Bat Cats have local flavor

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMay 25, 2012 

SEC Kentucky Mississippi State Baseball

Kentucky's Cameron Flynn. left, Zac Zellers and Austin Cousino, right, react after a 5-1 win over Mississippi State in a NCAA college baseball game during the Southeastern Conference tournament in Hoover, Ala., Thursday, May 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

DAVE MARTIN — AP

  • Saturday

    Kentucky vs. Mississippi State

    When: 1 p.m.

    What: SEC Tournament

    Where: Regions Park, Hoover, Ala.

    Records: Kentucky (43-15), Mississippi State (37-22)

    Pitchers: Littrell; TBA

    TV: ESPN3

    Radio: WLAP-630 AM

    Twitter: Mark Maloney will provide live updates @MarkMaloneyHL

HOOVER, Ala. — Kentucky's run to the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament has come with a helping handful of local talent.

The right-fielder, Cameron Flynn, is from Lexington.

So is Trevor Gott, who has a school-record nine saves.

Second baseman J.T. Riddle is from nearby Frankfort.

"I think it's really important to get as many Kentucky kids as you can," Coach Gary Henderson said after Friday's workout at Birmingham-Southern College. "My line when I'm talking to the high school coaches is that 'I want every kid in the state of Kentucky that can play for us, and none of them that can't.'"

Several others from further out in the state are key contributors.

Left-hander Corey Littrell (Louisville Trinity) will start Saturday.

First baseman/catcher Luke Maile (Covington Catholic) is UK's best power hitter.

Reserves include Lexington's Andrew Bryant (Tates Creek), Lucas Witt and Steven Hoagland (both Lexington Christian) and Taylor Martin (Lexington Catholic).

Then there are pitchers Chandler Shepherd (Lawrence County), Zach Strecker, Tyler Dunaway and Spencer Drake (all Louisville Eastern), with catcher Micheal Thomas (Elizabethtown) and outfielder Damon Saunders (Louisville Butler).

Is success especially sweet for the home-grown players?

"I don't think it's any more special because everybody on this team is a Kentucky Wildcat now," Riddle said. "Everybody has the same feeling — that we all want to keep doing good in this tournament. ... I think we're all shooting for the championship game. That's what we want to do, is win this tournament."

UK (43-15) will meet either LSU or Mississippi State, Saturday at noon (1 p.m. Eastern). The title game is set for Sunday at 2:30 (3:30) p.m.

Flynnn, a redshirt junior out of Henry Clay, transferred to UK after playing for Morehead State.

"I had surgery on my wrist and I decided it was time to just go ahead and leave, and I decided to come to Kentucky," he said. "I just wanted to be closer to home."

He had paid attention to Wildcat baseball for several seasons, tracking his pal and former Henry Clay standout Collin Cowgill, who is now with the Oakland A's.

Flynn has played in 54 of UK's 58 games this year, with 49 starts. Hitting .284, he has nine homers and 34 RBI.

"Cameron Flynn has been a great addition to the program," Henderson said. "He's a great worker. He's been a very good player. He's at the center of our club, and we're really fortunate to have him be a part of what we're doing."

Gott has had no action in the SEC Tournament.

In beating Ole Miss and Mississippi State, UK pitchers have allowed one run, 11 hits (all singles) and four walks, striking out 16.

"I'm more than ready right now," Gott said. "But the pitching that has pitched so far has done a great job and they haven't needed to use me so far, so I'm ready."

A sophomore out of Tates Creek, Gott is 3-0 with nine saves and a 2.61 ERA. He has struck out 32 and walked six over 20 2/3 innings.

"He has been great for us," Henderson said. "His attitude, his work ethic, the way he goes about his business, the type of person, the type of teammate he is — you really couldn't ask for anything more."

Riddle, a sophomore, was Mr. Baseball as a Western Hills senior in 2010.

He moved between right field and second base as a UK freshman, but is now entrenched at second.

"We did a lot of things with J.T. last year, trying to figure out what was best for him and what was best for the club," Henderson said. "He's just a good enough athlete that last year we were able to plug him in wherever we needed help. I think his future is probably in the middle of the diamond."

Riddle has started all 58 games, hitting .276 with four homers and 36 RBI. His defense can be spectacular — a back-to-the-infield diving catch against Florida made that night's ESPN SportsCenter Top Ten highlights.

He says his cell phone practically exploded that night, along with Twitter and Facebook contacts.

His social media is bursting again, which is just what he likes. He's pumped, as are his teammates.

"The feel that we have as a team right now these past two games is back to the feel we had the first 21 games of the season," Riddle said. "That's what you've got to do. You've got to bounce back. We had a lull against Mississippi State, but we came back and beat them (Thursday). That's big for us. Big motivation from the last two wins.

"If we can get this next one and work our way to the championship game, we'll get a lot of confidence going into the regional tournament, wherever that takes us."

· More home-grown talent is on the way next season. UK signees include infielder Zach Storm (North Laurel), left-handed pitchers Ryne Combs (Bryan Station) and Chase Mullins (Bourbon County) and infielder/pitcher Zach Arnold (Franklin County). UK coaches aren't allowed to comment on potential walk-ons, but it has been reported elsewhere that Dunbar right-hander Tyler Cox and Tates Creek outfielder Dorian Hairston plan to take that route.

HOOVER, Ala. — Kentucky's run to the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament has come with a helping handful of local talent.

The right fielder, Cameron Flynn, is from Lexington.

So is Trevor Gott, who has a school-record nine saves.

Second baseman J.T. Riddle is from nearby Frankfort.

"I think it's really important to get as many Kentucky kids as you can," Coach Gary Henderson said after Friday's workout at Birmingham-Southern College. "My line when I'm talking to the high school coaches is that 'I want every kid in the state of Kentucky that can play for us, and none of them that can't.'"

Several others from further out in the state are key contributors.

Left-hander Corey Littrell (Louisville Trinity) will start Saturday.

First baseman/catcher Luke Maile (Covington Catholic) is UK's best power hitter.

Reserves include Lexington's Andrew Bryant (Tates Creek), Lucas Witt and Steven Hoagland (both Lexington Christian) and Taylor Martin (Lexington Catholic).

Then there are pitchers Chandler Shepherd (Lawrence County), Zach Strecker, Tyler Dunaway and Spencer Drake (all Louisville Eastern), with catcher Micheal Thomas (Elizabethtown) and outfielder Damon Saunders (Louisville Butler).

Is success especially sweet for the home-grown players?

"I don't think it's any more special because everybody on this team is a Kentucky Wildcat now," Riddle said. "Everybody has the same feeling — that we all want to keep doing good in this tournament. ... I think we're all shooting for the championship game. That's what we want to do, is win this tournament."

UK (43-15) will meet Mississippi State on Saturday at 1 p.m. Eastern time. The title game is set for Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

Flynn, a redshirt junior out of Henry Clay, transferred to UK after playing for Morehead State.

"I had surgery on my wrist and I decided it was time to just go ahead and leave, and I decided to come to Kentucky," he said. "I just wanted to be closer to home."

He had paid attention to Wildcat baseball for several seasons, tracking his pal and former Henry Clay standout Collin Cowgill, who is now with the Oakland A's.

Flynn has played in 54 of UK's 58 games this year, with 49 starts. Hitting .284, he has nine homers and 34 RBI.

"Cameron Flynn has been a great addition to the program," Henderson said. "He's a great worker. He's been a very good player. He's at the center of our club, and we're really fortunate to have him be a part of what we're doing."

Gott has had no action in the SEC Tournament.

In beating Ole Miss and Mississippi State, UK pitchers have allowed one run, 11 hits (all singles) and four walks, striking out 16.

"I'm more than ready right now," Gott said. "But the pitching that has pitched so far has done a great job and they haven't needed to use me so far, so I'm ready."

A sophomore out of Tates Creek, Gott is 3-0 with nine saves and a 2.61 ERA. He has struck out 32 and walked six over 202⁄3 innings.

"He has been great for us," Henderson said. "His attitude, his work ethic, the way he goes about his business, the type of person, the type of teammate he is — you really couldn't ask for anything more."

Riddle, a sophomore, was Mr. Baseball as a Western Hills senior in 2010.

He moved between right field and second base as a UK freshman, but is now entrenched at second.

"We did a lot of things with J.T. last year, trying to figure out what was best for him and what was best for the club," Henderson said. "He's just a good enough athlete that last year we were able to plug him in wherever we needed help. I think his future is probably in the middle of the diamond."

Riddle has started all 58 games, hitting .276 with four homers and 36 RBI. His defense can be spectacular — a back-to-the-infield diving catch against Florida made that night's ESPN SportsCenter Top Ten highlights.

He says his cellphone practically exploded that night, along with Twitter and Facebook contacts.

His social media is bursting again, which is just what he likes. He's pumped, as are his teammates.

"The feel that we have as a team right now these past two games is back to the feel we had the first 21 games of the season," Riddle said. "That's what you've got to do. You've got to bounce back. We had a lull against Mississippi State, but we came back and beat them (Thursday). That's big for us. Big motivation from the last two wins.

"If we can get this next one and work our way to the championship game, we'll get a lot of confidence going into the regional tournament, wherever that takes us."

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com

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