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Nine SWAC players taken in 2015 Major League Baseball Draft

Alabama State relief pitchers Armando Ruiz and Jorge Pantoja, Alcorn State center fielder Earl Burl III, Grambling State center fielder Edwin Drexler, Jackson State infielder Melvin Rodriguez, Mississippi Valley State outfielder Kalik May, Southern centerfielder Lance Jones and Arkansas-Pine Bluff pitchers Andre Davis and Kevin Walsh are the nine Southwestern Athletic Conference players selected in last week’s 2015 Major League Baseball Draft.

Chowan of the CIAA had one player taken, junior utility player Tyler Burden. UAPB’s Davis was the highest player drafted among all SWAC athletes going to the Kansas City Royals in the eighth round, 249th overall. This past season for the Golden Lions, Davis saw action in 38 games, starting in 37. He finished the season with 51 hits in 140 at-bats for a .364 batting average, while driving in 39 runs and scoring 34. He also tallied 12 doubles, one triple and six homers for a total of 19 hits for extra bases. On the mound for UAPB, Davis made 19 appearances with one start. He finished the season with 2.28 ERA in 27.2 innings pitched and with a 2-2 record and five saves he struck out 35. Davis was a 2015 First Team All-SWAC selection, a 2015 inductee into the student-athlete National Honor Society Chi Alpha Sigma and was the Trotter Ford Male Student-Athlete of the Year.

JSU’s Rodriguez was taken in the 18th round and was the 554th pick. The Manati, Puerto Rico native recorded a .422 batting average and had 97 hits, 22 doubles, seven homeruns, 61 runs and 65 RBIs. He also posted a .477 on base percentage and a .635 slugging percentage to go along with a .961 fielding percentage. He was named to the NCBWA All-America third team and the ABCA All-Region second team. His other honors include being named a Louisville Slugger All-American, a finalist for the C Spire Ferriss Trophy, SWAC Player of the Year, SWAC Co-Hitter of the Year, an All-SWAC first team selection, a SWAC All-Tournament team member and was on the Dick Howser Trophy Watch List. He is the first Tiger to be drafted since Pernell Halliman was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 40th round in 2008.

Chowan’s Burden was taken in the 20th round by the Toronto Blue Jays. Burden posted a .407 batting average, .731 slugging percentage and .476 on-base percentage, tallying 59 hits in 145 at-bats. He notched 11 doubles, a team-high six triples and belted eight homeruns. The 2015 All-CIAA First Team honoree and NCBWA All-Region First Team member accounted for 39 RBI on the season and was a perfect 19-19 in stolen base attempts.

On the mound, Burden tallied 23 strikeouts in 20 innings of work. He ended the season 2-2 with 17 appearances and a 4.05 earned run average. Burden led the Hawks and the CIAA with five saves on the year. Walsh was selected in the 21st round by the Philadelphia Phillies during the third day of the draft. He earned first-team all-SWAC in 2014 and 2015. After transferring from Gloucester Community College, Walsh compiled a 4-2 record with a 1.70 ERA. He allowed 12 runs (eight earned) on 29 hits over 42.1 innings with 54 strikeouts.

Ruiz was a 29th round selection by the Oakland A’s and appeared in 88 games during his four-year Hornet career, capped off by receiving his Bachelor’s degree in business management last month. He posted a 5-7 record and a 3.97 ERA with 14 saves during his career, with 111 innings pitched and 125 strikeouts. This season, Ruiz was the closer, appearing in 24 games with a 1-1 record with a 3.63 ERA and a career-high seven saves.

Pantoja was selected in the 30th round by the Washington Nationals and appeared in 52 games primarily as a middle reliever. He struck out 54 batters in 56.1 innings during his three-year career. Ruiz and Pantoja (Alabama State) became the ninth and 10th ASU baseball players selected in the MLB Draft, with five players drafted in the past two seasons – Jesse Cleveland (1965), Willie Garrison (1967), William Hardy (1979), Rufas Ellis (1984 and 1985), Adrian Urquhart (2002), and Emmanuel Marrero, Richard Amion, and Richard Gonzalez (2014).

The Toronto Blue Jays drafted May in round 33. During the 2014 season, Kalik played and started in all 42 games. In 149 at bats, he recorded 17 runs on 36 hits, six doubles, four triples, one homerun and 14 RBIs. His slugging rate for the season was .356 and a fielding of .941. Kalik started and played in 43-43 games this season. In 179 at bats, he recorded 37 runs on 60 hits, 11 doubles, five triples, four homerun and 33 RBIs. His slugging rate this season is .520 and a .896 fielding rate. Burl III, was named a member of the 2015 All-SWAC Baseball Tournament team after an outstanding performance in the season-ending affair. He recorded two hits, scored two runs and collected three RBIs during the tournament. He also had seven putouts. Jones had his name called in the 36th round by the Blue Jays as well.

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He finished the 2015 season batting .302 with an on base percentage of .400. He was fourth on the team in runs scored (29), RBI (21), and third in doubles with 10. Jones started in 38 of the teams 43 games. Drexler was chosen in round 38 by the Los Angeles Dodgers and was second of the team with 39 hits and led the Tigers with 30 runs scored starting in all 38 games this past season.

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