Former Kerr-Vance standout signs with Diamondbacks

Jun. 10, 2014 @ 11:20 PM

When the draft includes 40 rounds and more than a thousand picks, waiting by the phone for news of your selection may not be the best course of action.

Tyler Bolton passed the time by enjoying a Luke Bryan concert. There, last Saturday evening in Raleigh, the East Carolina junior pitcher got a call from an Arizona Diamondbacks scout, who told him he would soon be selected.

The D-Backs took Bolton in the 33rd round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and the former Kerr-Vance standout flew out Tuesday to Arizona to sign a contract, officially ending his three-year stay in Greenville.

“Honestly, I don’t think anything really set in until probably yesterday afternoon or early this morning,” Bolton said on Monday. “It’s been a goal of mine since I started playing baseball. I guess I was shocked. Your dream is finally coming true.”

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander said he expects to soon join one of the D-Backs’ short season A clubs, the Hillsboro (Oregon) Hops or the Missoula (Montana) Osprey.

Bolton was the final of four ECU players drafted. Pitcher Ryan Williams (10th round, Chicago Cubs) and infielder Zach Houchins (13th round, Los Angeles Angels) are both seniors and junior ace right-hander Jeff Hoffman became the Pirates’ highest draft pick in any sport, going ninth overall to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Bolton saw limited action his first two seasons, appearing in 13 games combined with only two starts his freshman and sophomore campaigns.

The Louisburg native started 13 games as a junior in 14 appearances and posted a 2-7 record with a 2.42 ERA, tying for eighth in Conference USA with 19 earned runs allowed.

“ECU has always helped me no matter what,” said Bolton. “When I struggled as a freshman and sophomore, they kept pushing me to be better and better.”

A big summer for the Wilmington Sharks in the Coastal Plain League set the tone for Bolton’s increased productivity this season. He was 5-0 for the Sharks with an 0.87 ERA, earning all-star honors in the wood-bat collegiate summer league.

Bolton was tabbed as the top prospect in the league by Perfect Game with his fastball a steady 89-92 mph and reaching 95 on at least a couple of occasions, according to the baseball scouting service.

“It was huge for my confidence,” said Bolton. “I didn’t throw much as a freshman or sophomore, so last summer to have the type of season I did, that’s a huge confidence booster for anyone.”

ECU did not renew the contract of Billy Godwin following the recent 33-26 season that didn’t include an NCAA Tournament bid. Godwin spent nine years as the Pirates’ head coach and his successor has not been named.

Bolton said the coaching transition played a small role in his decision not to return.

“Not completely,” said Bolton. “It had something to do with it. It was in the back of my mind, not knowing what I was getting into if I went back to school.”

Bolton helped lead KVA to a state title in 2010 and back to the N.C. Independent School Athletic Association Class 2-A finals again in 2011 before graduating.

Following that state championship defeat in 2011, then KVA head baseball coach Dave Cline said of Bolton’s future, “I certainly think he’s a pro guy.”

Bolton made that official Tuesday and he doesn’t plan on changing his approach as he seeks to rise through the D-Backs’ farm system.

“I want to dominate from pitch one to the last pitch of the game. On every pitch, give it my all,” said Bolton. “While you’re out there, you have to have the mentality that you’re the best. You have to think you are.”

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.