LEXINGTON, Va. - VMI baseball announced its recruiting class Tuesday, a class that consists of 10 athletes. Seven of the new Keydets hail from the state of Virginia, while Maryland and North Carolina are also represented. The Keydets also added a pair of transfers, two players who will not be eligible in 2018 due to NCAA transfer rules, but are still scheduled to enter the Institute in August.
“Recruiting is all about identifying needs and working hard to identify players that fill those needs, and who also fit in well with VMI and our locker room," said VMI head coach Jonathan Hadra. "I believe our staff has done a tremendous job of doing this with this class of recruits. We needed to add athletes in the middle of the field and we feel that we did this with our incoming position players. Out of the incoming pitchers, we feel that there are a couple that can definitely start and get deep in games but also others that will be able to be impact players at the back end of the bullpen. They will join us on Post soon enough and could not be more excited to add a talented group of players to a tremendous group of returning players.”
Noah Cook, SS, R/R, 5'11", 180, Roanoke, Va./Liberty Christian
High School/Personal: Ranked as the #4 shortstop in the state by both Perfect Game and Prep Baseball Report (PBR)...#21 player in state according to PBR...played at Westover Christian Academy before transferring to Liberty Christian in 2014...holds school record for steals in a season at WCA...was also state player of the year and First Team All-Metro at WCA, where he was the state tournament MVP...first team all-conference (twice) and all-region...also first team all-state in basketball...Perfect Game Underclass All-American Honorable Mention...played multiple years for Evoshield Canes...all-tournament team at Perfect Game WWBH in both 2015 and 2016...two-year participant in Virginia Commonwealth Games...2015 Border Battle...National Honor Society...highest honor roll 2012-2016...First Team Academics....four-year class officer...HS coach: Randy Tomlin, summer coach (EvoShield Canes): Brian Barnes...intends to major in biology.
Coach's Quote: "Noah is your prototypical collegiate short stop that possess a strong, athletic frame with plus arm strength. He's an intense athlete, who loves to compete and play at a high level. We built a very good relationship early with Noah and his family, and watched him grow into one of the best middle infielders in the region. We feel he has a chance to step in very early in his career and see a lot of time in the middle infield. He projects as a top-to-middle of the order hitter who can provide a very versatile mix of speed and power."
Austin Murphy, RHP, 6'4", 210, Winchester, Va./Millbrook
High School/Personal: 2017 Preseason Honorable Mention All-American (Perfect Game)...rated #9 RHP in Virginia, #27 player in state and a top-500 player in the country by Perfect Game...Prep Baseball Report ranked him #10 RHP in state and #24 overall player in Virginia...letterwinner at Millbrook HS...did not allow a run in eight games as a junior...also played for American Legion Post 21, WV Wild and STARS baseball...selected to Mid-Atlantic All-Star Game...participated in Perfect Game events in Atlanta and Fort Myers...three-year academic award and four-year Pioneer Spirit award recipient...HS coach: Brian Burke...summer coach (DeMarini Stars): Carson Carroll...intends to major in biology.
Coach's Quote: "Austin has a long, strong 6'4 frame and will continue to fill out in the years to come. We saw him very early and continued to watch him steadily grow and improve as a pitcher. He's an extremely hard worker and we feel his best years are definitely ahead of him. Along with his frame, he possesses a very loose arm with a fastball in the upper 80s touching 90 and feel for a changeup and potential wipe-out Slider. Austin could fill multiple roles very early in his career with a mix that can translate as a dynamic stopper in the back end of games, but also contains the potential to be a high level starter."
Tucker Kuykendall, RHP, 6'1", 175, Candler, N.C./Enka
High School/Personal: Multi-year letterwinner at Enka HS...Perfect Game Underclass All-American Honorable Mention...Perfect Game WWBA Southeast Qualifier...ranked as #35 RHP in North Carolina by Perfect Game...two-time Perfect Game WWBA National Championship All-Tournament Team...2015 HS MAC all-conference honorable mention...two-time Diamond Mine Showcase participant...Evoshield Canes (coach: Guy Civitello)...HS coach: Matthew Dawson...Baseball Factory rookie preseason all-american...two-time preseason all-american.
Coach's Quote: "Tucker is a pitcher we saw at the end of the spring of his junior season, and we knew right away that he was a guy we wanted on our staff. He's a high-level competitor with advanced feel for four pitches in the zone, and that will give him an opportunity to be a starter very early at VMI. He has a mature approach to his craft and with his athleticism, he's able to control the running game and mix tempos which will be very tough for opposing offenses."
Gabe Nieto, IF, R/R, 6'2", 175, Odenton, Md./Calvert Hall
High School/Personal: Ranked as the fourth-best shortstop in Maryland by Perfect Game, which also rated him as the #22 overall player in the state...#9 shortstop prospect in Maryland by Prep Baseball Report...pre-season all-state honoree...Perfect Game 16U National Championship All-Tournament Team...played in 17U National Championship as well...Diamond National 17U tournament, finished in elite 8...batted .400 in junior year's summer ball action...also played for Mid-Atlantic Red Sox and Arena Starz, among other programs...Gilman Black Alumni Institute inductee (GBALI)...recipient of the GBALI Kumasi Vines Leadership Award...Calvert Hall peer educator...HS coach: Lou Eckerl, summer coach (Mid-Atlantic Red Sox): Alan Haines...intends to major in psychology.
Coach's Quote: "Gabe is another athlete that we got to know very early in the recruiting process. He is a high character kid with many leadership qualities that will trend well at VMI and in our locker room. He comes from a great family and is a very versatile player on the baseball field. He has a long, athletic frame with power potential. He has shown his ability to play every position in the infield and we feel he will add that dynamic to our team with the ability to fill multiple roles at any time."
Sam Ewald, RHP/1B, L/R, 6'2", 250, Warrenton, Va./Kettle Run
High School/Personal: Ranked as the #12 RHP in the state by Prep Baseball Report, which also tabbed him the #29 player overall...First Team All-Conference, Second Team All-State and 2017 All-Region...HS coach: Ty Thorpe...Rappahannock Stars (coached by Larry Runk)...also has several notable powerlifting efforts (550 deadlift, 515 squat and 320 bench)...National Honor Society...father played football at Virginia Tech...intends to major in business and economics.
Coach's Quote: "Sam is an athlete we have recruited for a long time through our camps, high school, and the travel ball circuit. He comes from a great gene pool and is one of the strongest high school baseball players we've ever seen. He sits mid-upper 80's with his fastball, but we have seen him run it up in the low 90's. He has an advanced breaking ball that is the making for a power arm in a closer-type role. He also has plus power from the left side as a hitter, which is always exciting to see. His swing could play great in Gray-Minor Stadium and the Southern Conference."
Will Knight II, IF, R/R, 6'0", 170, Madison Heights, Va./Amherst County
High School/Personal: All-district SS at Amherst County...teammate of fellow signee Nathan Loyd...ranked as high as the #9 shortstop in the state by Prep Baseball Report...all-district at shortstop...Virginia Cardinals (coached by Rich Graham), Marucci Stars and Virginia Baseball Network...Golden A award for having a 3.8 GPA or higher...all PBR-Virginia/DC Second Team...HS coach: Joey Crawford...intends to major in economics and business.
Coach's Quote: "The growth of Will throughout his high school career has been very exciting to watch. His added strength and all-around game has been extremely impressive over the past two years. He's a tireless worker with a high baseball IQ, which will give him the opportunity to make an impact all over the field. He has the arm strength to play the left side of the infield and the make-up of a top-to-middle of the order hitter with gap to gap power. He's an exciting player to watch and will be a huge asset to this program."
Callen Nuccio, MIF, L/R, 5'8", 150, Waxhaw, N.C./Cuthbertson HS
High School/Personal: Ranked as #17 middle infielder in North Carolina by Perfect Game...two-time Perfect Game Underclass All-American Honorable Mention...four-time all-conference honoree...holds school record for career hits and has hit as high as .447 in a given year...team MVP as a freshman...two-time first time all-county...also played for South Charlotte Panthers...runner-up at 17U WWBA National Championship...two-time Perfect Game WWBA National Championship All-Tournament Team...academic bars for A honor roll...HS coach: Travis Little, summer coach (South Charlotte Panthers): Don Hutchins...sister played softball at Delaware...intends to major in computer science.
Coach's Quote: "Callen was a player that caught our eye in the fall of his junior year. He's good friends and was high school rivals with current Keydet third baseman Josh Hollifield. Callen is a high-level competitor with advanced feel for how to play all aspects of the game. He is a scrappy, left-handed, leadoff-type hitter who knows how to get on base and create runs on the bases. He will be, pound for pound, one of the strongest players on our team when he steps on post. His advanced approach at the plate makes for a very good option in the lineup early in his career."
Nathan Loyd, OF, L/R, 5'9", 175, Amherst, Va./Amherst County
High School/Personal: Ranked as the #9 outfielder in the state by Prep Baseball Report...all-conference and all-region at the same high school as current Keydet Peyton Maddox...played legion ball and in the Commonwealth Games in 2016...2017 First Team All-District and All-Region...HS coach: Joey Crawford...participated in UVA's Dominican Baseball Camp...Boys' State...DAR Good Citizens Award...National Honor Society.
Coach's Quote: "We first noticed Nathan in the postseason of his freshman year of high school baseball and continued to follow him. He was a tough, scrappy hitter who could really run, and he's continued to get stronger and developed some power that will play well at our level. He has continued to advance his overall game and will add another much-needed left handed stick to our team. He can play any outfield position and showed his versatility by catching and playing second base for Amherst this spring. Nathan is a tough, hard-nosed player that will bring energy to our club every day."
Cody Warner, C/Util, L/R, 5'9", 180, Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby
High School/Personal: Two-time first team all-conference catcher...ranked as the #5 catcher in the state by Prep Baseball Report...2017 District and Conference Player of the Year...named an all-region player in both football and baseball in 2017...two-time honorable mention all-regional catcher...played three years for Canes and County League Clover Hill Bucks...HS coach: Andrew Armstrong, summer coach (Evoshield Canes): Billy Wagner...also lettered four years in football, where he was a first team all-conference safety and second team all-district running back...lettered one year in basketball as well...father played collegiate football at Shepherd University...intends to major in international studies.
Coach's Quote: "Cody is another left-handed hitter we're excited about. He's a very good football player and brings that toughness and edge to the baseball field. He is exciting to watch as a catcher, but he shows his athleticism by also being able to play multiple infield and outfield positions. He has power potential from the left side and can run well, so he plays the game with a high motor. He definitely brings the attitude and aggressiveness we want our guys to play with so we couldn't be more excited to have him at VMI."
Michael Spence, RHP, 6'2", 175, Stanardsville, Va./United Christian
High School/Personal: Four-year letterwinner at United Christian...first team all-state and VACA Player of the Year in 2017...first team all-state and all-region for the 2016 VACA State Champions...ranked as #39 RHP in state by Prep Baseball Report...two-year team co-captain...posted a .99 ERA in 28 innings...HS coach: Phillip Powell...also played for the Shenandoah Valley Bombers travel team and the Grottoes Cardinals in the Rockingham County Baseball League...National Society of High School Scholars...four-year honor roll member...also lettered four years in basketball and was an all-state honoree...father played football at the Institute...intends to major in civil engineering.
Coach's Quote: "Michael has had a dominant high school career. We have watched him for a while now through our camps and high school baseball. He's very familiar with VMI as his dad is a graduate, so he has a distinct love and understanding for the Institute. He possesses a great frame and a fast, athletic arm with a mid 80's fastball and advanced breaking ball. We're excited about having him here and think his best days are ahead of him!"
Transfers - both players will have two years of eligibility remaining, beginning in 2019
Matthew Keane, C/RHP, 6'4", 190, Williamsburg, Va./Lafayette (William & Mary)
2017: Played in 12 games for William & Mary, going 4 for 15 (.267).
2016: Hit .289 in 15 games (12 starts) for William & Mary.
High School/Personal: Team captain as a HS senior...first team all-conference as a catcher and a second-team nod as a pitcher following his senior year...helped lead his team to the 3A State Championship during his senior season...won his school's sportsmanship and integrity award senior year...played his club baseball with RBA West and the Virginia Swamp Things for Mickey Roberts...was a member of the German National Honor Society, National Honor Society, and was on the honor roll all four years...officially contracted with the United States Marine Corps.
Bryce Sanford, RHP, 6'5", 190, Vancouver, Wash./St. Helen's HS (Clark College)
2016/2017: Spent majority of his time at Clark College as a starter for head coach Mark Magdaleno...compiling a 3.30 ERA over 38.1 IP resulting in a 2-3 Record...39 Hits. 23 strikeouts.
High School/Personal: Four-year letterman at St. Helen's HS for Coach Timmons in Vancouver, Wash...had opportunity to play baseball in the Dominican Republic for a summer...favorite athlete is Nolan Ryan.