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Luke Burch completed his meteoric rise from walk-on to pro on Tuesday, when Kent State's star senior outfielder was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the ninth round of the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft.
Burch, the 275th overall pick, batted .350 or higher in three straight seasons with the Golden Flashes. He also possesses excellent speed, power and arm strength, making him a versatile threat professional scouts covet.
"I'm so excited for him," said KSU coach Jeff Duncan. "He's a phenomenal talent. He brings a lot of tools for the next level that are exciting. He runs really well, plays really fast, has really good hand speed and hand-eye coordinator, and he really works hard. I just got off the phone with him. His whole family was there when he was drafted. He's just so excited."
Burch, a Millersburg native who starred in baseball, basketball and soccer at Hiland High School, started his collegiate career at Division II Ashland University before joining the Flashes program as a walk-on in 2014. After sitting out a year he batted .360 with 17 stolen bases in 26 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2015.
Last year Burch (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) batted a team-high .357 to earn First Team All-Mid-American Conference honors, leading Kent State to the first of two straight MAC regular season championships. He totaled 84 hits, 12 doubles, four triples, two homers and 22 stolen bases, and made just one error in the outfield.
Burch produced huge numbers once again as a senior in 2017. He was a repeat All-MAC First Teamer after leading the Flashes in batting (.350), hits (78), and runs (53). He added 15 doubles, two triples, four homers and 13 stolen bases.
"He's been a great player for us," said Duncan. "You think about where he's come from, a walk-on from Ashland. I think he had a dream to play Division I baseball. He was really crude when he came in here. He was a big basketball player out of high school, never played baseball at a high level, but we saw him play in summer ball and he had a tool set that we thought could be pretty good. He had some adversity with injuries, but he came back from knee surgery (in 2015) and within a year was back playing at full speed again, which is a testament to his work ethic and drive.
"He really developed over the last three years. He's a really hungry player that worked really hard, and he's got the motor to keep getting better."
Burch was not the only KSU player drafted on Tuesday.
Redshirt sophomore Jake Latz, a left-handed pitcher who sat out the 2017 season after transferring to Kent State from LSU, was taken in the fifth round by the Texas Rangers.
Latz played two seasons at LSU. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound lefty applied to the NCAA to be declared immediately eligible to play for the Flashes, but was denied.
Although Latz never threw an official pitch for Kent State, he did make an impact on the program.
"He was on our roster, so he was able to practice. He would throw intrasquad games and there would be 20 to 30 scouts at our practice," said Duncan. "It was a neat thing for him. I'm really happy for him."
Latz attended the same high school as Duncan, Lemont Township in Joliet, Ill.
"I knew people around him," said Duncan. "The college game was a little bit rough for him the first two years with injuries, and it didn't work out at LSU. We were really open to him coming here and working with (legendary KSU pitching coach Mike) Birkbeck. He felt comfortable here. It was a good fit for him, and I think it all worked out."
Kent State junior slugger Dylan Rosa could be one of the first players taken when day three of the 2017 MLB Draft begins today at noon.