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Three former Golden Eagles have impressive minor league baseball seasons in 2009

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Three former Tennessee Tech baseball players continue their baseball careers in the minor leagues, and each of them put together impressive campaigns in 2009.

Ryan Dennick played a major role for the Golden Eagles in their path to an Ohio Valley Conference championship in 2009, which drew the attention of Major League Baseball scouts. A few weeks later the Kansas City Royals drafted Dennick in the 22nd round of the MLB draft.

Dennick, a left-handed pitcher who spent most of the season with the Burlington Royals of the Appalachian League, put up impressive numbers primarily out of the bullpen in Burlington. In 14 appearances, 13 in relief, Dennick threw 33.1 innings with a 2.43 ERA and a .221 opponents batting average. In that time he struck out 34 batters while allowing only 11 walks. At the beginning of September Dennick began a three-game stint with the Idaho Falls Chukars of the Rookie Pioneer League.

"Strikeout-to-walk ratio is an important statistic that clubs will look at," Tech baseball coach Matt Bragga said. "Anytime you've got a 2-to-1 ratio in that category, that's very impressive, so for him to be over 3-to-1 is fantastic."

Dennick's path to the pro's is somewhat of an unusual one. He began 2009 as Tech's top left-handed reliever. But as the season wore on, the injury bug took its toll on the Golden Eagles, and Dennick was put into a starting role. He shined in his new-found role, and finished the season second on the team in ERA, strikeouts, opponent's batting average and strikeouts.

"When he was in that role later in the year and excelled, that only helped his stock," Bragga said. "Being in the NCAA tournament really helped, and people really got a chance to see him and they were impressed."

"I went from coming out of the bullpen at Tech, to a starting role, to winning games in the OVC tournament, to pitching against Clemson in the NCAA tournament, and now pitching professionally," Dennick said. "It's been a great ride. Getting paid to play baseball is a dream come true."

In addition to Dennick, former Golden Eagles Bubbie Buzachero and Casey Benjamin both had successful seasons in triple-A baseball in 2009, and are one step away from the Major Leagues.

Buzachero, a right-handed pitcher who was born in Livingston, Tenn., finished the 2009 season with the Las Vegas 51's, an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Throughout the course of the season Buzachero posted a 5-4 record with a 2.49 ERA. He struck out 56 batters and allowed just 14 walks while opponents hit just .184 against him.

Buzachero was drafted in the 23rd round of the 2002 MLB draft by Toronto and has been working his way up the minor league baseball ranks ever since.

Benjamin finished his second season of triple-A baseball with the Oklahoma City Red Hawks, an affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Benjamin hit .231 in 93 games with the Red Hawks, finishing with 69 hits, including 12 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 32 RBIs.

Benjamin saved his best for last, as he went 4-for-5 in the season finale against Memphis, and had a home run and three RBIs to cap Oklahoma City's come-from-behind win.

"It's exciting to have guys in triple-A because they're so close to the big-leagues," Bragga said. "They're just a trade or an injury away from getting called up."

With Dennick's signing with the Kansas City Royals, it marks the third consecutive year a member of the Golden Eagle baseball team has signed a professional contract. Pitcher Zac Cole signed with the Baltimore Orioles in 2007 and Jake New signed with the Dodgers in 2008 before Dennick in 2009.

"We're making it a tradition to send guys to the next level year-in and year-out," Bragga said. "We expect that to turn into two or three guys every year at this program. We want every guy in that locker room to have the dream of playing professional baseball, and we want them to succeed at the next level."