LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky junior second baseman Chris Bisson has signed with the San Diego Padres as a fourth round pick and UK junior right-handed reliever Matt Little has signed with the Detroit Tigers as a 31st round pick in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft, it was announced Wednesday.
A fourth-round selection by the Padres in the draft, Bisson (pronounced: BEES-own) was the highest drafted UK player in 2010. A native of Orleans, Ontario, Bisson has signed with the Padres and will report to the Eugene Emeralds of the short-season Northwest League in Eugene, Ore. A native of Virginia Beach, Va., Little has signed with the Tigers as a 31st round selection and has reported to the short-season Connecticut Tigers.
Both Bisson and Little will open their professional baseball careers Friday night in the league-opening game. Bisson and the Emeralds open its season hosting the Vancouver Canadians, with the Emeralds home games to be played at the new PK Park on the Oregon campus, home of the Ducks. Little’s Tigers will hit the road for its opener, facing the Tri-City Valley Cats in Troy, N.Y.
Bisson and Little were two of 12 current, former or future UK players drafted in the 2010 MLB Draft. A total of six UK players were drafted, six signees were selected and in addition, UK seniors Gunner Glad and Marcus Nidiffer signed free agent contracts with the Minnesota Twins and the Houston Astros, respectively. UK signee Tyler Oliver, a graduate of Lexington Christian Academy and native of Lexington, signed as the Washington Nationals 35th-round selection.
During his sparkling three-year UK career, Bisson emerged as one of the top infielders in the nation, becoming the first UK player to earn back-to-back All-Southeastern Conference honors in over 10 years, dating back to when catcher John Wilson earned All-SEC accolades in 1999 and 2000. In 2009 and 2010, Bisson was selected second-team All-SEC at second base by the league coaches, earning preseason third-team All-America honors from Baseball America entering the 2010 season.
As a true freshman playing in the best conference in college baseball, Bisson was forced into action with injuries striking UK senior third baseman Chris McClendon in 2008. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder played in 27 games with 13 starts, batting .157 (8-for-51) with three doubles, four RBI and three stolen bases. Bisson took ownership of the second base position in 2009, leading UK in nearly every statistical category. In 2009, Bisson batted .360 (80-for-22) with 49 runs scored, nine doubles, three triples, two homers and 52 RBI, stealing 13-of-15 bases.
In 2010, Bisson solidified himself as one of the top players in the nation. In 51 games and 50 starts in 2010, Bisson batted .329 (69-for-210) with 12 doubles, one triple, five homers and 35 RBI, stealing an SEC-leading 32 bases in 39 attempts. Bisson, who ran up two 12-or-more-game hitting streaks in 2010, reached base safely in 49 of 51 games played and with his 32 steals, became the first UK player to steal 30 or more bases since Chad Green stole a school-record 55 bases in 1995. Was prolific throughout the season on the base paths, going through a seven consecutive game stretch with a stolen base, swiping 11 total bases in that span. In a win at Auburn, Bisson stole a career-best four bases. After jumping out to a hot start to open the season, Bisson was hit on the nose by a 1-2 fastball in a March 6 game against Monmouth in San Diego, breaking his nose and requiring surgery. Bisson showed tremendous toughness to return after just a five-game period, returning for a pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth inning of a game with Murray State. Before the injury, Bisson was batting .378 (14-for-37) with 10 runs, two doubles, one triple, two homers and 10 RBI. After the injury and while playing with a facemask at the plate and a face shield at second base for 15 games, Bisson batted .317 (19-for-60) with two doubles, no triples or homers and eight RBI.
Last summer, Bisson improved upon his status as a prospect with a strong showing in the prestigious Cape Cod League, leading the league in stolen bases with 36 steals in his 42-game summer and batting .269 (36-for-164). With 36 steals, Bisson equaled the Cotuit Kettlers club record and with over 30 steals, became just the fourth player in the Cape in the last 10 years and the third in the last nine years to steal 30 or more bases during a summer. Of the three other CCL players to steal 30 or more bases in the last 10 years, two have advanced to the big leagues.
A 5-foot-11, 190-pound right-handed reliever, Little led UK in appearances and saves in his junior campaign. Little appeared in 24 games and posted a 2-2 record and a 4.93 ERA as UK’s primary closer during the season, saving seven games in 13 chances. Little tossed 42 innings in 2010, allowing just 41 hits, walking 24 and striking out 52. After transferring to UK in January of 2009, Little took a redshirt in 2009 after transferring from Louisburg College in North Carolina.
In 2010, Little got off to a dominating start, posting a 0.48 ERA entering UK’s series with Vanderbilt, owning four saves and a 1-0 record, earning a spot on the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association National Pitcher of the Year Watch List. Little had several highlights in 2010, including earning National Pitcher of the Week accolades after tossing four shutout inning in a comeback win over Monmouth on March 6, allowing only two hits and no walks, striking out a career-high nine. Little also picked up a gutsy win over Auburn, tossing four innings, allowing five hits and two unearned runs.
COLLIN COWGILL NAMED BASEBALL AMERICA PROSPECT HITTER OF THE DAY
Former Kentucky first-team All-American centerfielder Collin Cowgill has been named the Baseball America prospect hitter of the day for his four-hit performance on Thursday for the double A Mobile BayBears.
A native of Lexington, Ky., and graduate of Henry Clay High School, Cowgill totaled a 4-for-5 performance at the plate Thursday night against the Tennessee Smokies in Mobile, Ala. A 5-foot-9, 195-pound right-handed hitter, Cowgill’s hits were all of the extra-base variety, totaling three doubles and one homer, adding two RBI.
A first-team All-America selection in 2008 while helping lead UK to a school-record 44-win season, Cowgill has played in 65 games this summer for the BayBears, batting .286 (71-for-248) with 21 doubles, two triples, five homers and 41 RBI, stealing 14-of-21 bases. Currently riding a five-game hitting streak, Cowgill is hitting .366 (15-for-41) with 10 runs scored, eight doubles, one homer and nine RBI in his last 10 games.
In 2009, while playing for the high class A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Visalia Rawhide, Cowgill batted .277 (61-for-220) in 61 games, with nine doubles, three triples, six homers and 36 RBI, stealing 11-of-15 bases.
While at Kentucky, Cowgill helped lead the UK program to unforeseen heights, helping UK win the Southeastern Conference Championship in 2006, with UK hosting its first NCAA Regional in 2006. Cowgill hit 16 homers and batted .298 (67-for-225) in 2006 and after suffering a hand injury and missing the 2007 season, returned to anchor centerfield for UK in 2008. Cowgill earned first-team All-America honors in 2008 with a .361 average, adding 19 homers, 60 RBI and 23 stolen bases. In his UK career, Cowgill batted .306 (171-for-558) in 165 games, totaling 166 runs, 35 doubles, 37 homers, 140 RBI and 32 stolen bags.
NEIKO JOHNSON EXCELLING IN COASTAL PLAIN LEAGUE
Junior infielder/outfielder Neiko Johnson has continued his torrid base-stealing ways in the Coastal Plains League, swiping 12 bases in his first nine games for Edenton.
Johnson, a redshirt junior out of Stone Mountain, Ga., is playing in the Coastal Plains League for the first time in his career and has picked up where he left off for the Wildcats in 2010. In nine games and eight starts, Johnson has batted .320 (8-for-25) with 10 runs, one triple and four RBI, drawing seven walks, getting hit by four pitches and striking out just four times. A 5-foot-9, 160-pound right-handed hitter, Johnson has stolen 12-of-13 bases for Edenton, leading the team and ranking third in the Coastal Plains League.
In 2010 for Kentucky, Johnson was blistering on the base paths, stealing 24-of-25 bases in just 21 starting assignments. Johnson batted .171 (13-for-76) with 24 runs scored, two doubles, one homer and six RBI. A patient hitter, Johnson drew 16 walks and was hit by 11 pitches, striking out just 10 times. Johnson’s 24 steals ranked fourth in the Southeastern Conference at the end of the regular-season.
LUKE MAILE OFF TO GREAT START IN NEW YORK COLLEGIATE LEAGUE
Kentucky freshman catcher Luke Maile is off to a great start through his first five games for the Amsterdam Mohawks of the New York Collegiate Baseball League.
A native of Crestview Hills, Ky., Maile (pronounced: MAY-lee) has played in five games with four starts, batting .400 (8-for-20) with three doubles and seven RBI, adding one sacrifice fly. Maile is playing for the Amsterdam Mohawks, a team that UK’s Braden Kapteyn played for last summer, with Kapteyn earning NYCBL regular-season, playoff and all-star MVP honors.
As a true freshman in 2010, Maile played in 26 games with 12 starts, including making seven starts in Southeastern Conference play. Maile hit .200 (7-for-35) with three home runs and six RBI, drawing 11 walks, getting plunked by six pitches and striking out 12 times, stealing two bases. Maile, a graduate of Covington Catholic High School, opened his college career in style, belting a 2-2 offering in his first career at bat over the leftfield fence for a home run. In a game at Cincinnati on March 30, Maile hit a no-doubt homer to start the scoring for a UK win, with Maile having a host of family and friends from Northern Kentucky in attendance. Maile had a career game in a series-clinching win over the defending NCAA Champion LSU Tigers on May 15, going 2-for-4 with two RBI and his third career homer.
DEVINE, GREENE, THOMAS ON INAUGURAL LEXINGTON HUSTLERS ROSTER
Three Kentucky baseball players are participating in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League with the inaugural Lexington Hustlers, including sophomore pitchers Joe Devine and Chase Greene and freshman catcher Micheal Thomas.
The Hustlers are in their first season in Lexington, participating in the Great Lakes League and is being run by former UK pitcher Adam Revelette, who is functioning as the general manager. The Hustlers are playing home games at Henry Clay High School, at Chuck Stivers Field.
Thomas, a native of Elizabethtown, Ky., got the start in the home opener Wednesday, getting his first hit of the season and Greene has served as the closer for the Hustlers early in the season. Devine showed flashes of dominance in his first start of the summer for the Hustlers, tossing 6.2 innings, allowing just three hits and two unearned runs, walking two and striking out six. Devine carried a no hitter into the fifth inning, with the Hustlers eventually falling in the contest.