Pirates take 3 players with local ties
By Chris Harlan
Published: Wednesday, June 6, 2012, 1:30 p.m.
Updated: Friday, June 8, 2012
Penn State's Jordan Steranka expects to turn pro and then return to college.
“It's the perfect scenario,” said Steranka, a Mt. Lebanon graduate chosen Wednesday by the Pirates in round 21 of the MLB draft.
He was one of seven players with WPIAL roots selected yesterday when the three-day draft concluded with rounds 16 through 40. But Steranka might not have to travel far.
Once he signs a contract, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound corner infielder would return to State College if he's assigned to the Pirates' short-season Single-A squad. The Spikes share Penn State's stadium, Medlar Field.
“It's really exciting,” said the 22-year-old, who graduated last month. “The perfect scenario actually happened: hometown team, my favorite team, and I might play on the same field I played on for four years. I really couldn't have asked for anything better.”
Three of the prospects with WPIAL roots were chosen by the Pirates, beginning with Steranka at No. 646. Kent State shortstop Jimmy Rider, a Peters Township graduate, was drafted by the Pirates in the 26th round (796th overall), and Valley's Zarley Zalewski was chosen in the final round (1,216th).
“It was a dream come true,” said Rider, who holds the Mid-American Conference record for hits with 346. “I was speechless when the Pirates gave me a call. I couldn't have been any happier.”
Peters Township graduate J.J. Jankowski, a senior at Catawba College, was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 34th round, 1029th overall. The right-hander was 9-2 this season with a 3.79 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 901⁄3 innings.
Neshannock shortstop John Sansone, the WPIAL's leading hitter, was drafted in the 39th round, 1204th overall, by the Detroit Tigers. Sansone is batting .645 with six triples, seven homers and 40 RBI for the Lancers, who won the WPIAL Class A title.
“I was at practice and thought the draft was over,” he said. “I thought there was no way, but I'm so thankful. I couldn't even believe they called my name.”
Florida State offered a scholarship, but Sansone said he will consider the Tigers' offer.
Steranka was slightly disappointed when 20 rounds passed without his name being called. He had expected to be drafted higher, but that feeling changed when his hometown team called.
A year ago, he was drafted in the 30th round by the Astros but returned for his senior season. The left-handed hitter batted .363 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI.
“It's exciting to be drafted in general,” he said, “let alone by your hometown team.”
Also taken were Cory McGinnis, a right-handed pitcher from Hampton who was attending Auburn-Montgomery, by the Chicago White Sox in the 22nd round; and Kyle Helisek from Seneca Valley and Villanova. He was chosen by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 30th round.
Penn State right-hander John Walter, a New Jersey native, was taken by the Kansas City Royals in the 29th round, 883rd overall.
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5666.
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