Baseball Signs Nine to National Letters of Intent
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  12/11/2009

Dec. 11, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - Saint Joseph's head coach Fritz Hamburg has announced the signing of nine student-athletes to National Letters of Intent. The new additions will come to Hawk Hill in time for the start of the 2011 season.

Included in the class are catcher Nuri Gunes, infielders Spencer Judge, Kevin Kratochwill, and Michael Muha, and pitchers Jordan Carter, Brett Koliani, Taylor Mahoney, Danny Thorpe, and Jimmy Yacabonis.

"We are extremely pleased with our class from the Early Signing Period," said Hamburg, now in his second year at the helm of the Hawk program. "We have a very large class graduating this spring, so the challenge of filling our needs was great. I could not be happier with the job that assistant coaches Jake Gill and Greg Manco did.

"Additionally, I would like to congratulate our current student-athletes for the fine job they did hosting each player and educating them on their experiences here at Saint Joseph's," Hamburg added.

The Hawks added depth all around the diamond, most noticeably on the mound.

"Our greatest need was to strengthen our pitching staff," Hamburg revealed. "I feel that we have addressed both the starting and back-end game issues. Each player gives us a different look and fills various needs.

"We also filled some positional needs with well-rounded athletes. We added speed and some potential power," he said.

Carter comes to Hawk Hill from Collegeville, Pa. He was 4-1 as a junior with a 1.76 earned run average and a better than 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 43.2 innings at Methacton High School. He served as a team co-captain and has twice taken part in the Carpenter Cup. He was chosen as a Times-Herald All-Area First-Teamer in 2008 and received Honorable Mention honors in 2009. He played his summer ball for the Big League 30s Super 17 team. He is also the captain of Methacton's basketball team and has received numerous academic accolades.

"Jordan has a smooth, clean delivery that generates a lively fastball," Manco said. "He already has a plus changeup and his breaking ball will develop into an `out pitch.'"

Gunes serves as team captain at Vernon Township High School, where he hit .344 with a pair of home runs and 11 stolen bases as a junior. In the offseason he has played for both the New York Nine Scout Team and the Farrah Builders Scout Team. A well-rounded student-athlete, the Sussex, N.J. native is a member of the Spanish National Honors Society and is the treasurer of the Student Council.

"Nuri is a capable receiver who handles himself well behind the plate," said Manco. "Both on the field and in the classroom, he exhibits leadership qualities that will without a doubt help our pitching staff and guide our team as a whole."

Judge was named a 2008 Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference All-League Honorable Mention recipient after compiling a .340 batting average and a .955 fielding percentage at Ridgefield High School in Ridgefield, Conn. This past summer he was a member of the squad representing New England at the Perfect Game Northeast All-Star Games. In addition, he played this past summer and fall with the Connecticut Bombers. An Honor Roll student, he was also chosen as an Under Armour Pre-Season All-American in both 2009 and 2010.

"Spencer is a gifted defensive infielder with soft hands, solid arm strength, and a great feel for how to use his feet," explained Gill. "He exhibits a solid offensive approach at the plate and as he grows and matures at Saint Joseph's, we expect him to tap into his power potential."

Koliani hails from Middlebury, Conn., and turned in a 4-1 record with a 1.35 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 52 innings as a junior at Pomperaug High School, where he was named to the Honor Roll. He was selected to the All-South West Conference squad by the league's coaches and was named All-Area by The News Times and the Republican-American. He played last summer for Naugatuck American Legion Post 17.

"Brett has shown the ability to consistently locate his fastball on both sides of the plate, as well as command his breaking ball in and out of the zone," Gill said. "His clean, quick arm and not-yet-filled-out frame lead us to believe that his upside is even higher than he has already shown."

Continuing the pipeline of talented players from Maryland coming to Hawk Hill is Kratochwill, a native of Marriottsville, Md. He hit .483 and scored 22 runs while adding 14 runs batted in and five stolen bases during his junior campaign at Marriotts Ridge High School. He also committed just one fielding error on his way to All-County and Second Team All-Metro honors from the Baltimore Sun and the Howard County Times. He helped lead his team to the 2008 state championship game as well. He has played for the Mid-Atlantic Red Sox and is a member of the National Honor Society.

"Kevin is a very good athlete with above average speed who is capable of playing both middle infield positions as well as center field," said Gill. "He combines a patient, leadoff hitter mentality with a solid line drive stroke. We are excited about the new dimension that Kevin's athleticism will bring to our squad's offense."

Mahoney finished his junior campaign at St. Mark's High School in Newark, Del. with a record of 8-2 and a 2.32 ERA. He also struck out 46 in 48.1 innings and tossed five complete games and two shutouts. He struck out 10 in six innings to earn the win in the 2009 state championship game. For his efforts, the Delaware Baseball Coaches Association named him to the All-State Third Team. In addition to being an Honor Roll student, he played summer and fall baseball with the All-Star Baseball Academy.

"Taylor has a good idea of how to command the strike zone, a quality breaking ball, and an advanced feel for controlling the running game," Manco said. "With his frame and repertoire, he compares very favorably to [current Hawk ace] Randy Mower."

Muha posted a .441 batting average and a .593 slugging percentage while scoring 21 runs and driving in 25 as a junior at South Brunswick High School. He also turned in a 4-2 record on the mound with a 1.82 ERA and 35 punchouts in 41 innings. He was named First Team All-Middlesex County by the Star-Ledger and the Home News Tribune tabbed the Princeton, N.J. native for First Team All-Area accolades. In addition, he is an Honor Roll student and a three-time letterwinner in football and was chosen as the captain of both the baseball and football squads for the 2009-10 school year. He also played summer baseball for the New Jersey Matrix.

"Michael is a multi-sport athlete with tremendous leadership qualities," said Manco. "He has gap power, is agile around first base, and is athletic enough to handle a corner outfield position. We anticipate he may be able to provide us with some innings on the mound as well."

Thorpe compiled a gaudy 9-1 record with a miniscule 1.16 ERA as junior at Westfield High School. He struck out 84 hitters against just 18 walks in 66.2 innings pitched, setting single-season school records in starts, wins, strikeouts, and innings as Westfield went undefeated in district play. Hailing from Centreville, Va., Thorpe was named Honorable Mention All-Met by the Washington Post in addition to receiving First Team All-Northern Region and Concorde District Co-Pitcher of the Year honors. He also played for the Virginia Barnstormers, winners of the 2009 NABF High School World Series. He has also received numerous academic accolades during his high school career.

"Danny has an advanced feel for pitching," said Gill. "He is a calm, cool competitor who does not rattle with runners on base. Hitters do not get good swings against him, and the deception that he creates will provide a unique look on our staff."

Yacabonis posted a 5-0 record and an even lower ERA of 0.93, striking out 25 in 27 innings as a junior at the Christian Brothers Academy. He earned the victory in the 2009 NJSIAA Non-Public A championship game, giving CBA its first state title in over 30 years. He has also played for both the South Florida Bandits and Dave Gallagher's All-American Baseball Academy. Off the diamond, he is a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish National Honors Society, and he is a member of the school's basketball team as well. He will join former teammate Anthony Cirillo on the SJU roster.

"Jimmy is another in a long line of talented pitchers from Christian Brothers Academy," Manco said. "He throws a hard, heavy fastball and a solid slider. His size and frame are well-suited to handle the workload of a future rotation guy."

All told, Hamburg and his staff are excited to see the impact of their new additions.

"These future Hawks will not only make major contributions on the field, but their character will lend itself to great things off the field as well," he said. "We are looking forward to their arrival on Hawk Hill."

The current roster makes its 2010 debut on February 26 when Saint Joseph's travels to The Citadel.