KISSIMMEE, Fla. - University of California San Diego closer Cameron Kurz has signed a professional contract with the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball (MLB).
Kurz, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher and local product out of Encinitas (La Costa Canyon HS), thus will forgo his last season of college eligibility. The Braves' 18th-round selection (No. 532) during the 2018 MLB First-Year Player Draft on June 6, he had until Friday at 2 p.m. PT to either sign his first pro contract, or return to UC San Diego for a fifth and final campaign. Kurz redshirted as a true freshman in 2015.
"Signing a pro contract is definitely a proud moment," said Kurz via email from Florida. "It's a quick time to reflect on what it took to get there, but is also the next step in the journey. I'm excited to get started. I'm very thankful for my time as a Triton, and all the lessons learned and relationships and memories formed."
Kurz, the first-ever Triton drafted by the Braves, signed his contract at the club's Spring Training facility in Kissimmee, Fla., on June 21, and has stayed there, getting assigned to the GCL Braves of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League (GCL). He made his professional debut on June 27 in Kissimmee, throwing a scoreless sixth and seventh against the GCL Phillies. Kurz struck out his last two batters, both swinging, and left with a 4-2 lead, earning his first career hold despite what turned into a 6-5 defeat. In a second stint on July 4, he fanned four over two near-perfect frames, retiring six straight hitters after issuing a walk to lead off the eighth, the first four on strikes.
Kurz saved his best for last as a fourth-year junior in 2018, finishing with a microscopic 0.74 ERA, 5-1 win-loss record and career-best nine saves. Over 22 appearances, all in relief, and 36.1 total innings pitched, he struck out 63 against just 11 walks, and allowed four runs, three of them earned. Opponents batted a mere .135, with four doubles going as the only extra-base hits against him.
Kurz did not give up a single run in 18 of his 22 outings, and was particularly effective when it counted most, firing 11.2 shutout frames in five postseason contests with 23 strikeouts, one walk and three hits. Of specific note were three one-hit innings with a career-best eight strikeouts in a come-from-behind 9-8 triumph over California Baptist at the West Regional on May 18, and a career-long 4.2 frames, with six more strikeouts, in the season finale in Cary, N.C., on May 30.
For his efforts, Kurz earned the first postseason athletic honors of his college career. He was the closer on the All-California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Second Team, and also made a pair of All-West Region second teams, through the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and Division 2 Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA).
Kurz departs UC San Diego as the joint record-holder with 14 career saves. He struck out 10 consecutive batters over back-to-back appearances this past season on April 21 at Cal State San Bernardino (2.0 IP, 6 SO) and April 26 at home against Cal State LA (1.1 IP, 4 SO), which is also believed to be a program standard. This year's nine saves are tied for fourth on the single-season list.
Career totals for Kurz also include a 2.33 ERA and 6-2 record over 55 relief outings and 65.2 innings. He struck out exactly 100 and walked 39, with an opponent's batting average of .174 and one home run relinquished.
Kurz worked tirelessly to go from missing out on the 25-man 2017 NCAA West Regional and NCAA Championship rosters, to an 18th-round professional draft pick just a year later. He made 11 appearances and tossed all of 8.1 innings with a 6.48 ERA, eight strikeouts and eight walks as a redshirt sophomore that spring. The four-time CCAA All-Academic honoree and human biology major, will put off his medical school plans in pursuit of pro baseball.
UC San Diego won 40-plus games and a West Region title for the second straight season in 2018, after a record seventh CCAA Championship banner this past May. Kurz registered the last three outs in the finals of that event, and was chosen to the CCAA Championship All-Tournament Team.
Not enough characters to tell this incredible story in 1 tweet. Cameron Kurz did not make NCAA tourney roster a year ago. Worked, produced a lights-out 2018, and is 18th-round #MLBDraft pick. So proud of you, Cam. What a year! 5-1, 0.74, 9 saves, 63/11 K/BB, .135 BAA). 🔥👏🔱⚾️ pic.twitter.com/7B5oLU6jXy— UCSD Triton Baseball (@UCSDbsb) June 6, 2018