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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Johnson: Cooper's college career off to great start

Friday, May 14, 2010

(Photo)
Former Shelbyville Central standout Jordan Cooper was named SEC Freshman of the Week for his performance against highly ranked South Carolina on Saturday.
(T-G File Photo by Jimmy Jones)
Former Shelbyville Central standout and current University of Kentucky pitcher Jordan Cooper is making a name for himself.

Along the way, he's representing his hometown in a positive manner.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander was named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week after tossing a career-best 6.2 innings and striking out a career-high five in just his third career conference start this past Saturday against No. 4 South Carolina.

Cooper allowed only four hits and one run, helping UK to its second series win over a ranked team this season and handing USC its first series loss in 10 SEC weekends.

He was selected in the 17th round of the MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates this past summer and has posted a 3-4 record and a 5.11 ERA in 49.1 innings while collecting 30 strikeouts this season.

Cooper owns a 2.49 ERA in his six starts this season

It's been a process working his way into the starting rotation on the weekend.

Teams play non-conference opponents during the week then a conference schedule on weekends and it's been a process for Cooper to finally reach the weekend starting rotation.

"It's all about making the best of the opportunities you have," Cooper said. "Luckily I've done that my last couple of starts and you get more opportunities the better you do. It's tough being in the SEC, especially as a freshman, but I just take it a day at a time."

It always amazes me how a student athlete excels both academically and athletically with the demands of both always at hand.

"It is a tough process going to class, finding time to study while working out to get stronger, going to all the practices and then all the travel," Cooper said. "You just don't have a lot of free time and you almost have to treat it like a job. I just try to focus on what I'm doing at that time and hopefully it will work out at the end."

Even though classes are over Cooper and the Wildcats are battling for one of the eight spots in the SEC Tournament held in Hoover, Ala.

There's been talk of him playing this summer in a New York league but since he's been pitching more lately that could change.

The Wildcats (26-21, 9-15 SEC) host the defending national champion LSU Tigers (34-15, 12-12 SEC) for a three-game series beginning today at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Cooper looks to get the start on the mound in Saturday's contest.

Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer.

Gary Johnson
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