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Utah Utes baseball: Fife taken by BoSox in 3rd round

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There aren't too many things that can leave a 6-foot-3, 215-pound man speechless, but University of Utah right-hander Stephen Fife found himself grasping for words Thursday.

Fife, who led the Utes with seven wins this season, was selected in the third round by the Boston Red Sox some four hours into the first day of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

"Excitement" and "bliss" were some of the first words to come out of his mouth after being selected by the defending world champions.

"I'm more than excited for the chance to play professional baseball," said Fife, who watched the draft with family and friends at a sports bar in his hometown of Boise.

"It's a dream come true. I don't know how else to explain it," he said. "For a long time, I've always wanted to be a professional athlete."

Fife said at least one Red Sox representative saw him pitch in each of his last six starts, and they spoke with him earlier this week to see his level of interest. Both liked what the other had to say, so the Red Sox pulled the trigger with the 85th overall pick in the draft.

"I think I have the ability to prove myself at the next level and get to the big leagues in the next two or three years," he said.

Fife possesses an above-average fastball (91-95 mph) as well as an above-average curveball. He is still perfecting his change-up and slider.

He finished the season 7-5 with a 3.72 ERA. He allowed 91 hits in 92 innings, surrendered 49 runs (38 earned) while striking out a team-high 78 and walking just 29.

"I'm really excited for Stephen," said Utah baseball coach Bill Kinneberg."It's a great honor and he's worked very hard to earn it. I couldn't be happier for him, and I know he's excited for this opportunity."

Fife wasn't the only player with Utah ties taken on the first day.

Former Viewmont High and College of Southern Nevada standout Braeden Schlehuber was taken in the fourth round (130th overall) by the Atlanta Braves.

Schlehuber, who was one of just two players to start all 60 games for the Scenic West Athletic Conference champion Coyotes, hit .332 (in a wooden-bat league) with 12 doubles, a team-high four triples, a team-high five homers and a team-high 42 RBIs.

The draft concluded Thursday after six rounds. The final 44 rounds will be completed today.

Several players with Utah ties will look to have their names called, namely BYU's Kent Walton and Daniel Vargas.

E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com