Cougar baseballers talk about being drafted

MATT WAY'S TEAMMATES often spoke with admiration about the calm, poised manner Way went about his business when pitching for WSU. Way maintained his customary cool when he was drafted Wednesday. On one of the most important days of his life, Way was sound asleep in Pullman at about 9:15 a.m. when a Philadelphia Phillies scout called to inform Way that he had been drafted in the fifth round.

"Of course, he asked if I was sleeping. I said 'No' for some reason," Matt Way said sheepishly. "I definitely sounded asleep."

Way was one of five Cougars selected in the draft, which concluded Thursday.

Relief pitcher Jeremy Johnson went to Cleveland in the 13th round, first baseman-catcher Alex Burg was taken by San Francisco in the 24th round, right fielder Jared Prince was nabbed by Texas in the 34th round and relief pitcher Seth Harvey was picked by the Los Angeles Angels in the 43rd round.

Two Cougar recruiting signees were drafted. Big Josh Leyland, a power-hitting catcher from San Dimas High in California was selected by Oakland in the 16th round. And LHP/1B James Robbins, out of Shorecrest High in Shoreline, Wash., was picked by the Detroit Tigers in the 30th round. Coach Donnie Marbut has expressed cautious optimism that all the Cougar recruits will wind up in Pullman.

Way, a senior left-hander from Sitka, Alaska, ranks eighth in NCAA Division I with 124 strikeouts and 17th with a 2.43 earned run average. He posted an 8-4 record, tying Chad Arnold for the team lead in wins.

Way is the highest WSU draft pick since Boston selected third baseman Stefan Baile in the fourth round in 2001. Last year, Way was drafted in the 36th round by San Francisco.

Way said he is glad he returned to WSU so he could develop a third pitch (a slider) and help the Cougars play in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990. A fourth college season may cost Way some money at signing time, however.

"My eligibility is exhausted; I really don't have any bargaining power," Way said. "I think I might get a smaller offer than I would have last year. But it's hard to say."

JOHNSON, A redshirt junior out of Centralia High, tied for second in WSU history with 10 saves and six wins in relief this season. He pitched in 28 games (third in school history) and had a 6-2 record and 2.90 ERA.

Johnson was limited by arm injuries his first two seasons at WSU, then sat out the 2008 season due to arm surgery. The hard-throwing right-hander, who holds a degree in finance, considered giving up baseball after fighting injuries for three years.

"Going as high as the 13th round makes me feel like my hard work paid off," said Johnson, adding that he "more than likely" will pass up his senior year to sign with the Indians.

Burg, who played two seasons at Clemson (S.C.), led the Cougars with a .346 batting average, .631 slugging percentage and .469 on-base percentage. A senior out of Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines, Burg played seven positions in his two years at WSU.

PRINCE HIT .343 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs. A four-year starter who also pitched, Prince made just one error in college after an outstanding three-sport career at North Kitsap High in Poulsbo.

"I definitely didn't think I'd go this late, but I was just happy to go," Prince said.

Harvey posted an 0-1 record and 2.25 ERA in 22 games. A junior from River Ridge High in Olympia, Harvey served as WSU's closer early in the season, then turned into a dependable set-up man.

ALTHOUGH SENIOR CATCHER Greg Lagreid was not drafted, the Edmonds native would seem to be a prime candidate to sign as a free agent. Good catchers are hard to find, and Lagreid is a quality defensive catcher who batted .332 with five home runs and a team-high 42 RBIs.

Seniors and juniors from top college leagues like the Pac-10 are often assigned to short-season Class A affiliates by their major league organizations.

If that is the case with the Cougar draftees, Prince would start out with the Spokane Indians, and Burg would play for Northwest League rival Salem-Keizer. Way and Johnson would wind up in the New York-Penn League at Williamsport, Pa., and Mahoning Valley (Niles, Ohio), respectively.

The Angels don't have a short-season A team, so Harvey would likely be assigned to Orem, Utah, in the Rookie-class Pioneer League if he signs.

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