Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina junior infielder Brett Pope was selected in the 22nd round by the Pittsburgh Pirates during Wednesday's final round of the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Pope was one of two Catamounts drafted, joining senior LHP Bryan Sammons who was taken on the second day in the eighth round by the Minnesota Twins.
With two selections, this year marked the 16th time since 1977 that Western Carolina had multiple players selected within the same MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Pope is the sixth Catamount baseball player to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates all-time -- though Wayne Tolleson -- a 12th round selection in 1977 -- returned to WCU and was drafted a year later by the Texas Rangers for whom he advanced to the Big Leagues from 1981-85. Pope joins former teammate, Garrett Brown, who was taken in the 23rd round by the Bucs in 2016.
Prior to Brown, the most recent Pirates' draft pick from WCU was Matt Benedict, a 30th round selection in 2011 who pitched professionally in the farm system for five years and currently works within the organization. Other Catamounts drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates include Brian McCullen (38th round, 2006); Alex Tolbert (22nd round, 1997); and Wayne Tolleson (12th, 1977).
Pope started every game of his WCU career -- 138-of-138 -- missing a chunk of his sophomore season in 2016 due to a wrist injury suffered on a HBP in the three-game series sweep at Kansas State. He returned to the lineup near the end of the tournament-championship season in 2016, collecting NCAA Clemson Regional All-Tournament team honors. He was a second team All-Southern Conference selection in 2017, garnering the honor by both the league's head coaches and the voting media.
Last season, Pope finished tied for the team-lead -- and tied for third overall in the SoCon -- with 83 base hits. He paced the Catamount squad with 27 multiple hit games with multiple RBIs eight times. He posted single-season career bests with 12 doubles, three triples, and his first four home runs to boost his career totals to 21 doubles and five triples. Pope drove in a career-high 28 runs to give him 61 over the past three seasons.
Pope seemed destine for great things in the Purple & Gold, finishing a perfect 5-for-5 with a double and four runs scored in his first collegiate game in 2015.
Western Carolina's two selections were among 14 players from the Southern Conference drafted during the three-day, 40-round event. All told, a combined 1,205 players were selected in the 2017 draft. Both Samford and Mercer led eight SoCon schools with a total of three draft picks apiece, while WCU and UNCG both had two players taken with four schools -- ETSU, Furman, The Citadel, and VMI -- seeing one player drafted.
2017 Western Carolina MLB Draft Picks
|8||226||Bryan Sammons||LHP||Minnesota Twins|
|22||658||Brett Pope||SS||Pittsburgh Pirates|
2017 Southern Conference MLB Draft Picks
|3||86||Will Gaddis||Furman||RHP||Colorado Rockies|
|8||226||Bryan Sammons||Western Carolina||LHP||Minnesota Twins|
|8||253||Jared Brasher||Samford||RHP||Washington Nationals|
|11||333||J.P. Sears||The Citadel||RHP||Seattle Mariners|
|12||350||Hagen Owenby||ETSU||C||Atlanta Braves|
|13||385||Kevin Williams Jr.||Samford||OF||Anaheim Angels|
|21||622||Jack Maynard||UNCG||RHP||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|22||658||Brett Pope||Western Carolina||SS||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|23||686||Danny Edgeworth||Mercer||3B||Colorado Rockies|
|24||706||T.J. Dixon||Samford||OF||Minnesota Twins|
|24||731||Charlie Madden||Mercer||C||Boston Red Sox|
|27||801||Ben Spitznagel||UNCG||OF||Oakland Athletics|
|29||859||Ryan Askew||Mercer||RHP||Tampa Bay Rays|
|33||996||Peyton Maddox||VMI||C||San Francisco Giants|