COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Tech’s head baseball coach Matt Bragga has turned the baseball program around since his arrival at TTU as he continues to consistently turn out professional draft picks and signees, many of whom are currently still active in the pros.
This year, four players were drafted in the MLB First-Year Player draft. Having signed with the Oakland Athletics after being selected in the ninth round, junior A.J. Kirby-Jones is showing up for the Vancouver Canadians, the Class A affiliate of the Athletics. The former Tech utility player is batting .263 with two long balls – including one walk-off – 11 walks and 15 hits in 17 games. He maintains a .377 on-base percentage.
After being selected in the fifth round of the draft by the Seattle Mariners, junior righty Stephen Pryor has signed with the Everett AquaSox, Class A affiliate of the Mariners. The AquaSox lead the East division with a 13-5 record, to which Pryor has contributed with 11 K’s in seven innings pitcher, giving up only two runs and earning one save.
Tech southpaw Adam Liberatore has signed with the Hudson Valley Renegades of the short-season New York-Penn League after being drafted in the 21st round by the Tampa Bay Rays. In 3 2/3 innings pitcher, Liberatore has struck out six batters and held opponents to a .176 batting average while giving up no earned runs.
One additional Golden Eagle has signed with a professional franchise in the American Association. Senior right-handed pitcher Lee Henry has joined the Pensacola Pelicans and has held up an outstanding 1.64 ERA in five appearances, fanning 10 batters in 11 innings and holding opposing batters to a .200 average.
Two former Tech teammates are active in the Atlantic League with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Infielder Casey Benjamin has recently been named to the Liberty Division all-star squad, batting .300 with seven home runs and eight doubles in 55 games. Benjamin has 25 RBI with Southern Maryland and maintains a .374 on-base percentage.
Jim Ed Warden acts as a closer for the Blue Crabs and has earned 11 saves and held up a 2.48 ERA in the 29 games that he’s appeared in. Warden has earned a 4-3 record by holding batters to a .214 average, which has contributed to the team’s overall success. The Blue Crabs have clinched an automatic berth in the first-half playoffs with a 41-29 record.
Former Tech Pitcher Bubbie Buzachero was moved up to the Las Vegas AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays after finishing his AA career with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats with a 5-0 record and 5.30 ERA. Thus far with Las Vegas, Buzachero has pitched in two games for a total of four innings, one of which was scoreless.
Southpaw Ryan Dennick is settling in with the Burlington Bees, Class A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, who drafted Dennick in the 22nd round last year. Dennick has maintained a 2.65 ERA over his past 10 games, logging 15 strikeouts in 17 innings and holding opponents to a .215 average. On the year, he has a 4.45 earned-run average with a 2-3 record, striking out 26 in 34 2/3 innings and earning three saves.