Darnell named top New York league prospect

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky sophomore southpaw Logan Darnell was named the top prospect in the New York Collegiate Baseball League and junior catcher Marcus Nidiffer was tabbed the 14th-best prospect in the Valley Collegiate Baseball League, according to PGcrosschecker.com’s surveying of scouts and summer league coaches.

Darnell, a native of Joelton, Tenn., had a stellar summer while pitching for the Amsterdam Mohawks. In eight games and six starts, Darnell earned a 3-0 record and a 1.82 ERA. A 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, Darnell worked 34.2 innings, striking out 33, allowing only 24 hits and seven earned runs.

As a true freshman in 2008, Darnell pitched in 15 games out of the bullpen, tossing 17.2 innings, striking out 12 and allowing opponents to hit a measly .183. Darnell made his first collegiate appearance in the opener vs. Xavier, tossing two hitless innings with two strikeouts in February.

The Goodpasture High School graduate made excellent relief appearances vs. Purdue (2 IP, 0 R, 3 SO), at South Carolina (0.2 IP, 0 H, 1 SO), vs. Marshall (2 IP, 0 H), vs. LSU (1 IP, 0 H, 1 SO) and vs. Wright State (1 IP, 0 H, 1 SO). Darnell’s best appearance of his career came in UK’s NCAA Regional Championship game vs. Arizona, when the lefty worked two pressure-packed innings with one hit allowed, striking out one.

Nidiffer, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound backstop, led the Valley League in home runs (13), finishing the summer with a .305 average (40-for-131) in 42 games. Nidiffer, who ranked third in the league with 35 runs scored, was one of only four players in the league to hit 10 or more home runs, launching 13 while pacing the club with 31 RBI and 25 walks. Nidiffer added four doubles and a triple, reaching base at a .440 clip and slugging for a .649 percentage. Nidiffer also ranked third in the league in slugging and on-base percentage.

A native of Bristol, Tenn., Nidiffer garnered Most Valuable Player during the Valley League All-Star game in July, after going 2-for-5 with a home run and a game-high three RBI.

Regarded as one of the top defensive catchers in the Southeastern Conference, Nidiffer threw out 10-of-13 would-be base stealers for the Covington Lumberjacks during the summer. During UK’s 2008 season, Nidiffer fielded .993, throwing out 15-of-29 attempted stealers, good for fourth in the SEC.

While sharing time with senior catcher Tyler Howe in 2008, Nidiffer saw action in 47 of UK’s 63 games, starting 34. Nidiffer hit .216 (25-for-116) on the year, with five homers, five doubles and 17 RBI. Nidiffer started out strong, hitting for an average above or near .300 until a late-April 0-for-21 slump. Minus the slump, Nidiffer hit for a .263 average with five homers and 16 RBI.

Nidiffer had the game of his career in a Friday-night win at then-No. 7 South Carolina, launching two homers and batting 2-for-5 with three RBI in a 15-3 win. Among the other highlights for the catcher in 2008, included a walk-off homer vs. Purdue and a 3-for-4 game vs. Mississippi State that saw Nidiffer hit a triple and a home run.

Nidiffer helped lead the Lumberjacks (27-24, 18-7 home) to the Valley League finals, falling to second-seeded Luray (37-15). Nidiffer hit .333 (3-for-9) during the three-game final series, belting a homer, two RBI and three walks.