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Father, friends join Kruczynski on draft day

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Evan Kruczynski, left, and Bryce Harman come together after an out against Central Florida at Clark-LeClair Stadium on April 15.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Evan Kruczynski’s father, Jeff, lives in Wisconsin, but he was in Greenville on Tuesday to play golf with his son and help him with a key part of the post-college transition in moving furniture and other belongings.

The timing ended up being perfect, as Kruczynski — the lead pitcher on the past few East Carolina baseball teams — was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth round of the Major League Baseball draft on Tuesday.

The left-hander, who posted a 20-8 record during his four seasons at ECU and was a D1Baseball third-team All-American as a junior, talked to the Cardinals and other teams Tuesday prior to the ninth round. It ended up being St. Louis, which drafted former Pirate pitcher Seth Maness in the 11th round in 2011, taking Kruczynski with the 274th overall pick.

Kruczynski soon had plenty of time to soak it all in with his dad and some of the Pirate teammates who he described as lifelong friends.

“To start the ninth round I got a call from the Cardinals and they asked if I would take the money and I said yes, then I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much again,” Kruczynski said. “I had just got off the golf course with my dad … and I was actually sitting in the living room all by myself when I heard my name get called and I jumped up a little bit and lost my cool.

“Then the first call I got was from the (Cardinals) area scout who was scouting me and he congratulated me. Then it really hit me.”

MLB.com listed the 274th pick with an approximate signing bonus value of $140,600.

He was the only Pirate selected during the three-day MLB event.

ECU recruit MacKenzie Gore was picked third overall and is expected to sign with the San Diego Padres. Fellow pitching recruit Gavin Williams was drafted Wednesday in the 30th round by Tampa Bay but is likely headed for ECU, according to the Fayetteville Observer, and catcher Spencer Smith from Durham was taken by Texas in the 37th round.

Kruczynski now has a connection to Maness, who was in the St. Louis bullpen from 2013-16 before an injury and him joining the Kansas City Royals organization prior to this season, that has many layers.

“I was actually at Seth Maness’ first win, because it was in Milwaukee,” said Kruczynski, who is from Franklin, Wisc., and went to Milwaukee on May 4, 2013, to see the Cards’ 7-6 win over the Brewers. “I was committed to East Carolina and told the friend I was with at the game that (Maness) came from East Carolina. … It was cool to see him pitch in the show and it would be awesome to follow in his footsteps.”

Kruczynski was a team captain this season and a key part of an ECU senior class that is one of the most successful in school history, highlighted by winning the American Athletic Conference tournament in 2015 and a year later winning the NCAA Charlottesville Regional and collecting the Pirates’ first-ever victory in a super regional game.

Things did not go as planned for Kruczynski and East Carolina this year. The senior lefty missed most of the season with a leg injury, but he flourished at times late in the season and pitched twice in the AAC tournament in nearly helping the Pirates win the tourney as the No. 8 seed. They lost to Houston in the championship game.

When Kruczynski was drafted Tuesday, he described it as a dream situation he has been wanting since his youth baseball days.

“I don’t regret a single thing, because of the coaching staff and the development I’ve had as a Pirate and all the people in Greenville and what they have done for our program and done for me,” he said. “It’s going to be tough leaving this place. … I’ll be playing with a bunch of different guys on my side, but these guys will forever be in my heart.”

Watkins an All-American

East Carolina’s Travis Watkins was named a third-team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Wednesday. 

Watkins was a fifth-year catcher this year, finishing his career as a three-time Johnny Bench Award semifinalist. As a senior, he hit .340 with 47 runs scored, 10 home runs and 49 RBIs.

He is the 28th All-American in ECU history.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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