Bat Cats reliant on pitching staff in 2011



The UK baseball team is knotting its cleats in preparation for the 2011 season, nine days before its season opener on the road at the College of Charleston.

Taylor Black, Braden Kapteyn, Alex Meyer and Chad Wright Jr., are among the returning team members.

Coming off a 31-25 season, including a 13-17 record in the Southeastern Conference, the Cats fell short of the NCAA tournament by the narrowest of margins for the third time in four years. They will look to build toward a postseason run in 2011 behind third-year head coach Gary Henderson.

“I feel like our goal for this season is to make the postseason. I feel like we have a good shot to really make some noise in the SEC this year,” senior shortstop Black said. “I feel like this year is going to be a good year because we have some good pitching and some big bats back in the lineup, and I feel like we can get to the postseason.”

Along with Black, Kapteyn, Meyer and Wright all shared the same optimism about the upcoming season. The Cats’ are relying on their strong pitching staff entering the 2011 season, anchored by Meyer, a consensus top-10 pick in this summer’s Major League Baseball draft, and the potential No. 1 overall pick. UK boasts one of the strongest veteran starting rotations in the nation with Meyer, Jordan Cooper and Taylor Rodgers.

“On Friday night, teams may see us throw right-left-right and you can’t really get comfortable with anything,” Meyer said. “And with us being three different types of pitchers, the doors open for us because they can’t really get comfortable or used to seeing the same thing over and over.”

Henderson said the success he expects from his pitching rotation reflects the hard work the players put in over previous years and in the offseason.

“When you invest the way we did in freshmen pitching last year, then I want a return on my investment,” Henderson said. “That is why you do that.”

Kapteyn will likely act as the closer out of the bullpen for the pitching staff, and will also start at first base for the Cats. He is on the 25-man watch list for the John Olerud award, awarded to the nation’s best two-way player. Kapteyn believes he will be most useful in whichever position Henderson and the team needs him to be in.

“I’m open to whatever, if coach wants me to hit I’m going to hit, if coach wants me to pitch I’m going to pitch,” Kapteyn said. “Whatever coach wants me to do I’m going to be willing to do, I’m not going to resist anything.”

Henderson’s discussed his roster from top to bottom and how he thought his team would fare against the competition on their schedule in 2011.

A focus for Henderson in the offseason was defense and pitching. UK returns only one starting infielder from last year’s squad — Black. With new faces at nearly every other position around the diamond, Henderson made sure his new guys were all sound defensively after the team struggled at times in the field a year ago.

“You have to play defense and you have to pitch out of the bullpen. Those are constants you have to have,” Henderson said. “… We are going to do everything that I can to play defense here.”

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