For the second year in a row, Cranston saw two of its baseball stars get selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. After Anthony Meo and Jeff Diehl got the call last year, Cranston natives Evan Marzilli and Tom Pannone were picked in the 2012 draft last week.
Marzilli is a 2009 graduate of Bishop Hendricken and he’s now a junior outfielder at the University of South Carolina. He was selected in the eighth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the same team that took Meo last year.
Pannone is currently a senior at Hendricken, and he was drafted in the 33rd round by the Chicago Cubs.
While both players have options as to what they’ll do now that they’ve been picked, getting the call was still a thrill.
“I was just sitting on my couch and I got a call from the Cubs,” Pannone said. “They said, ‘Congratulations, we drafted you.’ It was incredible. I can’t really describe it. It was just amazing.”
Pannone, who played Little League baseball at Cranston American, has been a standout for the Hawks since his sophomore year. In the clinching game of the state championship series that season, Pannone went 3-for-3 with a home run and five RBI.
After a strong junior season, Pannone played summer ball in Florida last year and caught the eye of coaches at the University of Miami. He committed to play there in the fall.
As it is with a lot of top high-school prospects, professional baseball also emerged as a possibility for Pannone. He’s had scouts watching him all season, and they’ve seen him deliver a huge campaign. He’s been the team’s top hitter and one of its top pitchers. He’s also played a strong center field.
The Cubs were among the teams that showed the most interest, and they selected Pannone with the sixth pick in the 33rd round, the 1,004th pick overall.
“They were really interested from junior year on,” Pannone said. “They’ve been keeping an eye on me.”
Now Pannone will have to weigh his options. He has until July 13 to sign with the Cubs or stick with his commitment to Miami. He said he isn’t leaning one way or the other yet. He’s mostly focused on leading Hendricken to a state championship.
“I have to make a big decision with my family about whether I’m going to go to college or go play professional baseball,” Pannone said. “I don’t know at this point.”
Marzilli, who also patrolled center field in his time with the Hawks, will likewise have a decision to make. College players are eligible for the draft after their junior years but have the option of not signing and returning to school for another year.
But Marzilli won’t be thinking about the next step in his career quite yet. South Carolina won its Super Regional over the weekend and is headed back to Omaha for the College World Series. The Gamecocks have won the last two national championships.
Marzilli has had a hand in all of South Carolina’s success. He burst onto the scene in the 2010 postseason, hitting .419 in the NCAA Tournament and earning College World Series All-Tournament honors after hitting .370 in Omaha.
As a sophomore last year, Marzilli hit .291 with 14 doubles and 31 RBI. This season, he has started every game and is hitting .288 with 12 doubles, two home runs, 30 RBI and 50 runs scored.
“He’s a hard worker and I’m really happy that he got the chance to be a pro,” said Hendricken head coach Ed Holloway. “He’s a great kid and he had a great career here. He’s been fantastic in South Carolina for the three years he’s been there. I’m happy for him.”
Marzilli and Pannone were two of six players with Rhode Island ties selected in the daft. Southern New Hampshire left-hander and former Portsmouth star Tim Flight was selected in the 17th round by the Yankees, Harvard pitcher and former Hendricken standout Andrew Ferreira was drafted in the 32nd round by the Twins, URI pitcher and former Lincoln star Chris Pickering went in the 32nd round to the Giants and Tiverton High School senior Jacob Kapstein was selected in the 35th round by the Tigers.
Cranston’s 2011 draft picks are now both playing professional baseball. Meo, a 2008 Cranston West grad, was selected in the second round by Arizona and is currently playing for the Visalia Rawhide in the Class A-Advanced California League. The right-handed pitcher has a 2-4 record, a 3.64 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 59.1 innings pitched.
Diehl, a 2011 West grad, was drafted in the 23rd round by the Mets. He’s likely to begin play in short season Class A ball this month.