COLUMBIA — The Cincinnati Reds, like all baseball teams, employ an army of scouts and place them all over the country.
They really listen to the guy covering South Carolina.
The Gamecocks’ first four connections in the Major League Baseball draft were all chosen by the Reds, concluding with catcher Luke Berryhill, on Wednesday. Berryhill went in the 13th round while senior outfielder T.J. Hopkins went in Tuesday’s ninth round.
Two USC commitments, shortstops Tyler Callihan and Ivan Johnson, each went within the first four rounds and are expected to bypass college for the pros. The slot value for Callihan is listed at $710,700, but he is expected to sign for much more than that.
“We’re never going to stand in the way if a guy gets offered two and a half million dollars,” USC coach Mark Kingston said Tuesday. “We’ll give him the pen to sign.”
Berryhill has two years of eligibility left and is projected to return to USC. He said before the draft that he’d heard from many teams but was keeping his options open.
“I have no idea where or what they’re going to offer me or anything,” he said. “But I’ve loved USC since I’ve been here and definitely wouldn’t mind coming back for another year.”
The Gamecocks’ best pitcher in 2019, right-hander Reid Morgan, was chosen in the same round as Berryhill and is expected to sign with Seattle. Senior third baseman Jacob Olson was chosen in the 26th round by the Chicago Cubs as a catcher.
Right-hander Ridge Chapman was chosen in the 34th round and is a question to return. Chapman only pitched in one game this year, the season-opener, before a forearm injury nixed him for the year.
Kingston said Tuesday that Chapman’s recovery is not going as fluidly as they expected, so it could be that Chapman will take whatever bonus he can get now instead of risking getting nothing after next season.
USC came through the draft extremely well. The Gamecocks expected all along to lose Callihan, Johnson and Morgan, which they probably will. But the Gamecocks probably stand to return Berryhill, one of their top power hitters, and six top prospects who were each drafted in the low rounds Wednesday.
Meanwhile, College of Charleston had two seniors taken on the final day. Second baseman Dupree Hart went in the 26th round to Washington while pitcher Nate Ocker went in the 29th round to Cleveland.
“I’m so happy for Nathan and Dupree,” said Cougars head coach Chad Holbrook. “Not only are they terrific players, but they are great kids. They have worked so hard in all aspects of their lives and they will always be awesome representatives of The College and our baseball program.”
Hart will go down as one of the best players to ever put on a College of Charleston uniform. The Rock Hill native finished his career as the all-time leader in walks and ranked fourth in stolen bases, sixth in hits, eighth in sacrifices and 10th in runs scored. He was named the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and posted a career fielding percentage of .975 in more than 1000 chances at second and center field.
Clemson’s Kyle Wilkie led the Tigers’ selections on Day 3, going in the 12th round to Pittsburgh. The junior will have a decision to make, as will pitcher Owen Griffith, who went in the 20th round to Minnesota.
Seniors Grayson Byrd and Brooks Crawford will head to the minor leagues after being drafted by the Cubs and San Francisco, respectively.
Former USC quarterback Brandon McIlwain was drafted in the 26th round by Miami. McIlwain transferred to California after starting two games in his only season at USC in 2017. Current Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks was picked in the 31st round by world champion Boston despite not playing baseball since his junior year of high school.
All draftees have until 5 p.m. on July 15 to sign a pro contract or play college ball.