WEST LIBERTY - After an impressive debut season at the West Liberty University baseball helm, head coach Eric Burkle has added nine more prospects to the Hilltopper roster for the 2013-14 season.
Burkle's latest recruits join a quartet of high school seniors who committed to West Liberty during the NCAA Division II early-signing period in November, giving the Hilltopper coaching staff 13 more players to work with heading into the 2014 season.
"We're very excited to welcome these young men to West Liberty," Burkle said. "Not only are they quality players, they're the type of quality people we can count on to continue building our program going forward."
Burkle's Hilltoppers are coming off a year that saw them more than double their win total from the previous season and earn a postseason spot in the West Virginia Conference Tournament for only the second time in the past six years. They posted their first 20-win season (21-26) since 2007 and had a winning league mark (18-15) for the first time since the 2007 WVIAC's North Division title squad.
Following are brief capsules on the latest additions to the WLU squad:
Outstanding defensive receiver who batted .302 with five doubles and four home runs as a senior. Played for former major leaguer Kevin Gryboski at Thomas Jefferson.
Coach Burkle says: "We love Jared's athleticism behind the plate and expect him to be in the mix for one of the starting catcher spots. He has an above-average arm which will help us control the run game and comes from a good high school program and a great family.
Perhaps the most reliable pitcher at one of the Mountain State's premier Class AAA programs this spring, Logan posted a 2.38 ERA as a senior with 23 strikeouts in 22 innings. An honor roll student who maintained a 3.28 GPA through high school.
Coach Burkle says: "Logan's the type of athlete we really like to pursue - a baseball kid from a baseball school. He knows the game we're looking forward to seeing him carry that big-school experience onto the college diamond."
Versatile athlete was a first-team all-state offensive lineman on Central's state championship football team as a junior. As a senior hurler, was picked to play in the OVAC All-Star Game after striking out 54 batters in 48 innings for a Maroon Knight team that came up one win shy of the state tournament.
Coach Burkle says: "We think Nick has a chance to step in and battle for a spot in our rotation. He's a strike-thrower who attacks hitters and has a very bright future. He also comes from a great family and a high school program with a great winning tradition."
Two-time All-Conference pitcher followed up a strong junior season with an outstanding senior year. Went 6-1 on the hill with a 1.33 ERA while setting a school single-season record with 68 strikeouts in 42 innings.
Coach Burkle says: "Sean is another Northerner we brought south to add depth to our pitching staff. His fastball sits around 83-84 mph but it's his control and off-speed stuff that we think will set him apart from other pitchers in our conference.
Three-time All-WPIAL pitcher who hit over .400 each of his last two seasons. Fanned 70 batters in 55 innings as a senior with a 2.78 ERA. Hurled two scoreless innings in WPIAL Coaches All-Star Game. National Honor Society student.
Coach Burkle says: "With Dylan's ability to pitch and play the field, he could be a little bit of a steal for us. He's pretty consistently 85-86 mph with the fastball and swings a great stick."
Ranked among the top hitters in Western Pennsylvania with a .533 batting average as a senior and was a strikeout machine on the mound. Had 56 strikeouts and 10 walks in 37 innings and finished with a 1.07 ERA. Had a 16-strikeout game in sectional play and a 15-strikeout game during the regular season.
Coach Burkle says: "Justin swings the bat well but when we saw him, his pitching ability just jumped off the page. He sits around 85-86 mph with the fastball and has an electric slider. We really like his consistency in the strike zone and the way he challenges hitters.
All-Conference and All-District corner infield and pitching prospect who starred for his father, ECOL Coach of the Year Mike Smith, on a Claymont team that won 20 games this spring.
Coach Burkle says: "One of our need areas for this class was size and power at the corner infield spots and Mitch certainly fills that bill. He's a big, strong kid from a baseball family who can run his fastball up there at 86-87 mph. Mitch has a chance to put up some serious numbers before he's finished at West Liberty."
Senior catcher had a big season for an Oak Glen team that came up one win shy of earning a state tournament berth. Earned special mention All-West Virginia Class AA along with honorable mention All-Valley and All-OVAC Class AAAA. Played for West Virginia in 2013 OVAC All-Star Game.
Coach Burkle says: "Trey is an interesting kid who has a lot of potential. We're looking forward to seeing him work on developing that potential at the collegiate level."
Transferring to West Liberty after sitting out a medical redshirt year at Mount Vernon Nazarene. Gregg was the OVAC Class AAAA and Ohio Eastern District Player of the Year as a senior at Edison HS when he posted an 11-0 record with 125 strikeouts and a 0.95 ERA.
Coach Burkle says: "Gregg was one of the best pitchers in Ohio two years ago and if he can bounce back from Tommy John surgery, we could really have something. Gregg was consistently working at 88-89 mph as a high school senior and with his work ethic, we're confident that he will make a full recovery."