Bulldogs, Cougars hit hard by MLB draft

Citadel pitcher Skylar Hunter from Hanahan High school was taken in the MLB draft Wednesday. (Photo provided)

College of Charleston and The Citadel both were hit hard by the MLB draft over the last two days, with three players with college eligibility remaining chosen from each team.

Citadel junior pitchers Skylar Hunter (from Hanahan High School) and Austin Mason went in the 12th and 17th rounds, respectively, on Wednesday, Hunter to the Phillies and Mason to Arizona. They join a third Bulldogs pitcher, James Reeves of Ashley Ridge High School, who was taken by the Yankees in the 10th round on Tuesday.

The Cougars’ Blake Butler, a junior second baseman, was chosen in the 15th round by the Reds on Wednesday, joining second-day picks in pitcher Taylor Clarke (third round, Arizona) and infielder Carl Wise (fourth round, Blue Jays).

All six players are eligible for another college season, but all six will sign contracts and begin their pro careers.

Cougars coach Monte Lee said he’d love to have his trio back for their senior seasons, but also knows that the time is right for them to start their pro careers.

“We have these conversations before it happens,” said Lee, whose team won the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title and advanced to the NCAA regionals last season. “We knew before the draft started that if those three guys were taken where they were, they would sign.

“You want to recruit guys who are going to have make tough decisions in three years, that’s the ideal. To be honest, not many elite teams around the country have a lot of seniors. You want the bulk of your team to be sophomores and juniors. If you have a lot of seniors, then you are not getting guys drafted. It’s a balance, but you have to expect the good ones to be gone after three years.”

Butler was one of the good ones, hitting .325 with 13 home runs and 63 runs batted-in for the Cougars this season, and starting 177 of 179 career games in which he played.

“This is obviously really exciting for me,” said Butler. “It’s the same type of excitement I had yesterday when I saw Carl and Taylor get called; it just hits you all of the sudden. It’s really exciting for me, and I’m really excited for those guys. It’s just one of those moments you dream about from the time you’re a little kid, and I know how hard we have worked to make this come true.”

Hunter, a 6-1, 185-pound right-hander, was 3-6 with a 3.74 ERA and 13 saves this season for the Bulldogs. He appeared in 95 games during his career at The Citadel, recording 147 strikeouts with an earned-run average of 3.49 over 131.1 innings. This season, Hunter broke the program and Southern Conference records for career saves with 41.

Mason, a 6-2, 200-pound righty, went 3-2 with a 4.19 ERA.

Charleston Southern pitcher Andrew Tomasovich was taken in the 21st round by the Athletics, with pick No. 638. The junior lefty was 7-7 with a 3.09 ERA this season.

A final season at South Carolina, or a first season in the Washington Nationals’ farm system?

That’s the choice now looming for Max Schrock, after the Nationals took the USC second baseman Wednesday in the 13th round with the 404th overall pick. As a junior, Schrock has one season of college eligibility remaining, and Gamecocks head coach Chad Holbrook has indicated that the second-team All-SEC selection has a strong desire to return to school.

Schrock became the third Gamecocks player taken in this year’s draft. First baseman Kyle Martin went in the fourth round to Philadelphia, returning to USC for his senior campaign and substantially improving his draft position over the previous year, when the Los Angeles Angels took him in the 20th round. Junior pitcher Jack Wynkoop was taken in the sixth round by Colorado, and has indicated he will leave school early.

Holbrook certainly hopes Schrock will follow the model set by Martin, and try to better his draft standing with a senior season at USC. Schrock hit .303 with 11 doubles and 34 runs batted in this past season, but the Chapel Hill, N.C., native was hampered down the stretch with first a strained Achilles’ tendon and then a sprained wrist which forced him to miss the Gamecocks’ final game.

“I have a really good feeling he’s going to come back and play here his senior year,” Holbrook said. “If he doesn’t, I’ll be his biggest supporter for as long as he needs me around. … I hope selfishly he comes back and can play 56 games heathy, and then everyone will see what kind of player I know he is. And I think that’s what he wants to do, too.”

Tigers junior right-handed pitcher Clate Schmidt, on the day he began chemotherapy with the intent of striking out cancer, was drafted Wednesday by the Red Sox in the 32nd round.

Schmidt was diagnosed a week ago with nodular sclerosis, a treatable form of Hodkin’s lymphoma. The disease is highly curable, commonly found in 20-year-olds, and not expected to interfere with Schmidt’s baseball career.

Schmidt’s father, Dwight, told The Post and Courier last week Clate and his brother Clarke, a South Carolina freshman reliever, were scheduled to work out on their own this summer in preparation for next season.

Clarke tweeted a photo of the brothers Wednesday morning preparing for Schmidt’s first day of chemotherapy. Schmidt’s father said in a text message to The Post and Courier the day went well.

When going through testing in recent months, Clate Schmidt took a liking to Jon Lester, who famously beat cancer last decade. Now he’s a draftee of the team with whom Lester, now a Chicago Cub, played nine years and won a pair of World Series championships.

It’s not known whether Schmidt will take a pass on the pros to return for his senior year — though if he did want to make good on Boston’s draft pick, he feasibly could begin his minor league career with the Class A Greenville Drive, a short drive both from Clemson and from his hometown in Acworth, Ga.

Schmidt was 2-3 with a 4.67 ERA in 2015, thriving more in a midweek starting role than out of the bullpen.

Earlier Wednesday, Clemson starting pitcher Brody Koerner was selected by the New York Yankees (whose own Class A affiliate plays in Charleston) in Round 17. Koerner zapped the rival Gamecocks with a complete-game shutout in early March, but struggled the rest of the year to a 4-5 record and 7.55 ERA.

Shortstop Eli White was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 37th round.