The Valparaiso Crusader baseball team and head coach Tracy Woodson have announced that nine student-athletes have plans to attend Valparaiso University beginning in the fall of 2009 and will play for the Brown and Gold in the spring of 2010. Joining the program are incoming freshmen Andrew Bain, Matt Carroll, Mike Jacobs, Karch Kowalczyk, Ben Olejniczak, and Greg Stiller along with junior college transfers Robbie Robinson, Will Robinson, and Corey Thibault.
"This recruiting class has addressed some very specific needs for next year's team with all nine possessing the ability to contribute immediately," said Woodson. "We are very pleased with the quality young men we are bringing in here both on and off the field. They are a very talented group. Our coaching staff has done a great job of finding players that are both an academic fit as well as an athletic fit for our program. I am very excited about the future of our baseball program."
Andrew Bain is a right-handed utility player from Indianapolis, Ind. The 5’7”, 170-pound Bain posted a .480 batting average with 49 runs scored, 47 hits, 10 doubles, 30 RBI, and 11 stolen bases as a junior at Park TudorHigh School. The first team All-Conference infielder recorded a .548 on-base percentage in the 2008 season. As a senior at Park Tudor, Bain hit .363 with 2 HR 14 doubles with an impressive .427 on-base percentage and was successful in stealing 17 of 19 bases. Other accolades to Bain’s name include a two-time ICC First Team selection, recipient of the Crown Award for athletic and academic excellence in 2008 and the Reichel Award in 2009, as well as being an Honorable Mention All-County pick in 2008 and 2009.
"Andrew is a player that possesses excellent defensive tools and handles the bat with great effectiveness,” said Woodson. “His versatility to play many different positions will be a great asset. Bain has the intangibles and with a little growth and maturity he will find a solid role on our team.”
Matt Carroll is a 5’10” and 165-pound right handed pitcher from Rockton, Ill. Carroll was a four-year varsity pitcher, and had a career ERA of 2.89 with 185 strikeouts in 162.1 innings at Rockton Hononegah High School. He carried a career opponent batting average at .193 helping him post a 16-5 record. An honorable mention All-Conference pitcher the last two years, he pitched an eight-inning six-hitter to win the regional as a sophomore and also threw a seven-inning no-hitter in the Northern Illinois Conference as a junior.
“Matt pitches at a solid 86-88 miles per hour and has been clocked up to the low 90’s,” said Woodson. “His ability to pitch, his command, and his competitiveness are all attributes that we feel will allow Matt to come in and play a big role on our pitching staff immediately.”
Mike Jacobs, a 6'0" 175-pound left-handed pitcher, earned 2009 All-Rock Valley Conference (RVC) Player of the Year honors at Turner High School in Beloit, Wis. He was a Wisconsin All-State Honorable Mention pick as well as selected to play in the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-Star Classic as a senior. Jacobs tossed 68 2/3 innings, allowing 55 hits and 26 earned runs as a senior. He posted a 2.65 earned run average and struck out 80 batters while walking 32. Opponents hit only .208 off the left-hander.
“Mike is a pitcher that we think will come in and help us immediately,” commented Woodson. “He is a classic left-hander that throws strikes. He has a mid-80’s fast ball and a good breaking ball that goes along with his competitive nature.”
Karch Kowalczyk, a 6’1” 200-pound infielder and right-handed pitcher is from LaSalle-Peru High School and is ranked 45th best senior in Illinois by Prep Baseball Report (Ill.). Kowalczyk, a native of Peru, Ill. was one of the best two-way players in Illinois, and enjoyed a tremendous senior campaign while leading LaSalle-Peru to a fourth place finish in 3A. He finished his senior year with a .419 batting average, nine home runs, five triples, and 61 RBIs. On the mound, he went 11-1 with a 1.66 ERA and 76 Ks. Kowalczyk was selected All-State Second Team as well as named the 2009 News Tribune Player of the Year.
"Karch is ranked as a top player in the state of Illinois,” said Woodson. “He can do a lot of things really well on the baseball field. He is athletic, has power, arm strength and can just plain hit the ball. He works hard and loves the game. He is a great sign for our program, and shows the type of player we want to attract here. Karch will have an immediate impact for us next year."
Ben Olejniczak is a 6’1” left-handed catcher and infielder from Valparaiso High School in Valparaiso, Ind. He is a strong hitter and as a junior he tallied 36 hits, seven doubles and batted .419.
“Ben is already a top level hitter, but he is also just scratching the surface of his potential,” said Woodson. “He possesses an extremely quick bat and has tremendous left-handed power. He is versatile enough to catch or play on the corners. With hard work, he should have a tremendous career.”
Outfielder Robbie Robinson, was a 6’1” 210-pound Second Team All-Orange Empire Conference for Irvine ValleyCollege last year and transfers to Valpo with two years of eligibility remaining. Robinson led IVC with a .345 batting average overall. Robinson led the team in triples with three, was second on the team in RBIs with 25, second in doubles with 11 and second in runs scored with 27. His .468 slugging percentage and .438 on base percentage also both ranked second on the club. The right-hander is a native of Brea, Calif. and attended Brea High School.
“Robbie is a tremendous sign for us,” added Woodson. “He has competed and excelled against some of the best competition in the country while at IVC in California. We are thrilled to add a strong and consistent bat to our line-up.”
Will Robinson is a 6’2” right-handed pitcher that has transferred to Valpo from Fullerton College in California. The First Team All-League and team MVP from Valencia High School will have two years of eligibility remaining. Robinson was Fullerton’s #1 starter who enjoyed a very successful 2009 season in the Orange Empire Conference. He finished with a record of 4-4 with a 5.30 ERA. Robinson had 65 strikeouts in 74.2 innings pitched while holding batters to a .254 batting average.
“Will has three pitches he can throw for strikes,” Woodson said. “Will has pitched against tough competition coming out of one of the most competitive JUCO conferences in California. He is a bulldog on the mound and we fully expect Will to compete for a weekend starting role next season.”
Greg Stiller, a 6'5" 185-pound right-handed pitcher from Indianapolis North Central High in Indianapolis, Ind. He comes into Valparaiso after finishing his senior season with a 4.70 ERA and 3-3 record. In his last year of high school summer baseball for the Lafayette White Sox, Greg tallied 53 strikeouts in 57 innings of work.
“Greg is a pitcher that we think has a huge upside,” added Woodson. “He is long and lanky with a live arm and we feel that he has the potential to do great things for us.”
Corey Thibault, a 6’0” 200-pound catcher/outfielder, will be transferring to Valparaiso from Irvine Valley College in California. The junior college transfer played in the Orange Empire Conference as well and finished the 2009 season batting .267 with four homeruns and 18 RBIs and a 419 slugging percentage. Thibault, a native of Tustin, Calif., was also named the 2009 IVC Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
“Corey is a player that will give us a great deal of experienced depth in two different areas: catching and outfield,” concluded Woodson. “He has the ability to hit for power at the plate and we expect him to be very important to our success for the next two years. He is a proven leader both on and off the field.”