Cougs lose three top hitters to pro ball

WASHINGTON STATE's batting lineup is going to look a whole lot different next year. The Cougars, who often struggled to score runs this season, have lost their three leading hitters to the pros.

Nick Tanielu, Collin Slaybaugh and Yale Rosen have signed minor league contracts after being drafted by major league clubs last week.

Tanielu ranked sixth in the Pac-12 Conference with a .340 batting average. Slaybaugh hit .299, and Rosen hit .294.

Tanielu, a redshirt sophomore out of Federal Way High, made his pro debut Friday night with the Houston Astros' short-season Class A farm club, the Tri-City Valley Cats of Troy, N.Y. (a suburb of Albany).

Tanielu went 0-for-2 and drove in former WSU teammate Adam Nelubowich with a sacrifice fly in a 3-2 win over the visiting (Norwich) Connecticut Tigers in the New York-Penn League.

Tanielu, a third baseman in college, was drafted as a second baseman in the 14th round. He started at second and batted third Friday. Nelubowich, who hit .185 as a rookie with Tri-City last year, started at third, batted ninth and went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs in the opener.

Slaybaugh, the New York Yankees' 26th-round pick, is also set to turn pro in the New York-Penn League. Drafted as a catcher, the senior out of Emerald Ridge High in Puyallup is playing for the Staten Island (N.Y.) Yankees in suburban New York City.

The Statue of Liberty is in plain view beyond the outfield fence at Staten Island, where the season opener with the Brooklyn Cyclones was postponed due to rain Friday.

Rosen, San Diego's 11th-round draft pick, is expected to play for the Eugene Emeralds in the short-season Class A Northwest League. Rosen, a junior outfielder who starred at Oak Harbor High, was not listed on any of the Padres' minor league rosters as of Saturday morning. The Emeralds opened the season Friday night in Spokane.

THE FOURTH WSU PLAYER drafted this year, pitcher Tanner Chleborad, remains listed as unsigned by Baseball America magazine.

The deadline for amateur draft picks to sign or return to school is July 18.

Chleborad, a senior-to-be, posted a 4-7 record with a 3.84 earned run average in 15 games (all starts) with the Cougars. Baltimore selected him in the 16th round.

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