Golden Eagles go pro; four ball players selected in MLBs 2010 First-Year Player draft
Jun 08, 2010
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Dreams came true Tuesday for four
members of the Golden Eagle baseball team as juniors Stephen Pryor,
AJ Kirby-Jones and Chad Oberacker and senior Adam Liberatore were
selected in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft Tuesday
Right-handed pitcher Stephen Pryor, designated hitter/utility
player AJ Kirby-Jones, center fielder Chad Oberacker and lefty
pitcher Adam Liberatore now each have their chance to strut in
front of his respective ball club for the opportunity to sign a
major league contract.
Selected in the fifth round, junior right-handed pitcher Stephen
Pryor of Mt. Juliet, Tenn. was drafted by the Seattle Mariners as
the 162nd pick of the three-day draft. He was drafted
once prior by the Texas Rangers after his freshman year at
Cleveland State Community College in Cleveland, Tenn., but opted to
return for another year before transferring to Tennessee Tech for
the 2010 season.
The primary closer for Tech standing 6’4” and
weighing in at 235lbs, Pryor led the Golden Eagle pitching staff in
2010 with 24 appearances and four saves, and maintained a 4-4
record with a 5.71 ERA throughout the course of the season. He
struck out 75 batters in 41 total innings, ranking fourth in the
Ohio Valley Conference in strikeouts, and held opponents to a .224
With the ability to pitch at a speeds lingering around 94mph and
reaching velocities as high as 96mph, Pryor holds the single season
record at Tech for strikeouts per nine innings with 16.46, while
his four saves in a single season ranks third in the record books.
Of the 35 hits allowed in 2010, only 13 of them were for extra
With the 275th pick of the draft, the Oakland
A’s selected utility player and second team All-American AJ
Kirby-Jones out of Knoxville, Tennessee in the ninth round.
The 6’0”, 210 junior started all 56 games for Tech
this year, primarily as the team’s designated hitter. He also
occasionally started and filled in at first base for the Golden
Eagles, and saw time on the mound as a right-handed reliever.
As the three-slot batter, Kirby-Jones slugged a monumental .859
this season - a statistic that ranked second in the NCAA at the
season’s end, led the Ohio Valley Conference and shattered
the single season record at Tech. His career slugging percentage of
.686 ties for first place in the Tech record books. He finished
second in the nation, first in the OVC crushing 26 home runs on the
season. With 51 career home runs, he takes the number one spot in
Kirby-Jones has a career batting average of 347 through three
years at Tech, earning 207 hits in 596 at bats, 100 of which were
for extra bases. He ranks first at Tech in career total bases with
409, runs scored with 143, hits, doubles with 49, runs batted in
with 190 and walks with 128.
Starting the past 114 games consecutively, he batted in 70 runs
this year, breaking his own school record for RBIs in the 2009
season to earn the two spot in the Tech single season record books.
He is also amongst top OVC players in categories such as on-base
percentage, RBIs, total plate appearances and total bases for the
He has earned honors as National Player of the Week and OVC
Player of the Week in March, as well as first team all-OVC for the
2010 regular season and was named a member of the post-season OVC
all-tournament team. Kirby-Jones is also a finalist for TTU’s
Male Athlete of the Year Award and is on the 2010 Dick Howser
Trophy watch list.
Center fielder and first team All-American Chad Oberacker was
selected as the 589th overall pick by the St. Louis
Cardinals in the 19th round.
The Erie, PA. native was the only Golden Eagle to play and start
all 56 games in a field position this year, but also stepped in as
a southpaw reliever for Tech. He finished his season ranked number
three in the nation, leading the Golden Eagles and the Ohio Valley
Conference with a batting average of .452. Batting in the clean-up
position, Oberacker consistently hit over .400 for the entire
season, and finished fourth in the nation in total hits with 108
– a statistic that ranks first in the OVC - 40 of which were
for extra bases.
His career batting average of .395 takes top honors in Tech
history as he logged 188 hits in 476 at bats, including 39 doubles,
nine triples and 12 home runs over the course of three years at
Tech. He batted in 110 runs and rounded the bases – including
28 stolen bases - 130 times, accumulating 281 total bases with a
career on-base percentage of .470.
Throughout the season he maintained an on-base percentage of
.527 and slugged .690, batting in 70 runs and becoming just the
fourth athlete in Tech history to bring in over 60 runs in one
season, earning him the three spot in Tech record books. He set
single season records in 2010 for hits and doubles with 29, which
ranks first in the OVC, and he ranks second in Tech’s single
season history in total bases with 165. Oberacker is also tied for
the top spot in Tech record books with nine career triples.
He recorded a conference high 281 total plate appearances,
rounding the bases 67 times and logging five triples, six homers
and 34 walks for 2010. He also recorded an outstanding 36 multi-hit
games and fielded .992 on the season, .972 for his career.
Oberacker received Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week
accolades for week 13 of the season, was named first team All-OVC
and second team Academic All-District. He is the first baseball
player in Tech history to be named to an All-America team as well
as to an Academic All-District team. He was named to the 2010 OVC
all-tournament team, is also one of 10 finalists for Tennessee Tech
University’s Male Athlete of the Year award, and is on the
2010 John Olerud Two-Way Player watch list.
The 641st pick of the 2010 draft belonged to the
Tampa Bay Rays, who selected fifth year senior southpaw Adam
Liberatore of Rochester, PA.
Having appeared in at least one contest in each of his five
years at Tech, Liberatore finished his career with a 6.34 earned
run average, having allowed 116 earned runs of 133 runs on 222
hits. He finished his career with a 12-10 record, starting in 29 of
his 50 career appearances and pitching a total of 164.2
Liberatore held his opponents to a .318 batting average over the
course of his career and struck out 155 total batters, 74 alone in
the 2010 season. He battled back from a season-ending elbow injury
in 2009 to lead the Golden Eagles in games started with 13 this
season, throughout which he held up a 5.30 ERA and recorded a 6-4
record. Prior to his injury in 2009, he went 2-0 in his first two
starts of the season with a 0.00 ERA, pitching a total of 17
innings and striking out 21 batters, allowing only six walks.
He was given OVC accolades as Pitcher of the Week in 2009 and
twice honored with the same award in the 2010 season, once
individually and once with teammate Lee Henry.
The three juniors are now faced with decisions regarding their
chances to sign with professional organizations or return to Tech
to finish out their eligibility as collegiate athletes. Their
individual verdicts however, cannot be overshadowed by the sheer
significance of the opportunity that these players have worked his
entire baseball career for. Regardless of the decisions made, one
cannot deny the professional potential of the prospects coming out
of Tennessee Tech University and the baseball program that guided
them towards their current opportunities.