Science Hill senior pitcher Matt Pope has committed to Kentucky.
The Wildcats saw Pope pitch this summer with a team coached by Kansas City Royals scout Sean Gibbs, and the 6-foot-6, 215-pound right-hander showed promising velocity while striking out four and walking none in two innings.
“I think he clocked me at like 91 (mph) that day,” Pope said, “and that definitely helped.”
Kentucky made Pope a generous offer early, and after seeing what else materialized, Pope decided Lexington was the place for him shortly after an official visit. He was on the sidelines when the Wildcats played Mississippi State in football on Oct. 29.
“I was definitely very interested, but I think my parents wanted to wait and see if any other colleges called,” Pope said. “But after we went on the visit it was pretty much a no-brainer that Kentucky was the school. It was definitely an offer we couldn’t turn down.”
Eastern Kentucky and numerous Division II programs were also interested.
Pope likes the idea of playing in the SEC against teams like Tennessee, and won’t be the only Hilltopper doing so.
“That’ll definitely be pretty cool,” Pope said, “especially with Heath Loyd going to Tennessee.”
Pope said he hit 90 mph multiple times during his junior season at Science Hill. He’s also developed a lot of confidence in a couple of secondary pitches while working with the likes of former Milligan pitcher Colin Duffie and Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards.
“I’ve definitely come a long way with my slider,” Pope said. “It keeps improving. And my changeup, I used to not throw it very much, but now that I’ve got a new grip it definitely works for me.”
Lexington also appealed to Pope. He said it seemed like there was plenty to do without a hectic pace.
“It’s still a city but it’s not all packed together kind of like Knoxville is,” he said. “It’s just kind of spread out and it’s kind of country, too.”
Pope and Loyd plan to officially sign with Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively, on Wednesday, Nov. 16 in the Science Hill cafeteria.