RICHMOND, Va. – VCU Baseball has reloaded on the heels of its NCAA Regional and Atlantic 10 Conference championships. The Rams will unveil 14 newcomers when the team opens up its fall season next month.
The class, which includes eight freshmen and six transfers, is comprised of 10 pitchers and four position players.
"With the departures we sustained last year due to graduation and the draft, we see this class being able to step in and contribute right away because of the versatility and athleticism that each player possesses," VCU Head Coach Shawn Stiffler said. "The ability of the pitchers to pitch in different roles will also be a key to our success, and we feel that the crop of arms that we brought in will be able to do just that."
The Rams graduated their top four hurlers - three of whom signed professional contracts - following last season, so the VCU coaching staff placed a premium on pitching in this year's recruiting class.
"We knew we were going to lose a lot of pitching from last year's team and that was a key to this year's class - to get guys in here that can contribute on the mound in a variety of ways. You always want to have a good balance of old and new players when it comes to having both transfers and freshmen on the team. Having a handful of transfer guys that have been through the rigors is very important. We hope that with their experiences mixed with our returners that it will help bridge the learning gap for our incoming freshmen," Stiffler added.
Here's a breakdown of the newest Rams with thoughts from Coach Stiffler
Jack Alkire – RHP, 5-10, 185, Cheverly, Md./Dematha Catholic
Alkire is the third-rated prospect for the 2015 class in the state of Maryland. He finished his 2015 high school season with a 7-2 record while also amassing 100 strikeouts. He was recognized as a Second Team All-Met by the Washington Post.
"His pitch ability is off the charts with a fastball between 88-90, a good breaking ball and a change-up that he can throw any time he wants. Jack is a great competitor, and we expect great things from him this year."
Nick Atkinson – OF, 6-0, 180, Manassas, Va./Osbourn Park
Atkinson finished his 2015 high school season with a .522 average and totaled 40 steals in only 21 games. Nick was named First Team All–State, All-Met, All-Region and conference Player of the Year.
"Nick is an exceptionally fast outfielder who fits perfectly at The Diamond. He possesses gap power at the plate and will be able to use his speed to help both offensively and defensively this season."
Zac Ching – INF, 5-10, 175, Lubbock, Texas/IMG Academy
Ching was a First Team All-State selection in 2014, and he enjoyed a stellar postgraduate year in 2015 IMG Academy. Ching's high school team amassed a record of 95-21.
"Zac can play anywhere in the infield. He has tremendous range and quickness with a cannon for an arm. He is a right-handed hitter that can really handle the bat. A good runner and overall good player who we expect big things from now and in the future."
Luke Crabb – RHP, 6-2, 190, Independence, Mo./Fort Osage (Dodge City CC)
Crabb anchored the Dodge City CC pitching staff, totaling 87.2 innings, while striking out 100 for the season. A two-time All-Conference selection in high school, Luke finished 2015 with an 8-4 record and added six complete games.
"Luke is a sidearming right-hander who has an ability to throw three pitches for strikes, which lends to being able to either start or relieve for us. He was the winning pitcher for Dodge City in the game that gave the school its first regional championship and trip to the NJCAA World Series."
Brody Cook – INF, 5-11, 185, Silver Spring, Md./Riverdale Baptist
Cook was the top-ranked shortstop in Maryland in the 2015 class. Named two-time All-Met First Team and 2015 Gazette Player of the Year, Brody hit over .500 his senior year, had 39 steals and helped lead Riverdale Baptist to a 30-7 record, as well as Maryland Private School and NACA Championships
"Brody is a five-tool player. His instincts are off the chart. He has shown the ability to lead and is a very confident young man that fits the culture at VCU."
Michael Dailey – RHP, 5-11, 170, Charlottesville, Va./Miller School
Dailey had an incredible 2015 on the mound, pitching to a 7-2 record and 1.72 ERA, while leading The Miller School to runner-up finishes in the the 2015 Virginia Independent Conference and State Tournament. Ranked the seventh-best right-handed pitcher in Virginia, Dailey was named First Team All-VIC and All-State.
"Michael is a competitive strike thrower that possesses a 90-plus fastball and can throw his off-speed stuff when behind in the count. He had a very successful high school career and will be a big part of our pitching staff this season."
Sam Donko – RHP, 6-2, 210, Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline (Iowa Western CC)
Donko helped lead Iowa Western to an NJCAA National Championship in 2014 and a fifth place finish in 2015. He made 15 appearances last spring and was 3-0 with three saves and struck out 23 in 20 innings. This summer in the NECBL, he amassed seven more saves in 15.2 innings.
"Sam has been a key figure in the bullpen of one of the top junior college programs in the country. He has won a national championship and has experience finishing games at a very high level. We look for big things from Sam here at VCU."
Ben Dum – RHP, 6-0, 185, Elliottsburg, Pa./West Perry
Dum was ranked as one of the top-5 right-handed pitchers in the state of Pennsylvania in 2015. He is the all-time career wins leader for West Perry totaling 34 in a career that included 335 strikeouts, 10 shutouts, three no-hitters and one perfect game. He is a a two-time division MVP.
"A right-handed pitcher who threw in a lot of big games in high school. Ben is the epitome of a strike thrower. He shows great competitiveness, as no situation seems to faze him. He will throw his fastball anywhere from 87 to 90 MPH."
Jonathan Ebersole – RHP, 5-11, 175, Metairie, La./Brother Martin (Delgado CC)
Ebersole is a right-hander who pitched for Delgado Community College the past two seasons, both times making it to the NJCAA World Series. In 2015, Jonathan had 63 strikeouts in 56 innings and was an integral part of the championship team.
"Jonathan is a very talented right-handed pitcher from an established junior college program, and we are excited to have him on board. His ability to command his fastball will allow him to pitch in a variety of roles for the Rams in his time here."
Dylan Isquirdo – C, 5-10, 175, Pleasenton, Calif./Foothill (San Mateo College)
Isquirdo was a two-year starting catcher for 2015 conference champion San Mateo College in California. Dylan hit .321 with 27 RBIs and nine doubles last season while helping San Mateo to a 29-13 record.
"A pure catcher who is a great receiver and can throw very well. A very solid baseball player across the board. He is very knowledgeable about the game and will do a very good job with our staff when he is behind the plate. Offensively, Dylan will show some pop from the right side."
David Mervis – RHP, 6-5, 200, Gaithersburg, Md./Gonzaga
Mervis is a two-time All-WCAC pitcher who had his senior year cut short by an elbow injury. As a sophomore, Mervis crafted a 1.20 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 38 innings.
"David saw his high school career cut short with an injury late in his junior year that took up his senior season. Up until that point, he was one of the best pitchers in the mid-atlantic and highly recruited until his injury. We are very fortunate to have him here as he gets healthy."
Eric Neiman – LHP, 6-0, 190, Glen Allen, Va./Glen Allen
Neiman is a lefty from 2015 Virginia state champion Glen Allen. As a senior, he registered a 5-2 mark to help lift Glen Allen to the title.
"Eric is a talented left-handeder and a local product from Glen Allen. He attended our camp, and we loved his competitiveness and ability to pitch. He will continue to develop in our program and reach his potential."
Matt Oxner – RHP, 6-2, 200, San Jose, Calif./Pioneer (Gavilan CC)
Oxner was a conference Pitcher of the Year for Gavilan College in California in 2015. He was 8-2 with a 2.20 ERA and 60 strikeouts.
"Matt is an innings eater and can pitch in a variety of roles here at VCU. He has thrown over 140 innings in his two seasons at Gavilan, and with his three-quarters arm slot and upper 80s fastball, will be able to effectively get key outs for this staff."
Brooks Vial – LHP, 5-10, 165, Luling, La./Hahnville (Delgado CC)
Vial has been a key part of two championship teams at Delgado Community College in Louisiana. He was 15-5 during his two-year stint at Delgado with a 2.66 ERA. Vial was a critical in leading Delgado to a pair NJCAA World Series appearances.
"Brooks is a highly competitive athletic lefty that has been a proven winner on the mound. He has a true bulldog mentality and will throw three pitches for strikes, allowing himself to work deep into games."