LEXINGTON, Ky. -- In two seasons as head coach of the University of Kentucky baseball program, Gary Henderson has landed two top-six recruiting classes, as the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper tabbed UK’s newcomers the sixth-best recruiting class in the nation, it was announced Thursday.
“We are very excited about the new players we have on campus,” Henderson said. “We have brought in 13 excellent student-athletes and combined with our returnees, it is a very exciting time for UK baseball. To be ranked in the top six in recruiting the last two years speaks volumes about the program, the university and the athletic department. We are ready to get on the field as a team and start getting ready for 2010.”
Last year, in Henderson’s first season as head coach, UK landed the fourth-best recruiting class in the nation, as ranked by Baseball America, marking a new school record. UK’s 2009 class was highlighted by high school All-Americans Andy Burns, Alex Meyer, Cory Farris, Braden Kapteyn and Michael Williams, all players who had an immediate positive impact last season. Outfielder Chad Wright, arguably the least heralded recruit of the group out of high school last season, stepped in and had a major impact in 2009, hitting .343 (62-for-181) as UK’s starting left-fielder and leadoff hitter in his first collegiate season.
Florida tops the rankings, with defending College World Series champion LSU tabbed No. 3. UK checks in as the sixth team on the listing and the third in the Southeastern Conference, behind Arizona State (No. 2), UCF (No. 4) and Cal State Fullerton (No. 5). The SEC has 10 teams in the top 40 classes, with Vanderbilt (No. 8) rounding out the league teams ranked in the top 10.
Kentucky brought 13 newcomers to campus, including five players drafted in the 2009 MLB Draft. UK will welcome nine freshmen to campus and four transfers for the 2010 season.
The class is highlighted by the top high school player in the Kentucky, 2009 Mr. Baseball catcher Luke Maile, and the top pitcher in Tennessee, right-hander Jordan Cooper. Maile, a native of Crestview Hills, Ky., was drafted in the 43rd round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox. As the catcher for Covington Catholic, Maile set every offensive school record, with the lone exception of at bats. As a senior, the first-team high school All-America selection by MaxPreps.com hit .514 with 12 home runs.
Cooper, a 17th-round pick of the Pirates in 2009, was rated as the top high school pitching prospect in Tennessee and the fifth-best overall draft prospect in Tennessee by Baseball America. Cooper, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder, was also named the 81st-best high school prospect in the nation by Baseball America. In 2009, Cooper posted a 7-1 record and a 1.47 ERA, striking out 81 in 47 innings.
UK will also welcome 2008 freshman All-America shortstop Taylor Black, who transferred from Charleston Southern and Spartanburg Methodist. Fellow transfers Lance Ray (OF/1B), Kyle Jackson (RHP) and Joe Devine (RHP) will all have the ability to make an immediate impact. Black, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound middle infielder, was named a Louisville Slugger freshman All-American in 2008 at Charleston Southern, hitting .333 (58-for-174) with 17 doubles, five homers and 34 RBI.
High school talents Sam Kidd (RHP/OF), Jon Carlson (LHP), Taylor Rogers (LHP), Michael Thomas (C), Tyler Townsend (IF) and Walter Wijas (RHP) add to a deep recruiting class. Kidd, a native of Hartford, Ky., was a 39th-round MLB draft pick by the Phillies, following an all-state season as a senior at Ohio County High School. Rogers, a 6-foot-3 left-hander, was a 37th-round MLB draft pick of the Orioles after totaling a 5-2 record and a 1.98 ERA in 2009, striking out 82 in 53 innings.
In addition, UK welcomes freshman outfielder Brian Adams, a 6-foot-4, 210-pounder out of Gainesville, Ga. Adams was recruited to UK as a wide receiver for the football team and will play both sports at Kentucky. Timed as fast a 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Adams was a 45th-round MLB draft pick of the Reds. A dual-threat quarterback in high school, Adams was rated as the nation’s No. 55 quarterback by Scout.com.
Kentucky returns a veteran team in 2010, including its top two starting pitchers, senior southpaw James Paxton and sophomore right-hander Alex Meyer. Paxton, a supplemental first-round pick in the 2009 MLB draft in June, became the highest drafted college player to elect to return to school. Paxton and Meyer formed a deadly strikeout tandem in 2009, combining to strike out 195 in 133 combined innings. In addition, UK returns eight of nine position starters, including All-SEC infielder Chris Bisson, who led UK in average (.360), at bats (222), runs (49), hits (80), triples (three), RBI (52) and walks (20).
Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Recruiting Class Top-40
2. Arizona St.
5. Cal. St. Fullerton
7. Texas Christian
9. Miami, Fla.
14. North Carolina
15. Mississippi St.
17. Oklahoma St.
18. Ole Miss
19. Wichita St.
21. Southern Mississippi
22. Florida St.
25. Oregon St.
29. San Diego
30. South Carolina
31. U.C. Irvine
35. Georgia Tech.
36. Texas A&M
37. Georgia Southern
38. Texas Tech.
40. Cal. St. Northridge
Long Beach St.
Other Top Recruiting Classes: San Jose St., Fresno St., Arizona, Southern California, Notre Dame, Hawaii, Bradley, South Florida, Tulane, Alabama, N.C. State, San Diego St., College of Charleston, Florida International, Santa Clara, Lamar, Middle Tennessee St., Oral Roberts, St. John’s, U.C. Riverside, Dallas Baptist, Jacksonville, Washington, Pepperdine, Houston, Virginia Commonwealth, Michigan, Ohio St., Minnesota, Georgia St., Central Michigan, West Virginia, Kent St., Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, VMI, N.C. Charlotte, LeMoyne, Stetson, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, Creighton, Troy, Auburn, East Carolina, Baylor, Cal. Poly SLO, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada-Las Vegas, Florida Atlantic, New Mexico, Illinois St., Liberty, U.C. Santa Barbara, Arkansas St., Arkansas-Little Rock, Samford, Butler.
* UK 2009 opponents and SEC teams in bold.