- By Jay Morrison Staff Writer
The 2018 Horizon League champion Wright State baseball team lost a considerable amount of talent this week when three players from that roster and one incoming freshman were selected in the MLB Draft, and Raiders coach Jeff Mercer couldn’t be more excited about it.
“A lot of these guys were in my first class as a recruiting coordinator, and at the time we didn’t have a lot of guys drafted, so I told them ‘I want you to want to come here and play professional baseball,’” Mercer said. “We’re going to help them get there, and obviously help them get their degree and win along the way. But I want them to play at the next level. That commitment means everything mean to me. Keeping my word means everything. To see those guys realize their dreams after having the faith in program, having the trust, is a greater satisfaction than I can put into words.”
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Ryan Weiss (fourth round, Arizona Diamondbacks) and sophomore right-handed pitcher Caleb Sampen (20th round, Los Angeles Dodgers) and senior first baseman Gabe Snyder (21st round, Minnesota Twins) make up one of the biggest draft classes in WSU program history.
Incoming freshman Bradley Brehmer, a right-handed pitcher from Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis, was selected in the 23rd round by the Baltimore Orioles and is still undecided if he will jump into the professional ranks or come to WSU as planned and see if he draft stock climbs in the next couple of years.
Mercer said it’s been a busy week helping the players sort through their options.
“We’re very fortunate that guys trust us to help them with the process, and I’m very proud of that relationship,” he said. “Professional baseball is a very important part of our program. We really do encourage our guys to take that opportunity when the situation is right. There are situations where some coaches are not as eager for those guys to move on, but I really want those guys to move to the next level when the opportunity is right. I’m very proud of those guys and we support them 100 percent.”
Two years ago WSU had a record five players drafted. The three this year are tied for the second most with the 2008 team.
The draft results are just the latest in a long string of success for a Raiders team that went 39-17, won the Horizon League regular season and tournament championships and advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the third time in four years.
“I thought it was a tremendous season, and a tremendous success,” Mercer said. “Early in the year there was a lot of adversity behind the scenes that people don’t know about. It really could have derailed the year, and the boys wouldn’t allow it. They were hellbent on winning a championship and there was nothing that was going to stop them.”
The Raiders took No. 2 overall seed Stanford to 13 innings before falling 4-3 in the NCAA Regional opener, then were tied 4-4 in the eighth against Baylor before things went south and they suffered a season-ending 11-5 loss.
“We went to the strongest regional in the country and one of the strongest regionals in the last four or five years and we had every opportunity to win it,” Mercer said. “We were all very hopeful to win a regional, but we also have to look what we accomplished, what we overcame, the individual successes, the team successes and realize how tremendous of a year it was.”
But the loss of talent with the three drafted players and the graduation of senior second baseman Matt Morrow doesn’t mean WSU won’t be in championship contention again in 2019.
The incoming recruiting class is ranked 87th in the country by perfectgame.com, which means thee is plenty of talent arriving even if Brehmer opts to sign with the Orioles.
“We still have a very talented roster coming back,” Mercer said. “We’re going to need some young pitchers to really develop and step up, but we have some really talented players on our team. And we have some very, very talented young pitching class coming in.
“We’ve always been a program that’s had great depth. We’ve always been a program that’s had quality talent and we’ve always relied on players within our program to develop and advance. That really is the core piece,” he continued. “We’re not looking for the magic pill outside of the program. Somebody in this program is going to develop and they’re going to step up and they’re going to be the next star. They’re going to be our next Caleb Sampen, the next Ryan Weiss or Gabe Snyder. Someone in that locker room right now, we’re going to be talking about a year from now saying ‘I didn’t know that guy was capable of this but what a terrific season he had.’”