SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Fresh off their first Division-II College World Series National Championship, momentum continued into the offseason for the Augustana baseball team, as four pitchers from the National Championship squad have been given the opportunity to play professional baseball.
Jacob Blank was drafted in the 22nd round by the Minnesota Twins in the 2018 Major League Baseball draft, while Tyler Mitzel and Zach Reeg were selected as undrafted free agents by the Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers, respectively. Austin Orvis signed to play with the Lake Erie Crushers, an independent professional baseball team in the Frontier League.
“Wow, what a ride it has been for our baseball program and student-athletes over the past couple weeks. To win a National Championship and see our guys being rewarded for their hard work with all-conference, all-region and all-american status is tremendous and it obviously takes some very talented individuals to make that happen,” head coach Tim Huber said. “Jacob, Tyler, Zach and Austin certainly are talented pitchers and very deserving of the opportunity they have been given to play professional baseball.”
Blank became the 10th member of the Augustana baseball team to be drafted by an MLB organization and the first since Dalton Lehnen, who was drafted by the New York Yankees in the sixth round of the 2017 MLB First-Year Players Draft. The Gretna, Nebraska native completed his Augustana career with a 23-1 record and a school-record 220 strikeouts in over 200 innings pitched.
“Being drafted was an incredible experience that fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine,” Blank said. “I am extremely grateful to the Twins for giving me the opportunity to play professional baseball. Additionally, I am thankful for my family that have supported my journey along the way and made this opportunity possible.”
Blank is currently in Fort Myers, Florida at the Minnesota Twins spring training facility before he heads to advanced rookie ball in Elizabethton, Tennessee in the next couple of days.
In one season with the Vikings, Mitzel went 12-0 as a starter with a 2.02 ERA and racked up 76 strikeouts while earning the CWS Most Valuable Player award.
“This is a dream come true,” Mitzel said. “Obviously when you are a young baseball player you always dream about playing professional baseball. I was blessed enough to get my opportunity and now I just need to take advantage and progress with this awesome organization.”
Reeg made 71 total appearances in an Augustana uniform, accumulating 14 saves, including five in his senior season as the Vikings ace reliever. Reeg’s final save of his college career came when the Omaha, Nebraska native pitched 1.2 innings vs. Florida Southern in the College World Series, securing Augustana’s 6-5 win to advance to the championship game.
“I’m very thankful to be given the opportunity to play professional baseball,” Reeg said. “It has been a dream come true, and I’m anxious to compete with and against the best of the best. I couldn’t have accomplished this without my teammates, coaches, family and friends. I think this year’s pitching staff and coach Mark Moriarity helped get me ready to play at the next level more than anyone before. I’m excited to see what the future holds and I’m going to make the most out of this opportunity.”
In Orvis’ senior campaign, the Waukee, Iowa native earned a 4-0 record, pitched 26.1 innings and made one save on the season while accumulating a 1.37 ERA. In one of his best outings, Orvis pitched five innings while tallying a season high seven strikeouts on April 22 at Minnesota Duluth.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity. I want to thank my coaches for helping me get this chance and for all that they have done for me,” Orvis said. “I’d also like to thank my teammates for supporting me and pushing me everyday. Lastly, I’d like to thank my family for their continued support throughout this entire processes.”
With Mitzel, Reeg, Orvis and Blank playing professional baseball, 29 former Augustana baseball players have been given the opportunity to play pro ball.
“For me the best part about our team and individual accomplishments has been how great of a collective group we had this year,” Huber said. “Each of these guys were great teammates and I can say with certainty that their teammates are very proud of them for the work they put in to get this chance to play at the next level. Every guy helps and pushes the guy next to them all year and that is what it takes to have team and individual success.”