Two years and a better breaking ball made a huge difference for former Grandview ace Kevin Gausman.
A sixth-round selection in the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out of high school, the hard-throwing right-hander got the call much earlier in 2012.
The Louisiana State star was the first pitcher taken when this season’s draft opened Monday, as the Baltimore Orioles snared Gausman with the No. 4 overall pick, making him what’s believed to be the highest selection ever for an Aurora player.
On the heels of a strong career at Grandview, the 6-4, 195-pound Gausman was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, but turned down a contract offer to play at baseball hotbed Louisiana State.
The decision paid off for Gausman, who went 5-6 with a 3.51 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 89 2/3 innings for the Tigers as a freshman. He ended his first season on a tear — 3-1 record with a 1.17 ERA in his last four starts — and that spilled over into his sophomore season. With improved offspeed pitches to enhance a fastball that consistently reaches the lower to mid-90s, Gausman is 11-1 with a 2.72 ERA and 128 strikeouts (against just 27 walks) in 16 starts and earned himself the highest selection for an LSU player since pitcher Ben McDonald in 1989.
Gausman and his team aren’t done, however, as they are alive in an NCAA Super Regional beginning Friday in Baton Rouge, La.
Last year, Gausman’s former batterymate at Grandview — slugging catcher Greg Bird — was selected in the 5th round by the New York Yankees and signed a contract in excess of $1 million. Bird hit .083 in 14 games in rookie league ball.
Another former Aurora pitcher-catcher combo also got drafted, as Regis Jesuit 2009 graduates Ty Blach and Chris O’Dowd were nabbed.
On June 5, the San Francisco Giants took Blach, a left-handed pitcher in the fifth round with the 178th overall pick. The 6-foot, 200-pounder — who had a 7-1 mark as a senior at Regis Jesuit and was a first team All-City selection — posted a 6-6 record this season for the Blue Jays in 21 starts and leaves with a career 2.76 ERA in three seasons.
Blach’s drafting was significant for the Creighton program, as he was the highest player picked in the draft since Ryan Gipp went to the Chicago Cubs in the 3rd round (110th overall) in 1999.
A day later, the San Diego Padres grabbed Blach’s former catcher — O’Dowd, son of Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd — in the 23rd round, No. 705 overall, out of Dartmouth.
Chris O’Dowd was drafted in the 40th round by the Oakland Athletics in 2009, but moved up significantly after posting impressive numbers at Dartmouth. The 5-11, 190-pounder hit .384 in 2010 and .329 in 2011.
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555