Three University of Hartford players taken in MLB Draft

Photo courtesy: HartfordHawks.com

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — A trio of Hawks were selected on the third day of the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft on Wednesday. University of Hartford catcher Erik Ostberg was taken by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 13th round, while shortstop Ben Bengtson went to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 23rd round and first baseman David MacKinnon was selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 32nd round.

With Ostberg (No. 379 overall), Bengtson (No. 688) and MacKinnon (No. 955) being selected, the University of Hartford has now had 17 players drafted in program history, seven in Head Coach Justin Blood’s tenure.

“It’s a great sign for our program to have guys selected in the draft,” Blood said. “It shows that we have skilled players and that we can develop talent here at Hartford. To have your name called in the draft is something that many young men work towards and dream about. I’m really proud of and happy for these guys.”

It was the culmination of a childhood dream for Ostberg, who recently completed his junior season with the Hawks. He knew the Rays were interested prior to the start of the draft’s third day, which began with the 11th round, but he didn’t know when – or if – Tampa Bay would select him.

“The Rays had called me in the morning and I had already agreed on a deal, so it was kind of just a matter of where they would take me,” Ostberg said. “I thought I might get a call before the pick but I was sitting there watching the feed (on MLB.com), I heard them take me and that was it. I’m so excited. I haven’t wanted anything more than this my whole life.”

Through the first six weeks of the 2017 season, Ostberg led the nation in batting average (.500), on-base percentage (.596) and OPS (1.456), before suffering a Grade 2 Strain of the PCL in his right knee. Though he didn’t require surgery, the injury cost Ostberg the remainder of his junior season with the Hawks.

Ostberg made 24 starts this spring. He finished the season with only 86 at-bats, but made the most of them. Hitting exclusively in the No. 3 spot in the Hawks’ lineup, he racked up 43 hits, 30 runs, 11 doubles, six home runs and 23 RBI.

As a sophomore in 2016, Ostberg started 46 games at designated hitter, batting .340 while ranking third on the team in hits (67), fourth in runs (42) and second in RBI (47).

Ostberg, a Florence, Mass., native, was the 30th catcher to be selected in this year’s draft and the first catcher to be taken by the Rays. He was just the second player from the America East Conference to be selected, following Binghamton’s Justin Yurchak, who went to the Chicago White Sox in the 12th round (No. 357 overall).

Still recovering from his injury, Ostberg is headed down to Florida for extended spring training with the Rays. He will continue to rehab his knee and work on his batting while he awaits placement in Tampa’s minor league system.

“I just want to get back healthy and get in a rhythm,” Ostberg said. “And Tampa is such a great developmental organization. They’re well known for their player development staff and they have unbelievable facilities. I’m really excited.”

Ostberg said he expected to sign his contract with the Rays Wednesday night, which would officially end his collegiate career at Hartford. He thanked the Hawks’ coaching staff for giving him an opportunity and helping him develop into a professional-caliber player.

“Hartford is so important to me,” Ostberg said. “They gave me the opportunity to play Division I baseball, which was another big dream of mine, and I owe my development to them.

“I wasn’t ready for pro ball when I came to Hartford. There were lots of times Coach Blood could have sat me down when I was struggling, but he stuck with me, and Coach [Steve] Malinowski put in so many extra hours with me after practice — I can’t thank those guys enough.”

Bengtson, a junior from Concord, N.H., ranked fourth on the team with a .323 average this season and finished second on the team with 36 RBI. He recorded 54 hits, including seven doubles, two triples and five home runs.

Bengtson was named to the America East All-Conference First Team in 2017, marking in second consecutive First Team selection, and was an All-Rookie pick in 2015. He was also named to the NEIBA All-New England First Team this past year.

In April Bengtson picked up America East Player of the Week honors, going 6-for-14 (.429) with back-to-back walk-off winners against Stony Brook.

MacKinnon, an Easton, Mass., native, graduated this past month with a degree in accounting from the Barney School of Business, finishing his academic career with a 3.87 cumulative GPA. He earned President’s List (3.75+ GPA) distinction six times, was named to the Dean’s List once and earned America East Commissioner’s Honor Roll recognition in each of his eight semesters at Hartford.

MacKinnon was selected as the 2016 America East Baseball Player of the Year, the 2016 America East Male Athlete of the Year and the 2015-16 Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year. He also earned all-conference recognition during each of his four seasons with the baseball program, including All-Conference First Team honors as a junior and senior.

During his final season in a Hawks uniform, MacKinnon was the only Hawk to start in all 50 games. He posted a .327 batting average, leading the team in hits (68) and runs scored (44).

MacKinnon finished his career as the program’s all-time leader in hits (269), runs (155) and putouts (1,508). He ranks second in team history in games played (196), at-bats (750), doubles (51) and fielding percentages (.990) and ranks among the all-time top-five in total bases (343; third), walks (82; fifth) and batting average (.359; fifth).

DRAFT NOTES:
· Ostberg is just the fourth Hawk to be drafted in the first 13 rounds, joining Sean Newcomb (1st round, 2014), Jeff Bagwell (4th, 1989) and Brian Hunter (9th, 2014).
· Ostberg is the second-highest position player to be selected out of Hartford, trailing only Bagwell.
· Ostberg is also just the third catcher in Hartford history to be selected, joining Scott Hilt (29th, 1994) and James Alfonso (30th, 2014).
· He is the first Hawk to be drafted since shortstop Trey Stover (35th, 2015).
· Of Hartford’s 17 all-time MLB Draft selections, six have been pitchers, three have been catchers, two have been shortstops, two have been first basemen and two have been outfielders. The Hawks have also had one player drafted at second base and third base.
· The trio of selections make a total of seven players to be drafted under Blood, joining Alfonso (2014), Hunter (2014), Newcomb (2014) and Stover (2015).

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