Former ECU Pitchers Excel In MLB

Chris Heston's no-hitter last week was just the latest example of a former ECU pitcher having success in Major League Baseball.

The day after former East Carolina pitcher Chris Heston authored a no-hitter for the San Francisco Giants last week, his alma mater’s current pitching coach, Dan Roszel, was on the recruiting trail, dialing up as many potential prospects as he could reach.

While Heston was being compared to Sandy Koufax, who was the last pitcher to complete a no-hitter with three strikeouts in 1965, Roszel wanted to make an example out of the Giants’ rookie.

The message from Roszel to recruits was a simple one — that they can parlay a collegiate stay at ECU into a fruitful professional career on a major league diamond.

Although Roszel arrived at ECU in 2012, which was three years after Heston’s eligibility had expired, the two sides have developed a relationship through Pirate baseball over the last few years.

“He’s a Pirate,” Roszel said. “I don’t care if its former, past, present or whatever. You want great things to happen for those guys. I keep in touch with (Heston), we’re regularly texting. I’m checking on him and he’s checking on the Pirates.”

On May 17, Roszel’s name was mentioned on the Orioles television broadcast by another former Pirate. This time it was Mike Wright, who credited Roszel for teaching him some valuable lessons at ECU that helped him toss 7 1/3 scoreless innings in his major league debut.

"To have Mike Wright pump me up and say my name on TV, that goes a long way (in recruiting)," Roszel said. "To say Heston is a former player here ... and he's out there throwing in a big league game and he's throwing a no hitter, all those things are great for recruiting.

Jeff Hoffman struck out 17 batters in his final collegiate game at ECU.
(Kat Jessick/InsideECUSports.com)
"Publicity, that's your No. 1 seller."

Wright would pitch seven more shutout innings in his second start and, after an abbreviated in Triple-A Norfolk earlier this month, he was back on the mound in Baltimore, starting against the Yankees on Sunday. Prior to making his big league debut, Wright logged 484 innings in the Orioles’ farm system since being drafted in 2011 (third round, 94th overall).

St. Louis Cardinals reliever Seth Maness completes the list of former Pirates in the majors today. In the 2013 World Series, ECU’s all-time wins leader made four relief appearances for the Cardinals and has already pitched in 30 games this season.

Back in 2009, the Pirates’ pitching staff featured Heston, Wright and Maness on its way to the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals. ECU hasn’t advanced as far since.

Despite all three of the pitchers being no older than 27, Jeff Hoffman still remains the Pirates’ most promising pro prospect. Hoffman, who became the school’s highest draft pick ever when the Blue Jays selected him ninth overall in the first round last summer, made his professional debut with Class-A Dunedin on May 20 after being shelved for 12 months due to Tommy John elbow surgery.

Coincidentally, the Pirates were playing in nearby Clearwater, Florida, in the American Conference Tournament that they would eventually win at the time, which allowed Roszel to watch Hoffman throw five innings from the bleachers. Hoffman’s fastball was clocked between 92-99 MPH throughout his start.

“It was special to see him pitch,” Roszel said. “The velocity is there. It’s right where it was.”

Two more ECU pitchers — Reid Love (Orioles, 10th round) and David Lucroy (Brewers, 20th round) — were selected in the MLB Draft last week. As a result, a former Pirate pitcher has now been drafted in four of the last five years. To put it simply, EC

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