The Priates Mathews, Sasser and Mollenhauer each selected in MLB draft
By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Shane Mathews was walking his dog, Maddux, when his girlfriend raced out the door and told him the good news.
Mathews, the closer for the East Carolina Pirates this season, was taking a break from following the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on his computer early Friday afternoon. He stepped away from the computer for just a moment to take Maddux outside and that’s when his name popped up.
His girlfriend, Jen Kornblatt, saw his name pop up on the screen with the news Mathews had been waiting for the last two days.
The Baltimore Orioles selected Mathews in the eighth round with the 249th overall pick.
The same held true for junior shortstop Dale Mollenhauer and junior left-handed pitcher Dustin Sasser. Mollenhauer was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 17th round with the 539th overall pick. Sasser went to the Chicago Cubs in the 21st round with the 637th overall selection.
Both appear set on turning pro.
It was the second time Mathews has been drafted in the last two years. He was selected in the 26th round with the 776th overall pick by the San Francisco Giants last year.
Mathews opted to return to the Pirates. He went 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA this year. The junior’s 14 saves, coming in a team-high 39 appearances, were the second most in a single season in Pirate history.
He struck out 61 and walked 28 in 48 innings as opponents his just .213 off the ECU reliever.
Mathews was selected to the All-Conference USA Tournament for the second straight year.
Mathews said it was hard work that helped pave his way to a professional baseball career.
The 6-3, 210-pounder was 5-3 with a 4.73 ERA in a starting role in 2006, coming one year after having to sit out the 2005 season because of an injury. Mathews, who started 14 games and came on in relief in five others, struck out a team-high 75 batters and walked 19 in 83 2/3 innings.
In his freshman season, Mathews compiled a 7-1 mark with a 3.72 ERA in 18 appearances, which included 11 starts. He fanned 54 and walked 19 in 77 1/3 innings.
For his efforts, Mathews was named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team and was named to the College Baseball Freshman All-America Team.
Whether he begins his pro career as a starter or a reliever, Mathews doesn’t really have a preference.
Mathews, who said he’ll probably find out within the next couple days where he’ll start his career in the minors, said his ride with the Pirates has been enjoyable.
Mathews, who helped lead the Pirates to a 40-23 record and a second-place finish in the C-USA standings along with a runner-up finish in the C-USA Tournament, said he’s ready to begin the next chapter in his baseball career.
Mollenhauer was the second Pirate to be selected in the draft on Friday. The junior shortstop, named to the All-Conference USA Second Team this year, was happy to be picked by the White Sox.
Mollenhauer led the Pirates with a .329 batting average this season despite missing 14 games with a broken bone in his hand. He hit three homers, drove in 26 runs and stole nine bases in 10 attempts.
The 5-11, 173-pounder had a .958 fielding percentage.
Mollenhauer isn’t sure if the broken hand factored into where he was selected in the draft.
Mollenhauer was one of two ECU players to play in all 59 games last year. He hit .292 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs.
He earned C-USA All-Freshman Team honors in 2005. Mollenhauer hit. 327 while belting four home runs and driving in 38 runs.
While he enjoyed his time with the Pirates, Mollenhauer is excited to move forward.
Sasser, the third Pirate selected on Friday, was leaning toward turning pro, but would discuss the matter with his family.
The 6-0, 195-pounder, who went 5-4 with a 3.52 ERA in 17 starts this season, was thrilled to be chosen by the Cubs.
After missing the 2005 season because of Tommy John Surgery, Sasser went 5-7 with a 4.55 ERA in 16 starts last year. He struck out 52 and walked 36 in 85 innings.
As a freshman, Sasser was 2-0 with three saves and a 4.29 ERA. He made 20 appearances with 18 of them coming out of the bullpen.
Sasser said he’s enjoyed his career with the Pirates.
Neitz, three future Pirates selected
Senior pitcher Jason Neitz went to the San Francisco Giants in the 37th round with the 1,117th overall pick.
Neitz was 5-2 with a 2.60 ERA this season. He struck out 40 and walked 21 in 55 1/3 innings. His 35 appearances were second highest on the team.
The 6-0, 170-pound southpaw was 2-1 with one save and a 3.06 ERA last year.
Tyrell Worthington, a football and baseball standout at South Central High School who had visions of playing both sports for the Pirates, was selected in the fifth round (163rd pick) by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday.
Two other future Pirates who had signed National Letters of Intent to join the ECU baseball team were selected during Friday’s draft. Sthil Sowers, a right-handed pitcher at North Lenoir High School, was selected in the 22nd round (677th pick) by the Cleveland Indians and Derrick Conaster, a right-handed pitcher at Tallahassee Community College, was selected in the 28th round (859th pick) by the Cincinnati Reds.