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Gonzaga University Athletics
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Way leads the way in draft

WSU pitcher Matt Way was taken in fifth round by Phillies on draft’s second day.  (File Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
WSU pitcher Matt Way was taken in fifth round by Phillies on draft’s second day. (File Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

The Philadelphia Phillies selected Washington State University pitcher Matt Way in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft on Wednesday, highlighting a second day of draft activity that involved the names of six other local collegiate standouts and Rogers High School’s Jake Partridge.

Way, a 6-foot-2, 182-pound left-handed pitcher from Sitka, Alaska, finished 8-4 with a 2.43 earned run average and a school-record 124 strikeouts as a senior for WSU this spring. He was one of three Cougars drafted on Wednesday.

In addition, Gonzaga University had four players selected in the 2009 draft, led by junior catcher Tyson Van Winkle, who was a 10th-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The other GU players selected were junior pitcher Steven Ames, who was taken in the 17th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers; senior pitcher Matt Fields, who was grabbed up in the 22nd round by the Toronto Blue Jays, and senior first baseman Ryan Wiegand, who went to the Tampa Bay Rays in the 25th round.

The other WSU players selected were junior pitcher Jeremy Johnson, a 13th-round pick of the Cleveland Indians, and senior catcher Alex Burg, who was tabbed in the 24th round by the San Francisco Giants.

Partridge, a 6-3, 205-pound lefty who signed a national letter of intent to play for Gonzaga next year and is a current member of the Spokane RiverHawks of the West Coast League, was an 18th-round pick of Tampa Bay.

Way, who led WSU to a second-place finish in the Pacific-10 Conference and a berth in the NCAA tournament, was the 167th player taken in this year’s draft after posting the lowest ERA by a Cougar since Aaron Sele’s 2.22 in 1991.

“I’m glad I came back for the last year,” said Way, who is WSU’s highest draft pick since 2000, when Stefan Bailie went to Boston in the fourth round. “I’m more comfortable going into the minor league system now and trying to climb the ladder.”

Way was notified of his selection via the telephone by Philadelphia’s West Coast scout Tim Kissner at about 9:15 Wednesday morning.

“He asked if I was sleeping, and I, of course, said no for some reason – I don’t know why I said that,” Way said. “I know I sounded like I was sleeping. He said his happiest moment is letting people know they’ve been drafted, and since he is a local Alaskan guy, himself, he was pretty excited.”

Way’s teammate, Johnson, a 5-10 right-hander, finished the 2009 season 6-2 with a 2.90 ERA and 10 saves, while Burg led the Cougars in hitting with an average of .346, which included a .631 slugging percentage and an on-base percentage of .469.

“I am really happy for these three guys,” Cougars coach Donnie Marbut said. “They all will represent the Cougars in a first-class manner on and off the field.”

Van Winkle, the 306th overall pick, was an offensive and defensive standout for GU. The Vancouver, Wash., native hit a team-high .362 for the West Coast Conference champion Bulldogs and started all 54 games behind the plate. He finished the year with 27 doubles, setting a single-season school record, and drove in 61 runs.

Ames, a 6-2 junior right-hander, was 8-2 this spring with 70 strikeouts and a team-high three complete games. Fields posted a team-best 8-1 record with a 3.47 ERA, and Wiegand closed out his GU career by blasting seven home runs and driving in 65 en route to becoming the Zags’ career leader in hits, doubles and RBIs.

“We are very proud to have four players selected in the draft,” GU coach Mark Machtolf said.

“Tyson, Matt, Steven and Ryan each played huge roles in the team’s success this year.”

Among other noticeable figures drafted was University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who was a 10th-round pick of the Los Angeles Angels.

Locker, however, said he plans to return to UW to play football next fall and has no desire to sign a baseball contract at this point.

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