June 14, 2017
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Although he toed the pitching rubber for just one season, that was all the time it took for Stephen F. Austin junior Will Vest to turn the heads of various Major League Baseball scouts.
On the final day of the 2017 MLB Draft, Vest was selected by the Detroit Tigers with the 365th overall pick in the 12th round of the three-day event, becoming the first SFA player since Cameron Gann in 2015 to get drafted into the professional ranks.
With his selection in the 12th round, Vest becomes the third-highest Lumberjack draft pick in program history and the highest SFA pitching prospect to be chosen in the MLB Draft. Only Hunter Dozier (first round, eighth overall pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2013) and Bryson Myles (sixth round, 188th overall pick by the Cleveland Indians in 2011) were drafted higher than Vest.
A product of Houston, Texas, Vest made a move from the ‘Jacks’ infield to the pitching rubber for the 2017 campaign and quickly distinguished himself as one of the top relief arms in the Southland Conference. The right-hander ranked second among all arms in the 13-team league and 35th in all of NCAA Division I baseball by making 31 appearances - all of which came in relief. Those 31 appearances are the third-most in a single season in the history of the program.
“The biggest thing Will did during his transition from an infielder to a pitcher was put in a large amount of work to make sure he was the best he could be once the time came for him to take the bump,” said SFA head coach Johnny Cardenas. “Nobody worker harder in terms of getting prepared and over a four-month season that can get kind of tiresome but he always approached the game the right way and had energy to burn.”
Vest worked his way through 45.2 innings of action on the hill and finished with a 3-0 record as well as one save and a 1.38 ERA to show for his efforts. By primarily using an overpowering fastball, Vest let up only 12 runs on 38 hits and 18 walks while striking out 46 batters. Those 46 strikeouts through 45.2 frames work out to a strikeouts per nine innings figure of 9.07 - the seventh-highest single-season mark in SFA history.
In all, SFA has seen a total of 18 players get drafted into the ranks of the MLB. Eight of those individuals have been prepped by the Lumberjacks’ current head coach, Cardenas, who recently finished up his ninth season in charge of the squad.
“Over the season, Will really embraced the role of being a pitcher for us and now the sky is the limit for him,” Cardenas said. “He’s a competitor and if he keeps working hard I have no doubt he will be exactly where he wants to be.”
With Vest on their side, the ‘Jacks posted a 29-28 record during the 2017 season. That showing included a 17-13 mark in Southland Conference play that helped SFA sew up the sixth-seed for the 2017 Southland Conference Tournament. It was the second-straight season in which the team qualified for postseason play.