Bethune-Cookman catcher/designated hitter Michael Cruz saw his name announced in the seventh round of the 2016 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft on Friday, selected by the Chicago Cubs with the 224th overall pick.
Cruz, a 5-11, 210-pound junior from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, joins teammate Clay Middleton, Alabama State RHP Angel Alicea and N.C. Central pitcher Andrew Vernon as the four HBCU players selected in this year's amateur draft.
Cruz finished the regular season in the top 16 nationally for home runs, completing the season with 16 overall.
Middleton, a 6-foot, 205-pound catcher from Oviedo, Florida taken by the Rangers, was the 669th overall selection in this year’s MLB Draft.
He finished the 2016 season second with a batting average of .335. He was named first team All-MEAC and helped the Wildcats to their 18th conference title and a berth in the NCAA Gainesville (FL) Regional.
Cruz and Middleton join the 2014 MLB Draft class of former Wildcats Keith Zuniga, Montana Durapau and John Sever.
Alicea a 6-1, 200-pound junior from Santa Isabel, PR was selected by the Blue Jays. After beginning the season as the starting shortstop, he focused on pitching full time in early March, posting a 3-0 record with a 1.47 ERA with two saves in 17 appearances with three starts.
The 612th overall selection becomes the sixth Hornet baseball player drafted in the past three seasons and the eighth since 2014 to sign a professional contract.
Vernon became the first Major League Baseball draft pick from NCCU when he was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the twenty-eighth round.
Over his four years on the mound, the 6-4, 240-pound Raleigh, NC native made a career-record 83 appearances with seven starts as he had an opportunity to move from the bullpen to become a starter in his senior campaign. He was a 2016 First Team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference selection after he nailed down four saves and led the league with 85 strikeouts, setting a new single season mark in the modern era at NCCU.
With those 85 strikeouts, Vernon also finished the regular season 12th in NCAA Division I in strikeouts per nine innings with an average of 11.93 punchouts.