SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Continuing their strong recruiting efforts that saw them put together a 2012 recruiting class ranked 12th best in the country by Baseball America, Head Coach Andrew Checketts and Recruiting Coordinator Eddie Cornejo have signed 10 players to National Letters of Intent for the 2013-14 year.
"We're very excited about this group of incoming players," said Checketts. "We feel that these players can come right in, contribute on the field, and fit into the culture of our program."
The incoming class is highlighted by Tyler Mahle, the younger brother of current UCSB star Greg Mahle. Like Greg, Tyler has the athletic ability to play on both sides of the ball. In seven starts on the bump for Westminster High School last year, Mahle threw six complete games – including a perfect game over Orange HS – struck out 56, and compiled an ERA of just 1.55. Playing shortstop when he wasn't pitching, Tyler batted .409. His impressive junior season culminated in an invitation to play in the prestigious Area Code Games.
"Tyler is a very talented and competitive baseball player," said Checketts. "He has the innate ability and awareness to perform on both sides of the field. As a staff, we are very excited to see how the Mahle brothers contribute to our program and the Big West."
David Schuknecht brings a load of value as a left handed hitting catcher with the maturity necessary to handle a pitching staff. David was a 12th round selection of the Colorado Rockies in the 2011 draft after hitting .411 and driving in 25 en route to a CIF Championship in his senior season at Palm Desert High School. After committing to the University of Arizona, Schuknecht redshirted during his freshman year due to an injury. This year, he will catch at Riverside City College for coach Dennis Rogers.
"David is an outspoken leader," Checketts said. "He has a drive to work and learn that is unmatched by many players. His left-handed power will help provide immediate offense for us".
The Gauchos signed another athletic catcher in Dempsey Grover, who hit .397 and stole 15 bases at Beyer High School in Modesto, Calif. Grover's all-around skills led him to a full trophy case, with honors including First Team Modesto-Metro League, First Team All-District, Second Team All-State, and All-League Academic so far.
"Dempsey has tremendous strength and athleticism," Checketts affirmed. "He brings middle of the order potential along with great catch-and-throw abilities. His well-rounded personality and character make him a great addition to our program."
Brody Weiss – the son of recently hired Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss – fits the mold of his father as a slick-fielding shortstop with a sound bat. After batting .421 and driving in 31 runs during his junior year, Brody was named to the USSSA All-American team and the Area Code Team.
"Brody is a quiet and competitive individual," said Checketts. "He couples his sound defensive abilities with the potential to hit for power. We expect Brody to assimilate well and be prepared to be a frontline infielder for us next year."
Josh Adams is a toolsy outfielder from Pleasant Grove High School who was ranked as one of the top 100 prospects in California by Perfect Game. The 6-2 lefty was named to the All-Delta River League Team after hitting .338 and swiping 16 bags during his junior year as an outfielder at Pleasant Grove. Baseball America ranked him 63rd in a list of high school prospects, while he checked in at No. 33 in NorCalPreps' top-50 recruits.
"Josh is a confident and hard working individual," said Checketts. "His five-tool potential was very attractive to our staff. We expect to get a glimpse of that ceiling while in a Gaucho uniform."
Brandon Luper, a former teammate of current Gaucho Austin Pettibone, is a righty who boasts movement on all his pitches. He had an excellent junior season at Esparanza High School, compiling a win-loss record of 7-3 with a 1.83 ERA. Luper has been clocked in the low-90's and utilizes a swing-and-miss slider as his out pitch.
"Brandon has shown improvement overall this past fall and looks to have a stellar senior year," Checketts mused. "He has a sinking fastball that touches 90 and a sharp low 80s slider that he pounds the strike zone with."
JJ Muno, a third baseman out of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. possesses uncanny plate awareness, striking out just four times in his junior season. That discipline led him to a .418 average and selections to the All-Mission League First Team and All-CIF Second Team.
"JJ is a dual-sport athlete with a competitive drive," said Checketts. "He has an advanced feel for hitting and great awareness of the strike zone. He is a team leader in the locker room and should fit right in with our team culture."
Billy Fredrick has been an All-City and All-League selection in each of his three seasons at Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita, Calif. This past year, he hit a whopping .468, and also provided a little pop with three home runs. He was also named the Offensive Player of the Year on the So Cal Cardinals Scout Team.
"Billy is a versatile offensive player with an extensive history," Checketts said. "He shows intensity and a passion to play. He has an advanced feel for the strike zone and surprising pop in his bat."
Joe Record, a 6-2 righty out of Placentia, Calif. was a recent recipient of the Perfect Game's "Most Outstanding Pitcher" honors after he pitched to a 1.65 ERA at El Dorado High School. Record sits in the high-80's, but makes his living with a clean, repeatable delivery and an off-the-table splitter. Record's healthy mechanics hint at a high ceiling as a pitcher, while his .263 batting average shows that he can handle the bat as well.
"Joe has a impressive physical frame on the mound," said Checketts. "He has great command of all of his pitches and has a wipe out breaking ball. We are confident Joe will develop into an impact pitcher in the Big West."
Rounding out the class is southpaw Gabe Speier, a Santa Barbara native and nephew of former Gaucho and current bench coach for the Cincinnati Reds, Chris Speier. The 6-foot lefty did not pitch this past season due to an injury, but has been clocked as high as 89 MPH and possesses an excellent breaking ball. All eyes will be on him during his senior season at Dos Pueblos High. Despite his injury, Gabe is a fiery competitor with a loose arm who should be an important asset for the Gauchos.
"Gabe pitches with an aggressive and competitive mentality," Checketts said. "He has a quick arm and athletic delivery. His stuff will continue to progress as he matures physically."
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