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Baseball: Catawba juniors Blanton, Almond drafted

Staff report

The third and final day of the Major League Baseball Draft on Wednesday included the selection of two Catawba College juniors — both from Stanly County.

Bryan Blanton, an Albemarle High product who has been a big part of the Catawba bullpen for three seasons, was a 21st-round pick by the New York Yankees and the 632nd pick overall.

The 21-year-old right-hander is 6 feet, 190 pounds, and was the hardest thrower on the Catawba club.

He pitched in 27 games as a junior and was 1-0 with 14 saves. He struck out an impressive 50 batters in 33 1/3 innings. His ERA was 2.70.

Blanton has served as Catawba’s closer the past two seasons. His 25 career saves are just one shy of the program record.

He was first team All-South Atlantic Conference as a junior and second team All-Southeast Region.

Blanton has been playing this summer with the Asheboro Copperheads of the Coastal Plain League.

•••

Zachery “Zac” Almond, a 21-year-old North Stanly High product, has been a tremendous offensive and defensive catcher for Catawba the last two seasons after transferring from UNC Greensboro.

Almond, 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, was chosen by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 35th round, pick No. 1042 overall. Almond said he reached an agreement with the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night and would be flying to Arizona today.

A broken hand suffered late in the season kept him out of summer action and probably lowered Almond’s draft stock somewhat, but he’s healed now and he was pleased with the offer the Diamondbacks made. It included a financial commitment to his finishing his college degree.

As a junior, Almond was first team All-South Atlantic Conference and second team All-Southeast Region. In 53 games, he batted .364 with 17 homers and 61 RBIs. Newman Park is a hitter-friendly park that inflates offensive stats, but Almond was very productive on the road.

As a sophomore, Almond enjoyed one of the historic games in school history at Newman Park, belting a grand slam and driving in eight runs against Mars Hill.

Look for full stories on Blanton and Almond to be published soon.

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