Bernal poised to lead UK baseball

Junior infielder/catcher Thomas Bernal stretches for a out during the game between the University of Kentucky baseball team vs. University of Missouri in Lexington , Ky.,on Sunday, April 13, 2014. Photo by Michael Reaves


By Joshua Huff

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Replacing former UK baseball star A.J. Reed, the 2014 Golden Spikes Award winner, is an impossible task. But with the return of players like fifth-year senior infielder Thomas Bernal, that task becomes less formidable.

The 2015 preseason All-SEC third baseman, according to Perfect Game USA, enjoyed a breakout 2014 season for a UK team that made it to the NCAA Tournament but failed to escape the first round.

Bernal hit for a .305 average on the season with one home run and 32 runs batted in. However, it was his play in the SEC that turned heads. His conference batting average was a stout .348 while his on-base percentage was .398.

The 6-foot senior will play a new position this season as he slides over from first base to third, replacing the departed Max Kuhn, who left for the MLB in 2014. A 2010 All-state selection out of Paso Robles High School in Paso Robles, CA., Bernal gave up a potential career as a quarterback to pursue baseball.

With offers to play collegiate football at California Polytechnic State University, Washington State, Cornell and Harvard, Bernal decided to pass them up to achieve his true passion: playing professional baseball.

Bernal played shortstop and pitched for Paso Robles and was a four-year letterman at the school. He hit a team-leading .430 with 27 RBI and four home runs. Asked why he chose UK, Bernal said he wanted to play at the highest level he could, and playing in the SEC is as good as it gets.

Five years later, Bernal leaves the confines of first base, where he has been outstanding, to anchor the infield at third. Since he already graduated with a degree in Agriculture Economics, Bernal will be able to focus solely on baseball in his last year as a Cat.

If his success in 2014 was any indication of things to come, 2015 will be the year that Bernal steps out of the shadow of Reed and becomes the leader that UK baseball needs.