RICHMOND, Va. – With classes getting underway on campus, Head Coach Shawn Stiffler and VCU Baseball program announced its newcomers for the upcoming 2014 season.
Six Virginia natives highlight a 13-member class that brings a mixture of both incoming freshman and transfers. There are six pitchers, three infielders, two outfielders, a catcher and a two-way player that add both talent and depth to the Rams' roster.
"We're obviously extremely excited about this year's incoming class," Stiffler said. "Coach Palumbo, Coach Elbin and Coach Voltz did an unbelievable job of identifying and building relationships with student-athletes, who not only possesses tremendous baseball abilities, but also come from great backgrounds and have great character. We felt like we have met every need possible in this class with speed, defense, left-handed power, bats that can play in the middle of our lineup and power arms."
Meet the newest members of the VCU Baseball program:
Matt Blanchard, Pitcher (Santa Ana College – Chino Hills, Calif.)
After a successful two years at Santa Ana College, Blanchard comes to VCU after earning California Community College Coaches Association First-Team All-State accolades. At 6-0, 220-pounds, Blanchard could make an immediate impact on the Rams' staff.
In his two years at Santa Ana, Blanchard went 8-3 with a 1.86 ERA. In 109.2 innings of work, he racked up 94 strikeouts and held opponents to a .164 batting average against.
Coach Stiffler on Blanchard:
"Matt is a versatile arm that has experience both on the back end of games as well as the starting role. He's a power arm whose fastball has reached over 90 mph and has a strikeout pitch with his slider. We look for Matt to come in and take on a role that could eat innings at the front end of games or add support and depth to the back end of games."
Joe Bugas, Catcher (Patrick Henry High School – Rockville, Va.)
A two-time All-District honoree, Bugas is a local product that adds quality depth behind the dish. At 6-1, 170-pounds, he was a four-year standout at nearby Patrick Henry High School and played his travel ball with the Commonwealth Prospects.
Coach Stiffler on Bugas:
"Joe has stood out as one of the best defensive catchers in the Richmond area over the last three years. With a plus-arm, great hands behind the plate and a projectable body that we believe will allow him to hit for average and power as he develops here at VCU."
Darian Carpenter, Infielder (Varina High School – Richmond, Va.)
As the all-time homerun leader at Varina High School and the 15th-ranked player in Virginia by Perfect Game, Carpenter adds a power bat to VCU's offensive attack.
After hitting .430 with five homeruns during his senior year, Carpenter earned All-District accolades and was ranked as the top third baseman in Virginia by Perfect Game.
Coach Stiffler on Carpenter:
"Darian has emerged over the last couple of years as one of the most prolific power hitters in the Mid-Atlantic Region. His advanced feel for hitting and his power to all fields will make him a staple in the middle of our lineup for years to come. "
Daniel Concepcion, Pitcher (Connors State College - Dorado, Puerto Rico)
Concepcion adds a power arm to VCU's stable of hurlers, racking up 84 strikeouts in just 81 innings last year for Connors State.
With a record of 8-2 and an ERA of 3.00, Concepcion helped lead his squad to the NJCAA Region 2 Championship and a berth in the NJCAA Division I World Series last year.
Coach Stiffler on Concepcion:
"We look for Daniel to come in and compete for a spot in our starting rotation right away. He not only possesses a fastball that reached the upper-80s with great movement, but he also has plus-command of three pitches and can pitch on both sides of the plate."
Matt Davis, Infielder (Cumberland Valley High School – Mechanicsbug, Pa.)
Davis is talented middle infielder that was ranked as the 26th-best player in Pennsylvania by Perfect Game. The 5-10, 165-pounder was a two-time member of the First-Team All-Big 11, as well as being named Mid-Penn Conference Commonwealth Division Co-Player of the Year as a junior.
Over the course of his final two years at Cumberland Valley, Davis racked up a .351 batting average, seven homeruns and 33 RBI.
Coach Stiffler on Davis:
"Matt is the epitome of a baseball player. He has great instincts for the game, on the base paths, defensively and at the plate. His instincts and ability to play defense will have him ready to compete for a job right away. "
Shane Dressler, Infielder (Red Land High School – York Haven, Pa.)
Ranked as one of the top six players in Pennsylvania by both Perfect Game (#6) and Prep Baseball Report (#4), Dressler gives the Rams a big time offensive threat at the corner infield spots.
A two-time Mid-Penn Conference All-Star, Dressler hit .447 with 23 RBI and 19 runs scored as a junior.
Coach Stiffler on Dressler:
"Shane is exactly what you are looking for when recruiting a left-handed power hitting first baseman. He has the ability to hit for average as well as drive the baseball to all fields. We look forward to his left-handed presence in our lineup for the next couple of years. "
Logan Farrar, Infield/Outfield (Woodbridge High School – Woodbridge, Va.)
With blistering speed and athleticism, Farrar enjoyed a highly successful two-sport career at Woodbridge High School, where he was a two-time All-District football and baseball honoree.
Ranked as the 32nd-best player in Virginia by Perfect Game, Farrar has shown the ability to play both centerfield and shortstop over his last two years at Woodbridge.
Coach Stiffler on Farrar:
"Logan is one of the most dynamic players in the Mid-Atlantic Region. His athleticism and aggressiveness will enable him to serve many roles for us both offensively and defensively. We look for big things out of him early in his career."
Thomas Gill, Pitcher (Rappahannock Community College – Williamsburg, Va.)
Gill is a quality right-hander that adds valuable depth to VCU's stable of arms. He's spent the past two years at Rappahannock Community College, where he racked up 76 innings of work and a 3.00 ERA last year.
The Williamsburg product has also posted back-to-back stellar summers with the Petersburg Generals in the Coastal Plains League.
Coach Stiffler on Gill:
"Thomas is another versatile arm in the group that brings experience in both the starting and bullpen roles. He has a great feel for all three of his pitches. We look for him to fill a number of different roles for us this season."
Brian Goodling, Pitcher (Carlisle High School – Carlisle, Pa.)
Goodling is a solid arm that comes to VCU after a splendid four-year career at Carlisle High School in Pennsylvania. He was a two-time All-Area honoree for the Thundering Herd.
As a junior, Goodling racked up 41 strikeouts in 58 innings of work, while posting a 1.71 ERA.
Coach Stiffler on Goodling:
"Brian is one of those guys who's best trait is his competitive spirit and will to win. Combine that with a good fastball and hard breaking ball and we feel like Brian is going to be able to compete for innings early in his career."
Alex Gransback, Outfielder (Lake Braddock High School – Springfield, Va.)
Gransback comes to VCU after a star-studded four-year career at Lake Braddock, in which he was a to-time All-District honoree, two-time All-Met honoree and earned First-Team All-American accolades from MaxPreps after his junior season.
During that junior season at Lake Braddock, Gransback hit .502 with five homeruns and 31 RBI and even more impessively, hit safely in every game that year. Those numbers helped make him the 34th-best player in Virginia according to Perfect Game.
Coach Stiffler on Gransback:
"Alex comes from a tremendous baseball program at Lake Braddock, playing in the state championship game each of the past two seasons. He's one of those guys that has advanced feel for hitting and has been the one of the best hitters in the state over the last three years. We feel like he could be a cornerstone in our outfield for the next three years."
Brett Hileman, Infielder/Pitcher (Hollidaysburg High School – Hollidaysburg, Pa.)
A two-time All-State honoree in Pennsylvania, Hileman gives the Rams a two-way threat that can hurt opponents both on the mound and in the infield.
As a senior, he hit .448 with eight doubles, 16 runs scored and 18 RBI, while also saving five games and posting a 0.52 ERA for the Golden Tigers.
Coach Stiffler on Hileman:
"We feel very fortunate to have signed a talent like Brett so late in the recruiting process. Brett has been one of the best players in the state of Pennsylvania for the past two years. We believe he could be a two-way star in our program. He has shown the ability to play the middle infield and hit in the middle of our lineup, as well as help anchor our bullpen over the next four years."
JoJo Howie, Pitcher (Everett Community College – Redmond, Wash.)
Howie makes the cross-country journey to Richmond after two standout seasons at Everett Community College. He was a two-time NWAACC Northern Region honoree and led Everett to the NWAACC Championship last year.
During his two years at Everett, Howie went a combined 14-3 with a 2.07 ERA. In 143.2 innings of work, he racked up 112 strikeouts.
Coach Stiffler on Howie:
"All JoJo does is win and pile up innings. Over the last two years, he's racked up over 140 innings and consistently shown the ability to put his team in position to win games. JoJo has great feel for all of his pitches and is an ultra-competitive guy who has shown the ability to make an immediate impact on our staff."
Matt Jamer, Pitcher (Trinity Episcopal – Midlothian, Va.)
Following an All-State career at Trinity Episcopal, Jamer comes to VCU to add a quality southpaw arm to the Rams' talented stable of hurlers. He earned First-Team All-State honors last year, in addition to his First-Team All-Prep honors his junior season.
Last year, Jamer was named the Virginia State Prep League Player of the Year.
Coach Stiffler on Jamer:
"Matt is one of those left-handed pitchers that seems to get better with each year and each outing. With a projectable body, a loose arm and a good fastball, we feel like Matt is a guy who will continue to develop once he gets in our program and be a valuable contributor throughout his career."