By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
The West Virginia Miners’ pipeline to the Major Leagues continued Saturday on the last day of the 2013 first-year player draft.
Hunter Brothers, a pitcher who helped the Miners to the 2012 Prospect League championship, was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 24th round (No. 709 overall).
Brothers was selected by the same organization that employs his brother. Rex Brothers is a relief pitcher in Denver.
A right-hander out of Lipscomb, Brothers was 3-5 with a 6.39 earned run average for the Bisons. He struck out 43 and walked 34 in 49 1-3 innings this spring.
“Hunter is definitely a Major League prospect,” Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand was quoted on the school’s athletics website. “He does so many things well and that is what projects him as a professional baseball player on the next level.”
Brothers made a significant contribution to the Miners’ run to the league title last season. Getting the start against Chillicothe in the East Division championship game, Brothers went 5 1-3 innings and allowed an earned run and just two hits. Brothers was not involved in the decision, but West Virginia won 6-2.
Earlier in the day, outfielder Isaac Ballou was drafted by the Washington Nationals with the last pick of the 15th round (466th overall). Ballou just finished his career at Marshall as the team’s all-time leader in triples (16) and walks (129).
“Isaac is a great player and an even greater person,” Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said. “I wish him the best in his pro career.”
Ballou became the school’s triples leader with a three-bagger in a win over Liberty in 2012 at Linda K. Epling Stadium.
Ballou, a 36th-round selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates out of high school, was supposed to play for the Miners last summer, but he pulled a stomach muscle during batting practice the day before the team’s season opener and never returned.
The selections of Ballou and Brothers pushes the number of former Miners to be either drafted or sign as free agents to 21. Right-handed pitcher Jake Johansen, of Dallas Baptist, became the highest-drafted Miner on Thursday when the Nationals took him with the final pick of the second round (68th overall).
“It’s just a tribute to our program,” Miners manager Tim Epling said. “(Prospect League commissioner Dave Chase) called me and said for us to have that many (former players) playing for money is very unique and special for us. For him to make a comment like that was nice.
“It’s a tribute to our program and the hard work, and to the (college) coaches who have been sending us players. They put their trust in us, because these are their kids. Who knows — what if they don’t sign a pro contract? They still have to play the following year.
“I’m happy for them.”
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org