Jake Wright’s signing Wednesday of a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates concluded Coastal Carolina’s month of heavy losses to pro baseball.
Six members of the 2018 CCU baseball team with eligibility remaining and two additional recruits in the incoming class of 2019 were selected last month in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, and seven of those eight players have elected to turn pro.
While the others signed shortly after the draft, which was held June 3-5, Wright delayed his decision while negotiating with the Pirates after being taken in the 32nd of 40 rounds.
“I just prayed about it and talked it over with my family and I just knew that it was best that I went ahead and started my pro career,” Wright told The Sun News in a Twitter message. The outfielder, who would have been a senior, is headed to the Bristol (Virginia) Pirates of the rookie Appalachian League.
Shortstop Scott McKeon is the lone drafted player returning. He confirmed to The Sun News that he will remain for his senior season despite being drafted in the 21st round by the Detroit Tigers, and the Chants also received a high-profile late commitment this week who had been committed to Texas Tech.
Kyle Westfall of IMG Academy in Florida rescinded his verbal commitment to the Red Raiders on Friday and committed Sunday to the Chants and is in the process of enrolling.
Westfall, an outfielder and second baseman who is a native of Mason, Ohio, is ranked by Perfect Game as the 138th overall national high school prospect in the 2019 class and 28th-best outfielder, and is ranked No. 2 overall and No. 1 among outfielders from Ohio.
“Very exciting all-around tools, fun to watch,” is Perfect Game’s assessment of the right-handed hitter.
Wright was named the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year after joining CCU from Seminole State College. He was also named to the All-Sun Belt second team, Sun Belt All-Tournament team and NCAA Atlanta Regional All-Tournament team.
He led the Chants and was second in the Sun Belt in hitting at .355, led the Sun Belt in on-base percentage at .516 and was second in the league in walks with 45. He had 11 home runs, two triples, eight doubles, 49 RBIs, 57 runs scored and a .601 slugging percentage in 61 games, including 51 starts.
McKeon will be one of just two starting position players returning to the CCU lineup along with rising junior outfielder Parker Chavers.
McKeon led the Chants and Sun Belt in hits with 87 in his only season with the team out of Brunswick Community College, which is tied for 18th all-time in CCU’s single-season history.
He hit .340, which was second on the team, with three home runs, a team-high five triples, 18 doubles, 39 RBIs and 50 runs scored. He also posted a .484 slugging percentage and a .399 on-base percentage while starting all 63 games at shortstop and ended the season on a 12-game hitting streak.
He’s expected to be joined on the 2020 roster by position players Nick Lucky, Jared Johnson, Morgan Hyde, Dallas Callahan and Bradley Riopelle – who all saw action in at least 19 games – and more than 20 high school and junior college signees.
They will not include right-handed pitchers Michael Limoncelli of Horseheads High in New York and Nicholas Yoder of Rowan College at Gloucester County in New Jersey, CCU’s two drafted incoming recruits who signed pro contracts.
Limoncelli was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the sixth round with the 186th overall pick, which carried an estimated signing bonus of $260,000. Yoder was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 34th round, and CCU coach Gary Gilmore said he thought the pitcher could help both himself and the Chants by joining the program.
Other Chants with remaining eligibility who were drafted included left-handed pitcher Anthony Veneziano by the Kansas City Royals in the 10th round, second baseman Cory Wood by the Pirates in the 19th round, infielder Keaton Weisz by the Los Angeles Angels in the 36th round, and catcher Kyle Skeels by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 36th round.
They are all playing in the minor leagues for their respective MLB clubs.
Of the seven 2018 Chants drafted, first baseman Zach Biermann was the only senior taken who had expended his eligibility. He was selected by the Houston Astros in the 23rd round and is playing for the Tri-City ValleyCats in the rookie-level New York-Penn League.