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The All-ACC outfielder has helped the Hokies reach the NCAA tournament by swinging a hot bat.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Tyler Horan expects to turn pro next month, and could be selected in the 10 top rounds in the draft.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Left fielder Tyler Horan leads the Hokies with a .349 batting average and 11 home runs this season.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Last year, Tyler Horan competed in the College Home Run Derby in Omaha, Neb.
This year, he is hoping to return to Omaha — with his entire team.
Horan is the leading hitter on the Virginia Tech baseball team, which will host an NCAA regional beginning Friday.
The All-ACC outfielder has belted a team-high 11 homers this season. He smacked 15 homers last season, earning an invitation to the College Home Run Derby. He finished second in that event last July at Rosenblatt Stadium, site of the College World Series.
“That was a blast,” Horan said. “That’s like the sneak preview of where we want to get this year.”
Tech (38-20) will have to win both a regional and a super regional to make the College World Series for the first time.
The NCAA tournament will likely mark the Tech swan song for Horan, who expects to turn pro next month.
The fourth-year junior could be taken in the top 10 rounds of next week’s major league draft. He is rated the No. 293 prospect in the draft by Baseball America. He is Tech’s second-highest-ranked prospect; infielder Chad Pinder is No. 53 on the magazine’s list.
“I can’t wait to move on with my career and see what I can do at the next level,” Horan said.
Horan got a chance to impress pro scouts last summer in the Cape Cod League, the nation’s most prestigious summer circuit for college players. He not only hit .342 but also tied the league’s single-season home run record with 16 — in a league that uses wooden bats.
“He’s got a big-league tool — raw power,” Tech coach Pete Hughes said.
After batting .282 last season, Horan leads the Hokies with a .349 average this season. The left fielder from Middleboro, Mass., also leads the squad in doubles (24) and triples (four) and ranks second in RBIs (50) and runs (54). Horan, who has struck out 37 times, earned a spot on the All-ACC first team.
“The thing that separates him from a lot of power hitters is he doesn’t swing and miss a ton,” Hughes said. “He’ll make jumps at the next level because the ball’s always in play.”
Horan and Hughes have the same prep alma mater — Boston College High School. Hughes’ former high school coach recommended Horan to him, so Hughes invited Horan to his summer camp. Horan did well enough at the camp to earn a partial scholarship offer.
Horan also was a football standout in high school. Horan, who played running back and linebacker, said he was recruited for football by three FCS programs — Massachusetts (which has since moved up to FBS), Maine and New Hampshire. But he was more intrigued by ACC baseball than FCS (formerly Division I-AA) football.
“I wanted to play a college sport at the highest level possible,” he said.
Unlike most Tech recruits, Horan did not play baseball year-round. Instead of playing AAU baseball in the summertime, Horan spent his summers lifting weights and attending football camps.
So he was still a raw baseball talent when he began his Tech career. That’s why he was redshirted in 2010, when Tech made the NCAAs.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Horan became the starting left fielder last season, when he led the team with 41 RBIs and ranked third in the ACC with 15 homers.
“Power’s always been a part of my game. I credit that to football because that’s where all my lifting came from,” he said. “I still have a football body. I could still play if I wanted to.”
“He’s a really, really strong kid,” Hughes said.
Horan has worked on more than his baseball talents during his Tech career. He had to work on his Massachusetts accent so his teammates could better understand him.
“It’s gotten a little better [from him] being in the South,” said roommate Joe Mantiply, who will start on the mound for Tech against Connecticut on Friday. “His accent’s not as bad now.”
Horan was not chosen in last year’s draft. He said the Houston Astros called him during the 15th or 16th round, but Horan told them he wasn’t interested. He figured the money he would be offered at that point in the draft would not make leaving school worthwhile.
Returning to Tech has paid off in several ways. He recently graduated with a degree in public relations. He also helped the Hokies advance to the title game of the ACC tournament for the first time. He hit .412 in four ACC tournament games.
This week, he will play in the NCAA tournament for the first time — for a team that will be hosting a regional for the first time.
“It’s a really big moment,” Horan said.
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