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'Triple Threat' returning to ETSU for 2016-17

• Jul 15, 2016 at 6:48 PM

JOHNSON CITY — The East Tennessee State baseball team received a major boost Friday.

Hagen Owenby, Chris Cook and Aaron Maher, all selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates last month in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft, have waived their draft rights and will return to ETSU in the fall.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s been a stressful month since the MLB draft. When your players get their names called you are so excited for them. Such a small percentage get that opportunity and there is no doubt that these three young men were very deserving of that honor,” ETSU coach Tony Skole said in a release from the university. “But as a coach, immediately I’m having thoughts in my mind as to what am I going to do to replace these young men if they sign. Then I realized that there is simply no way that could be possible. ...

“So today is a great day for ETSU and our program. It really feels like we just signed three All-America players. I’m thankful that these young men believe in our coaching staff and our program to help them boost their stock and further their careers both on and off the field. These three guys are three of the hardest workers in our program and what’s even better is that they are quality young men. With them returning, it solidifies our ballclub for next year. They are exciting players and with our other returners, along with a very good recruiting class, this team will be exciting to watch. I can’t wait to get everyone on campus.”

Nicknamed the “Triple Threat,” the trio has compiled 383 hits, 66 doubles, 13 triples, 41 home runs, 236 runs and 213 RBIs in two seasons playing for the Bucs.

Owenby, a Knoxville native and 14th-round selection by the Pirates, won the TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby earlier this month in Omaha, Neb.

“This past month has been stressful, but it has also been a lot of fun,” Owenby said in the release. “Not many people can experience playing in the Cape Cod League and participating in the Home Run Derby. I am fortunate to experience all that and truly blessed to be given the opportunity. I am excited to be moving forward and continuing my collegiate career as a Buccaneer as well as furthering my education.

“The three of us are excited to be coming back,” he added. “Our goal is to get everyone on board and buy into the system. If we come together and play to the best of our ability, we should have a strong season. I have always wanted to play on a championship team. We have a shot to do that with this group of guys.”

Cook, a Kingsport native, was drafted in the 30th round despite missing the majority of the season with a shoulder injury.

“As a kid, it has always been my dream to get drafted,” Cook said. “It meant a lot to get the text from the Pirates saying they were going to draft me, but after discussing the future with my parents, we decided coming back to ETSU was the best move.”

Brentwood’s Maher went in the 38th round.

“It was such an honor to get the phone call from the Pirates. It was a goal of mine to get drafted this year, and I am blessed to make it happen,” Maher said. “I made huge strides from my freshman to sophomore year, but I wanted to come back to ETSU and improve even more.”

Owenby and Maher will be juniors and Cook a redshirt junior in 2016-17.