Western Kentucky junior pitcher Ian Tompkins was selected Saturday by the Kansas City Royals in the 14th round with the 423rd overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft.
Tompkins confirmed to the Daily News he plans to forego his senior season at WKU and turn pro.
The left-hander Tompkins is the eighth Hilltopper pitcher taken since 2009 and the highest selected since Phil Wetherell was taken in the eighth round by the New York Yankees in 2011. Tompkins will be the 103rd player in WKU history to sign a professional baseball contract and the 20th player to sign professionally since 2008.
The Louisville native and St. Xavier High School alum is the eighth WKU player to join the Royals organization, joining Rob Tomberlin (1985), Gerald Ingram (1988), Doug Piatt (1988), Colby Beach (2008), Matt Ridings (2010), Brian Edelen (2011) and Andrew Edwards (2013).
Taking on the role as WKU’s primary closer as a junior in 2014, Tompkins led the Sun Belt Conference and ranked among the nation’s leaders with 14 saves. He struck out 46 batters in 26 innings and finished his career with 161 strikeouts in 117 innings, which ranks him third among active NCAA pitchers with a career strikeouts-per-nine innings mark of 12.38.
Tompkins finishes his WKU career as the program’s single-season saves record holder (14) and ranks second all-time with 18 career saves. He was a spot starter for the Hilltoppers as a freshman in 2012, making nine starts on the mound while striking out 56 batters in 55.2 innings before moving to the back end of the bullpen as a sophomore.
Tompkins joins former WKU players Andrew Edwards, Ryan Huck, Phil Wetherell, Kes Carter, Terrence Dayleg and Wade Gaynor as active Hilltoppers in the professional ranks.
Here is what Tompkins had to say about being selected Saturday:
On his reaction when he got the call: “I got a call in the 13th saying I was going to be the next pick. I got a call from the scouting director himself, and I had been kind of promised a deal from them (Friday), so it was just a matter of time that it was going to be. I was just hoping it was sooner rather than later, and it was.”
After confirming he will go pro: “It’s unbelievable. I just think back to how far I think I’ve come since the beginning of my baseball career and the beginning of my Western Kentucky career. It’s had its extreme downs and its extreme ups, but to be here now is such a privilege. I like to think my 5-year-old tee-ball self would be in awe of me right now.”
What’s next in immediate future? “My area scout is coming down to take me and my family out to dinner Monday or Tuesday, and then I think we’ll talk about all the specifics. I’m not exactly sure when I’ll be heading out, but it’s not going to be too far from now.”
What do you need to work on? “I’ve always been my own biggest critic, and I know exactly what I need to work on. It’s staying in the strike zone, working consistently and developing that third pitch – that changeup. I think that’s something the Royals are excited to help me work with, and I’m excited to keep progressing.”
Leaving WKU early: “I think coach Myers is very happy for me. There’s no bad feelings or grudges or anything like that. He’s been there since day one, and he was the first one to believe in me out of high school and first one to talk to me. I’d like to think he’s proud of me for it, and I’m happy for that because he’s such a great guy.”