JONESBORO, AR (astateredwolves.com) – The Arkansas State baseball program announced the addition of 10 student-athletes, including six from the state of Arkansas, Tuesday during the early signing period for the 2017 season.
“First of all, I would like to commend the efforts of assistant coaches Noah Sanders and Caleb Longshore for a great early signing period for the Arkansas State baseball program,” Red Wolves head baseball coach Tommy Raffo said. “They have spent a lot of time on the road identifying and evaluating the right student-athletes for A-State baseball.”
The Red Wolves’ class includes Blake Wynn (Star City, Ark.), Garry Hill (Star City, Ark.), Austin Powell (Star City, Ark.), Chase Nix (Benton, Ark.), Colten Nix (Benton, Ark.), Conrad Ray (Germantown, Tenn.), Cullen Ray (Germantown, Tenn.), Collin Cahill (Conway, Ark.), Grant Schroeder (Aurora, Colo.), and Tyler Mitzel (Sioux Falls, S.D.).
“We had three goals in mind going into the early-signing recruiting process,” continued Raffo. “First, we wanted to find young men that show a passion, toughness and a want to play for A-State baseball with a future to play at the professional level. Second, we wanted to continue to create a balance for future Red Wolves teams. Third, each young man we recruit must be able to compete for championships early in their career. We feel like this is an awesome recruiting class for the Red Wolves baseball program.”
Wynn, who prepped at Star City High School along with fellow newcomers Hill and Powell, was the top-ranked shortstop in the state according to Prep Baseball Report and also participated in the Xtra Innings All-Star Classic twice. The right-hander also excelled on the mound as he was 7-2 with 2.30 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 45 strikeouts to 12 walks. A three-time all-conference selection and two-time all-state honoree, he hit .558 with a .626 on-base percentage and 1.405 OPS (on-base plus slugging). He scored 40 runs, knocked in 30, hit 17 doubles, and stole 15 bases as he helped the Bulldogs to the 2015 Arkansas Activities Association Class 4A State Championship.
“Blake is a true duel position player who is very athletic in the field, plate, and on the mound,” said Raffo. “He really competes and was a key player during Star City’s championship run last year.”
Another product of Star City, Hill made a fantastic catch in the 4A state tournament that was the number one play on Sportscenter’s “Top 10” plays. He’s a two-time all-conference performer and was named all-state in his junior year after he hit .446 with an on-base percentage of .525. The outfielder had 11 doubles, four triples, and five home runs with 33 RBIs and 12 steals. He was also fantastic on the mound with 34 strikeouts against 14 walks in 39 innings with an ERA of 2.30 as he helped SCHS to the 2015 Class 4A state championship. He is ranked as the 10th best overall player in the state of Arkansas and fifth-best right-handed pitcher by Prep Baseball Report.
“Garry is a physical player who has a terrific skillset in the outfield,” added Raffo. “He is very solid offensively with plus bat speed. He projects as a closer at the D-1 level with the ability to come in late to get outs.”
The third addition from Star City is Powell, who is ranked as the best catcher in Arkansas and 30th best backstop in the country by Prep Baseball Report. He is also ranked as the sixth best player overall in the state after helping SCHS to the 2015 Class 4A state championship. He’s a three-time all-conference honoree and made the all-state team the last two seasons to go along with an all-state tournament team nod as a junior. His 2015 stats include a .400 batting average, .505 on-base percentage, 12 doubles, two triples, three home runs, 44 RBIs, and 33 runs scored.
“At his position, Austin can really catch,” said Raffo. “He receives, blocks, and throws at a high level. He has gap power that projects to be special in the future.”
The Red Wolves added a left-handed pitcher and outfielder from Benton High School in Chase Nix. He is ranked by Prep Baseball Report as the ninth-best LHP in the state. The 6-2, 190-pounder attended the Xtra Innings All-Star Classic in the summers prior to his junior and senior seasons. He was all-conference in both 2014 and 2015, along with an all-state selection in 2014 and all-state tournament team honor in 2015.
“Chase is another duel position player that can swing the bat from the left side,” Raffo added. “We really like him in the outfield, but he will also boost our left-handed pitching depth.”
Chase’s twin brother, Colten, is also joining the A-State baseball program and is an outfielder on the Benton High School baseball squad. He is ranked as the third-best outfielder in the state of Arkansas to go along with being tallied as the 18th-best overall player in the state by Prep Baseball Report. Additionally, he attended the Xtra Innings All-Star Classic prior to both his junior and senior seasons. He is a two-time all-state honoree and hit .402 with three homers and 17 stolen bases in 2015.
“Colten really plays the game the right way, all out,” Raffo continued. “He is non-stop in the outfield and on the bases. He hits to all fields with gap power.”
Conrad Ray, a 6-6, 225-pound pitcher from Houston High School, appears on Prep Baseball Report’s rankings at No. 6 for right-handed pitchers and No. 17 for best overall player in Tennessee. He was named all-metro and was selected as a Super Sophomore by the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association in 2014.
“Conrad has big time upside as a right-handed pitcher,” Raffo said. “He has a plus frame that helps him throw an above- average fastball with a sharp breaking ball.”
The Red Wolves also added Conrad’s brother, Cullen, for 2017. Cullen is a catcher that also prepped at Houston High School. The 6-2, 200-pound backstop is ranked as the third-best player at his position and 26th-best overall player in Tennessee by Prep Baseball Report. He led HHS in hitting as a sophomore in 2014 to go along with being named All-Metro and a Super Sophomore by the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association. He won all-metro accolades as a junior in 2015 and was third on the squad in hitting. Conrad and Cullen are the sons of former A-State football player Mike Ray, who lettered from 1987-89.
“Cullen swings the bat with plus power,” Raffo added. “He is an athletic catcher with above-average tools that makes it look easy behind the plate.”
Cahill is a 6-5, 200-pound pitcher from Conway High School, but missed most of last season with an injury. Despite that, he is ranked as one of the top left-handed pitchers in the state of Arkansas and 11th-best overall player by Prep Baseball Report. In the summer of 2014 he was 3-0 with three saves and a 1.88 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 18 innings. He earned the 2015 Marvin Delph Award at CHS in 2015 for the top student-athlete and also made it to the third round of Team USA tryouts this past summer.
“Collin is a really good left-handed pitcher with size that can step in and pitch right away for the Red Wolves,” said Raffo. “He commands his fastball with velocity with a plus breaking ball.”
Schroeder, a 6-2, 190-pound right-handed pitcher from Grandview High School was a first-team all-conference performer in 2015. Additionally, he was named all-city and earned a spot on the Colorado Junior Sun Belt team. He helped lead GHS to the Class 5A state championship final four in 2015 and is ranked as the 11th-best RHP and is 21st on the list for best overall player in Colorado by Prep Baseball Report.
“Grant has a loose arm with really good ‘pitchability’,” added Raffo. “His upside is unlimited and we are excited about his choice to come to A-State.”
Mitzel, a 6-4, 205-pound right handed pitcher, competed last season at Neosho County (Kan.) Community College where he tossed 42 innings in 15 appearances. He registered a 4-2 record for the Panthers in 2015 and also tied for the team high in saves with four. The Sioux Falls, S.D., native prepped at Roosevelt High School where he helped lead the Rough Riders to a state championship in 2013.
“Tyler is a JUCO transfer that can step in and be quality starter for us in the program,” Raffo said. “He comes from one of the better junior college programs in the country at Neosho County C.C. in Kansas.”