Central Missouri State baseball provided interesting story

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Although it certainly doesn't draw the kind of publicity and attention that football and basketball drafts attract, I love to follow baseball's amateur draft every year.

It's a lot of fun to sit at the computer and see all the names pop up on the screen throughout the 50 rounds of the annual two-day affair, which this year took place Tuesday and Wednesday.

What always intrigues me about the baseball draft is how players are selected from just about every spot in the country -- from the biggest cities to the tiniest towns --which once again points out that if you can play, the scouts will find you no matter where you reside.

There are generally some interesting angles to the draft -- many of them with local and regional ties -- and to me this year's involved Central Missouri State's perennially strong Division II program.

The Mules from Warrensburg, Mo., had a whopping five pitchers selected in the first 11 rounds, topped by a second-round pick. It might have happened before, but I can't ever remember a Division I team having that many pitchers drafted so early, let alone a Division II squad.

CMSU also had a position player taken later in the draft. It's no wonder the Mules -- who featured former Notre Dame Regional High School standout Josh Eftink as one of their top hitters -- were Division II's top-ranked team most of the season and came close to winning the national title before setting for a third-place finish.

Southern Illinois had one of its best seasons in years, and that was reflected when the Salukis had four players drafted, topped by pitcher-shortstop P.J. Finigan, the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year who went in the seventh round to the Tigers.

One year after two Southeast Missouri high school products were drafted in the first five rounds -- Sikeston infielder Blake DeWitt went to the Dodgers in the first round and Advance pitcher Garrett Broshuis, by way of Missouri, went to the Giants in the fifth round -- a former prep standout from just across the river was taken early.

Anna-Jonesboro (Ill.) High School graduate Josh Alley, a junior outfielder for nationally ranked Tennessee, was selected in the 10th round by the Padres.

As for the Ohio Valley Conference, most people thought it was a fairly down year for the league -- and that became glaring when, somewhat embarrassingly, not one OVC player was drafted.

Despite Southeast Missouri State having nobody drafted for the second straight year -- after Southeast had selections the previous several seasons in a row --the Redhawks can perhaps take some solace in the fact their rugged 2005 nonconference scheduled allowed them to face a host of draft choices.

More than 20 players the Redhawks squared off against this year were gobbled up, including nine in the first five rounds. Top-ranked Tulane had three picks in the first three rounds, including a first-rounder, while nationally ranked Mississippi had four go in the top four rounds, including a second-rounder.

As mentioned earlier, SIU had several selections. So did nationally ranked Missouri -- topped by a third-rounder -- while the likes of Central Michigan, Bradley and Evansville also had players drafted.

The thing about baseball's draft, unlike football and basketball, is that the majority of the draftees -- there were 1,501 in all -- won't ever make it to the major leagues. But it'll be interesting following some of the players from the draft class of 2005.

Shakera Jones, the daughter of former Central High School basketball standout Ron Jones, is one of the state's rising female prep hoops prospects.

She also annually attends one of the team camps conducted each summer by Southeast's women's basketball program, and she was in Cape Girardeau for the most recent session that ran Wednesday through Friday.

Shakera Jones will be entering her junior year at Francis Howell Central High School in St. Charles, Mo. As a 6-foot-1 sophomore, she averaged 21.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game to earn all-state honors.

Ron Jones, who went on to a solid career at Missouri after leading Central to the 1980 state championship, told me that his daughter is already receiving preliminary recruiting overtures from some of the nation's premier programs, and Southeast has also expressed interest.

It should be interesting to see what college Shakera ultimately selects after completing what should end up being a brilliant high school career.

Linda Wells, a Southeast graduate, recently concluded her brilliant coaching career as Arizona State's softball team was eliminated in NCAA regional play.

Wells, who announced her retirement from coaching at the end of last season, had a 16-year record of 563-415 with the Sun Devils, including 12 NCAA regional appearances and two trips to the Women's College World Series, in 2002 and 1999.

Overall, in 31 years of coaching, Wells compiled a 914-679-1 record.

Major congratulations to Bruce Thomas, the former Southeast star wrestler and highly successful Jackson coach who will soon become a part of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Saturday at Sunset Hills Country Club in St. Louis County, Thomas will receive the "Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award" from the Missouri Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

As a result of the honor, Thomas will have his name engraved on a plate that will be permanently displayed at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater, Okla.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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