MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — The Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft pipeline for Walters State Community College continued this week during the 40-round, 3-day event held in New York.
The Senators, who finished 44-12 this year, had three current players and two former players have their names called by teams in the majors, running Walters State’s incredible total to 39 players selected directly from the program since 2000 and 51 players with ties to WSCC taken in that same time period.
Redshirt freshman shortstop Hunter Wolfe, who has signed with the University of Tennessee, sophomore pitcher Ricky Karcher and fellow sophomore pitcher Hunter Stratton were all taken within the first 16 rounds, while former pitchers Andrew Gist, who is now at the University of Georgia, and Reed Hayes, now at Vanderbilt University, were both taken in the first 13 rounds.
Wolfe will have a tough decision to make after signing with the Volunteers, as new Coach Tony Vitello takes over for the departed Dave Serrano, whom the Dobyns-Bennett High School graduate had signed with, and now he has a 12th round draft slot from the Pittsburgh Pirates in hand.
Wolfe had the third highest batting average for the Senators this season with a .393 clip, and he tagged eight home runs, 12 doubles, a triple, drove in 42 runs and scored 60 times after notching 77 hits. He was the 358th player taken in the draft.
Karcher, a native of Saline, Michigan, and graduate of Saline High School, pitched just one season at Walters State after playing a year for the University of Michigan. He was taken 377th overall by the Cincinnati Reds in the 13th round.
Karcher, a hard throwing right-hander, compiled a 7-3 record with a 4.27 earned run average in 15 appearances, with 12 of those outings being starts. He tossed a pair of complete games, including a shutout, as he allowed 31 runs (28 earned) on 46 hits while striking out 66 batters and walking 34 in 59 innings pitched.
Karcher is just the second Walters State player ever drafted by the Reds, joining Willie Parham, who was a fifth round pick by Cincinnati in the 1985 draft.
Stratton, a native of Bristol and graduate of Sullivan East High School, has signed with Western Carolina for next season but now has a decision to make as well after being drafted 478th overall by the Pirates in the 16th round.
Stratton finished the campaign with an 8-3 record and a 3.93 earned run average, as he worked in 16 games and started 14 this season. He tossed three complete games, including a pair of no-hitters that came in back-to-back starts early in the year. For the 2017 slate, he allowed 46 runs (29 earned) on 44 hits while striking out 79 batters and walking 36 in 66 1/3 innings.
Wolfe and Stratton became the fourth and fifth players from WSCC taken by the Pirates, joining Bobby Falls (1981 third round), David Miller (1984 24th round) and Zac Fuesser (2009 34th round). Falls, who was later drafted by the Houston Astros in the June secondary draft in 1981, was the first player ever drafted out of Walters State.
Gist, who pitched for the Senators in 2014-15 and helped lead WSCC to the JUCO World Series in 2015 with an 8-2 record, was taken 259th overall by the Tampa Bay Rays in the ninth round.
Gist, a native of Cumming, Georgia, went 6-6 in two seasons with his home state Bulldogs, notching one save, while compiling a 4.35 earned run average in 32 appearances (17 starts). He clinched Georgia’s spot in the SEC Tournament this season with a road win over South Carolina.
While with the Senators, Gist won two of the three games WSCC won in the 2015 JUCO World Series, as that team went 57-12 and finished third in the nation. He becomes the second Walters State pitcher drafted by the Rays in the past three years, as Brent Honeywell was taken by the organization in the 2014 draft. Michael Brown, another right-handed pitcher for the Senators, was selected by the Rays in 1996.
Hayes, a native of Johnson City and graduate of Science Hill High School, was taken 398th overall by the Baltimore Orioles in the 13th round. Hayes was part of the 2015 World Series team as well, batting .362 during that season.
A junior for the Commodores who helped guide the team to a NCAA Super Regional this season, Hayes was a dual threat for Coach Tim Corbin’s team. Hayes batted .276 with 45 hits and 36 RBIs this year, but his real time came out of the bullpen as the team’s closer. He notched seven saves on the year.
Hayes becomes the first player associated with Walters State to be drafted by the Orioles.