With opening night less than 100 days away, manager Steve Brook continues to add depth to his 2017 Rascals squad and has recently brought in eight fresh faces hoping to compete for the teams second Frontier League Championship (2010).
Headlining the group offensively is First Team All-Horizon League outfielder Ryan Fucci out of Wright State University. After beginning his career at Western Kentucky and later transferring to Panama City College to pursue basketball, the right-handed slugger found a home at Wright State and smacked 15 home runs with 49 RBI his first year. In 2016, Fucci had an even better campaign and was awarded to the First Team All-Horizon League. The Wright State product hit .326 overall and led the Horizon League in homeruns (11), RBI (64) and stolen bases (26). Following his senior year, he was drafted in the 25th round by the Seattle Mariners.
Outfielder Yeicok Calderon was acquired in a trade with the Gary SouthShore RailCats of the American Association and is now the Rascals most experienced professional player. Calderon, from La Romana, Dominican Republic, began playing pro ball at the age of 17 with the Dominican Summer League Yankees and then began playing in the states in 2011. The 25-year-old played in the Yankees organization through the 2014 season and collected 76 doubles, 45 home runs, 215 RBI while maintaining a .275 batting average. Calderon then played the 2015 season in the Atlantic League and 2016 with Quebec in the Canadian-American Association. Overall in his eight seasons, he is a career .282 hitter in 509 games and 2, 115 at-bats.
Along with Fucci and Calderon, Brook has signed outfielders Jimmy Kerrigan and Jeremy Hinshaw. Kerrigan began his collegiate career at Temple and then finished his final two years as a Virginia Commonwealth Ram combining to hit .309 in 108 games. Also stellar on the bases, Kerrigan stole 25 out of 28 bases and sent his share of balls to the gap which resulted in 25 doubles. As a senior, the Ram tied for the team lead in RBI with 25 and got national attention by earning the 2016 Hammer Strength All-American Award which is awarded to just one male and female athlete in the county by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.
Like Kerrigan, Hinshaw will play in the Frontier League for the first time, however he comes from the Pacific Association in California where he played with the Pittsburg Diamonds. In 71 games last year, Hinshaw hit .287 with 16 doubles, seven home runs and 33 RBI.
Infielder DJ Gee enters the Rascals roster coming off a stellar 2016 campaign at Marshall where he started all 55 games and was named First-Team Conference USA. In those 55 games, Gee totaled 69 hits, 32 RBI and a .307 batting average. Also an outfielder, Gee sparked the Herd’s offense leading the team in multi-hit games with 22, doubles with 20 and was second in stolen bases with 24. The six-foot 190 pounder also showed he can leave the yard homering five times and scored a total of 43 runs.
Taylor Cockrell, a former 23rd round pick by the Atlanta Braves in the 2015 MLB Draft, bolsters the Rascals bullpen from the right side. Cockrell played as high as Single-A with the Rome Braves and over the span of two years with Single-A and Rookie league affiliates tossed 36 innings and struck out 35 while earning a win. The lengthy righty finished his college career at the State College of Florida Manatee Saratosa and originally is from Bad Windsheim, Germany.
Another right-handed arm that Brook has signed is Ty Provencher, who finished his playing career as a Long Beach State Dirtbag in 2016 and made a steep climb up the record charts as a late inning reliever. His success was shown instantly as a freshman in 2013 where he was an All-Big West honorable mention and then followed it up a year later with an All-Big West Second Team selection. In 2015, Provencher was the Dirtbags primary closer and saved seven games with a 3-2 record and a 1.80 ERA. The righty posted another solid era (2.30) as a senior and finished his career by helping the Dirtbags advance to the Coral Gables regional in Miami where they eventually fell to the Hurricanes. Provencher finished third all-time with 93 appearances and sixth all time on the Dirtbag saves list with 16.
A former starter at Middle Tennessee State University, Nate Hoffman comes to the Rascals for his first taste of professional baseball. Hoffman began his career as a Blue Raider in 2015 and earned a spot on the Second Team All-Conference-USA after compiling a 4-1 record with a 3.61 ERA. As a senior in 2016, the right-handed starter was named the C-USA pitcher of the week on April 1st due to pitching a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Rice Owls but nine starts in his season was cut short due to an injury.
In addition to the returners from last year’s team which include Josh Silver and Josh Ludy, Brook has now signed 14 new players, the list includes:
Pitchers: LHP Chris Cummins, RHP Tanner Wilt, RHP Nate Hoffman, RHP Ty Provencher
Infielders: Vin Gugglietti. Connor Teykl, Ian Yestko, DJ. Gee, RHP Taylor Cockrell
Outfielders: Taylor Love, Yeicok Calderon, Jimmy Kerrigan, Ryan Fucci, Jeremy Hinshaw