NCAA Division I Baseball Committee chairman Ray Tanner tried to explain today why Kentucky was left out of the NCAA Tournament among other things during a conference call.

Q. Along those same lines, how do you balance that between northeastern — Kentucky has got to be wondering how they would finish. Did you have that discussion and how did that play out?
RAY TANNER: That discussion is very difficult to have. I mean, that’s — you play in a different conference, different areas of the country. We know Kentucky has a very good team as it stands. They were 13-17 in the regular season. Going to the SEC tournament, they had a chance to enhance their resumé. They were unable to do that.