Five Players Selected on Final Day of 2012 MLB Draft

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The Big South had five more players selected on the final day of the 2012 MLB Draft on Wednesday for a total of 11 draft picks this year.  Those selected on Wednesday were VMI's Adam Lopez (Chicago White Sox, 21st round-651), Radford's Matt Hillsinger (Oakland Athletics, 22nd round-679), VMI's Coby Cowgill (Texas Rangers, 23rd round-726), Radford's Jeff Kemp (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 31st round-957) and UNC Asheville's Ryan Dull (Oakland Athletics, 32nd round-979).

Lopez's best year at the Institute came in 2010, when he ranked fourth in the Big South in strikeouts with 89.  His strikeouts per nine inning rate of 11.13 was the third-best in VMI history, and it was also the school's fourth-most strikeouts in a single season.  His 11 strikeouts against Maryland-Eastern Shore on March 5 of that year still stands as VMI's last double-digit strikeout game.  Early in the 2011 season, Lopez suffered an arm injury that would eventually lead to elbow surgery, but he returned in 2012 and was the winning pitcher in VMI's season-ending win at VCU May 18.

Lopez is the first player in Keydet history to be chosen by the White Sox.

"It's really, simply, a huge blessing," said Lopez.  "It wasn't easy going from a much bigger prospect to not having anyone looking at you.  I'm just happy that I'm getting the chance of a lifetime to live out my dream.  The funny thing is, I didn't realize I had been drafted until I received a congratulations text from Mike Devine.  My house has awful cell service, so the White Sox call never came through, and when Mike's text came through, my heart jumped.  Sure enough, the White Sox grabbed me.  It's a dream turned reality."

"We are very happy for Adam," said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry.  "After what he's gone through the past two years, this is an awesome opportunity.  He has worked very hard coming off his injury, and we are very, very proud of him!"

Hillsinger was the second member of the Highlanders' 2012 draft class.  A three-time First Team All-Big South selection, he put together one of the most well-rounded offensive careers for a Radford player.   Hillsinger ranks in the school's top 10 in 12 different career offensive categories, including a .338 average (6th), 226 hits (8th) and 119 RBIs (9th).

"Matt has had a great career at Radford," head coach Joe Raccuia said.  "He was a fantastic student and leader while he was here.  He went from a skinny raw athlete to a physical player that will excel at the next level.  We are extremely proud of Matt."

Hillsinger entered the season ranked eighth on Baseball America's Big South top prospects list, with solid career offensive numbers and a projectable 6-2, 195 pound frame.  His 2012 season was hampered by a late-season knee injury, but was still productive with a .321 average, eight homers and 37 RBIs in 50 games -- the home run and RBI totals were career-highs for Hillsinger, who ranked among the league leaders in most offensive categories prior to his injury.  He hit in the clean-up spot in 34 games.

His most torrid stretch of the season came in late March, when he earned Big South Player of the Week honors after going 7-for-16 at the plate with two homers and nine RBIs in four games for the Highlanders March 19-25.

A starter for the majority of his four seasons, Hillsinger played in 192 games and had 668 at-bats for Radford.  In his sophomore season, Hillsinger hit .348, drove in 36 runs and stole 15 bases to earn All-Conference designated hitter honors.  As a junior and an everyday position player in left field, Hillsinger was fourth in the league with his .367 average and stole 28 bases, second in the conference and third-best in a single season at Radford.

Hillsinger is the 13th MLB draft pick in Radford University program history and the fourth Highlander selected by the A's.  Hillsinger joins Eddie Butler in the 2012 draft class -- Butler was taken in the supplemental first round on Monday night by the Colorado Rockies (46th overall).

Cowgill emerged as a weekend force for the Keydets in 2011, when he ranked 10th in the Big South in ERA and fourth in batting average against.  This season, he hurled 17 straight innings without an earned run to start the year, including seven innings at the two-time defending College World Series Champion South Carolina Gamecocks in VMI's narrow 2-1 loss to open the year.  He also posted nine strikeouts against Hartford March 3, tied for the most by a Keydet hurler this year, and combined on VMI's lone shutout of the campaign, a blanking of Lafayette Feb. 24.

With the earlier selection of Lopez, VMI has now seen two players selected in the MLB Draft for the first time since 2009.  It marks the seventh time overall that multiple Keydets have been chosen, and Cowgill is the second Keydet to be tabbed by the Rangers, joining Ryan Glynn, who was selected in 1995 and remains the only VMI player to reach the Major Leagues.

"I'm blessed to have the opportunity to fulfill my lifelong dream," said Cowgill.  "Another team actually called me shortly before the Rangers and said they were going to take me first, but that fell through and Texas snapped me up.  I want to thank all of VMI, and all of my coaches, for everything that they've done.  I am looking forward to what my future holds." 

"We're very excited for this opportunity that Coby has," said Ikenberry.  "His hard work for the past three seasons has allowed him to achieve his dream and become a pro."

Kemp joins Hillsinger and Butler to give Radford its most selections since 1997 -- Jason Anderson, Kelly Dampeer and Tim Manwiller comprised the school's largest-ever draft class that season.

When healthy, Kemp, a First Team All-Big South pick in 2012, has been the most productive hitter in Radford's lineup and the Highlanders' best defensive player on the field at shortstop.

"Jeff is one of the best shortstops I have had the privilege of coaching," Raccuia said.  "He has a decision to make regarding his next step but whatever he chooses he will make it for the right reasons.  Jeff is the type of player everyone wants on his team."

In 2012, Kemp hit .328 in 47 games and drove in a career-best 48 runs (4th, Big South), despite missing 11 games after being hit by a pitch and suffering a broken hand in the series opener against Presbyterian College on April 27.  He earned Big South Player of the Week honors after going 8-for-15 with five RBIs and five runs scored in Radford's series win over Winthrop (April 21-22).

In addition, Kemp's play at shortstop anchored the Big South's top fielding team (.978) - Radford was the national leader in fielding percentage in the first week of April when Kemp was playing every day.

An impact player as a freshman in 2009, Kemp played in a career-high 49 games and hit a career-best .337 with five homers, 36 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.  He became the first Radford player to earn Big South Freshman of the Year honors and was named to the Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America team.

Kemp missed all but six games in 2010 before redshirting and played in 38 games in 2011.

A team captain in 2011 and 2012, Kemp has 111 career RBIs and a .307 career batting average entering his final year of eligibility.

Kemp is the third player in school history to be tabbed by the Angels -- former Major League pitcher Phil Leftwich (1990) and Denny Van Pelt (1994) were past selections from Radford by the Angels.

Dull enjoyed a great career for the Bulldogs.  He finished his career in 2012 with Asheville as he was a starting pitcher his entire career.  Dull completed his career at Asheville second all-time in strikeouts (238), fifth in wins (16), fourth in innings pitched (324.1), third in complete games (10) and second in games started (51).

This past season had Dull finish with a 5-5 overall record and 3.55 ERA.  He led the Bulldogs and was second in the Big South in strikeouts with 84.  Dull is currently ranked seventh nationally in strikeouts-to-walks ratio at 6.46.  He walked just 13 hitters in 2012 in 83.2 innings of work.

"I'm really excited," commented Dull this afternoon upon finding out.  "I think I might be flying out this weekend and heading to Arizona for camp there.  We'll see what happens. I'm going to do the best I can, and we'll see what happens."

"I'm just delighted that Ryan got drafted," stated Bulldog coach Tom Smith.  "This is a great opportunity for him.  He's improved every year he's been here and posted a lot of big wins for our program."