Taylor Braley and Kirk McCarty have known each other since they were toddlers and their baseball careers have always been intertwined.
After both were selected on the second day of the MLB Draft on Tuesday, the two Southern Miss stars have a big decision to make - go pro or return for their senior season in Hattiesburg.
Braley was drafted in the sixth round as a right-handed pitcher by the Miami Marlins and McCarty, a left-handed pitcher, was taken in the seventh round by the Cleveland Indians.
“It’s been pretty overwhelming,” Braley said Wednesday. “It’s been exciting. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet, but it’s definitely been fun.”
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Tuesday’s selections marked the first time two USM baseball players have been taken in the first 10 rounds since 2004 when Jarrett Hoffpauir and Matt Shepperd were taken in the sixth and eighth rounds by the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It’s been fun,” McCarty said of the last 24 hours. “I’m real excited for the opportunity and excited to see where it leads.”
The two players were cautious to discuss how they plan on handling their decisions.
“We’re just waiting to figure out what exactly the plan is. I don’t really have one yet,” Braley said. “I definitely wanted to go (in the draft), but I just knew I wasn’t going to go for just anything. I just have to see how it plays out.”
McCarty was careful not to hint which way he was leaning.
“Right now, I’m just so excited,” he said. “We’ll see where it takes me. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.”
McCarty and Braley were the two highest MLB Draft picks out of USM since Biloxi’s B.A. Vollmuth, a current member of the USM staff, was selected in the third round by the Oakland A’s in 2011.
The two players, who were both football and baseball standouts at Oak Grove High School, enjoyed sharing the experience of being drafted.
“We grew up playing baseball together and we’ve always been competing against each other,” Braley said. “We’re hard on each other. We demanded more out of each other. It’s definitely fun knowing I’ve been able to play with Kirk all through high school and college.”
McCarty and Braley finished a combined 17-4 on the mound this season at USM.
“It’s something we’ve always dreamed of,” McCarty said of being drafted along with Braley. “For it to become a reality so close together, we’re definitely very excited. We’re both excited about the opportunity.”
Braley flashed an impressive bat in his first two years at USM, but he became one of college baseball’s better two-way players as a junior. After receiving limited work on the mound as a freshman and sophomore, Braley eventually worked his way into the weekend rotation and finished 7-2 with a 3.40 ERA in 14 appearances. He struck out 78 and walked 22.
At the plate, he hit .313 with 17 homers and knocked in 61 runs.
Braley’s fastball that reaches into the Mid-90’s is what drew increased interest from pro scouts. All three teams that discussed drafting him in the sixth round on Tuesday saw him as a pitcher.
Braley said it doesn’t matter to him whether he’s wanted as a pitcher or third baseman.
“It’s just whatever it takes for me to help whoever I’m playing for,” he said.
Sticking with the Eagles
Jones County Junior College outfielder Fred Franklin told the Sun Herald Wednesday that he has decided to follow through with his letter of intent and attend Southern Miss regardless of where he is selected in the MLB Draft.
The speedy Franklin batted .356 with eight homers and 41 RBIs for the Bobcats this past season. He also stole 43 bases in 46 attempts.