UC Riverside right-handed pitcher Ryan Lillie was the first Inland-area player taken in the MLB draft on Tuesday. Lillie, a former catcher at Vista Murrieta High, was selected by the Miami Marlins in the fifth round.
Also on Tuesday, UCR outfielder Mark Contreras, out of Moreno Valley Canyon Springs High, was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the ninth round. The senior led the Highlanders with a .366 average and his .427 on-base percentage was tops among everyday starters.
Lillie is the highest pick for a Highlander player since pitcher Matt Andriese was selected in the third round by the San Diego Padres in 2011. Andriese currently pitches for the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I’m super stoked. I’m very thankful and excited,” said Lillie, who was on the phone talking to other teams when he saw his name pop up on TV as the Marlins pick.
Lillie, a junior, made 20 appearances this season, including 10 starts. He’s rotated between closer and starter during his career and finished 2-7 with a 4.69 ERA and four saves this season. He has a mid-90s fastball and a tough slider and led the staff with 80 strikeouts in 71 innings.
The years spent playing on club and travel ball teams and eventually college finally came to fruition on Tuesday, he said.