BASEBALL: Four drafted Cougs staying at WSU

JASON MONDA

DONNIE MARBUT IS plenty excited about Washington State's baseball recruiting class, but the Cougars coach might be even more excited about WSU's re-recruiting class. Marbut said Tuesday that four of the five Cougars selected in the major league draft earlier this month – including incoming freshman pitcher Layne Bruner from Montesano – have assured him they will be wearing crimson next spring.

Three of the drafted returning Cougars – Jason Monda, J.D. Leckenby and Trace Tam Sing -- figure to play key roles again next season.

Monda, Philadelphia's sixth-round draft pick, hit .299 this year. He led the team with 40 RBIs and a .490 slugging percentage, and he tied Yale Rosen for first with seven home runs.

Monda also posted a 2-2 record and 1.57 earned run average in his first stab at pitching in college. Marbut said the senior-to-be will focus on pitching in the fall and may move into the starting rotation next year after pitching primarily in relief this season.

Marbut said the left-handed Monda has so much potential on the mound, he can't be ruled out as a pitcher in the pros. The Phillies drafted him as an outfielder.

"In my opinion, he'll be the best two-way player in the (Pac-12) conference, if not the country," Marbut said.

Leckenby (2-2, 4.62) led the Cougars with six saves this season, but the junior right-hander was inconsistent. He was drafted in the 14th round by the New York Mets.

Marbut said he also wants more consistency from Tam Sing. The shortstop hit .280 with a homer, 17 RBIs and a team-high 16 errors as a redshirt sophomore. He led the Cougars with a .380 on-base percentage.

Marbut said Bruner, a pitcher out of Montesano High, will come to Pullman despite being drafted in the 26th round by Baltimore.

THE ONLY DRAFTED player leaving the Cougars is third baseman-outfielder Adam Nelubowich. The redshirt junior graduated in May and has agreed to terms with the Houston Astros, who drafted him in the 18th round.

Nelubowich, a Canadian, is expected to join the Tri-City Valley Cats of the short-season Class A New York-Penn League once he clears up some visa issues.

Marbut said two other prime draft-eligible Cougars, catcher Collin Slaybaugh and pitcher Scott Simon, were not picked after they informed teams they were definitely staying in school.

Slaybaugh led the Cougars with a .317 batting average. Simon (3-4, 3.95), WSU's No. 2 starter, overcame back problems to rank second on the team in wins (tied) and ERA (among starters).

Marbut said incoming freshman shortstop Luke Stratman also was bypassed in the draft after telling teams he was set on attending WSU.

Stratman was an all-state baseball and basketball player at D'Evelyn High in Denver. The 6-foot-1 guard turned down college basketball recruiters despite setting state records for 3-point shots made in a season (121) and career (321) this year. He led Colorado Class 4A (second-largest schools) with 27.6 points per game.

Taylor Williams, who blossomed at Mount Hood (Ore.) Community College and Kent (Ohio) State after pitching inconsistently for WSU in 2011, remains unsigned by Milwaukee. The junior was drafted in the fourth round after going 10-1 with a 2.47 earned run average, 110 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 105 2/3 innings at Kent State.

NELUBOWICH CAN PROBABLY expect plenty of ups and downs in the minor leagues. And he can hear all about it from former Cougar ballplayers like Derek Jones, Taylor Ard, Rusty Shellhorn and Paul Gran.

A year ago, Jones hit just .191 as a rookie pro with Tri-City in the short-season Class A Northwest League. Tuesday night, Jones will be on hand for the South Atlantic League All-Star Game after blasting nine home runs and driving in 33 runs in 57 games thus far with Colorado's Class A farm club in Asheville, N.C.

Unlike Jones, Ard thrived in the Northwest League after turning pro last year, making the league all-star team for the Mariners' affiliate in Everett. He struggled to hit .200 earlier this season with Clinton (Iowa) in the Class A Midwest League, but he's up to .241 after going 8-for-20 during a recent five-game hitting streak. Clinton's hitting coach is former WSU star Mike Kinkade.

A former WSU pitcher was not so fortunate in Clinton. A torn anterior cruciate ligament has sidelined Rusty Shellhorn for the year.

"Just a minor setback for a major comeback," Shellhorn tweeted.

Shellhorn was injured while pitching in a game at Peoria, Ill.

"By the way," he tweeted, "shout out to the @Peoria Chiefs music director for playing ‘Charlie bit me' while I rolled I pain from an ACL tear. #classy."

Shellhorn, who finished his college career at Texas Tech, posted a combined 0-1 record and 5.48 earned run average in 11 games with Clinton and High Desert (Adelanto, Calif.) in the Class A California League. High Desert's manager is former Coug Jim Horner.

Gran, who finally reached Triple-A this season in his sixth season in the Miami Marlins farm system, is batting just .195 with no home runs and three RBIs in 28 games as a backup infielder with the Pacific Coast League's New Orleans Zephyrs. Gran made Class A midseason all-star teams his first two seasons in the minors.

OVER ON THE hardcourt, Hawaii native Derrick Low has warmed up to the idea of spending another chilly winter in Ukraine.

The former Washington State star has left Dnipro to join Ukraine Superleague rival Azovmash.

Low averaged 15.3 points and 6.9 assists per game this season for Dnipro, which came in next to last. Azovmash tied for second in the regular season and lost in the league finals.

Another former WSU stalwart, Thomas Kelati, is also on the move -- though his destination is unknown.

Valencia (Spain) announced that the 31-year-old Kelati, a veteran of European pro hoops, will not return next season. The Walla Walla native averaged 10.6 points this season.

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