Matt Becker (Puyallup, Wash.), Trey Bridis (Woodbridge, Va.), D.J. Carr (Mesa, Ariz.), Dominic Farina (North Huntington, Pa.) and Nathan Neiderhiser (Ligonier, Pa.) have each signed a National Letter of Intent to continue their baseball and academic careers at Youngstown State University, Penguins head baseball coach Steve Gillispie announced. The five players will join the squad for the 2014-15 season.
"We are very pleased with our fall signing class," Gillispie said. "Obviously, with 10 seniors on our 2014 roster, there will be several positions that will need to have new players in 2015 and beyond. This group brings a great deal of versatility with it as well as a great deal of skill."
Bridis, Farina and Neiderhiser are seniors in high school while Becker and Carr are sophomore at junior colleges.
"The combination of our signees being from both high schools and junior colleges has really helped us balance the age of our roster," Gillispie added. "We feel as though they all project very well for the future, but the priority was to blend that potential with frontline present skills. Coach Jason Neal and Coach Kevin Smallcomb have done a fantastic job of meeting that goal."
Becker is an outfielder and left-handed pitcher who played at Western Nevada College as a freshman before transferring to Edmonds Community College for his sophomore season. At WNC, Becker batted .328 with 18 stolen bases in 45 games as the Wildcats won the Region XVIII Chamionship and finished 44-20. This past summer as the leadoff batter and center fielder, he helped lead the Seattle Studs of the Pacific International League to the National Baseball Congress World Series championship, earning All-America honors. At Puyallup High, he hit over .400 in each of his final three seasons, capping it off with a .432 effort as a senior. He was ranked 23rd on Baseball Northwest's Super 60 in the class of 2012.
"Matt has been playing at a very high level for a very long time," Gillispie said. "He is an offensive force with the way he runs and his ability to handle the bat. He is the prototypical leadoff man who can change the game with his instinct for running the basis. Matt will also add a great deal to our pitching staff as a much needed lefthander."
Bridis is an outfielder who plays at C.D. Hylton High School in Virginia, the same high school as current Penguin Joe King. Bridis batted .361 with a 1.054 OPS and 31 stolen bases during his junior season. He earned all-district and all-region honors in 2013 in leading the Bulldogs to a regional title and a spot in the state quarterfinals. Bridis was one of four Hlyton players to sign an NLI to play at the Division I level. Additionally, he was named to the DeMarini Stars Bomb Squad in 2013.
"Trey will instantly fill a need in the outfield," Gillispie said. "He has enough arm strength to profile very well in right field, but he runs well enough and has the instincts to be a Division-I centerfielder. With that athleticism, he also possesses very good bat speed and shows potential for hitting with power. Trey has also shown that he can catch at our level and will add depth to that position for us. We are also very proud of his accomplishments as a student. Trey has qualified for an academic award from YSU and really represents the ideal of a student-athlete."
Carr is a right-handed pitcher who is currently playing at Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona. As a freshman he pitched in 19 games, 18 of which were out of the bullpen. He struck out 33 batters in 28 innings while posting a 1-3 record and a 6.75 ERA. He played summer baseball with current Penguin Alex Frey for the Hays Larks of the Jayhawk Baseball League. He was named first-team all-city at Dobson High School.
"We are very excited about adding DJ to our program because we believe he can fill multiple roles on our pitching staff," Gillispie said. "He has been a starter, a setup man, and a closer for his junior college and summer teams, and he has had success in all of those assignments. We have seen above-average velocity and an above average off-speed pitch out of DJ. His command and competitiveness just solidified our desire to bring him into YSU, and we are very confident he will help us replace the senior arms that will leave after 2014."
Farina was a first-team all-section selection and Team Hustler Award winner as a catcher for the Norwin Knights in 2013. Over the summer he batted .400 combined over six tournaments, and he was an all-tournament team selection. Current Penguin Jason Shirley also played at Norwin, and two of Farina's teammates signed NLI's to play at the Division I level.
"Dom is a throwback to the linebacker-type of catcher," Gillispie said. "He is a physical presence behind the plate, yet has shown the agility to be an above-average receiver and blocker. Dom also possesses the arm strength to deter an opponent's running game. We believe his physical strength will translate into a very good Division I power bat, and his leadership skills will bring exactly what we want for our corps of catchers. Dom is another of our signees who have also shown the ability to perform at a high level in the classroom."
Neiderhiser was an all-state performer and the Prep Baseball Report District 6 Player of the Year at Bishop McCourt High in 2013 as the Crushers made a run in the state tournament. He had a 5-2 record with a 1.76 ERA over 51.2 innings in 2013 while adding 75 strikeouts. In the batter's box he hit .423 with eight doubles, two triples and a home run. Bishop McCourt won the Class A state title in 2012.
"Nathan was our first fall commitment of 2013," Gillispie said. "We felt he was a perfect fit for our program as he has excelled on the field and in the classroom. Nathan has won state championships at his high school, been a frontline player for elite travel teams and carries a 4.0 GPA with a huge SAT score. From a skill standpoint he shows average Division I velocity, very good pitchability, and a couple of off-speed pitches that he can use for a swing-and-miss or an out. He is a quality student-athlete that any program would be proud to have, and we are thrilled he has chosen to be a Penguin."