The Jacks added a quartet from the vaunted Southeastern Conference, included two players drafted last June and a record-setting slugger
The Southeastern Conference knows baseball. And now the East Texas Pump Jacks know the SEC.
The Pump Jacks announced today they have signed four players from the SEC, the conference that boasts the last three NCAA College World Series champions and three of the top-five schools in every major poll this spring. Joining the Jacks’ fifth anniversary roster are infielder Kevin O’Leary and pitcher Brandon Zajac from the University of Tennessee, along with infielder Phillip Casey and pitcher Jacob Lindgren from Mississippi State University.
The quartet will be the first four players from Southeastern Conference schools to suit up for East Texas in the team’s history. Three of the four are freshmen, while O’Leary is a sophomore who is redshirting this spring.
Both pitchers were drafted last June but opted to play college ball. Lindgren was chosen by the Chicago Cubs in the 12th round, one round before the San Diego Padres picked former Pump Jacks star Lee Orr. Zajac was selected in the 28th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the same club that tabbed former Jacks outfielder Alex Fuselier in the 21st round.
Though he wasn’t drafted like Lindgren and Zajac, it might be O’Leary who has the highest profile of the four. He was named the 2010 Georgia Class A Player of the Year and a MaxPreps Small School All-American after smashing 23 home runs for Wesleyan High School in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross. His home run total was the second-highest single-season figure in the history of Georgia high school baseball, shattering the Gwinnett County record set by current Kansas City Royal Jeff Francoeur. O’Leary added a .426 average, 1.120 slugging percentage and 47 RBI, all in just 37 games, and helped lead Wesleyan to its third straight state championship.
As remarkable as O’Leary’s stats were, they’re even more unbelievable in light of the grave prognosis doctors gave him the summer after he finished seventh grade. When a pain in his knee progressed to a high fever, doctors initially diagnosed O’Leary with bone cancer. Soon after they discovered he was instead suffering from an aggressive infection that was eating away at his thigh bone. Treatment left him wheelchair-bound and on an IV for several months, and doctors forbid him from engaging in contact sports for at least a year. As a result, O’Leary dedicated himself to baseball, and five years later was the state’s most feared prep slugger.
O’Leary spent his freshman season at Furman University, where he batted .246 in part-time action. He was an all-star in the summer collegiate Sunbelt League, batting .312 and leading the Berkeley Lake Tides in home runs and RBI. NCAA rules require he sit out this spring after transferring to Tennessee, where coaches reportedly expect him to bat in the middle of the order next season.
Speaking of the Volunteer coaching staff, they had to be relieved when Zajac spurned the Pirates last summer to attend Tennessee. Ranked by Perfect Game as the #7 prep prospect in the state of Tennessee last year and in the top-400 nationally, Zajac is a 6-foot-4 lefty whose fastball reaches the low to mid-90’s. In fact, the scouting organization projected him to be selected in the top ten rounds of last year’s draft, but he slipped because of his strong college commitment.
Perfect Game and Rawlings named Zajac to the 2011 pre-season all-Southeast Region team before injuries affected his senior season. Still, he went 3-2 with three saves with an ERA a shade over 1.00, earning all-region honors. Zajac struck out 63 in only 39.1 innings, including 16 whiffs in a single start last March. A two-way star at Walker Valley High School in Cleveland, Tenn., he pitched only 14 innings as a junior while batting .372 for the Mustangs.
Lindgren highlights a Mississippi State recruiting class that Baseball America ranked #15 in the country. The Bay St. Louis, Miss., native was a 2011 Rawlings/Perfect Game pre-season All-America High Honorable Mention and a 2010 Under Armour pre-season All-American. At a 2010 pre-season tournament exclusively for Under Armour All-Americans, Lindgren was named the #2 prospect in the Class of 2011 and he tied for the best fastball in the event’s “Pop, Gas and Dash” competition.
Lindgren certainly earned the accolades as a prep star for St. Stanislaus High School. He was nearly unhittable as a senior, going 8-0 with a 1.09 ERA and leading south Mississippi high schoolers with 128 strikeouts in just 64 innings. Lindgren, who routinely attracted 20 or more scouts when he started, had the pros drooling when he recorded 20 of 21 outs by strikeout in a seven-inning, one-hit shutout last spring. He also batted .470 with five home runs to earn a spot on the all-state team.
As a junior, Lindgren went 6-2 with a 1.45 ERA to earn all-state honors. He added 69 strikeouts in 43.1 innings, giving him a whopping 197 whiffs in 107.1 innings over his last two prep seasons. Lindgren’s .407 average and .605 slugging percentage also helped lead St. Stanislaus to its first state championship in school history.
Lindgren has already contributed to the Bulldog pitching staff as a freshman. He is 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA in eight relief appearances. He picked up his first collegiate win on March 7 against Penn State.
Casey, the lone Texan among the four signees, starred for Clements High School in Sugar Land. He helped Clements soar to the top spot in the MaxPreps national rankings last spring before the Rangers finished the season ranked #26 in the country. In 2010, Clements reached the state semifinals and ranked #59 in the nation.
Casey climbed some rankings of his own as well. He was listed among ESPN Rise’s top-50 prep players in the state of Texas and earned invitations as a junior and senior to the Houston Area Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Game. Casey batted .396 as a senior and stole 33 bases while being caught only twice. Casey earned all-state accolades in 2010 when he batted .366 with 20 steals and 22 RBI. He was tabbed district Newcomer of the Year and earned the first of three straight all-district nominations in 2009 when he batted .426 with 16 steals in 18 attempts.
A rangy six-footer, Casey is best known for his speed and defense. He was originally expected to redshirt this spring for MSU, but he was pressed into action because of injuries. Though he’s batting .182 in limited playing time, half of his hits have been for extra bases, and he’s turned in flawless defense.
The newest Pump Jacks join an already impressive roster of players slated to arrive in East Texas this summer. Texas A&M pitcher Jason Jester, the 2011 All-TCL closer and a Hallsville native, will bring fellow Aggies Troy Stein, Corey Ray and Ty Schlottmann to historic Driller Park. All-star infielder Ty Marlow will return to East Texas as well, bringing by his younger brother Brooks Marlow, the starting second baseman for the University of Texas.
The Pump Jacks’ fifth anniversary season kicks off on June 1 when they travel to McKinney to take on the Marshals. The home opener is Wednesday, June 6, at historic Driller Park against the very same McKinney squad. Click here for the complete 2012 schedule.
Season tickets for this summer are already on sale! Lower Box seats, which include in-your-seat wait service, are just $199 each, and Upper Box seats are $150. Grandstand season tickets are $105 for adults and $85 for children and seniors. Click here for more information on Pump Jacks season tickets.
To follow all the news about the roster, promotions for the coming season and new anniversary merchandise, visit the team’s official web site at www.pumpjacksbaseball.com. You can also interact with other members of Pump Jacks Nation by visiting the Jacks on Facebook and Twitter.