Walters State is no stranger to having players selected in the Major League Baseball Draft, and this week, the Senators program added to the list of players taken in the first-year player’s draft.
Two current Senators, two former Walters State standouts and a pair of signees heard their names called in the MLB Draft, which ran from Monday until Wednesday earlier this week.
Senator sophomore pitchers Alex Haynes and Corey Stone, former catchers Luke Berryhill (South Carolina) and Harris Yett (Charlotte) and signees Nick Neal (Randleman High School in Randleman, North Carolina) and Nolan Letzgus (Heritage High School in Ringgold, Georgia) were all selected in the draft, three by National League teams and three by American League clubs.
Haynes was taken in the 15th round of the draft by the Colorado Rockies with the 459th pick. Haynes, a University of Tennessee commitment, would likely return to the scene of his final Walters State appearance if he signs, as the Rockies’ rookie team is stationed in Grand Junction, Colorado, home of the JUCO World Series.
Haynes was named the TCCAA’s Pitcher of the Year after a sparkling sophomore campaign. The Knoxville native racked up a 9-2 record with a 2.50 earned run average, and his two losses were both complete-game efforts on the road in a 2-1 loss to two-time defending national champion and then No. 1 ranked Chipola and a 1-0 loss at Georgia Highlands. In those two losses, he surrendered just one earned run on eight hits while striking out eight in 12 innings.
Haynes did not allow more than three runs in a game during the regular season, and in his last nine regular season starts, eight of which came in TCCAA play, he has allowed just four earned runs in 46 innings pitched. For the year, he scattered 52 hits in 82 2/3 innings, allowing 32 runs (23 earned) while fanning 114 batters and walking 31. He tossed six complete games, including a shutout of Motlow State with 14 strikeouts in his last regular season start to sew up the TCCAA title.
Haynes was part of a sophomore class that compiled a 114-19 record in two seasons, won two Tennessee Community College Athletic Association regular season titles, two TCCAA/NJCAA Region VII Tournament crowns, two NJCAA East Central District championships, made two JUCO World Series appearances, played in the 2018 NJCAA national championship game and finished third in the 2019 World Series. Stone, also a sophomore, played one season with WSCC after transferring from the University of South Carolina.
Stone, a native of Prosperity, South Carolina, was selected in the 26th round of the draft with pick No. 775 by the Texas Rangers, where former Walters State standout Brett Martin (2014) is on the Major League roster.
Stone also put together a 9-2 worksheet with a 2.59 ERA, tossing 73 innings and allowing 33 runs (21 earned) on 48 hits while fanning 66 batters and walking 22 in 15 starts. He had one complete-game this season and earned All-TCCAA First Team honors.
Berryhill was selected in the 13th round by the Cincinnati Reds with pick No. 384, putting him in the same organization with former Walters State pitcher Ricky Karcher. Berryhill is expected to decline the professional overtures at this time.
Berryhill spent this past season at South Carolina, where he was the heart and soul of the lineup for the Gamecocks. He hit .271 for the year, tagging 54 hits, including 15 doubles, a triple and 12 home runs, while driving in 49 runs. He spent his first collegiate year at Georgia Southern and played in seven games before his season was ended by an injury, causing him to redshirt. At Walters State, he was a dominate force in the lower half of a loaded Senator lineup, batting .376 with 11 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs and driving in 45 runs.
Yett was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 32nd round with the 948th pick of the draft. Yett will join former Senator Reed Hayes with the O’s upon signing his contract.
Yett is a two-time nominee for the Buster Posey Award, given to the nation’s top catcher, and he was a semifinalist in 2018 while being named to the All-Conference USA Second Team. The senior at Charlotte, playing in his hometown, wound up his career batting .292 with 176 hits, 42 doubles, a triple, 15 homers and 101 RBIs while posting a fielding percentage of .997 in three seasons. At Walters State in 2016 as a freshman, he was an All-TCCAA First Team selection after hitting .360 with 12 homers and 68 RBIs.
Neal was the highest drafted player associated with the Walters State program this year, as he was the 11th round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays out of Randleman High School in North Carolina. He was the 327th pick overall in the draft after leading his high school team to a state runner-up finish.
Neal closed his prep career by batting .345 this past season with 32 hits, three doubles and 10 home runs and 46 RBIs. Of those 10 long balls, five were grand slams. Neal is scheduled to meet with the Blue Jays this weekend to discuss his options.
Letzgus was the 34th round selection of the Chicago Cubs, the 1,032nd pick in the draft. Letzgus is a Ringgold, Georgia native and graduate of Heritage High School.
Letzgus was a two-way star on his baseball team in high school, but he projects as a pitcher at the collegiate and professional level. As a senior, he was named to the Georgia Sports Writers Association All-State Second Team after batting .420 with 11 doubles, two triples, four homers and 28 RBIs at the plate while also posting a 5-1 record with a 0.46 earned run average while striking out 75 batters and walking 19 in 45 innings.
The Senators have had more than 50 players associated with the program drafted since 2000, with three of those reaching the Major Leagues. Martin was the most recent to make it this season, while Ryan Kelly (2007) was promoted by the Atlanta Braves on June 28, 2015, and Chad Bell (2007-09) was promoted by the Detroit Tigers on May 1, 2017 and the Braves on Aug. 10, 2018. Bell currently pitches for the South Korean KBO League’s Hanwha Eagles.