Davis finalizes first recruiting class of 20

Published 10:10 am Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT – When head coach Will Davis was hired, he knew he had a “daunting task to replace a huge senior class, but he, along with assistant coach Scott Hatten, added several immediate impact players with a huge class of 20 players, the Lamar baseball program announced Thursday.

“It was a daunting task, but it was a fun to have the ability and the flexibility to go out and sign guys. The talent level at the junior college in Texas is so high that it wasn’t like we were settling for players,” said Davis, who opens his first season as a head coach in February. “We are adding a bunch of good players that could make an immediate impact.

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“Even though we have most of the lineup coming back on offense, we were able to figure out where our needs were and supplement what we needed as well as get a bunch of arms that we think can make an impact right away,” he said. “We feel like we’ve upgraded our team and overall it’s a good class.”

Of those added, 10 enter the year listed as position players (four infielders, three outfielders and three catchers), seven are as pitchers (five right-handers and two left-handers) and three are possible dual players. Fourteen incoming players are transfers and six are freshman.

“I was surprised with the amount of great junior college players that were still available at the spring of their sophomore year in Texas,” said Davis.

Six players will come to LU from Beaumont-area high schools, including Ryan Johnson (Hamshire-Fannett), Payton Robertson (West Orange-Stark), Tod McDowell (Bridge City), Zack Friesz (Nederland), Lance LeDoux (Port Neches-Groves) and Cole Girouard (Port Neches-Groves).

One of the biggest areas of focus was on the hill for the Cardinals, who lost most of their starting staff and some crucial relievers.

“We lost Will (Hibbs), Billy (Love), Jayson (McKinley), Enrique (Oquendo) and Travis (Moore). Really out of the eight guys on our team that threw 30 or more innings, we lost five of them. We wanted guys who could come in right away and make an impact on the mound,” said Davis. “We picked up a bunch of junior college aces, guys who were the number one pitchers on the respective teams. Texas junior college baseball is a very high level of baseball, and the fact we could add the best pitcher off of these teams gives us a lot of options to fill those rolles.”

Carson Lance, a right-hander from Katy, comes in as the Region XIV East Pitcher of the Year and first team all-conference after a 4-2 record and a dominating 61 strikeouts in 48 innings of work on the hill for Angelina College. He ranked sixth in wins in his region, third in strikeouts and topped it in strikeouts per nine innings.
Tanner Driskill started 11 games in 13 appearances and recorded a 6-5 record for Weatherford College; he struck out 59 batters in 58 2/3 innings of work. The right-hander pitched a complete game at Temple College in seven innings with three runs allowed and seven strikeouts on March 16. He was also chosen as an academic all-conference player with a 3.6 grade point average.

LeDoux is a local product from PNG that was a major part of Panola’s 23-game improvement in 2016. He finished his career with 64 strikeouts in 71 1/3 frames. At PNG, the southpaw was an all-conference player as an outfielder and pitcher, and helped the Indians to a No. 14 state ranking his sophomore season.

Johnson, from Hamshire-Fannett, worked a 6-3 record on the mound in 54 1/3 innings of work at Eastern Oklahoma State College. The lefty helped the Mountaineers to a league championship and struck out 41 batters.

Jace Campbell was the closer for Tyler Junior College, which won its third straight national championship during the 2016 season. The right-hander went 2-2 with five saves in 24 innings pitched, and finished with a 3.75 earned run average and 24 strikeouts.

Blaine Suehs comes in after a season at Blinn College. Before that he was at Louisiana-Lafayette for the 2015 season. At Blinn, the right-handed pitcher earned most valuable player honors after a 4-4 record and 3.58 earned run average. He was named to the Sun Belt Commissioner’s List in 2015 while at ULL.

Tod McDowell comes in as an incoming freshman on the mound after a standout year at Bridge City that earned him District 24-4A District MVP and Orange Leader. He led his team to a No. 14 state ranking with an 8-3 record and 2.04 ERA on the mound as well as a .342 average at the plate his senior season.

Three players enter the year as possible dual players, Chad Fleischman, Austin Johnson and Nathan Gabryszwski. All were infielders and are right-handers on the hill.

Fleischman was 2-2 with seven saves in 17 appearances at Ranger College, and worked 28 2/3 innings in 2016. At the plate, he hit a team-leading .414 in 32 games with two home runs and 11 RBI. He recorded 29 hits in 70 at-bats with 16 runs scored.

Johnson hit .311 at Coastal Bend College with 14 RBI and 16 runs scored, and on the mound he was 0-1 with 11 strikeouts in 10 innings of work. The Cuero native will come in as a sophomore-transfer.

Gabryszwski, an incoming freshman from Crosby, was an All-Region Most Valuable Player in 2016. He racked up five wins with a 2.42 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings of work. He totaled 19 wins and a 1.74 ERA in 192 2/3 innings of work in his four years on the varsity squad. At the plate, he hit .390 with 34 RBI and 27 runs scored in 35 games of 2016.

“Having six of the nine starters back on offense allowed us to be selective to what are needs were. Losing Stijn
(van der Meer) was a huge loss, but we were able to fill that void with a couple guys,” said Davis. “We tried to upgrade positions where we could. Even in places where guys are coming back we tried to make sure there was someone ready behind them.”

On the infield, Lamar is bringing in five new players, Grant DeVore, Philip Ingram, Roberton, and Friesz.
DeVore was voted to the NTJCAC All-Conference second team after a .403 batting average and three long balls with 36 RBI and 58 runs scored for Grayson College. The Dallas native led the Vikings to a 42-15 season. He graduated cum laude with a 3.82 grade point average.

Ingram was voted second-team all-conference on his way to helping Hill College to a third place finish at the conference tournament. He hit .333 for the season and pushed across 49 while scoring 66 runs. The Allen native showed power with 12 doubles, three triples and six bombs.

Robertson hit .374 his senior, best of average of three-straight years with a mark above .300 at WOS. He had 35 runs scored and 11 RBI in 30 games his final season, all while working to be an honor graduate with a 3.6 GPA. The Orange native hit .324 for his career with 55 RBI and 99 runs.

Friesz was a three-time all-district honoree at three different positions, shortstop, third base and designated hitter at Nederland. He earned first-team all-district shortstop honors his senior season, and second-honors his
junior season at third base and sophomore season at designated hitter.

A trio of outfielders joined with Big Red, Mike Leal, Vincent Dellocono and Girouard.

Leal hit .284 with 29 RBI and 45 runs scored in 58 games at Galveston College in 2016, and for his career he notched 48 RBI and 75 runs over 80 contests. The Corpus Christi native graduated with a 3.2 grade point average.
Dellocono is a graduate-transfer from Louisiana-Monroe, where he saw action in 42 games with seven starts. He was key man off the bench in 2016 before he was injured early in the season. The Baton Rouge native earned the highest male GPA in 2016.

Girouard is a two-time first-team all-district member in baseball and was picked as second-team Great Houston Area his junior year.

From Huffman Hargrave, Jake Bumgarner, who is listed as a catcher coming in, is a three-time first-team honoree at two positions, catcher and second baseman. He led the Falcons to four district and three bi-district championships. He left with a 4.3 grade point average and the USMC Distinguished Scholar Athlete Award Winner.

Mitch Andrews comes in as a junior-transfer catcher from Angelina, where he led the Roadrunners with eight home runs. He finished with a .301 batting average, seven doubles, 30 RBI, a .415 on-base percentage and a .575 slugging percentage in 2016.

Chad McKinney, a catcher from Panola, is a second-team all-conference honoree after he hit .318 on the season with eight long balls, 38 RBI and 37 runs scored. He also excelled in the classroom with a 3.3 GPA that landed him on the Dean’s List.

“This class was a tall task, but it’s nice to have several guys to be players that this staff recruited, which is rare in college baseball during a coaching change,” said Davis. “I love the guys that are coming back, and they are as important as the recruits are, if not more important, but it will be good to have almost half the team be new to help us move forward and push into the next era.”

Lance, McDowell, Robertson and Gabryszwski were all players or pitchers of the year in their respective leagues or districts.

“It’s nice to know that in an entire district or area in Texas, you are getting the best player, said Davis. “The freshman class is small, but we are very excited about it. We have a lot of all-conference junior college guys as well.”

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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