Staff report | @KyKernelSports
After being ranked No. 8 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 13 by Perfect Game USA, UK baseball added another high pre-season ranking to its list Thursday with the news that the Cats have been ranked No. 11 by Baseball America.
It is the first time the Cats have been listed in the Baseball America preseason rankings since 2007, when they were tabbed at No. 30.
Despite having a school-record nine players selected in the 2012 MLB Draft, UK’s roster was not destroyed by players bolting for the bigs.
In fact, UK head coach Gary Henderson will have 15 players in his locker room who have been drafted but elected to stick with the Cats.
Only one team in the SEC can boast that many draft picks on its roster — Vanderbilt, with 18.
Included on that list is left-handed senior pitcher Jerad Grundy, who was selected by the Minnesota Twins with the 820th pick of the 2012 draft.
Henderson’s players have had a busy summer, with nine members playing in either the Cape Cod League or with the USA Collegiate National Team.
Sophomore outfielder Austin Cousino, junior pitcher Corey Littrell and sophomore pitcher/first baseman A.J. Reed have also been named as pre-season All-Americans.
One of the Cats who was featured in the Cape Cod League was senior pitcher Walter Wijas.
“I was given a great opportunity to play in the Cape and I took advantage of it right away,” Wijas said in a news release. “My first outing I threw well and it got me a little confidence that carried me through the summer. The summer was just what I needed to boost my confidence and boost everything I needed to be successful.”
Wiljas said he is relishing the prospect of passing on his experience as he leads the bullpen into his senior season.
“It is a great opportunity to be a leader,” he said. “It is great to be around Hendu (Henderson) and him having trust in me to be a leader of the staff. It puts faith in me and gives me confidence.”
The Cats are coming off a 2012 season that was the most successful in program history.
A new school record for wins was set as the Cats went 45-18 and made a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, before being ousted by eventual national quarter-finalists Kent State in the regional finals.
UK’s bid to better that record breaking seasons begins on Feb. 23 when the Cats travel to Spartanbug, S.C., to play UNC Asheville.
Opening day at Cliff Hagan Stadium is scheduled for Feb. 26 when the Cats will play Murray State.