The pipeline from Western Nevada College to NCAA Division I and other standout baseball programs around the country continues to flow with Wildcat talent.
WNC baseball coach D.J. Whittemore announced five players from his 2013 team made up primarily of freshmen have been inked by Division I schools, while two others have signed with NCAA Division II powerhouse Dixie State College. The five join nine players from last year’s team who signed with Division I teams and eight from the 2011 squad.
“Every sophomore who wanted to continue their baseball career has done so. That’s been the case for five years,” Whittemore said. “Every player that’s good enough to make our roster is good enough to compete at a four-year school.”
Pitcher Cody Hamlin, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, has been signed by the Arizona Wildcats, last year’s NCAA champions.
“Cody’s story of redshirt walk-on to Pac-12 scholarship is the reason people love sports,” Whittemore said. “Sometimes the good guys do win, and Cody is exhibit A.”
Hamlin developed into the Wildcats’ top pitcher, posting a 10-2 record and 1.45 earned run average. His pinpoint control contributed to only 11 walks in 87 innings, as well as a team-best 76 strikeouts.
Those stats helped Hamlin earn the Scenic West Conference Pitcher of the Year honor.
“Cody will be competing in the best conference in the country and have a chance to play against former teammates Brandon Jackson and Beau Day at Oregon State and Alex Schmidt at the University of Washington,” Whittemore said.
In addition, WNC second baseman AJ Hernandez signed with UNLV, while catcher Cole Ferguson will make Southeast Missouri State University his new home. Before the season began, pitcher Brandon Show agreed to play for the University of San Diego Toreros and third baseman Mike Umscheid committed to Kansas State.
Hernandez delivered a team-leading five homers, socked 10 doubles, knocked in 33 runs and topped the Wildcats with 33 walks. The infielder committed nine errors in 200 chances.
Those numbers made him appealing to his hometown Runnin’ Rebels. Hernandez played his high school ball at Cimarron-Memorial in Las Vegas.
“AJ’s competitiveness, work ethic, and especially (his) smile, made it fun to come to practice every day for all his teammates and coaches alike,” Whittemore said. “Because of Wildcats like AJ, the program claimed back-to-back championships for just the first time since the 2006 and 2007 seasons.”
Show will join a Torero squad that recently won the West Coast Conference title and played in an NCAA Tournament regional final at UCLA. The right-hander overcame elbow tightness early in the season to win four of five decisions and record 34 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings.
Ferguson, WNC’s RBI leader, will take his success in driving in runs and calling balls and strikes to Southeast Missouri State in the Ohio Valley Conference. Ferguson called pitches for a staff that collectively had a 2.64 ERA. He knocked in 50 runs, hit .285 and smacked 15 doubles.
“Cole earned the 2013 Wildcats MVP award through his on-field leadership, his outstanding pitch-calling and team lead in RBIs and doubles,” Whittemore said.
Ferguson committed just four errors in 320 chances and threw out 12 of 27 runners trying to steal.
“Cole was fun to watch this year, and to see his advancement from a backup role player as a freshman into a first-team all region performer as a sophomore is a testament to his work ethic and his belief in his ability.”
Like Show, third baseman Mike Umscheid, a .305 hitter, signed in the fall. He will become part of a Kansas State club that hosted and won a NCAA Tournament regional last weekend.
“He’s a complete player who really takes pride in his work habits,” Whittemore said of Umscheid when he signed. “He’s a great student, very coachable and a great leader. He’s a Wildcat to the core.”
Umscheid was a key contributor during the Wildcats’ postseason run. He was 4 for 5 with three RBI in a 10-0 romp over College of Southern Nevada in the Region 18 tournament and went 10 for 18 with seven RBI at the district tournament.
Outfielder Donald Glover Jr. and pitcher Evan Parker will continue their careers at Dixie State College in St. George, Utah. The Red Storm hosted a NCAA Division II West Regional and May and finished with a 32-17 record.
“Dixie was one of the country’s top 10 teams this year and is on the verge of becoming one of the nation’s powerhouse baseball programs,” Whittemore said.
Glover Jr. hit .299 in 49 games and was second on the team with four triples. The center fielder made only one error and stole seven bases in eight attempts.
“Donald came into our program with the work ethic and attitude that was really beautiful. Obviously, his parents instilled in him some great attributes,” Whittemore said. “We were fortunate to have him in our program because he rubbed off on all the other players.
“Donald was the second player to ever spend three years in our program and his teams won an amazing 137 (games), making him one of the winningest players over that period in all of college baseball. Coach (Chris) Pfatenhour is getting an outstanding talent but an even better person.”
Parker was one of the Wildcats most reliable pitchers out of the bullpen. His 1.41 ERA was lowest among Wildcats with at least 10 appearances. The right-hander fanned 29 batters in 32 innings and made several key relief performances in the Wildcats’ run to the Western District tournament championship game.
“Evan’s transformation into a leader, his commitment to personal fitness, his selfless attitude and outstanding performances for us on the mound has made these last two years some of the most successful in program history, and I think I speak for all the coaches when I say he will be sorely missed and fondly remembered,” Whittemore said.
One other Wildcat is on the verge of signing. Pitcher Phil Belding, 8-2 record and 2.40 ERA, is considering offers from several Division I programs.