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East Carolina's Chris Holba pitches against UNC Wilmington during the NCAA Greenville Regional last Friday.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Just like last June, East Carolina baseball’s pitching ace is headed to the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

ECU Friday night starter Chris Holba was selected early in the final day of the Major League Baseball draft Wednesday, going in the 11th round to the Cardinals. St. Louis also picked former Pirate ace Evan Kruczynski a year ago.

Holba, a junior right-hander who posted a 9-1 record this season, will forego his senior season to sign a professional contract. The other two Pirates drafted — outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton in the fifth round by the San Diego Padres and third baseman Connor Litton to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20th round — also are juniors. All three players are turning pro.

“It was a tough decision because I love East Carolina and grew up in the military moving around a lot and have considered Greenville my home,” Holba said. “I’ve loved the guys I’ve played with and it sucks to move on, but it’s reality and I just feel it’s the best time for me to kind of turn the page and start this next chapter of my baseball career.”

Holba said he was about 15 minutes from St. Louis when he lived in O’Fallon, Ill., during high school.

He also said he talked to Kruczynski for an hour Tuesday night and was in contact with him after his selection Wednesday became official.

“I’m happy to make this deal happen and start my career with St. Louis,” he said. “I’m very excited to be picked by the Cardinals with their tradition of developing pitchers and they have a really good farm system. The organization has won for a really long time, so I’m just really glad to be a part of it.”

The Pirates, who hosted the NCAA Greenville Regional last weekend and were eliminated before the championship round to finish with a 44-18 record, went 13-2 in Holba’s 15 starts this year. He finished with a 2.99 ERA and 60 strikeouts with 20 walks in 81 1/3 innings.

ECU also had two recruits selected in catcher Logan O’Hoppe (Philadelphia/23rd round) and outfielder Christian Jayne (Arizona/27th round), and they will have to decide if they want to sign with those clubs or come to ECU and possibly re-enter the draft later.

Litton, who is originally from Big Cove Tannery, Pa., and who transferred to East Carolina from Cowley (Kan.) College, was one of the Pirates’ best defensive players this season along with batting .285 with nine home runs and 38 RBIs in 59 starts.

Williams-Sutton was selected Tuesday by San Diego. The Wilson native, who was a freshman All-American in 2016 and nearly went pro out of Greenfield School in 2015, was second on ECU this season with a .331 batting average, and he was 18-of-20 on stolen bases to lead the club.

His selection of 141st overall came with an approximate slotted signing bonus of $375,600.

“I am truly blessed and excited to be in the San Diego Padres organization,” Williams-Sutton posted on Twitter on Tuesday night. “I will always cherish the memories Pirate Nation provided me.”

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

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