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Former 'Topper Pope drafted by Pittsburgh Pirates

Trey Williams • Jun 7, 2012 at 3:14 PM

Former Science Hill pitcher Matt Pope was drafted in the 38th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander was happy to hear the news, even if it came later than he would’ve liked — and via Kentucky Wildcats assistant coach Brad Bohannon.

“After the first 10 rounds I didn’t pay too much attention or anything,” Pope said. “The Kentucky coach texted me and congratulated me and I had no idea what he was talking about, and then I saw a call on my phone from the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

Pope (1-1), who has mid-90s velocity and struck out 17 in 112⁄3 innings while being used primarily as a reliever for the Hilltoppers this season, signed with Kentucky in November. He’s enrolled in summer school, and will play this summer on a team that includes other incoming Kentucky players.

“I just moved into the dorm about 10 minutes ago,” Pope said.

He doesn’t anticipate Pittsburgh offering anything close to the type of deal he would’ve needed to bypass Kentucky’s healthy package, but nonetheless is eagerly awaiting its next call.

“They said, ‘We’re gonna look at the money and stuff and we’ll be back in touch in a couple of days,’” Pope said, adding that the call probably lasted 30 seconds.

Science Hill has had five players drafted in the past three years. Daniel Norris (Toronto), Paul Hoilman (Chicago Cubs) and Matt Rice (Tampa Bay) were drafted last year, and Chas Byrne (Kansas City) was chosen in 2010.

Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards agreed that a deal with Pittsburgh isn’t likely. New draft rules implemented this year penalize teams monetarily and with draft picks for signing late-round picks to big deals.

“But you just never know if something falls through,” Edwards said. “I think the Pirates really like him. You can project Matt to be a big-leaguer and that’s what they want to take. They don’t want to waste their time on guys they can’t see making it to the majors, obviously.”

At the least, Pope got a nice consolation prize.

“It’s just exciting to be able to say I got drafted out of high school,” he said.

Also drafted on Wednesday was former Sullivan East pitcher Matthew Shepherd. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-hander was selected by San Diego in the 30th round. He was 4-5 with a 6.12 ERA this season at Tennessee Tech after making a team-high 14 starts and three relief appearances as a junior in 2011.

Tusculum College outfielder Alexi Colon was also drafted by San Diego. He was taken in the 32nd round.

Colon, a senior from Vineland, N.J., is second in the nation this year with 21 home runs, which are tied for the second most in school history.

He hit .318 and led Tusculum with 69 runs. His 67 walks this season are a South Atlantic Conference record.

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