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FGCU has big showing in Major League Baseball draft

For some Florida Gulf Coast University baseball players, life has gotten better since the disappointing end to their 2014 season. Five Eagles have been drafted into the Major League Baseball and will head for the minor leagues this summer.

The first Eagle off the board was offensive spark Michael Suchy, who went in the fifth round with the 161st pick to the Pittsburgh Pirates. This selection is FGCU’s 20th player drafted into the big leagues and the second-highest in program history, only behind arguably the best player to wear green and blue, Chris Sale. Sale, the National Collegiate Player of the Year in 2010, was selected in the first round with the 13th pick to the Chicago White Sox. Since then, Sale has been named to the MLB American League All-Star team and was named Most Valuable Player after picking up the win in that game.

Suchy comes off his best season as an Eagle with a .318 batting average, eight home runs, a career-best and team-high 49 RBI and being named to the Atlantic Sun All- Conference First Team. Suchy was FGCU’s most productive player playing in all games but one this season.

Following Suchy a few rounds was Zack Tillery, junior third basemen and pitcher for the Eagles. Tillery came off the board in the 13th round, 380th pick by the Minnesota Twins. A Naples native, Tillery hit .314 with six home runs, 39 RBI, a .476 slugging percentage and a .388 on-base percentage this season. From the mound, Tillery had a 4.04 ERA with a 2-2 record and 5 saves in 16 appearances and 35.2 innings.

The Eagles had two players off the board in the late rounds to the San Diego Padres. The first was redshirt-junior relief pitcher Ryan Atwood. Atwood put up a 3.38 ERA this season in six appearances on the mound during his first season with the Eagles. He allowed just five walks in 5.1 innings this season along with just four hits, two earned runs and took part in one combined shutout.

FGCU also saw two recruits taken in the MLB draft before ever playing an inning of college ball. Dash Winningham, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound first basemen out of Ocala, Florida signed his National Letter of Intent (NLI) to attend Florida Gulf Coast, but was taken by the New York Mets in the 8th round with the 235th pick. This makes him the sixth highest player to be drafted out of FGCU. Devin Smeltzer was selected in the 33rd round by the San Diego Padres with the 987th pick rounding out the 2014 draft class for the Eagles. Smeltzer is a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher out of Voorhees, NJ. He verbally committed to the Eagles last season but will head for the minor leagues this summer.

After their disappointing loss to Lipscomb in the post-season, ending their championship hopes, the Eagles will look to improve on their already strong 39-22 record. With two incoming recruits already taken out of the picture, the Eagles hope to find another diamond in the rough like this year’s Louisville Slugger National Freshman Player of the Year Jake Noll. Noll hit .367 for the Eagles with 29 RBI. Noll also played in all 61 games, a single-season program record for FGCU.

Young talent is important in building a strong baseball program, and the Eagles have found a way to do just that. The defending A-Sun regular season champions will continue to strive with strong recruiting and will only improve as the young athletes entering the team continue to play at a high level. FGCU baseball has now had 20 players drafted into the MLB and look to keep producing highly scouted athletes as the years progress.

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