Wednesday afternoon, three Cornell baseball players were drafted in the 2017 Major League Baseball draft. All of the players selected thus far have been pitchers, bringing the total in the last four years to six Red players being drafted.
“I had a good idea that the third day would be a big day for us,” head coach Dan Pepicelli told the Sun. “It was a good day for the program, a good day for us, it’s a celebration for the entire program.”
With the 784th overall pick in the 26th round, the St. Louis Cardinals drafted former RHP Paul Balestrieri. Balestrieri knew a few picks ahead that the team was preparing to pick him.
“[Sean Moran, the team’s area scout] called me a few picks before, he asked how to pronounce my last name,” Balestrieri told the Sun.
But for the New Jersey native, the emotions didn’t sink in until the pick became official.
“Disbelief, excitement, but I didn’t really go crazy until I saw I was officially picked, then it all hit me,” Balestrieri said. “My family, [my] girlfriend and I just freaked out. [It] was a really special moment.”
Balestrieri also gave a great deal of credit to his college coach.
“Coach Pep is such a great man, I can’t say enough great things about him,” he said. “[He] was by my side the whole time, setting up workouts and giving advice. I love that guy to death.
Balestrieri graduated this past spring, and in his senior year he appeared and started in 9 games and posted a 5-4 record. In his 57.2 innings pitched, he earned 36 strikeouts and a 2.18 ERA, good for second in the Ivy League. Balestrieri was named second-team All Ivy at the conclusion of the season and earned Ivy League Pitcher of the Week after Cornell defeated Michigan State 2-1 in the Spider Invitational in Richmond, Va.
Two rounds later, with the 846th overall pick in the 28th round, the San Francisco Giants selected classmate RHP Peter Lannoo ’17
The closer from Indiana posted a 3.86 ERA in his 21 innings pitched. Lannoo appeared in 17 games and came away with eight saves, tied for most in the Ivy League. The number also puts him in second all-time in program history for saves in a season. Lannoo was one of two Red players to be selected to the All-Ivy first team at the end of the season.
Lannoo began his Cornell career as a walk-on, then made six appearances during his sophomore season before suffering an injury that cut his year short. Lannoo was bumped up to the varsity level starting his sophomore year and made a few appearances, then moved into the rotation his junior year.
“[Lannoo] constantly got better,” Pepicelli said. “[When I got here], he was good, but turned more into an extraordinary arm this year through hard work, and he did a great job of picking his arm and his body up.”
Just four picks later with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 850th pick, another pitcher came off the board for the Red. This time it was rising-senior LHP Justin Lewis, the only southpaw in Cornell’s rotation.
The California native finished his junior season with a 5.32 ERA in 45.2 innings pitched. Lewis started in eight of his nine appearances, posting a 3-2 record.
Lewis has the option to forgo his senior campaign to sign with the Dodgers, or come back to Ithaca to finish out his college career. That decision is not clear at this moment.
“We’re going to talk more about [his decision], but he’s excited about the opportunity to play professional baseball,” Pepicelli said. “I don’t want to burden him on his draft day, I just want [all of them] to enjoy today.”