Storylines to watch for in 2008

The road to Omaha

In 2006, the UK baseball team made history, winning the first Southeastern Conference championship in the program’s history and advancing to an NCAA Regional. With visions of the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., dancing in their heads, the Cats were anxious to build upon that success in 2007. But the team predicted to finish among the top of the SEC again, struggled through an injury-marred season and failed to make the conference tournament. Head coach John Cohen has called this year’s team his most talented and experienced, and yet again the Cats have Omaha set in their sights. But can UK avoid the injury bug this season and keep its lineup intact? If so, the Cats have the chance to make some serious noise in the postseason.

Fresh faces

Graduation, injuries and recruiting create a constant revolving door of players in college baseball, which means each season features the emergence of new stars on the scene. In the offseason, Cohen inked one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Newcomers Chris Wade (freshman) and Brian McClendon (Texarcana Community College transfer) have been given the starting jobs at shortstop and third base, respectively. Freshman Chris Bisson and redshirt freshman Neiko Johnson will see time in the infield. Western Kentucky transfer Troy Frazier and freshman Bryan Rose will see action in the outfield. Freshman Logan Darnell is expected to receive immediate mound duties. If history tells us anything, it’s that one of these new guys will have a breakout season. The answers to who, where, when and how will be revealed on the field.

MLB Draft stocks

Senior outfielder Sawyer Carroll, junior pitcher Scott Green and junior outfielder Collin Cowgill each return to UK after turning down big contract offers from major league clubs. But were their decisions the right ones? How each performs during the 2008 season could drastically affect their MLB Draft stock. All three have been named to the 2008 Wallace Award Preseason Watch List, an award given to the nation’s top collegiate baseball player. Two of the Cats – Green and Cowgill – suffered season-ending injuries earlier in their UK careers. A serious injury, or a lackluster season, could cause their draft statuses to plummet faster than the Nielsen Ratings for “American Gladiators.” But the “Big Three” won’t be the only members of this year’s club to capture the eyes of scouts. Senior first baseman Brian Spear and senior pitcher Greg Dombrowski should also receive some major attention as the season progresses. Both were tabbed with lofty preseason honors from Baseball America. Spear was named second-team All-SEC, and Dombrowski was voted as the pitcher with the best control in the SEC.