Aug. 10, 2009
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin head baseball coach Johnny Cardenas has announced the signing of seven student-athletes to National Letters of Intent for the upcoming 2010 season. The seven players include three junior college transfers, and four directly out of the high school ranks.
The all-Texas class includes three pitchers - Tyler Herriage (Weatherford JC), Kyle Rogers (Dulles HS), Cody Priest (Dobie HS) - and four position players - Darren Crabtree (Temple College), Bobby Loveless (Alvin CC), Cole Popper (Second Baptist Academy), Jordan Lewis (W.T. White HS).
"I think the guys we brought in can certainly make an immediate impact here at the Division I level," Cardenas said. "They will not only bring us plenty of options, but also give us tremendous balance as we compete for a Southland Conference championship next season."
2009 Spring Signees
Tyler Herriage - 6'1", 207 lbs (Lewisville, Texas/ FM Marcus HS/Weatherford JC)
Already a two-time MLB draftee, Herriage will bring a much needed left-handed arm to the `Jacks pitching corps after SFA navigated through the 2009 season without a single southpaw. A native of Flower Mound, Texas, Herriage was selected by the Chicago White Sox out of high school but decided to go the junior college route. He was again selected after his 2007 season at Weatherford Junior College by the New York Yankees.
"Tyler is returning from arm surgery and should be a good candidate for our Friday night starter," Cardenas said regarding Herriage. "His velocity began to return toward the end of the last year and we are hoping he continues that trend. If so, then we feel as though we pulled out one heck of a steal."
A former first-team all-district pitcher in high school for the Marauders, Herriage spent the 2008 season rehabbing from an arm injury before making his return to the diamond in 2009 for WC. He made 10 appearances last year, primarily in a starting role, and found his touch again late in the season by going 3-1 with a 3.09 ERA in his final five starts. Four of those five starts saw him allow three runs or less, striking out at least six hitters on four occasions as well.
Darren Crabtree - 6'7", 195 lbs (Sugar Land, Texas/ Dulles HS/Temple College)
Already a familiar last name among Lumberjack fans, Crabtree will have two years of eligibility remaining when he arrives in Nacogdoches after two successful seasons at Temple College. The younger brother of former SFA first-team all-Southland Conference outfielder Kevin Crabtree, Darren led the 2009 Leopards to the NTJCAC title and was just one win away from earning a berth in the Junior College World Series.
The left-handed hitting Crabtree hit .402 with 11 home runs and 58 RBI for Temple, playing first base and designated hitter in 2009. He went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI in an NJCAA Region 5 Tournament win over Howard College - helping hand the eventual national champion Hawks their only loss of the year, snapping a national record 57-game win streak.
"Darren should provide a solid left-handed bat in the middle of our lineup next year," Cardenas said. "He can play first base and could see some time in the outfield, and we expect him to be able to shoulder some of the load from losing Sean Meyers."
Bobby Loveless - 6'4", 220 lbs (Friendswood, Texas/ Friendswood HS/Alvin CC)
With a prototypical frame, Loveless could be the right-handed power bat that the `Jacks lacked in 2009. The native of Friendswood, Texas, holds nearly all of his high school's hitting records after a four-year career that saw him mash 29 dingers and drive in 97 runs. He showed off his power in 2006 at the Texas National High School Power Showcase in Austin by setting a new derby record when he hit 22 homers in a single round.
Loveless headed to Panola College after high school, spending a year there before migrating back to the Houston area where he spent the 2009 season playing third base for the Alvin Community College Dolphins, where he hit .295 with nine home runs and 34 RBI. The `Jacks have had some recent success plucking away players from ACC, including 2009 all-conference first baseman Sean Meyers and current Lumberjack Ryan Priest.
"We brought Bobby in to hit in the middle of the lineup, but he's got to get better defensively," Cardenas said. "If he does then it gives us a lot of options for corner guys and should make our team better immediately with his bat."
Jordan Lewis - 5'11", 170 lbs (Dallas, Texas/ W.T. White HS)
Lewis was the co-Offensive Player of the Year for District 9-5A in 2009, hitting over .500 for the Longhorns as they went two rounds deep in the Class 5A state playoffs. But the most interesting fact of Lewis' season may be that despite being a Class 5A school, his W.T. White team managed to put together a perfect district season with only 10 players on the varsity squad.
But despite that adversity, Lewis managed to put up stellar numbers at the plate, on the basepaths and on the mound. He put together a 4-0 record as a senior with a 2.40 ERA as a pitcher, but was primarily the sparkplug at the top of the lineup for the Longhorns with 44 hits and only five strikeouts in 87 at-bats, 19 stolen bases and 38 runs scored as a senior. An eventual middle infielder for the `Jacks, he was named to the 2009 THSBCA Class 5A all-state first team as a second baseman after also earning first team all-district honors on the football field as a wide receiver.
"Jordan has the chance to be a very good player for us, but he just needs to get a little stronger and that will come with time," Cardenas said. "He has exceptional hands for an infielder and above average speed. That speed paired with this bat control certainly makes him a candidate to be a top-of-the-order guy for us down the road."
Kyle Rogers - 6'4", 180 lbs (Missouri City, Texas/ Elkins HS)
Another left-hander for 2010, Rogers was a first team all-district pitcher as a senior at Fort Bend Elkins High School, leading the Vikings to the state playoffs as the staff ace.
Rogers struck out 72 batters in only 47 innings as a senior, putting up a 2.07 ERA and holding hitters to a .146 average. He threw a complete game no-hitter in 2009 against Willowridge High School, fanning eight hitters that day and also threw three other shutouts on the year.
"Kyle should help immediately with our left-on-left matchups," Cardenas said. "He is a very good left-handed pitcher who should pitch a considerable amount early on."
Cole Popper - 5'11", 175 lbs (Sugar Land, Texas/ Second Baptist School)
After starting his prep career at Kempner High School, Popper transferred into the TAPPS ranks in Houston as a senior when he enrolled at Second Baptist School. There he helped lead the Eagles to the TAPPS state championship game where they fell to Argyle Liberty Christian.
Popper was a dual threat in high school, earning first team all-state honors and being named the district MVP as a pitcher; however, look for him to see time in the infield or outfield as a Lumberjack. According to Cardenas, he brings solid offensive and defensive tools and will provide immediate positional depth for the `Jacks.
Cody Priest - 5'11", 180 lbs (Houston, Texas/ Dobie HS)
Priest went 7-3 with a 1.41 ERA and held hitters to a .174 average as a senior at Dobie High School, and even struck out 11 Channelview hitters in the Longhorns' first playoff game. The younger brother of current Lumberjack Ryan Priest, Cody threw six complete games and struck out 73 batters in 64.2 innings on his way to earning first-team All-District 22-5A honors.
"He's better than his brother, and his brother was very good for us this past year," Cardenas said. "Cody brings a high, three-quarters delivery and is a sinker/slider guy with good velocity for his age. He could be a quick answer for middle relief for us right away."