Connor Riley’s turnaround season leads to eighth round MLB draft selection

AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — USC Aiken’s Connor Riley became the highest Pacer selected in the Major League Baseball draft since 1988 when he was picked in the eighth round by the Los Angeles Angels this week.

Riley had a stellar senior season, finishing with a 6-2 record, while holding opponents to a .190 batting average. It was a tremendous turnaround season after being benched during the postseason his junior year.

“Here’s a guy that didn’t say, ‘well they didn’t do me fairly because I didn’t pitch my junior year in the conference tournament, or the regional tournament.’ He stuck with the plan, [and] stuck with the program,” USC Aiken head coach Kenny Thomas said. “When he got to Utah on [Thursday] night where he had to report, he got off the plane and texted me two words: ‘Pacer forever.’ That’s our motto around here and that’s what he is, so I’m very proud of him.”

Riley will begin his professional career with the Orem Owlz of the Advanced-Rookie league. The Owlz season begins Monday.

Former Pacer Joey Benitez was also selected in this year’s draft. He was chosen in the 22nd round by the Chicago White Sox. He’ll start his career with the Great Falls Voyagers, which is part of the same league as the Owlz.

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