Four more Flames taken on final day of MLB Draft - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Four more Flames taken on final day of MLB Draft

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. (WRCB/Lee) -- A banner day for Lee University baseball led to a new program record for players taken in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.

The NAIA power had four players selected Wednesday in the draft's final 25 rounds, giving the Flames five 2012 picks overall.

Junior pitchers Patrick Merkling, Vince Spilker and Andy Hillis joined catcher Jorge Saez in hearing their names called on the final day of the three-day draft. Junior ace Kris Hall was taken by the Oakland A's in the eighth round Tuesday.

"Wow, what a day," Lee head coach Mark Brew said in a statement. "We planned to lose some of these guys, but in no way could we have projected everything that happened. It shows the great level of respect MLB scouts have for our program."

Merkling, a left-hander who was chosen in the 44th round a year ago out of Chattanooga State, was taken by Miami in the 18th round (pick No. 557 overall) this year. He went 9-2 with a 2.08 ERA in 2012, recording 103 strikeouts and just 51 walks in 82 innings.

"Patrick has a lot of what the scouts are looking for - left-handed, velocity, and a plus slider," said Brew. "He really threw well in some big games down the stretch for us. He's a hard worker and keeps his body in great shape. His family has a baseball background and he knows how to pitch. Of course, being a left-hander helps.

"I look for him to have a solid pro career and I think the scouts might be viewing him as a relief-role hurler."

Spilker, a junior right-hander, went to the Arizona in Round 25 (pick No. 783). He finished with a 7-3 mark this season and a 3.42 ERA. In 89.1 innings, he fanned 67 and walked 22 while holding opponents to a .246 average.

Hillis, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound flame-thrower, was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 29th round (pick No. 900). Used mainly as a reliever, the right-hander went 5-1 and struck out 24 in 29.2 innings.

Saez was picked by Toronto in Round 32 (pick No. 985). The reliable backstop hit .303 with six homers and 13 doubles. He drove in 42 runs and racked up a .404 on-base percentage.

"We're excited for all these guys," said Break. "We hope we retain some of them, but certainly it is a boyhood dream of all to get this opportunity and most will likely seize that opportunity. We wish them the best as they work through this process."

Rival Tennessee Wesleyan, who won the 2012 NAIA World Series last weekend, had two players drafted Wednesday.

Pitcher Jeremy Fitzgerald was selected by the Atlanta Braves in Round 21 (pick No. 659) after going 11-1 with a 4.14 ERA in 95.2 innings. He struck out 87 and walked just 25.

His Bulldog teammate Levi Dean was taken two rounds later by Seattle. The right-hander made 18 appearances this season, including nine starts, going 5-4 with a 4.83 ERA. He fanned 67 in just 63.1 innings.

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