UC Riverside’s Ryan Lillie, Mark Contreras, picked on Day 2 of the MLB Draft
By Allan Steele In this file photo, UC Riverside outfielder Mark Contreras makes a leaping catch in center field during a game this season.
UC Riverside right-handed pitcher Ryan Lillie was the first Inland-area player taken in the MLB draft on Tuesday. Lillie, a former catcher at Vista Murrieta High, was selected by the Miami Marlins in the fifth round.
Also on Tuesday, UCR outfielder Mark Contreras, out of Moreno Valley Canyon Springs High, was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the ninth round. The senior led the Highlanders with a .366 average and his .427 on-base percentage was tops among everyday starters.
Lillie is the highest pick for a Highlanders player since pitcher Matt Andriese was selected in the third round by the San Diego Padres in 2011. Andriese currently pitches for the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I’m super stoked. I’m very thankful and excited,” said Lillie, who was on the phone talking to other teams when he saw his name pop up on TV as the Marlins pick.
Lillie, a junior, made 20 appearances this season, including 10 starts. He’s rotated between closer and starter during his career and finished 2-7 with a 4.69 ERA and four saves this season. He has a mid-90s fastball and a tough slider and led the staff with 80 strikeouts in 71 innings.
The years spent playing on club and travel ball teams and eventually college finally came to fruition on Tuesday, he said.
“At first I was a little mad I didn’t get to go out on a Saturday with my buddies,” Lillie said. “I always had baseball … It was kind of a long ride and I’m glad I spent all those hours on the weekend and my parents took me everywhere. I’m glad because it paid off.”
Lillie said he’ll likely begin his pro career as a starter but would fit […]