Collegiate Baseball named junior pitcher Joseph Blanton one of four "Louisville Slugger" National Players of the Week Monday in a release from the publication. The Brownsville, Ky., native struck out a career-high 16 batters and pitched the first complete game of the season for Kentucky in a 3-2 win over Ball State on Friday, March 8.
"Joseph had outstanding command against Ball State and when you throw 92-95 mph with command of a curve ball, you're going to rack up a lot of strikeouts," UK coach Keith Madison said. "But that's not the best part of this game -- the best part of his game is the way he competes.
The hard-throwing right-hander has topped his career-high strikeout mark in his past three games, setting it with 12 in a 3-1 loss at Texas A&M (Feb. 22), breaking that with 13 in a no-decision contest against Miami of Ohio (March 1) and shattering that outing with 16 in a 3-2 win over Ball State on Friday. His 16 strikeouts (12 swinging, four looking) were the most for a Wildcat since current Montreal Expo Scott Downs set the single-game record with 18 on March 17, 1995, against Indiana.
Blanton, named the Southeastern Conference's No. 2 prospect in the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft by Baseball America before the season, is averaging 11.5 strikeouts and only 1.5 walks per game. He trails his 2001 strikeout total of 54 in 22 appearances by eight after only four games pitched in 2002.
"Joseph has really grown as a pitcher since he's been at Kentucky," Madison said. "He has put together four quality starts in his first four appearances this season and has shown improvement every time he has taken the mound."
Right-handed pitcher Mike Roga from Armstrong Atlantic State, right-handed pitcher Billy Biggs from West Virginia, shortstop John McCurdy from Maryland and outfielder Mark Jurich from Louisiville were also recognized for the their accomplishments during the week of March 4-10.