Wednesday, September 26, 2007

JMU listed among top classes

HARRISONBURG, Va., Sept. 25, 2007 – For the second straight season, James Madison University was included in Collegiate Baseball newspaper’s list of the top baseball recruiting classes in the nation for the 2008 season.

The newspaper ranked the top 40 classes and then listed 60 other top programs in the nation. It was the second straight season that the Dukes were the only Colonial Athletic Association team to appear in the listing.

With JMU in the midst of fall workouts, head coach Joe “Spanky” McFarland commented, “We feel really good about this class. There are some quality arms out there and we feel good about what this class will bring to the table. We had three hitters win freshman All-American awards last year. This year’s class was a little pitching heavy to try to match up some good arms with the good hitters we added last year.”

Altogether nine freshmen will join the mix in 2008, including six pitchers. The new arms include three right-handed pitchers and three lefties, which should add versatility to both the rotation and the bullpen. Several have displayed the arm strength in workouts to compete on the collegiate level with a few already displaying the power to top 90 miles per hour.

The right-handed pitchers include J.C. Menna (Tinton Falls, N.J./Red Bank Catholic), Kevin Munson (Roanoke, Va./Cave Spring), and Turner Phelps (Roanoke, Va./Lord Botetourt). The southpaws consist of John Mincone (Dix Hills, N.Y./Half Hollow Hills East), Alex Valadja (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Catholic), and James Weiner (Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne’s-Belfield). A seventh pitcher, redshirt freshman Trevor Knight (Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne’s-Belfield) was expected to be JMU’s closer a year ago before missing the season with an injury.

The Dukes have also added three infielders in David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield), McKinnon Langston (Tallahassee, Fla./North Florida Christian), and Alex Oliver (Lebanon, N.J./North Hunterdon). In addition, Menna could also factor into the mix in the infield and Munson could see time behind the plate at catcher.

McFarland added, “Last year ended with Kurt Houck, Justin Wood, and Kyle Hoffman in the rotation. Those three have weekend experience, but several of these young guys will compete for those spots. All of the pitchers are pushing each other right now, which makes it fun. This group of freshmen is probably the best stable of arms as far as pure arm strength that we’ve had since the early 2000s when we had guys like Jared Doyle, Dan Meyer, Chris Cochran, Mike Trussell, and Adam Wynegar.”

The 2008 JMU squad will be young with 10 freshmen and 10 sophomores, including players who have redshirted. They will be joined by six juniors and just three seniors. The Dukes went 22-31 last year and finished in ninth place among 11 teams in the CAA with an 11-17 record.

As far as having the top class in the CAA for the second straight season, McFarland said, “Baseball goes in cycles at this level. I think that we’re reaping some benefits of winning the CAA regular season two years ago. I also think the idea that we’re getting a new stadium has added to the interest in our program as well. Coach [Jay] Sullenger heads up our recruiting and he has done a nice job.”

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