On Wednesday afternoon, Wilmington resident Jackson Gillis was relaxing in his dorm room when he was informed that he had been drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 13th round of the Major League Baseball Draft. He was the 403rd overall selection.
"I was talking to my advisor and he had told me that some teams were interested and we were waiting to hear what was going to happen," he said. "Then everything happened really quickly."
Before Wednesday, Gillis said that he had conversations with several clubs but not the Brewers.
"I wasn't really talking with anyone specific, I was just hoping for the best. I didn't know the Brewers were interested in me until they took me so I was surprised by that. It's pretty awesome."
Gillis was asked if he had made the decision of whether he will sign with the Brewers and forgo his senior year at Vandy, or return for his fourth season.
"That decision won't be made for a while," he said. "I'm not thinking about the future. I'm trying to stay in the moment. I feel good, really good and I'm happy as this has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, but right now my main goal is working towards our team goal here and winning the super regionals. Everything else will take a back seat to that, so I'm really not worried about it. I'll think about it when the time comes but right now it's all about this team and the super regionals."
Gillis was also asked if he thought the Brewers selected him because of his friendship with Stephen Peterson, who just recently retired after a long minor league career with the Brewers. Originally from Danvers, Peterson has family in Wilmington and is now a pitching instructor in the area, most notably in Tewksbury.
"You would have to ask Stephen but not that I know of," he said. "We are good friends and we have built a good relationship over the years and we're close. He's been just awesome to me over the years. He texted me today congratulating me and said that the Brewers are a great organization."
Gillis becomes the sixth player (all pitchers) from Wilmington to enter professional baseball following Jeff Williamson, who pitched for several years in the Baltimore Orioles system between A and AA, Rick Froton, who pitched two years for the Red Sox Single-A level, Jason Bere was drafted in the 36th round of the 1990 draft and pitched 12 seasons in the big leagues in the mid 1990s, Mike Alonardo pitched in the Independent League and then Peterson.
Gillis is in his junior year as a relief pitcher for the Vanderbilt University Baseball team. He has appeared in seven games this season with a 5.14 ERA. In seven innings, he has given up seven hits, four earned runs, while walking five and striking out seven.
He was asked why he has only appeared in seven games this year compared to 20 last year.
"We have a really good staff with a lot of talented arms," he said. "If I have to take a backseat to one of them so we can win, I'm happy to do so. It's really all about whatever the team needs and I'm just so thankful to be a part of it all."
Gillis said that he is still ranging between 93-95 on his fastball, while he also still has his curveball, change-up and has started to develop a slider.
"It's good," he said. "It's a new pitch for me and I'm learning all about it, learning how to control it, when to throw it different situations and when not to throw it."
Last year he posted a 4-1 record with a 4.81 ERA in 20 appearances, including one start. He struck out 39 batters in 28.2 innings and was really dominant in his final six appearances, allowing just three extra base hits.
In high school, Gillis dominated hitters throughout his career. In his senior year, he reached 94 miles per hour on the gun. He registered a 4-3 record with a 2.93 ERA with 74 strikeouts in just 43 innings.
As a junior, he struck out 69 batters in 39 innings and sported a 2-4 record with a 3.04 ERA.
As a sophomore, he was named the Middlesex League Freedom Division MVP, the Lowell Sun Player of the Year, a Boston Globe and Boston Herald All-Scholastic, a first team selection to the Massachusetts and ESPN.com/Boston all-state teams after finishing 7-2 with an 0.86 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 57.1 innings.
After Tuesday night's draft concluded, five Vanderbilt Commodores heard their names called through the first two days of the draft including JJ Bleday who was selected with the fourth overall pick by the Miami Marlins on Monday.
Four others were picked up on Tuesday including right-hander Drake Fellows (sixth round, San Diego), catcher Philip Clarke (ninth round, Toronto), Ethan Paul (ninth round, Pittsburgh) and Stephen Scott (10th round, Boston).
Currently, Vanderbilt (52-10) will take on Duke to open the NCAA Nashville Super Regional on Friday at 5 p.m. from Hawkins Field, the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee announced Tuesday morning. The opening contest can be seen on ESPN2.
Saturday’s middle game is set for 8 p.m. on ESPNU and Sunday’s if-necessary winner-take-all finale will be at 2 p.m. on ESPN2. All three contests can be heard on WNSR 560 AM/95.9 FM and VUCommodores.com.
The Commodores (52-10) are making their eighth super regional appearance in the last 10 seasons and are eyeing their first trip to the College World Series since 2015. The club outscored opponents 28-8 at the Nashville Regional, highlighted by a 12-1 win Sunday night against Indiana State.
Duke (34-25) is headed to its second consecutive super regional after sweeping through the NCAA Morgantown Regional. The Blue Devils and Commodores are meeting for the second time in an as many seasons. Vandy won 2-of-3 contests at Hawkins Field to open its 2018 campaign.
To get to the Super Regionals, Vanderbilt defeated No. 4 seed Ohio State, 8-2, Indiana State twice by scores of 8-5 and 12-1.
"It's been exciting and a fun ride," said Gillis. "We think that we will have a good chance of playing until the end June, but we have to first get through super regionals. That's all we care about right now."