THE MORNING PAPER: Three Cougs drafted by MLB clubs

Quite the newsy Thursday in Cougar land today.

Of course, the big news of yesterday was three Cougar baseball players taking the first step to begin their professional careers after being selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, highlighted by senior LHP Matt Way heading to Philadelphia's system after the Phillies took him in the fifth round. It was the highest selection for a WSU player since third baseman Stefan Bailie went in the fourth round to Boston in 2000.

Way's told his hometown paper he feels the extra year at WSU made him ready for this next step:

"It was a good call to come back," he said in a teleconference Wednesday afternoon. "I'm not sure how money-wise it'll work out, but I'm definitely glad I came back for one last season. I felt a lot more comfortable going into the minor-league system now, trying to climb the ladder this year instead of last year." ...

(H)e added another pitch to his arsenal, developing a slider to go along with his fastball and change-up.

"It kinda helps to go into the minor leagues when you have three pitches," Way said. "It sets up my change-up and fastball and it's another weapon to use against left-handed hitters. Just developing that pitch should help me in the long run."

Also selected were junior RHP Jeremy Johnson (13th round, Cleveland) and C/1B Alex Burg (24th round, San Francisco). I don't know that Johnson has said definitively what he's going to do, but I think we all can assume he's not coming back. Said Marbut: "I am really happy for these three guys. They all will represent the Cougs in a first-class manner on and off the field." Sounds like a done deal to me.

Don't underestimate the value of what happened yesterday. Not only does it show that Marbut can prepare a kid for a professional career, but Way's improvement -- from a 36th round pick last year -- shows that he and his staff can really develop a player.

The draft concludes today with rounds 31 through 50. Expect guys like Jared Prince, Greg Lagreid and Chad Arnold to get the call, but expect Arnold to come back for his junior year.

The NCAA Track Championships kicked off yesterday amid some dicey weather in Fayetteville, Ark., but that didn't stop Jeshua Anderson from cruising through the prelims in his quest to defend his 400-meter hurdles crown. He posted the third-fastest time of the day (50.12 seconds).

Also advancing yesterday were senior Barry Leavitt (400-meter hurdles), sophomore Melissa Tschida (javelin) and junior Trent Arrivey (high jump). Eliminated yesterday were senior Justin Woods (100-meter dash), senior Lorraine King (400-meter hurdles) and senior Sam Ahlbeck (3000-meter steeplechase).

As the Pac-10 champ in her event, King's elimination has to be considered a surprise -- she ran a 58.99 yesterday, which was nearly a second-and-a-half off her Pac-10 championship time. Granted, that time was her lifetime best, but she surely was hoping for a better showing. Woods finished 19th by 2/100ths of a second in an event that took 18 runners to the semifinal heats. But he gets a chance to redeem himself today in the 200-meter dash prelims. (By the way, did you know that Woods is 5-foot-5? That's incredibly short for an elite sprinter. Kinda neat.)

The competition continues today with Matt Lamb (discuss, 11 a.m.), Robert Williams (110-meter hurdles, 3:50 p.m.) and Lisa Egami (1500-meter run, 5:55 p.m.) starting their events, while Anderson will run in his semis at 6:05 p.m. You can actually watch it live here.

There's also some basketball news out there, with Cougfan.com's report that Steven Bjornstad has been released from his letter of intent with Nevada. However, this has not been officially announced -- it appears CF.C is working from information from Bjornstad's high school coach. Nevada seemed to be really digging its heels in, so it will be interesting to see if it's accurate. I would be surprised if it wasn't true, but I'm guessing it leaked out a little before everyone wanted it to. Of course, Bjornstad would be a natural fit for the Cougs with their need for big bodies, so don't be surprised if he ends up in Pullman shortly after his release becomes official.

In other basketball-related news, Taylor Rochestie was named WSU's male Tom Hansen Conference Medal winner, "based on the exhibition of the greatest combination of performance and achievement in scholarship, athletics and leadership." Steeplechase and cross country runner Sara Trane' was the winner for the women.

Wondering what Rochestie and his other senior basketball mates have been up to since graduating? Howie Stalwick catches up with each of them for Cougfan.com. In short, both Aron Baynes and Rochestie are hoping to continue their basketball careers, Caleb Forrest has given up on that altogether thanks to a chronic ankle injury (did anyone else know about this? How much pain has that guy played through? My respect level for Caleb just went up another notch), and Daven Harmeling is finishing up his teaching credentials with his eye on becoming a coach.

Other miscellaneous stuff:

  • At least one guy thinks it won't be a surprise if Ken Bone can lead the Cougs back to the NCAA Tournament.
  • Cougfan.com advises not to count on catching the football team too many times on TV this fall. (Thanks, Tom Hansen! You're the best!)
  • Wondering what Mike Price is up to at UTEP? The Quad Countdown -- which ranked the Cougs 114th among FBS teams -- has the Miners ranked No. 83 in this preview. (Curse you, Alabama and your allure of "big time" football!)
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