Updates on Kyle Freeland, Mislav Brzoja and a UE men’s basketball target

Some news and notes regarding University of Evansville athletics:

— Former UE left-hander and 2014 MLB first-round draft pick Kyle Freeland made his second professional start Monday night for the Grand Junction (Colorado) Rockies, Colorado’s Rookie League affiliate.

Freeland tossed three innings, allowing four hits and one earned run while striking out two. In his first appearance, Freeland pitched two scoreless innings, so his ERA is currently a solid 1.80.

Mislav Brzoja, a 6-4 guard who has three season of eligibility remaining with the Aces beginning with 2014-15, is midway through the European Championships playing for Croatia’s U20 national team.

Through five games in which Croatia has gone 2-3, the Villanova transfer is averaging 30 minutes, 9.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Brzoja is also tied for the team high with 3.4 turnovers per game.

Although Brzoja is not currently working out on campus like many of his UE teammates, playing in a structured environment (and for 30 minutes per game) against quality competition is a productive use of his summer. And Aces fans probably like those rebounding numbers considering UE finished second-to-last in rebounding margin last year in the Missouri Valley Conference (minus-2.1).

The U20 European Championships are being held in Crete, Greece.

— This tweet from Wednesday lists Evansville among four Division I schools that have offered scholarships to Class of 2015 forward Dean Wade.

The 6-foot-8 Wade averaged 22.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.7 blocks during his junior season for St. John (Kansas) High School. His team finished 26-0 and won the Class 2A state title.

Here is a video of Wade dunking in the state championship game that is pretty entertaining for three reasons: 1) it’s a nice move; 2) the commentator cackles like a madman; and 3) Wade gets knocked over awkwardly by the guy taking the ball out of bounds.

Wade is listed as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com.

Freeland throws two scoreless innings in pro debut

Kyle Freeland’s much-hyped professional debut was short-lived, but the two innings he did pitch were characteristic of his stellar performance at the University of Evansville.

The Colorado Rockies’ 2014 first-round draft choice made his professional debut Wednesday night with Colorado’s Rookie League affiliate — the Grand Junction (Colorado) Rockies — and threw two shutout innings while hurling 15 of his 17 pitches for strikes.

Freeland struck out two batters, allowed three hits and touched 96 mph on the radar gun, according to this tweet from a Grand Junction sportswriter.

Freeland was the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year after going 10-2 with a 1.90 ERA during his junior season. He ranked in the top five in Division I in strikeouts (128), strikeouts per nine innings (11.56) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.67). The Rockies selected him eighth overall in the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft, then signed him to a contract with a $2.3 million signing bonus.

UE summer baseball assignments

The University of Evansville athletic department released the summer-league destinations of 17 baseball players. The Aces will play in eight different collegiate leagues across the country, from the nearby Dubois County Bombers (Joe Redburn, Eric McKibban) to St. Cloud, Minnesota (Matt Rodgers, Northwoods League), to Marysville, California (Alex Gould, Horizon Air Summer Series).

Here is the complete list of summer assignments for UE players:

PLAYER TEAM LEAGUE
Max Foley Hamilton Joes Great Lakes League
Alex Gould Marysville Gold Sox Horizon Air Summer Series
Brian Jestice Hamilton Joes Great Lakes League
Brent Jurceka Waterloo Bucks Northwoods League
Eric McKibban Dubois County Bombers Ohio Valley League
Stewart Nelson DuPage County Hounds Midwest Collegiate League
Jarod Perry Sedalia Bombers M.I.N.K League
Kyle Pollock Waterloo Bucks Northwoods League
Jonathan Ramon Sedalia Bombers M.I.N.K League
Joe Redburn Dubois County Bombers Ohio Valley League
Matt Rodgers St. Cloud Rox Northwoods League
Patrick Schnieders Richmond RiverRats Prospect League
Shain Showers Sedalia Bombers M.I.N.K League
Tyler Sullivan Northern Ohio Baseball Club Tri-State League
Boomer Synek Mankato MoonDogs Northwoods League
Jimmy Ward Hamilton Joes Great Lakes League
Devin Williams Hamilton Joes Great Lakes League

UE’s Freeland No. 8 pick in Baseball America Mock Draft 3.0

Kyle Freeland, University of Evansville’s left-handed ace, was tabbed as the No. 8 overall pick in the Baseball America Mock Draft 3.0. The projection has the Denver native going to his hometown Colorado Rockies.

Freeland, a junior, had been projected as the No. 4 pick in the Mock Draft 2.0, but struggled in his final start of the season. In the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, he lasted a season-low five innings and allowed five hits, four earned runs and an uncharacteristic four walks. The Aces lost that game 9-1 to Southern Illinois and dropped an 8-6 decision to Wichita State the following day, likely ending their season after winning the program’s second regular-season MVC championship.

The MVC Pitcher of the Year finished the season 10-2 with a 1.90 ERA, 128 strikeouts and 13 walks in 99 2/3 innings.

It’s difficult to determine whether Freeland’s rocky final outing played a role in sliding a few slots in the Baseball America’s projections, but his overall body of work is expected to keep him in the top 10 overall picks. That means a big payday, as shown by this list of the MLB’s assigned signing bonus values for each draft slot. Each player chosen in the top 10 picks is expected to receive a signing bonus of about $3 million or more.

These draft values are just guidelines; teams and players may agree on signing bonuses higher or lower than the amount shown. Franchises add the assigned values of all of their picks together and draw from that pool to provide bonuses to new draftees. They can surpasses their allotted bonus pool amount, but are penalized if they do so via taxation or — in extreme cases — loss of draft picks.

UE baseball needs some MVC tourney magic for NCAA bid

Considering the Missouri Valley Conference is the sixth-best baseball league in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), one would guess that the outright regular-season champion is a lock for an NCAA tournament bid, right?

Wrong.

The University of Evansville, after dropping a 9-1 decision to No. 8 seed Southern Illinois on Tuesday, is in serious danger of missing the tournament.

Despite beating Indiana State by a game in the MVC, the Aces — who dropped to 34-20 Tuesday — entered the week far behind the Sycamores (35-14) in the RPI. Indiana State was 18th in Monday’s rankings, third-place MVC team Dallas Baptist was 34th and UE was 62nd. Complete RPI rankings can be found here.

Typically, teams need to be in the top 50 of the RPI to have a shot at an at-large bid. I think UE would be in the conversation if it made it to Saturday’s MVC tournament championship game, which would require winning four straight games Wednesday through Friday. Of course, the only way to ensure an NCAA berth is to grab the automatic bid by winning the conference tournament.

Freeland listed as No. 5 draft prospect by Baseball America

University of Evansville junior Kyle Freeland was ranked No. 5 on Baseball America’s list of top 100 prospects for the upcoming MLB draft.

Freeland, who is 9-1 with a 1.75 ERA this season, is the third left-handed pitcher on the list. Brady Aiken (Cathedral Catholic High School, San Diego) is the top prospect and Carlos Rodon (North Carolina State) is No. 3.

Freeland was also named to the 80-player watch list for the Gregg Olson Award, which goes to college baseball’s breakout player of the year. Dallas Baptist’s Brandon Koch, Illinois State’s Paul DeJong and Wichita State’s A.J. Ladwig also made the watch list from the Missouri Valley Conference.

 

UE among three MVC baseball teams in latest NCAA tourney projections

Two of this week’s NCAA baseball bracketology reports have the same three teams from the Missouri Valley Conference making the tournament field: Evansville, Indiana State and Dallas Baptist.

College Sports Madness’ projections list UE in the Nashville Regional along with host Vanderbilt (which UE beat 8-3 on Feb. 26), Liberty and St. Louis. In the College Baseball Daily projections, the Aces are slotted as the No. 4 seed in the University of Texas’ regional. Washington and Texas A&M are also listed in that four-team pod.

While Evansville’s inclusion in these projections is an encouraging sign for Aces fans, it’s important to note what type of bid UE is receiving. Both of these bracketologies have UE pegged as the automatic bid from the MVC, which goes to the winner of next week’s conference tournament in Terre Haute.

If UE — which is leading the MVC with a 14-4 league record — doesn’t win the conference tournament, the Aces could easily end up on the wrong side of the bubble. Despite trailing Evansville in the conference standings, Indiana State (17th in the RPI) and Dallas Baptist (37th in the RPI) are considered the stronger at-large candidates and, therefore, more sure bets to make the NCAA tournament. UE is 56th in the RPI.

The Aces were rained out Tuesday at SIU-Edwardsville in their final nonconference game of the season. They travel to Missouri State for a three-game series Thursday-Saturday.

OTHER UE ATHLETICS NEWS:

—Three UE squads — women’s golf, women’s tennis and women’s cross country — were recognized by the NCAA for strong Academic Progress Rates (APR). The golf and cross country teams were honored for the fifth consecutive year, while the tennis team was recognized for a second straight year.

These teams posted multi-year APRs in the top 10 percent of all squads in their respective sports.

The women’s cross country team finished the year with a 3.573 GPA, tops among all of UE’s 14 sports.

— Eight UE student-athletes received academic excellence awards Saturday from the Missouri Valley Conference Presidents Council.

The athletes, along with the GPAs and sports they compete in, are as follows: Kelby Jenkins (4.0 – Cross Country), Stephanie Thompson (3.993 – Women’s Soccer), Jacqueline Carlson (3.952 – Cross Country), James Kohler (3.941 – Baseball), Daniel Musselwhite (3.932 – Swimming/Diving), Melissa Ball (3.903 – Swimming/Diving), Lauren Seyller (3.827 – Volleyball) and Rachel TenHoor (3.824 – Volleyball).

University of Evansville beat

This is Randy Beard, the sports editor of the Evansville Courier & Press. I want to use this space to update University of Evansville sports fans on where we are at with the Aces’ beat since Jonathan Lintner left for an online position with the Louisville Courier Journal.

I received more than 170 resumes once the job was posted, conducted seven phone interviews and then brought three applicants to town for a second round of interviewing earlier this month. A little over a week ago I offered the job to Colleen Thomas, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan who has been working a summer internship at the Baltimore Sun.

Colleen will start work on Aug. 19 and once she gets her bearings and meets administrators, coaches and student-athletes at UE, I’m confident she will provide outstanding coverage of the Aces. She’s an excellent writer, has a background playing sports (her mother is a teacher and coach) and she managed to graduate from college in three years so she may soon be the smartest member of the sports staff.

As I did with Jonathan, I will set expectations for Colleen and then give her the leeway to grow the beat the way she wants.

Speaking of which, reading comments on the Purple Code message board about how Jonathan provided unprecedented coverage of the Aces because he was a fan has kept me amused. I’ve wanted to respond, especially  to the suggestion that we are no longer taking the UE beat seriously since he left.

One poster even suggested I’d rather cover  fishing before writing about college basketball. Wrong on two counts there, I’m afraid.

I would have set the record straight more than two weeks ago on the Purple Code, but I’ve forgotten my password and so far the site administrator hasn’t responded to three emails. So I’ll respond here.

Jonathan did take the beat in a new direction with daily blog entries and constant Twitter posts,  using the skills he learned at Western Kentucky. Those multi-media skills are one reason Jonathan was hired. We expected him to be a newsroom leader in those areas, and he helped raise the bar for reporters on other beats in sports.

But the thing people need to understand is that it wasn’t Jonathan’s decision to  focus on UE athletics. He was assigned that responsibility, although he did often go beyond what I would have demanded because he would post blog entries on his days off. I appreciated that effort.

However, unlike previous writers covering the Aces in the past six years or so, I made sure Jonathan didn’t have to worry very often about having to also cover the IceMen, USI or high school sports. He only got a handful of those assignments because I wanted him to stay focused on covering UE athletics.

In comparison, when I was assigned coverage of the Aces for two years, I was also the sports columnist who worked the desk two to three nights a week while also providing nearly all of our IceMen coverage. So yes, the coverage of the Aces wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as was in the past year.

When I moved up to sports editor here in May 2012, making UE a beat responsibility was as much a priority to me as all college beats had been when I was sports editor in Tallahassee, Fla., and Anderson, S.C.. It remains one now.

I believe Colleen will do a superb job while providing a different perspective..

 

Lloyd signs deal with Padres

Kyle Lloyd

Kyle Lloyd

Former UE pitcher Kyle Lloyd confirmed via text message he’s signed with the San Diego Padres organization after it selected him in the 29th round of last weekend’s MLB First-Year Player Draft.

Lloyd, who arrived at the Padres’ spring training facility in Arizona on Monday, is already off today to report to the club’s short-season A-ball club in Eugene. Ore.

The Eugene Emeralds then start their season Friday night.

Lloyd, a right-handed California native, went 7-4 with a 2.59 earned run average last season as a senior at UE. He started every Saturday as the Aces’ No. 2 pitcher before coach Wes Carroll sent him to the mound in game one of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

Lloyd didn’t disappoint in perhaps his most gutsy performance of the season, allowing two runs — one earned — on four hits through 8 2/3 innings of a walk-off loss to Missouri State.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound hurler touches 92 miles per hour with his fastball and relies on a split-changeup to strike batters out. He fanned 99 in all last year, the fourth-most in a single season by a UE pitcher and second in the MVC behind ninth-round pick Nick Petree out of Missouri State.

Lloyd is the only former Aces player in the minors other than Eric Stamets, a shortstop selected in the sixth round last year by the Los Angeles Angels currently at the High-A level.

Padres select Lloyd in 29th round

Coach Wes Carroll tabbed senior pitcher Kyle Lloyd, the Aces' Saturday starter, to throw in game one of the MVC tournament. Photo by Jason Clark/C&P

Coach Wes Carroll tabbed senior pitcher Kyle Lloyd, the Aces’ Saturday starter, to throw in game one of the MVC tournament this season. Photo by Jason Clark/C&P

The San Diego Padres used their 29th-round pick Saturday to select UE senior pitcher Kyle Lloyd in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.

Lloyd, the Aces’ right-handed Saturday starter, went 7-4 with a 2.59 earned run average last season.

He measured up as 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds before going as the draft’s 868th pick overall.

“I was pretty pumped,” said Lloyd, who will report Monday to the Padres’ spring training facility in Arizona and expects to sign with the organization then.

“I was following online through the MLB site where it just pops up with the pick and the name, and my computer was about to die,” he added. “I went upstairs to get my charger, and I took my phone even though it was about to die too, just in case. That’s when I got the call.”

The California native and Carmel High School product made it three straight years for UE draft selections. Cody Fick, a volunteer assistant for the Aces now, went to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011′s 23rd round. Then the Los Angeles Angels’ organization picked up former shortstop Eric Stamets in the sixth round in 2012.

In all, coach Wes Carroll has seen seven of his players selected in the draft in his six seasons.

Lloyd will likely sign for a given slot value assigned to his pick before heading off to play short-season A ball for the Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds of the Northwest League, which begin their season June 14. The Padres’ Class A affiliate Tincaps are based in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Not much UE draft buzz out there

Thought I’d put together a post wrapping up thoughts from the Internet’s MLB First-Year Player Draft’s experts on where UE’s best might be selected this week.

Well, there’s not much of that to be found.

The consensus is, rising junior outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski will get drafted at some point but return to improve that stock. Kaczmarski posted a .339 batting average and .504 slugging percentage, but he’s also signed to play another summer with the Waterloo Bucks of the Northwoods League. The Bucks have started their season, however, and Kaczmarski hasn’t yet reported.

One website, baseballdraftreport.com, projects right-handed pitcher Sam Johns to go in the draft. That doesn’t appear likely, though. The redshirt junior Johns went 1-3 with a 4.97 earned run average, splitting his appearances with seven of them starts and seven out of the bullpen. He is 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds — fills out the jersey well — but wasn’t one of the four pitchers given the opportunity to start for UE at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

In a March 15 article from his hometown paper, senior outfielder Jason Hockemeyer expressed an interest in playing baseball after his graduation from UE. Hockemeyer, who plans to attend physical therapy school, doesn’t want to get a so-called real job. “When I came (to Evansville from junior college), I knew it was a great decision because we play more games and have a have a lot more scouts see us,” Hockemeyer told the Midland (Tenn.) Daily News. The Aces will also lose senior pitchers Josh Biggs and Jake Naumann, an all-MVC closer, as well as catcher Chris Pearson.

And then there’s senior pitcher Kyle Lloyd, who coach Wes Carroll has talked up plenty heading into the draft that runs from Thursday through Saturday. Lloyd went 7-4 with a 2.59 earned run average and capped his collegiate career with an incredible final game: four hits and a single earned run 8 2/3 innings as UE fell by a 2-1 score to Missouri State in the MVC tournament. The right-handed California native twice earned MVC pitcher of the week honors in 2013 and, despite his position as UE’s Saturday starter all year, went into the postseason as the Aces’ No. 1 pitcher. Baseball America tabbed Lloyd a “Prospect of Note” heading into the draft.

I’ll feature Lloyd, who said as of two months ago he’d never expect to be drafted, in Wednesday’s Courier & Press.

Freeland going to Cape Cod League

capecodlogo

Kyle Freeland

Kyle Freeland

Kyle Freeland will play in the summer baseball big leagues this year.

Freeland, a left-handed UE pitcher who just completed his sophomore season, made the Hyannis Harbor Hawks roster in the Massachusetts-based Cape Cod League, known widely as the nation’s premiere summer baseball destination.

The last Aces to play in the Cape Code League was Eric Stamets, the former shortstop eventually selected in the sixth round of last year’s MLB June Amateur Draft. Stamets also played for Hyannis Harbor in 2011 before his junior and final year at UE.

Freeland went 4-8 with a 4.34 earned run average last season as the Aces’ Friday night starter. Though he struggled down the stretch, the Denver native delivered a winning performance in his Missouri Valley Conference tournament appearance. He scattered seven hits in a complete-game performance against Bradley, helping the Aces advance in an elimination game setting.

The Philadelphia Phillies also drafted Freeland, at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, out of Thomas Jefferson (Colo.) High School. He can improve that stock this summer over the 44-game schedule that starts June 12.

There were 253 Cape Cod alumni on MLB rosters as of 2012, meaning one in seven major leaguers spent a summer there. One familiar name that could add his name to that list is Indiana State pitcher Sean Manea, the league’s Outstanding Prospect Award winner in 2012 and an expected first-round pick in next week’s draft.

Fifteen UE players in all will play summer baseball this year, including four for the nearby Dubois County Bombers of the Ohio Valley League.

All UE summer baseball assignments:

Player Team League
Patrick Bellinger DuPage County Hounds Midwest Collegiate League
Phillip Diehl Cincinnati Steam Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League
Kyle Freeland Hyannis Harbor Hawks Cape Cod Baseball League
Cole Heili Sheboygan A’s Wisconsin State League / Northeastern Wisconsin League
Forrest Herrmann Wisconsin Rapids Rafters Northwoods League
Brent Jurceka DuPage County Hounds Midwest Collegiate League
Kevin Kaczmarski Waterloo Bucks Northwoods League
Jake Mahon Waterloo Bucks Northwoods League
Eric McKibban Dubois County Bombers Ohio Valley League
Tyler Miller Richmond RiverRats Prospect League
Kyle Pollock Waterloo Bucks Northwoods League
Jonathan Ramon Southampton Breakers Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League
Kyle Schwinghamer Dubois County Bombers Ohio Valley League
Shain Showers Dubois County Bombers Ohio Valley League
Connor Strain Dubois County Bombers Ohio Valley League