CARBONDALE — SIU's top-two Major League Baseball prospects were selected Wednesday, on the final day of the 40-round event.
Senior hurler Michael Baird was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 693rd overall pick in the 23rd round, and senior infielder Connor Kopach was drafted by Seattle in the 25th round with the 748th overall pick.
After going two years with no Salukis getting drafted, Baird and Kopach became the fifth and sixth players from SIU to go in the draft in the last two years. Four players were selected last year: Right-handed pitcher Chad Whitmer by the Yankees in the 10th round, outfielder Greg Lambert by San Diego in the 21st, catcher Nick Hutchins by Kansas City in the 27th, and left-handed pitcher Joey Marciano by San Francisco in the 36th.
Marciano (4-1, 1.94 ERA this season), now pitching for the Class A Augusta (Georgia) Green Jackets, was recently named to the South Atlantic League all-star game.
Senior right-handed pitcher Ryan Netemeyer, SIU's career saves leader, and career doubles leader Logan Blackfan, a senior first baseman, went undrafted.
Baird, SIU's Friday night starter all year, went 5-5 with a 3.16 ERA. The Salukis' only first team all-conference pick had a 2.40 ERA in conference play and rebounded well from a substandard junior year. Baird struck out 92 batters in 99 2/3 innings with 20 walks. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound righty threw two complete games for a 28-30 squad.
Baird went six innings or more in 11 of his 15 starts.
Kopach played shortstop and second base during his four-year career at SIU and hit .336 this past season. He drove in 44 runs and stole 33 bases on 43 attempts.
Sam Grace, a 6-3, 200-pound righty from Francis Howell North High School that signed with SIU, was drafted in the final round by the Baltimore Orioles. Grace went 5-3 with a 2.53 ERA, according to stlhighschoolsports.com. Grace struck out 80 batters and walked 37 in just over 44 innings. He allowed 28 hits and 33 runs.
Since 1966, 106 SIU players have been taken in the MLB draft. Twenty-four have gone on to make the major leagues.
Seventeen players from the Missouri Valley Conference were drafted this week, including six in the first 10 rounds. Dallas Baptist had seven players drafted. Missouri State had three taken, followed by Bradley and SIU, with two each. Illinois State, Indiana State and Valparaiso each had one player drafted.