Luke Burnett Becomes Second Pump Jack To Turn Pro

FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE

The East Texas Pump Jacks’ inaugural season may have come to an end, but Luke Burnett will continue pitching.

The Jacks 6’8” reliever signed a professional contract over the weekend with the Seattle Mariners, becoming the second Pump Jacks player to turn pro. Justin Murray agreed to terms with the Oakland Athletics in the final week of the regular season to become the first East Texas player to sign a pro contract.

Burnett, who joined the Pump Jacks after his junior season at Louisiana Tech, went 0-1 with a 3.07 ERA this summer. In 14.2 innings pitched, he allowed 11 hits and walked eight. Possibly the league’s most imposing mound presence, Burnett used it to his advantage to strike out 21 batters and hold opposing hitters to a .205 average. His 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings was the best mark in the TCL for pitchers who threw at least ten innings.

After visiting Seattle’s spring training site in Peoria, Ariz., Burnett will finish the season with the Everett (Wash.) Aqua Sox in the Class-A Northwest League. He is also slated to participate in fall instructional league with the Mariners, an opportunity normally reserved for some of the organization’s best farmhands.

A second-team pre-season All-American, the Carthage native was one of the top college prospects entering 2008. In fact, Baseball America ranked him #21 among this year’s draft prospects, and #13 in the college ranks. But Burnett pitched much of the spring with an undiagnosed injury to his throwing shoulder that left him winless in the Louisiana Tech season. Instead of going in the first round as he had once expected, Burnett slipped to the 14th round by the Mariners.

After rehabbing his shoulder for more than six weeks, Burnett used the Pump Jacks season to prove he could still be a dominant pitcher – and in the process used opposing hitters as sacrificial lambs. On a visit to Coppell in late July, Burnett struck out two Copperheads in an inning of work with a posse of Seattle player development personnel looking on. Although his fastball wasn’t quite 100%, he clearly demonstrated that he was back.

Burnett had been looking to return to the form he displayed last summer, when he was an all-star closer in the prestigious Cape Cod League. Pitching for the Falmouth Commodores, Burnett went 2-1 with six saves, striking out 41 in 23.2 innings pitched – an eye-popping rate of 15.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He was named the league’s #8 prospect by Baseball America, flashing a fastball that sat in the 94 to 96 mph range, peaking at 98 or even 99 mph.

Although he projects as a closer in the majors, Burnett spent much of his three seasons at Louisiana Tech in the starting rotation. He set a school record with 115 strikeouts as a sophomore and struck out 218 batters in his Tech career.

East Texas baseball fans will remember Burnett as the cornerstone of Carthage High School’s 2005 state championship squad. As a senior for the Bulldogs, he went 13-1 with a 0.73 ERA, 168 strikeouts in just 105 innings, and just 45 hits and 27 walks. Not surprisingly, he was named to the all-district team and he was first team all-state, also earning Class 3-A Player of the Year honors from the Texas Sports Writers and Class 3-A state tournament MVP. That June, the Kansas City Royals selected Luke in the 35th round.

Justin Murray Update: Speaking of Jacks gone pro, Justin Murray continues to shine for the Athletics. He made his third appearance of the season for Oakland’s Arizona League affiliate on Monday night, tossing three innings of shutout baseball. He allowed just one hit and two walks while striking out four.

For the season, Murray is 0-1 with a 1.69 ERA. He has given up only six hits in 10.2 innings, holding opposing batters to a .154 average. He’s also posted seven strikeouts against just two walks.

Pump Jacks fans will soon be able to purchase season tickets for the 2009 season. Current season ticket holders will receive renewal packages from the team shortly, and the team will issue details for fans that wish to purchase new season tickets. Jacks merchandise will be available all off-season at the team’s office at 1100 Stone Road, Suite 120, in Kilgore. To follow all the news and developments throughout the off-season, from new players to TCL expansion, log on to www.pumpjacksbaseball.com.