By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
Minnesota State baseball coach Matt Magers is going to miss Bret Mitchell’s nasty curveball. It most likely belongs to the New York Mets now.
Mitchell, a right-handed pitcher who just completed his junior season at MSU and led the Mavericks to the NCAA Division II College World Series, was drafted by the Mets in the 12th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday. The Lakeville native was the 362nd player selected.
“He was one of the most dominant pitchers in the (Central) Region,” Magers said. “That curveball was his strikeout pitch. I’m excited for him at the next level. He’s going to need to develop a changeup and a slider, but he’s a student of the game and has a passion for the game on and off the field.”
Mitchell set Minnesota State’s single-season strikeout record this spring, fanning 108 batters over 94 innings. He struck out 11 batters in four different games during the season en route to compiling a 10-4 record with a 4.31 ERA.
“He struggled out of the gate, but he got more confident throughout the season and became one of our top pitchers,” Magers said. “He brought a lot to the team. Every time he came out he would give you seven, eight good innings.”
Mitchell’s success has continued this summer, pitching for the Rochester Honkers of the Northwoods League — although that stint could be cut short if he signs with the Mets, which both Magers and Honkers general manager Dan Litzinger expect. Mitchell won his first start with the Honkers, striking out eight, while allowing three hits and no walks over 7 2/3 innings in a win over the Mankato MoonDogs on June 3.
Litzinger said he was glad his team was going to get at least one more start from Mitchell. On Tuesday night in Alexandria, Mitchell got a no decision after allowing two runs on six hits, striking out three and walking none over six innings in Rochester’s 3-2 win.
Mitchell became the 31st Minnesota State player to be drafted by an MLB team. The first was Jerry Terrell, who was taken in the 18th round by the Minnesota Twins in 1968. The Mavericks’ highest pick was Fritz Polka, who was selected by the Mets in the second round of the 1986 draft.
“We had heard (Mitchell) could go anywhere from the eighth round to the 14th,” Magers said. “I certainly think he’s in a good position. Obviously, when you have 50 rounds, getting drafted in the top 12 is pretty impressive.”