By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Yet another member of the Tennessee Tech baseball team will get the chance to live out his dreams of playing ball at the next level as senior slugger Zach Stephens signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers Friday.
Despite a down year in terms of batting average, the first baseman produced at enormous levels to earn his third consecutive All-Ohio Valley Conference Second Team recognition. He wrapped up the year batting .276 with 19 home runs (which ranked third in the country), 57 RBI, and 56 runs scored while making just four errors for a .993 fielding percentage.
Stephens spent most of the season cementing his status as one of the greatest players in not just Tech history, but OVC history as well, breaking 10 total career records. The Hixson, Tenn. native shattered two of the most prestigious league records that had stood for over 30 years, the marks for career home runs and RBI. With 62 long balls and 229 RBI, Stephens set the standard far beyond that of the former marks set by Western Kentucky's Mike Williams in 1981. He broke the OVC mark for total bases as well, totaling 529 in his illustrious career.
The slugger also moved to the top of the Tech career list for games played (222), at bats (890), runs (192), hits (285), total bases (529), as well as home runs and RBI.
With the signing of Stephens, the Golden Eagles have now totaled six players from the 2014 squad to sign deals with Major League clubs. Five members of the Tech squad were taken in the MLB First-Year Player Draft just over one week ago, breaking the program record for most players taken in a single draft.
After the first two days of the draft, only six collegiate programs in the entire nation had more players taken in the first 10 rounds, as the Golden Eagles saw right-handed ace David Hess, All-American third baseman Daniel Miles, and All-American outfielder Brandon Thomasson poached off the board before the 10th round began. Tech boasted more draft picks in the first 10 rounds than several perennial collegiate power houses such as Cal State Fullerton, Florida, LSU, Mississippi State, Rice, and UCLA.
The Golden Eagle closer for the past two seasons, Seth Lucio was taken in the 12th round with the 357th overall pick by the San Diego Padres. Jordan Parris, the starting backstop for Tech over the past two years, heard his name called by the Colorado Rockies, going to the Mile-High club in the 20th round with the 593rd overall selection.
Also taken in the draft was Tennessee Tech signee and Beech High School senior pitcher Sam McWilliams. The Philadelphia Phillies grabbed the 6-foot-6 hurler in the eighth round with the 232nd overall selection.
After the selection of Hess in the fifth round on Friday, the 2014 draft marked the eighth consecutive year that at least one Golden Eagle baseball player heard his named called in the draft.
With five players selected over the three days of the draft, Tech matched Vanderbilt, a national seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and host of one of eight Super Regionals, for the most draftees of institutions in the state of Tennessee. The Golden Eagles boasted four more selections than SEC member Tennessee, three more than Conference USA member Memphis, and two more than former OVC rival Middle Tennessee.