Baseball Vols get 10 players in early signing period

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – After securing one of the top recruiting classes in the country in his first season at Tennessee, head coach Dave Serrano and his coaching staff have put together another strong class this season as they announced on Monday that 10 student-athletes have signed National Letters of Intent to join the program for the 2013-14 academic year.

In their first season at Rocky Top, Serrano, recruiting coordinator Bill Mosiello and associate head coach Greg Bergeron signed the 20th-best recruiting class in college baseball, as ranked by Baseball America.

They are every bit as excited about this year’s crop.

“Our entire coaching staff, led by recruiting coordinator Bill Mosiello, did a wonderful job of recognizing and finding players that fit our needs as we continue to develop this program,” Serrano said. “This class is filled with power bats, great athletes and some much-needed power arms. If we can get all of these guys on campus, those power arms will add nicely to the returners from this year’s squad and give us the makings of a good, deep and quality pitching staff.

“The additional offensive firepower, speed and pure athleticism the rest of the players in this class provide will give us a very well-rounded team with great depth. We are extremely excited about this group of young men and feel that they will play a big role in helping us keep this program moving in a positive direction.”

Serrano and his staff have made the state of Tennessee a priority in their recruiting efforts and that is obvious in this year’s class as seven of the 10 signees call the Volunteer State home. The Vols also pulled a pair of players out of Georgia and another from Serrano’s hometown in California.

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Name Pos. Ht./Wt. B/T Hometown (Previous School)
Will Carter RHP 6-3/190 R/R Johnson City, Tenn. (Walters State CC/ETSU/Science Hill HS)
Nathaniel Maggio 1B 6-4/220 L/L Alpharetta, Ga. (Blessed Trinity Catholic HS)
Bret Marks RHP 6-1/185 R/R Roswell, Ga. (Wallace State CC/Blessed Trinity Catholic HS)
Hunter Martin RHP 6-1/190 R/R Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Blackman HS)
Josh Peterson RHP 6-2/195 R/R Elizabethton, Tenn. (Walters State CC/Unaka HS)
Andrew Plunkett OF 6-4/200 R/R Memphis, Tenn. (Memphis University School)
Ralph Ramirez RHP 6-0/170 R/R Torrance, Calif. (El Camino College/Torrance HS)
Jordan Rodgers INF 6-2/190 R/R Memphis, Tenn. (Memphis University School)
Kyle Serrano RHP 6-2/190 R/R Knoxville, Tenn. (Farragut HS)
Jammer Strickland OF 6-1/185 R/R Knoxville, Tenn. (Farragut HS)

WILL CARTER (RHP // Johnson City, Tenn.)
A Science Hill High School product, Carter will spend his sophomore season at Walters State Community College after playing at ETSU as a freshman, where he was 1-2 with a 4.12 ERA, 14 strikeouts and a save in 24.0 innings of work. As a senior in high school, the hard-throwing righthander helped lead the Hilltoppers to a 20-6 record in 2011 under head coach Ryan Edwards. Carter earned Johnson City Press Super 22 First-Team honors after going 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA as a senior, while striking out 35 in 36.2 innings. He also pitched 12 shutout innings while helping the East Cobb Yankees to a runner-up finish in the World Wood Bat Association’s 18-under tournament in Atlanta.

Mosiello on Carter: “Out of this entire signing class, Will has the highest ceiling. He didn’t have a great year last year, but he has made some great adjustments. He learned some things at ETSU and then his pitching coach at Walters State has done a great job. He has a chance to be a big-time power arm. He might be at 91-94 mph right now, but he could be a 94-96 mph guy. He needs to improve in some areas like throwing more strikes, but he is such a great athlete that we are confident it is going to happen.”

NATHANIEL MAGGIO (1B // Alpharetta, Ga.)
One of the premier left-handed bats in the nation, Maggio is rated as the ninth-best first baseman in the country, 244th-best overall prospect and 13th-best player in the state of Georgia by Perfect Game. He was also rated No. 24 in the nation on the 2013 Rawlings Top Prospect List and was a member of the 2011 and 2012 Perfect Game Underclass All-America Teams as an honorable mention. A member of the East Cobb Braves 17U team, Maggio helped the squad claim the 18U Perfect Game BCS Finals title and finish second at the inaugural 17U Perfect Game World Series last summer.

Mosiello on Maggio: “Nathaniel is the premier power left-handed bat in the country. He is 6-4, 240 pounds and plays tight end on his high school’s football team. He has a left-handed power bat that is hard to find. We are going to have to fight professional baseball for him. When I recruited him and saw him he reminded me of Sean Casey with more raw power. Now Sean Casey was a lifetime .300 hitter and hit .470 his junior year in college so those are some big shoes to fill.”

BRET MARKS (RHP // Roswell, Ga.)
A 22nd round selection by the New York Yankees in the 2012 MLB Draft, Marks originally signed with Mississippi State out of high school before transferring to Wallace State Community College in the fall of 2011. He was a workhorse for the Lions’ pitching staff last spring, earning first team all-region honors after finishing with an 11-5 record, seven saves and a 1.74 ERA, tossing five complete games in 24 appearances. He recorded 90 strikeouts and had only 19 walks in 79 innings, leading all Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) Northern Division pitchers in wins, saves, ERA and strikeouts. He also ranked second nationally as opposing hitters hit just .165 off of him and was among the top five in NJCAA Division I pitchers in strikeouts, hits allowed per nine innings and wins.

Marks prepped at Blessed Trinity Catholic High School in Roswell, Ga., which he left as the school’s career strike outs leader. He helped lead his team to a 24-10 overall record and the Class-AA quarterfinals during his senior season, going 7-3 with a 2.90 ERA, striking out 67 in 58 innings while giving up 52 hits and walking just 14. As a junior, Marks was 9-1 with a 2.56 ERA as the Titans went 24-11 and reached the Class-AA semifinals. He comes from a very athletic family as his father played baseball and his mother ran track, both at Southern Cal. His older sisters, Courtney and Ashley, both played soccer at the collegiate level as well, playing at Boston College and Auburn, respectively.

Mosiello on Marks: “Bret had an incredibly successful year as a freshman at Wallace State. He is a dual-guy that can be either a stopper or a starter. He throws out of a three-quarters arm slot and is really competitive. His numbers speak for themselves and he is going to be able to do a lot of different things for us.”

HUNTER MARTIN (RHP // Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
A four-year letterwinner at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, Martin has developed into one of the top arms in the state of Tennessee. The 6-1 righthander has gone 17-4 on the mound with 165 strikeouts in his first three years with the Blaze. His ERA has gone down each season from 1.78 as a freshman to 1.52 in his sophomore campaign to a miniscule 1.31 last year en route to all-district and all-Mid State honors a junior. He is the third Blackman pitchers to sign with an SEC team over the last two years, following Mississippi State’s Ross Mitchell and Zander Wiel of Vanderbilt.

Mosiello on Martin: “Hunter is an 88-90 mph, strike-throwing dependable arm that is a good fit with some of the power arms that we brought in with this class.”

JOSH PETERSON (RHP // Elizabethton, Tenn.)
A 40th-round selection by the Texas Rangers out of Unaka High School in 2011, Peterson was a standout pitcher for Walters State last season, going 6-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 14 appearances as a freshman. He started eight games, firing three complete games, and earned one save while striking out 42 in 53.2 innings. A three-sport star in high school, Peterson was a two-time all-conference performer in basketball and a three-time all-conference selection in football, setting the school record for most passing yards during his senior season. On the diamond, Peterson was a two-time Watauga Valley Conference Player of the Year, hitting .514 with 57 RBIs and posting a 1.33 ERA while leading the Rangers to conference, regional and district titles during his senior year.

Mosiello on Peterson: “Josh is a power arm, 91-94 mph and a strike-thrower who has a great feel and is a very good athlete. We are going to have to fight the pro teams for him but he is a great get and is going to be a polished player by the time he gets here after another year at Walters State.”

ANDREW PLUNKETT (OF // Memphis, Tenn.)
One of two signees this year from Memphis University School, Plunkett will bring a physical presence and winning pedigree to the Tennessee lineup next season. The 6-4 outfielder was a member of the 2009 state champion football team and has helped lead the Owls to the regionals in baseball each of the last three years. Plunkett was named to the 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal All-Metro team after hitting .358 with five home runs, 38 RBIs and five stolen bases during his junior campaign. A former high school teammate of current Vol catcher Jason Manis, he also plays for the Dulin Dodgers during the summer where he previously teamed up with another current UT player in pitcher Drake Owenby.

Mosiello on Plunkett: “Andrew is a big, physical guy. When [Greg] Bergeron and [Gregg] Wallis first saw him, he reminded them of Jayson Werth. He doesn’t run quite that well, but he runs good for a big guy. He has some power, some athletic ability and has a chance to be a really physical offensive player. He is a big right-handed bat. We have so many good left-handed hitters here in this program right now, so he is a good addition to us. He is a big power bat and an incredible kid, but we like his athleticism. He’s about 6-4, 200 pounds and just a special guy.”

RALPH RAMIREZ (RHP // Torrance, Calif.)
Hailing from the same hometown as Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano, Ramirez has proven himself as a winner on the mound. During his freshman season at El Camino College, he was 9-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 14 starts while leading the Warriors to a 30-11 record and the 2012 California Community College Super Regionals. Ramirez fired two complete games and struck out 79 batters in 97.1 innings. During his prep career at Torrance High School, posted a 21-4 career record in 39 appearances over three years with a 2.17 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 158.0 innings.

Mosiello on Ramirez: “Ralph is a pitch-ready guy that has had a lot of success out in California. He is just a great competitor that has solid stuff. He is more of a college-type pitcher who we feel will have a lot of success here and we hope that will open the door for him to play professional baseball.”

JORDAN RODGERS (INF // Memphis, Tenn.)
Rodgers has excelled as a two-sport star at Memphis University School, starting at shortstop on the baseball team and quarterback on the football team. A natural leader and proven winner, he has led the baseball team to regional championships in the last two seasons. He was also a member of the state championship football team in 2010 and has the Owls poised for another title this year as they will play in the championship game on Nov. 29. On the diamond, Rodgers has lettered in each of his first three years, earning all-metro area and all-state honors as a sophomore after hitting .431 with 17 RBIs and posting a 7-2 record on the mound in 2011. Last year, he hit at a .344 clip with five home runs and an 8-2 record on the mound en route to claiming all-metro area honors once again. As a signal caller on the gridiron, Rodgers is a Mr. Football finalist and was named the Regional Player of the Year earlier this season. With one game left, he has already thrown for nearly 2,700 yards and 34 touchdowns with just four interceptions while guiding the Owls to a 10-2 record.

Mosiello on Rodgers: “Jordan is a natural leader with incredible energy. He really came on strong during the summer and Coach Bergeron had a chance to see him and really fell in love with what he does. He is just a really special, winning kid who has some versatility. He can play shortstop, second base, third base and some outfield. He is a great athlete and a good, winning guy who is a great pickup for our program.”

KYLE SERRANO (RHP // Knoxville, Tenn.)
The son of Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano, Kyle Serrano has established a reputation of his own as one of the top prep pitchers in the state of Tennessee and around the nation. A 2012 Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention All-American, Serrano is ranked by the organization as the third-best prospect in Tennessee, 29th-best right-handed pitcher in the nation and 113th-best overall prospect. Despite missing a large portion of his junior season at Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tenn., with a cracked rib, he returned to post a 4-0 record with a 2.41 ERA and 33 strikeouts in just 32 innings of work.

Mosiello on Serrano: “Kyle might be the neatest story of the whole group. He’s an up-and-coming player and a real special fresh arm. He’s 90-93 mph and hasn’t pitched a lot of innings which is actually a plus for us. He has a lot of growth to go as a player and isn’t one of those high school pitchers that has already thrown a lot of innings. He has a special arm, a chance to have a really good breaking ball and it’s a great get. He’s really come on strong.”

Continuing the tradition of great players from Farragut High School to play at Tennessee, Strickland will join his prep teammate Kyle Serrano with the Vols in 2013. A starting outfielder for the Admirals the last three seasons, he helped the high school power win state titles as a freshman and sophomore. He is ranked as one of the top 500 prospects in the nation and the No. 11 prospect in the state of Tennessee by Perfect Game. After earning PG Underclass All-America honorable mention honors in 2011, he was tabbed a third-team All-American in 2012. After hitting .328 combined in his first two years at Farragut, Strickland stepped up his game last season, hitting .387 with nine doubles and 31 RBIs, including going 7-for-13 with five RBIs from the leadoff spot for the Admirals in the state tournament. He was named to the Knoxville News Sentinel PrepXtra Second Team and All-KIL baseball team last year.

Mosiello on Strickland: “Jammer is more of an athletic ‘true’ centerfielder that is really athletic and has some strength for a smaller guy. He’s not little, but he’s about 6-0, 185 pounds and very athletic. He plays in a winning program at Farragut, has won a lot of games and has played a huge part in that program.”