3 Wildcats sign to play D-I ball
Three Western Nevada College baseball players – Brooks Klein, Pat McMeel and Kevin Taylor – have signed national letters of intent to play baseball at Division I schools next year.
The trio brings the number of players to sign Division I scholarships since 2006 to 36. Klein is headed to Nevada, McMeel to New Mexico State and Taylor to Arizona State.
“All three of these young men are very talented and will be counted on to play major roles for our team this spring just as they did last year,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said in a press release. “Western Nevada baseball relishes days like this when the dreams of young men become realities.
“I’m sure that we will have more players signing scholarships in the spring, but today we couldn’t be happier with the quality of programs that recruited these players. To have a member of our team have the chance to move up the road and play for our hometown University of Nevada and coach Powers is really special.”
Klein, who hit .268 with four homers and 36 RBI last season, has signed to play for Nevada. He follows in the footsteps of Tyson Jaquez, Brian Barnett and Jesse Rasner in becoming the fourth player to go to Nevada from WNC.
Klein played summer ball in the Puget Sound College League and then played in the American Legion World Series with Sierra Vista of Las Vegas.
“Nevada offered me a great scholarship,” Klein said. “I’m familiar with the area and really like it. Coach Powers has been there a while. He’ll help me get to the next level.
“UNLV contacted me, but they couldn’t offer me any sort of scholarship until the spring. I wasn’t sure about going back to Las Vegas.”
Said Powers, “Brooks provides us with a quality left-handed bat for our lineup with great experience.”
Klein also had conversations with Division II Dixie State and Appalachian State, but he had already committed to Nevada.
Klein said he talked to Barnett, a former WNC star, about the Nevada program. Klein hopes to get significant playing time next season.
“He helped me make my decision,” Klein said. “He has a lot of respect for the coaches and really likes the program.”
McMeel, who hit .274 last spring and threw out 11 of 29 baserunners on steal attempts, becomes the third WNC player to go to NMSU, following in the footsteps of Chuck Howard and Riley Bevill.
The sophomore catcher said he had talks with Central Florida, TCU and Washington State, but felt he was more of a back-up recruiting option.
“I went down to New Mexico State (Las Cruces) and got a feel for what the program was all about,” McMeel said. “Chase Toledo (assistant coach, recruiting coordinator) said that they had a couple of freshmen catchers who weren’t quite ready to catch yet and that they needed a guy with experience, and that I was one of the better guys around.”
Signing early is a double – edged sword according to McMeel.
“If I had a great spring I could get a bigger offer, but if I had a bad spring I could get a worse offer,” he said. “This was the best offer I was going to get.”
McMeel said he’s undecided on a major, but that he’s interested in being a fireman. He said NMSU has a fire academy program.
McMeel shared time behind the plate and was used as a designated hitter, too.
“I’m glad to split time,” McMeel said. “It saves my legs. I hope to catch a little more this year than I did last year.”
Taylor led the Wildcats in runs (45), RBI (41), doubles (18) and extra-base hits (25) en route to a .328 average a year ago. He was an all-conference and all-region selection.
According to Whittemore, Taylor is currently ineligible but he expects his third baseman to be eligible by the time the season starts on Jan. 28.
Taylor played in the WCL during the summer, but quit to concentrate on his schoolwork. He took several online courses during the summer in an attempt to get caught up.
Central Florida, Washington State and Oregon State showed some interest in Taylor. Taylor said there might have been more interest, but some schools didn’t want to take the risk.
Taylor is the fifth WNC player to sign with ASU in the past four years, joining Cole Rohrbaugh, Josh Moody, Stephen Sauer and Kramer Champlin. Rohrbaugh and Sauer are currently playing pro ball, while Moody completed his first year at ASU last spring. Champlin is currently at ASU, and was a big help in Taylor’s recruitment.
“I talked to Kramer a lot,” Taylor said. “He convinced me that I needed to go there. I just couldn’t pass up an offer like this.”
Taylor hasn’t taken an official visit to ASU, but members of the Sun Devil coaching staff have seen him in action at WNC.