JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (July 10, 2015) – ETSU baseball head coach Tony Skole and his staff finalized its 2015-16 recruiting class on Friday. The Buccaneers welcome 12 newcomers to campus in the fall.
The class features four freshman and eight junior college transfers. The group consists of six pitchers, two outfielders, two utility players, one infielder and one catcher.
“We are very excited about this recruiting class,” said Skole. “We expect these young men to make a positive impact in our baseball program, on campus and within the community. Our coaching staff did an outstanding job recognizing our needs and addressing those areas where we needed to make improvements. We feel like we have a very strong group of returning players, as we only graduated four seniors, but this group contains many players who will immediately make an impression in our lineup and on our pitching staff. I couldn’t be more excited to begin working with this year’s ball club. We really have some tremendous young men in our program.”
Below is a breakdown of the signing class including a quote from the Buccaneer coaching staff.
Brandon Ahrens – RHP – USC Sumter Community College “Brandon is a hard-throwing right-hander who came out of USC Sumter’s bullpen on its march to the Junior College World Series this past season. His fastball is consistently in the low 90s. He could potentially be a big arm at the back end of our bullpen, as he averaged over one strikeout per inning this past season. We are expecting Brandon to come in and pitch a significant amount of innings for us this spring.”
Brock Beeler – IF/OF – Webb High School
“Brock was a finalist for Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year this past season. He was a first team all-state selection, and had a tremendous high school career on the baseball diamond as well as the gridiron. He’s a hard-nosed player who is very athletic and will be an exciting player for our fans to watch throughout his career. Brock will also play football at ETSU.”
Dillon Clift – Catcher – Soddy Daisy High School “Dillon was a first team all-state performer this past season. He led his high school to one of its best seasons in school history. Dillon has plus-arm strength, while being quick and athletic behind the plate. Most importantly, he possesses great leadership qualities that you look for in a catcher. Offensively, he was one of the best hitters in the state this year. Dillon carried his team to a state tournament appearance and will be an exciting player in our program in the upcoming years.”
Caleb Cook – RHP – Dobyns-Bennett High School “Caleb was one of the top high school pitchers in East Tennessee. He follows in his dad and brother’s footsteps by continuing his collegiate career at ETSU. His father is a member of ETSU’s Hall of Fame (football), and his older brother, Chris, enters his junior season for the Baseball Bucs. Caleb’s fastball tops out in the upper 80s and has good secondary stuff to match it. The sky is the limit for Caleb.”
Victor Gonzalez – RHP – USC Sumter Community College “Victor has potential to be one of the best pitchers in the Southern Conference. His fastball is in the 90s, and he has an exceptional curveball and changeup. Victor’s ability to have three quality pitches makes him a very difficult matchup for hitters. He, along with his teammate Brandon Ahrens, come from a winning program as they helped guide USC Sumter to the 2015 JUCO World Series this past season.”
Caleb Longley – 1B/OF – Cleveland State Community College “Caleb comes from a great program, led by Mike Policastro at Cleveland State. He is a coach’s son, does the little things and is extremely talented. Caleb received a lot of attention from professional teams after a solid 2015 campaign. He hit .324 with 14 home runs and 53 RBI. He is an athletic player who we think is versatile enough to play outfield as well. We expect Caleb to add a presence in the middle of our order next year, as he really has some electricity in his bat.”
Lance Mays – OF – Dyersburg State CC
“Lance was a standout outfielder among the Tennessee junior colleges the past two seasons. He played his freshman year at Roane State before transferring to Dyersburg State. Offensively, he’s a dynamic player who plays hard and fast. He will have an opportunity to be an asset at the top of our lineup. Lance is a left-handed hitter who can really run, but also plays very physical. He’s also is a plus-defender and should follow in the footsteps of athletic outfielders that we have traditionally had here at ETSU.”
Blake Rowlett – IF – Jackson State Community College “Blake was runner-up for Player of the Year in all Tennessee Junior College Baseball programs this past season. He’s a left-handed hitter who flat out hits. Blake hit .364 with 10 home runs and 51 RBI, while also posting 45 walks and only striking out 19 times. He’s able to play any infield position at a high level. We think Blake will be able to immediately step in and be one of the best hitters/players in the Southern Conference. He is a tough kid who just loves to play. Blake brings a lot to the table outside his baseball ability and fits into our style of play at ETSU.”
Blake Smith – RHP – Spartanburg Methodist Community College “Blake has pitched at one of the best junior colleges in the country for the past two years at Spartanburg Methodist. He pitched in the Junior College World Series in 2014 and was a weekend starter for his club this past season. Blake had 39 strikeouts in 43 innings, while only walking 10 batters this past season. We anticipate Blake competing for a weekend spot in our rotation next season and will add some veteran experience as well.”
Jammer Strickland – OF – Cleveland State Community College “Cameron (Jammer) was one of the most highly recruited players in the state of Tennessee out of high school and went to the University of Tennessee after graduating from tradition-rich Farragut High School. After spending one semester at UT, he transferred to Cleveland State where he had a very successful career. He is an athletically strong player who runs well, hits for a high average, and has the ability to hit for power. Jammer fits into our mold of athletic outfielders.”
Zach Thompson – RHP – Chattanooga State Community College “Zach made a name for himself this season by being one of the best starting pitchers among Tennessee junior colleges. Zach’s competitive drive and toughness are his best qualities, but a mid-to-upper 80s fastball and sharp breaking ball helped him record 65 strikeouts in 72 innings of work this past season. Zach will step into our pitching staff and contribute right away.”
Matt Turner – RHP – Hardin Valley High School “Matt is a proven winner. He has won in both high school and summer ball. Matt helped lead his high school to the 2015 State Championship this past season, while he plays for one of the best summer teams in the country – the Georgia Roadrunners. Matt has a mid 80s fastball, a cutter and curveball. He really knows how to pitch and is a strike thrower. We are anticipating Matt to develop and be a key contributor for us during his career.”