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Mason graduate T.J. Zeuch may be a MLB first-round selection Thursday night

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Posted at 12:00 PM, Jun 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-07 18:04:19-04

MASON, Ohio — T.J. Zeuch understands the magnitude of Thursday night’s Major League Baseball Draft as a likely first-round selection.

But, the University of Pittsburgh standout and 2013 Mason High School graduate certainly isn’t dwelling on what could become a pressure-filled week. 

RELATED: Nine Cincinnati-area MLB draft picks you should know.

The 6-foot-8 right-handed pitcher has been home in Mason for a few weeks since the completion of the Pitt season in late May.

He’s been working out in the gym and taking time to relax before Thursday.

“It’s going well,” Zeuch said. “…I’m just kind of excited and more anxious to get it over. I try not to think about it.”

Zeuch has been a highly touted pitcher for Pitt for quite some time. He was selected to the Atlantic Coast Conference second team this spring.

Zeuch has a chance to become Pitt’s second first-round draft pick in program history and the first since 1981 when right-handed pitcher Al Lachowicz was taken by the Rangers with the 24th pick.

Thursday will likely mark the third consecutive year a Cincinnati-area player has been taken in the first round.

Andrew Benintendi (Arkansas/Madeira) was selected seventh by the Red Sox and Ian Happ (UC) was selected ninth by the Cubs in the 2015 draft. Kyle Schwarber (Indiana/Middletown) was selected third by the Cubs in 2014.

Zeuch’s arm, velocity and competitiveness make him a prized prospect. And he always came to the field with the same approach and dedication each day the past three years with the Panthers.

“I will remember T.J. as one of the hardest, most diligent workers that I have ever coached,” Pitt coach Joe Jordano told WCPO.com. “His work ethic and his very grounded attitude were refreshing.”

Mock drafts vary, but Zeuch has been projected anywhere from Nos. 9-25 in the first round. The draft is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Baseball America projects the Astros to select Zeuch at No. 17. MLB.com projects Zeuch at No. 23 to the Cardinals. Other possibilities remain too.

Zeuch, 20, was originally drafted by the Royals out of high school but opted to pitch for Pitt.

One of the most successful pitchers in program history, Zeuch led the Panthers this spring with a 3.10 ERA, recording 74 strikeouts in just 69.2 innings as the ace of the staff in his junior season. Opponents batted just .229.

Zeuch went 6-1 in 10 starts allowing just 24 earned runs and 19 walks after he missed four weeks of the season due to injury.

He tied a Charles L. Cost Field record and set a career-best with 12 strikeouts in his final outing with Pitt May 19 against Duke.

“I take a lot of pride in throwing strikes,” Zeuch said.

Zeuch’s size and command on the mound has impressed MLB scouts. He throws downhill with deep movement and his fastball is upward of 97 miles per hour, Jordano said.

His secondary pitches are also solid and once he gets a little more comfortable with his changeup, he will take his game to another level, Jordano said.

“I have spoken to a few scouting directors, MLB pitching coaches and numerous scouts and I tell them the same thing,” Jordano said. “If T.J. is wearing your uniform he will compete his tail off and conduct himself to the highest level of integrity and professionalism. He will only get better.”

Thursday night will almost certainly make Zeuch the highest-drafted Mason baseball alum in the Comets’ program history, Mason coach Curt Bly said.

Bly, who was a Mason assistant under former longtime coach Ken Gray during Zeuch’s high school career, said the radar gun doesn’t lie. Neither does his character.

“He has a tremendous work ethic,” Bly said. “He’s a can’t-miss person. He’s going to put the work in. He wants to be great.”

Zeuch said he takes a great deal of pride from being a Mason product.

“I will never forget it,” he said. “I have nothing but good memories about the program there and I will remember it the rest of my life.”