COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Nine former Tennessee Tech baseball players are continuing their playing careers in the professional ranks around the country this summer, including five working in the minor leagues and four in independent leagues.
Ryan Dennick is in his third season pitching in the Kansas City Royals' organization. In their second seasons in the minors are A.J. Kirby-Jones with the Oakland A's organization, Stephen Pryor with the Seattle Mariners, and Adam Liberatore with the Tampa Bay Rays. In his first season is Chad Oberacker, an outfielder in the A's organization.
In addition to that group, four more players who played for Golden Eagle coach Matt Bragga, are playing for independent teams, including three in the Atlantic League. Jim Ed Warden and Casey Benjamin play for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, while Bubbie Buzachero is pitching for the Long Island Ducks.
Pitcher Lee Henry is with the Shreveport-Bossier Captains in the American Association.
Catching up with the former Golden Eagles, here's an update on Tech baseball players currently in the pros:
Ryan Dennick (left/photo by Brad Glazier) owns a 1-2 record with three saves in 10 appearances this season. He has fanned 28 and walked only five in his 15.1 innings and has fashioned a 4.15 ERA. He helped the Wilmington Blue Rocks claim second place in the Carolina League first half standings with a 36-33 record. Dennick was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 22nd round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He pitched for Burlington (Vt.) and Idaho Falls in his first season, and split his time between Burling (Iowa) and Wilmington last season.
To visit the website of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, click here.
Stephen Pryor (at left in photo, top right/photo provided by High Desert Mavericks) has seen some tremendous improvement recently for the High Desert Mavericks, an affiliate of the Mariners playing in the California League. The 21-year-old righthanded pitcher picked up his fourth save of the season Saturday with a scoreless frame while fanning two. All four of Pryor's saves have come in his last nine appearances. A 5th-round pick by the Seattle Mariners in 2010, Pryor has been nearly unhittable in his last 10 games with an 0.75 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 12 innings. Plagued by walks earlier in the season, Pryor has not issued a free pass in his last five appearances.
Click here to view the website of the High Desert Mavericks
Adam Liberatore (at right, photo top right/photo by Nick Martinez, Charlotte Stone Crabs) has seen action in 23 games this season for the Charlotte Stone Crabs and owns a 2-1 record with a 2.84 ERA. He has worked 57 innings and has posted 40 strikeouts and just 12 walks. Selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 21st round of the 2010 Draft, Liberatore has worked in a setup role, but has posted one save. Charlotte, a member of the Florida State League, finished third in the first half race with a 30-39 record. So far in the second half, his team is off to a 6-6 start.
Click here to view the website of the Charlotte Stone Crabs
A.J. Kirby-Jones (left/photo by John Larson) has been hot lately for the Burlington (Iowa) Bees, hitting .303 over the past 10 games. He has climbed to fifth on the team overall with a .267 batting average and ranks second in home runs with seven. Selected by the Oakland Athletics in the ninth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Kirby-Jones set a club record last season by swatting 14 home runs for the Vancouver Canadians. Kirby-Jones helped Burlington capture first place in the Midwest League for the first half of the season with a 45-25 overall record, setting a club record for most wins in a half-season. The title clinches a spot in the post-season playoffs for Kirby-Jones and the Bees.
Click here to visit the website of the Burlington Bees
Chad Oberacker (no photo yet available) has played in all 10 games this season for the Vermont Lake Monsters, the short-season Class A affiliate of the Oakland A's, and has helped his squad climb to first place with a 10-6 record including a 5-1 mark at home. Oberacker is hitting .286 with two doubles, a triple and four stolen bases in five tries. Originally drafted in 2010 by the St. Louis Cardinals, Oberacker chose to return to Tech and play his final season for Bragga's Golden Eagles. He was selected this year by the A's.
Click here to view the website of the Vermont Lake Monsters
In addition to the first-half title by Kirby-Jones, Livingston native Bubbie Buzachero and the Long Island Ducks won the first-half title for the Atlantic League's Liberty Division. Buzachero, a 30-year-old righthander, is the Ducks' closer, with a 3-2 record and 4.91 ERA to go along with 11 saves. Buzachero's saves total is second in the Atlantic League only to another former Tech pitcher, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs' Jim Ed Warden (15). Casey Benjamin is hitting .255 with five home runs for the Blue Crabs.
Lee Henry is unbeaten in 2011. He is currently 2-0 in nine appearances for Shreveport-Bossier with 16 strikeouts and seven walks. He went 1-0 for Amarillo earlier in the year.
Click here to view the website of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs
Click here to view the website of the Long Island Ducks
Click here to view the website of the Shreveport-Bossier Captains