MORAGA, Calif. -- Saint Mary's baseball coach Eric Valenzuela announced Thursday his first recruiting class as head coach of the Gaels, unveiling a talented group that will have a chance to step right in and make an immediate impact on SMC baseball.
"I'm excited about the depth of it. We're going to sign (14) players with I believe (eight) pitchers, four infielders, a catcher, a first baseman. The depth of the class is very good," Valenzuela said. "It's a mixture of right-handed and left-handed pitchers and it's going to fill in with what we've got coming back from our team. I'm very excited about the class. It's a lot of hard work that our coaching staff, Mark Viramontes and Matt Fonteno, put together as well and I'm excited that this is our first recruiting class. It's a good one."
Here is a player by player breakdown of the 2014 Saint Mary's baseball recruiting class, in alphabetical order, with comments from Coach Valenzuela.
RHP Garrett Hill (Petaluma, Calif./Analy HS)
6-foot, 155-pound right-hander was a first team All-Sonoma County League selection as a junior. Also named a first team All-Redwood Empire Large School performer by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Earned the Most Outstanding Pitcher award at the 2013 Bay Area World Series. Invited to play in the National Team Identification Series for USA Baseball.
Valenzuela on Hill: "Garrett Hill was a 25th-hour signee out of Analy High School. He's a pitchability right-hander that's going to give us a lot of options. He throws a lot of strikes. I believe he was the Most Valuable Pitcher in the Bay Area World Series and kind of came on the map late. I'm very happy we got him so late. I can't believe he was still available. He's going to be an 86-88 guy as well, up to 90, who throws a lot of strikes and has a plus-plus slider."
INF Zach Kirtley (Highland, Calif./Redlands East Valley HS)
6-foot-1, 175-pound shortstop was named first team All-Citrus Belt League and All-Southern Section for hitting .387 as a junior in 2013. Also a Los Angeles Times All-State nominee for a Redlands East Valley team that tied for its league title and finished with the best record among Southern Section Division II schools in 2013. Member of the Redlands East Valley Honor Roll throughout high school.
Valenzuela on Kirtley: "From traditionally one of the powerhouses in Southern California. He's a winner. At Redlands East Valley, they play in CIF Championships and that's a big deal. He's been the starting shortstop there for a couple years now. He can really, really hit. Not to take anything away from him defensively, but he can really hit at all levels. He's a guy that's going to fight for that shortstop position as well."
LHP Joey Mercado (Cypress, Calif./Cypress HS)
5-foot-10, 165-pounder compiled a 1.52 ERA as a sophomore at Cypress High. Named to the Empire League All-Academic team as a junior and helped the Centurions to a CIF Southern Section Division II championship. Good athlete named an honorable mention performer as a Cypress Pop Warner football player.
Valenzuela on Mercado: "Joey Mercado has a lot of upside. Great body. Left-handed pitcher. Competes hard. Plays for a great, traditional powerhouse in Orange County at Cypress High School so he's very well coached. He's a competitive left-hander that's going to pitch anywhere from 86-88 and competes."
RHP Sean O'Toole (Huntington Beach, Calif./Huntington Beach HS)
6-foot-2, 175-pound right-hander compiled a 2.81 ERA during his junior season at Huntington Beach High. Strong student is a member of the Huntington Beach HS tutoring program and a member of the Assisteens League for community volunteering. Also won a Scholar-Athlete award in his junior season and owns nine awards from three years of participation in Model United Nations.
Valenzuela on O'Toole: "He came on late. 25th hour guy. Right-handed pitcher that we got to see on the last weekend of recruiting. Physical. He's a converted outfielder, so it's a fairly new arm. He'll pitch anywhere from 85-88 with a lot of upside. Another kid from a big time Orange County high school, Huntington Beach High.
INF Austin Piscotty (Pleasanton, Calif./Amador Valley HS)
6-foot-2, 175-pounder infielder was named an All-East Bay Athletic League selection as a junior for the 2013 North Coast Section Division I champion Dons. Also a member of two Babe Ruth World Series championship teams and two Connie Mack Northern California State Champion teams with the Danville Hoots. Also participated twice in the Bay Area World Series. Lettered three years in varsity baseball and one in varsity basketball at Amador Valley. Honor roll student throughout high school.
Valenzuela on Piscotty: "First thing you think about is great bloodlines. His brother, Stephen, was a first-rounder from Stanford. He's a plus student. Out of Amador Valley, which is another traditional powerhouse here in Northern California, so he knows how to win. He's been part of great programs, wininng programs. Physical shortstop/third baseman that can really hit. We're excited to have him. And, he's a late bloomer too. His brother was a late bloomer out of high school so I think there's a lot of upside there."
INF Brett Rasso (San Francisco, Calif./Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory HS)
5-foot-10, 165-pound middle infielder crosses the Bay to attend Saint Mary's. Named first-team All-West Catholic Athletic League and All-City as a junior after hitting .390 for Sacred Heart Cathedral. Was a first-team All-City performer and second-team All-WCAL honoree as a sophomore. Hit .400 as the leadoff hitter for his team at the Perfect Game World Series. Also an accomplished football player who shares the WCAL record for most touchdowns in a game (5). Strong student earned math department award as a sophomore.
Valenzuela on Rasso: "Brett Rasso is your fireball. Energy. He's a smaller shortstop, plays football. He's coming back from injury. He had Tommy John surgery from football. He's special. He's the type of player I want, which is a fireball, dirtbag, runs around with his hair on fire type of player so we're excited to have him. And, he's another Bay Area guy from Sacred Heart in San Francisco."
LHP Matt Rogers (Las Vegas, Nev./Palo Verde HS)
Varsity Athletic Award and Scholar Athlete Award winner at Palo Verde High in 2013 stands 6-foot, 165 pounds. Named Best JV Pitcher at Palo Verde in 2012 for a team that won its division. In 2011, named a JV Gold Glove winner and Best Legion Pitcher. Owns multiple academic awards, including the National Society of High School Scholars Award in 2013 and the Academic Achievement Straight A's Award in 2010.
Valenzuela on Rogers: "Matt Rogers is a left-handed, situational type of pitcher that has a lot of command. He's going to pitch in the mid-80s with a plus changeup. He really competes. I like his demeanor on the mound. He's more of a pitchability, get a lefty out, mix in changeups to righties, pitch backwards type of guy who really competes in the zone and throws a lot of strikes."
INF Logan Steinberg (San Francisco, Calif./St. Ignatius College Prep HS)
6-foot-4, 190-pound shortstop named 2013 Perfect Game National High School honorable mention as an infielder. Co-captain at St. Ignatius as a junior also competed at the Perfect Game Invitational in 2012. Hit .309 as a junior, played mostly shortstop and made a few appearances on the mound. Invited to the USA National Team Invitational in 2011 and 2012 and played on the California Club Baseball Elite travel team. Member of the St. Ignatius sophomore and junior Principal's Honor Roll.
Valenzuela on Steinberg: "Big physical 6-3, corner, pro-type looking player that played shortstop in high school and can play short at this level and can also play third. Utility, all-around the infield type of guy that can really hit and swing the bat to all fields. I'm really excited about Logan, especially being from the Bay Area. He's one of the best around."
RHP Drew Strotman (Cupertino, Calif./Homestead HS)
6-foot-2, 180-pound right-hander also plays outfield for Homestead High. Compiled a 1.25 ERA as a junior that lowered to 0.91 in the postseason and was named first team All-DeAnza League. Also named All-Mercury News honorable mention and earned a Scholar Athlete Award. Has also played with Cal Club Baseball, CCB Elite and the Los Gatos Legends. Owns a 4.0 unweighted GPA and earned a 4.5 weighted GPA as a junior. Awarded Homestead's Green & White academic achievement recognition in English and is an officer in the Spanish Club.
Valenzuela on Strotman: "We beat out a Pac-12 school for him. Right-handed pitcher with big stuff. That was another 25th hour guy that we got late and we're excited to have. He's a great student and he's a competitor on the mound. He's again an 88-90 guy with a good slider. We're excited to have him."
C Jack Thoreson (San Jose, Calif./Bellarmine College Prep HS)
6-foot-1, 175-pound backstop named 2012 Amateur Baseball Development Defensive Player of the Year for the class of 2014. Named second-team All-WCAL catcher as a sophomore. Played in the Bay Area World Series. Earned All-WCAL honorable mention honors as a designated hitter the following year due to injury that limited his time behind the plate.
Valenzuela on Thoreson: "Left-handed hitting catcher who is again at another great school and I keep mentioning great schools because I think that's important. He's coming from a good program that knows how to win in Bellarmine. Left-handed hitter who got hurt last year. He was a highly, highly recruited sophomore that got hurt last year and we were lucky enough that he was still available. He's going to add to the depth of our catching staff. Left-handed hitter with some power. Very good defensively."
OF Matt Toscano (San Jose, Calif./Willow Glen HS)
First team All-Mount Hamilton League performer as both a sophomore and junior. 5-foot-9, 185-pounder hit .371 as a junior for the Mount Hamilton runners up. Played in the Bay Area World Series, Reebok World Series in Stockton and tried out for both the Area Code Games and North-South Games. Owns a 4.0 cumulative GPA and was recently elected to the National Honor Society.
Valenzuela on Toscano: "Outfielder, football player, tough competitor, hard-nosed, dirtbag type of guy who's going to steal bases and who's going to get on base. Physical and strong for his size. I really like the energy and enthusiasm that guy plays with."
RHP Tommy Wilson (Encino, Calif./Notre Dame HS)
6-foot-3, 215-pound righty is a member of the California Scholarship Federation and has spent the previous six semesters on his high school's honor roll, and has received the Notre Dame Athletic Scholar Award the last three years. 2013 ERA of 1.68 was third-lowest in the entire Mission League in Southern California. Recorded 44 strikeouts to eight walks. In 2012, was awarded Most Valuable Pitcher for the Socal Angels scout team, in addition to his impressive play as a starter for Garciaparra Baseball Group.
Valenzuela on Wilson: "Big, physical, strong right-hander from another great school, Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks. Power throwing right-hander with a plus breaking ball. Wins. He's another kid from a traditional powerhouse in Southern California that knows how to compete and knows how to compete for championships."
LHP Johnny York (Lafayette, Calif./Diablo Valley College/Acalanes HS)
6-foot-1, 170-pound pitcher is in his first year at Diablo Valley College. Local product enjoyed standout senior season at Acalanes High last year, going 10-2 with a 0.82 ERA, 90 strikeouts and a 0.94 WHIP. He earned DFAL Pitcher of the Year honors for the three-time defending NCS Division III champions and tossed a perfect game with 15 strikeouts against Sonoma Valley in the section semifinals.
Valenzuela on Johnny York: "Johnny York could be special. He's a Bay Area guy from Acalanes High School and now at DVC. Pitchability left-hander who knows how to win. Threw a perfect game in the (NCS) semis. Quiet, confident, competes on the mound. I'm really excited about him. He's a potential starter immediately walking in the door."
RHP Mikey York (Henderson, Nev./Basic HS)
6-foot-1, 170-pounder from Basic High in Nevada is the son of former Major League pitcher Mike York. Will pitch for Basic this year after playing summer ball for Team Vegas. Has earned Team MVP award on the JV level at Basic. Projects as a hard-throwing right-hander with a loose motion and room to grow.
Valenzuela on Mikey York: "Mikey York has a lot of upside. He's going to be 88-90, right-handed pitcher. Good bloodlines. His dad was a big league pitcher. He's a competitor, he's tough. Tall, lanky, with a lot of upside to grow and get bigger and stronger. He's a guy that is a definite potential weekend starter walking in the door."