The 2005 recruiting class comes on the heels of a top 25 class that was brought in a year ago. From that class, five players have found starting roles and eight pitchers have made their mark on one of the most successful seasons in recent memory.
With five games remaining, Kentucky needs just two wins to secure a winning season and three to hit the 30-win plateau. It would be just the second time for each accomplishment since the 1997 season.
The newcomers for the 2006 season should help UK build on the youthful foundation that has carried the team to its success this year. The 11-member class includes six junior college transfers and five freshmen.
"We really like our entire class. Last year's group was a top 25 class and we like this class even more," Kentucky coach John Cohen said. "We didn't sign as many guys, but we feel like all these players can come in and have an impact right away."
Kentucky has received scholarship papers this Spring from Mike Brown (Davis, Calif./Davis HS/Cuesta JC), Broc Coffman (Rainier, Ore./Rainier HS/Lower Columbia College), Zach Dials (Wabash, Ind./Southwood HS/Logan JC), Jason Kipnis (Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North HS), Matt McKinney (Tucson, Ariz./Santa Rita HS/Cochise CC) and Tim Wimsatt (Owensboro, Ky./Daviess County HS).
"This group that we've added in the Spring will help us fill some very specific needs with junior college players that can make immediate impact," Cohen said. "With the high school players, we have signed some very athletic players that can get us to a championship level in the SEC."
Brown, who can plays both second base and in the outfield, was the Cuesta (Calif.) College Athlete of the Year as a sophomore after leading his team in batting average, runs, doubles, home runs and stolen bases. He led his team to a second place finish in the Western State Conference and was named the WSC Player of the Year. Brown will complete his career at Cuesta as the only player to hold a career average above .400.
"Mike Brown is a player who can make an impact right away at either second base or in the outfield," Cohen said. "He has played against some tremendous competition the past few years at one of the top junior college programs in California."
A left-handed pitcher, Coffman racked up a 7-0 record this season at Lower Columbia (Wash.) College to help the team to a 34-5 overall record, including a 22-1 mark in league play. He has a 1.34 earned-run average with 48 strikeouts in 47 innings this year after earning first-team All-Western Division honors as a freshman. Coffman has been selected in the major league draft two times.
"Broc is a player that has shown a lot of ability," Cohen said. "He's a left-hander who has a tremendous mental make-up and has been a leader at his junior college. He has great stuff and will be a big addition to our pitching staff."
Dials currently ranks sixth in the nation in saves at the junior college level for Logan (Ill.) JC. In 27 innings, he has fanned 29 batters compared to just nine walks while compiling a 1.67 ERA.
"I really like Zach's work ethic and competitiveness," Cohen said. "He's a guy who wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line and he's been successful in that situation. He is the kind of pitcher every program wants to have."
Kipnis will provide a powerful left-handed bat to the Kentucky lineup. As a junior in 2004 at Glenbrook North (Ill.) HS, he batted .455 with 11 home runs and 36 RBIs while being named first-team All-Area shortstop while showing impressive speed with 15 stolen bases. He was also the Central Suburban League batting champion.
"Jason is an outstanding all-around athlete," Cohen said. "As he gains experience at this level, he is going to be a tremendous player. He's just a great natural athlete."
McKinney brings tremendous credentials from Cochise (Ariz.) CC where he led his team to an NJCAA Region I runner-up finish as a freshmen. In 2005, he was named to the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference All-Region team while also being named an Arizona Baseball Coaches Association Super Sophomore. During the year, he hit .395 with 17 doubles and seven triples. He also used his speed to swipe 16 bases.
"Matt is an above average defender at third base and has the ability to hit in the middle of the order in the SEC," Cohen said. "He has done an outstanding job at Cochise and we're getting a guy who has put up big numbers while swinging a wooden bat in junior college."
A native of the Bluegrass State, Wimsatt has been an All-District and All-Region player in both football and baseball at Daviess County HS in Owensboro. He hit an impressive .436 as a junior and stole 26 bases while being caught just three times. A tremendous athlete, he played football in high school and was a second-team All-State quarterback.
"Timmy is a tremendous athlete and leader," Cohen said. "He has shown a great work ethic and, with his athleticism, we think he can be a great outfielder for us."