Record Five Hilltoppers Selected in First 25 Rounds of 2009 MLB Draft

By: Brad Fields, WKU Athletic Media Relations
By: Brad Fields, WKU Athletic Media Relations

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Western Kentucky University had four more players drafted on day two of the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Players Draft on Wednesday afternoon, bringing the total to five Hilltoppers taken in the first half of the 50-round event. Joining Wade Gaynor, who was a third round selection by the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night, JB Paxson, Chad Cregar, Terrence Dayleg, and Matt Ridings had their names called by Major League organizations.

The five selections are a school record, besting the old mark of three draftees in a single year set by the 1980 team and equaled by the 1982 squad.

Paxson was the 397th overall pick, going in the 13th round to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He becomes the first Hilltopper to be drafted by the Dodgers. A catcher for his first three years at WKU, Paxson moved to the bullpen this year and scouts took notice of his arm. The senior from Greenwood, Ind. was drafted as a catcher two years ago in the 17th round, but opted to stay in school.

Tossing his fastball in the mid-90's, Paxson had only three rough outings in his 26 appearances, upping his season's ERA to 6.82. Without those three appearances, his ERA was 3.07. Paxson posted a 3-1 record with three saves, striking out 41 batters in only 33.0 innings of work, second best among relievers. In three appearances in the NCAA Tournament, all against #8 Ole Miss, Paxson tossed 3.0 scoreless innings, walking one and fanning three.

After being drafted in the 47th round by the Chicago Cubs last season, Cregar certainly upped his stock in his senior campaign as he became the first Hilltopper to ever be selected by the Florida Marlins, going in the 15th round as the 458th overall pick. The 6-3 outfielder from Oxford, Miss. batted .325 with 13 doubles, two triples, 19 home runs, scoring 67 runs, and driving in 63 RBI for the Hilltoppers.

Named to the Sun Belt All-Conference First-Team, Cregar was also a preseason All-American by both the NCBWA and Louisville Slugger. In finishing the season ranked in the top seven in the Sun Belt in seven different offensive categories, the 2008 Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year won the "Home Run Derby" as part of this year's Sun Belt Tournament, smacking 21 home runs over two rounds.

Cregar was selected to both the Sun Belt Tournament and NCAA Regional All-Tournament teams. Leading WKU to NCAA Tournament appearances in both his seasons on the Hill, Cregar finishes his two-year career batting .343 and slugging .661, ranking fourth all-time in career home runs (40) and sixth in RBI (145). As a farewell to his collegiate career, Cregar played in his hometown of Oxford, Miss. at the NCAA Regional, batting .409 and slugging .727 with two home runs and seven RBI in five games.

Dayleg quickly followed Cregar as the Marlins drafted their second Hilltopper of the day, going in the 22nd round as the 668th overall selection. The three-year starter at shortstop for WKU, Dayleg will go down as one of the best to ever play the position for the Hilltoppers. As a senior, he finished with a .959 fielding percentage, committing just 11 errors in 269 chances.

At the plate, Dayleg hit .327 with 18 doubles, two triples, and three home runs, scoring 43 runs and driving in 39 RBI. Named as one of the 38 finalists for the prestigious Brooks Wallace Award honoring the nation's best shortstop, Dayleg earned Sun Belt All-Conference Second-Team honors.

For his career, he hit .331 and slugged .491 while committing just 35 errors in 712 chances for a fielding percentage of .951. His 51 career doubles ranks third all-time at WKU while his 222 hits in 166 games played is 10th most all-time.

Ridings was selected as the first pick of the 25th round, 742nd selection overall, by the Washington Nationals. He becomes the eighth WKU player drafted by the former Montreal Expos organization, but first since their relocation to Washington, D.C.

A preseason All-American and Sun Belt Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year, Ridings led the league in strikeouts and starts in 2009 while finishing second in wins and innings pitched. The junior righthander from Franklin, Tenn. posted an 8-2 record with two saves. He had a 4.84 ERA while striking out 93 batters and walking just 29 in 102.1 innings of work, holding opponents to a .267 batting average against.

His eight wins ranked 63rd in the nation while his 93 strikeouts were 52nd best in all of Division I. A Sun Belt All-Conference Second-Team selection, Ridings stepped up his game in the postseason, going 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in 13.1 innings of work over two starts against Missouri and #8 Ole Miss in the NCAA Regional. In striking out 12 and walking just four, Ridings held those teams to a .235 batting average against, highlighted by his 7.0 inning, one-run performance coming off two days rest in the winner-take-all NCAA Regional Championship against the Rebels.

In his three seasons, Ridings is 25-8 in 46 starts with a 4.52 ERA, ranking second all-time in victories. His 291.0 innings of work are third most all-time while his 264 strikeouts is tied with Ryan Hutchison for tops in school history.

WKU closed out its historic season with the program's first national ranking since 2001, tabbed 23rd in the latest release of the College Baseball Top 30 poll. WKU finished their record-setting season at 42-20 and came within two innings of advancing to the program's first-ever NCAA Super Regional.

In notching the program's first 40-win season in 21 years, and fifth overall, WKU posted a 21-8 mark in league play to earn a share of the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Regular Season Championship, a first in the program's 26-year affiliation with the conference.

Earning the program's first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, WKU went 3-2 in the Oxford Regional, equaling in three days what the program had accomplished in terms of number of postseason wins in the previous 89 years of Hilltopper baseball. WKU knocked off second-seeded Missouri twice as well as rallied for a remarkable 10-9 win over eighth-ranked Ole Miss to force a winner-take-all NCAA Regional Championship game.

In a performance for the ages, the Rebels' Drew Pomeranz and WKU's Matt Ridings battled each other pitch-for-pitch, taking a 1-1 game into the eighth inning before Ole Miss came out on top 4-1 in front of a crowd of 8,255 at Oxford-University Stadium.

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