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MLB teams select four local pitchers

Major league baseball teams helped themselves to four players with Western New York connections on the second day of the Major League Baseball draft. All of them were pitchers.

Logan Harasta of the University at Buffalo led the way. The pitcher was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the seventh round.

In the eighth round, the New York Yankees picked Kyle Zurak. The pitcher played high school baseball at Williamsville North, and is now with Radford University.

Then in the ninth round, St. Bonaventure pitcher Aaron Phillips (Cleveland Hill) was selected by San Francisco. He’s a right-hander. Finally, Niagara righty Daniel Procopio went to the Los Angeles Angels in the 10th round.

It’s almost poignant that a UB player led the way, considering that the program came to an end earlier this year. Harasta certainly can make an impression simply by his size. The Rochester-area product is 6-foot-7 and weighs 235 pounds.

Harasta pitched 34.2 innings last season, and finished with a record of 1-3 with a career-high six saves and an ERA of 3.63. Before the season, Baseball America ranked Harasta as the No. 5 prospect in the Mid-American Conference.

The last Bulls player to go as early as the seventh round was pitcher Robert Williams, picked in 1986.

Curveball: How UB's decision to cut baseball affected the final season – and everyone involved

Zurak, who checks in at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, headed the Williamsville North pitching staff as a senior in 2013.  The right-hander just completed his fourth season as Radford, serving as a starter and a reliever at times. He finished with a career ERA of 3.77, but is coming off his best season with a 4-4 record and an ERA of 2.40 with four starts and nine saves. Zurak won the game that sent Radford to the NCAA tournament.

He throws hard – mid-90s – and could figure somewhere in the Yankees’ plans for the bullpen at some point. Zurak is the fourth pitcher in Radford history to be selected in the first 10 rounds of the draft.

“I am so proud of Kyle and what he did for our program. He is a stud arm and an even better person,” Radford head coach Joe Raccuia said. “I expect him to have a lot of success in professional baseball.”

Phillips was named the Pitcher of the Year in the Atlantic 10 Conference this past season, as he turned in one of the best seasons in the school’s history.  Phillips – who checks in at 6-3, 180 – was 9-1 with a 2.77 ERA, striking out 81 batters in about 94 innings. In the A-10, the pitcher was 6-1. The only other Bonnie to be named conference pitcher of the year was Kyle Johnson in 2001.

At Cleveland Hill, Phillips played shortstop and pitched. He posted a .571 batting average while driving in 17 runs with one home run and 12 stolen bases in his high school career.

Procopio is a Toronto native who transferred from Seminole State College. The 6-foot right-hander finished the 2017 season with a 6-4 record with a 4.19 ERA. Procopio was picked by the New York Mets in the 22nd round in 2013, but decided not to turn pro at that time.

The draft concludes Wednesday. The player considered one of the top local high school prospects, Leugim Castillo of Lancaster, figures to be taken at some point.

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