SVSU ace Ellenbest drafted by Toronto

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For the first time since 2012, the SVSU baseball program had a player taken in the Major League Baseball (MLB) draft. Redshirt sophomore and ace of the Cardinal pitching staff Mike Ellenbest was taken in the 24th round by the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, June 11, 2016.

Ellenbest, who has been living and playing baseball in Wisconsin for the Green Bay Bullfrogs, was at practice when he found out for himself.

“I knew I’d be drafted Saturday, I just didn’t know what round other than that it would be after the 10th,” Ellenbest said. “I was at the field and we were taking batting practice, and I was on the draft tracker online just looking.  The 24th round came up and it was (the Blue Jays) pick and there was my name.”

A few minutes later, Ellenbest got a call from the Blue Jays to inform him of the news. Toronto was considering taking Ellenbest in the 19th round, and then told him it would either be the 23rd or 24th round that he would be selected.

“It is a great feeling to get a guy to the next level,” SVSU head baseball coach Chris Ebright said. “It shows everyone involved that the hard work we put in does pay off.”

Ellenbest will have very little time to take it all in before diving into professional baseball. He leaves Monday for the Blue Jays spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida, where he will participate in a three day minicamp with the other Blue Jay draftees, before being sent to either Vancouver, Canada (Short-Season Single A), or Bluefield, West Virginia (Rookie Ball), to begin his minor league career.

Ellenbest could have chosen to come back to SVSU for his redshirt junior season, but felt the opportunity was too great to pass up on.

“It totally depended on the situation, what they gave me and how high I got drafted,” Ellenbest said. “It would’ve had to have been a very different scenario for me to go back to school. I was comfortable with what they gave me. I couldn’t say no.”

In his two years at SVSU, Ellenbest turned himself into one of the top pitchers in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). As a redshirt freshman, he was named the GLIAC’s freshman Pitcher of the Year, along with being Second Team All-GLIAC. This past season, he tallied a 5-4 record, striking out 53 in 69 innings with an ERA of 3.52, and was First Team All-GLIAC.

“He has worked very hard to get where he is,” Ebright said. “He has done everything us coaches have put in front of him, including lifting and conditioning. He has been a dominant pitcher in our conference, and has won GLIAC awards each of the past two seasons, where every coach in our conference voted for him.”

Assistant coach Jordan Schwellenbach, who serves as SVSU’s pitching coach and worked very closely with Ellenbest had high praise as well.

“Every time Mike was on the mound we had a chance to win,” Schwellenbach said. “During his scoreless inning streak this season there was no better pitcher in Division II baseball. Mike works extremely hard and has been rewarded by the Blue Jays. Mike is also a very good teammate who spends a lot of time working with our younger pitchers.”

Ellenbest’s repertoire features four pitches, including a fastball that has jumped from the mid-eighties when he arrived at SVSU to as high as 93 mph this season. He also throws a curveball, slider and changeup.

“His greatest strength is that he can throw all four pitches for strikes in any count,” Schwellenbach said.

So far this summer, Ellenbest had been dominant for the Bullfrogs. In two starts for Green Bay he allowed only nine hits and one earned run, boasting an ERA of just 0.81.

Not only will Ellenbest benefit greatly from being drafted, the SVSU baseball program should reap the benefits as well.

“As for recruiting, it will definitely help,” Ebright said. “We tell our recruits that it doesn’t matter if you are Division I or Division II, scouts will find you if you are good enough and Mike is a great example of that. We have been out recruiting the past two years finding these types of players. Hopefully through more hard work we can get a few more to the next level.”

As for Ellenbest, after the hoopla of being drafted, planning his trip to Florida, and beginning a unique step in an athlete’s life, he will soon be able to get back to what he is most comfortable with: stepping on the mound and competing with some of the world’s top hitters.

“The past few days have been total craziness,” he said. “It’s very humbling and it’s just great to see. I get do do something I love, play baseball. It’s definitely a cool experience.”