Hughes Introduces 2017 Signing Class
|2017 Recruiting Class|
|RHP||Aaron Brooks||Blanchard, Okla.|
|OF||Leugim Castillo||Lancaster, N.Y.|
|RHP/IF||Cade Cavalli||Bixby, Okla.|
|C||Justin Cooke||Norman, Okla.|
|IF||Dylan Criquet-Danielson||Marshall, Minn.|
|IF||Tyler Hardman||Corona, Calif.|
|IF||Brock Henderson||Chickasha, Okla.|
|RHP||Michael Jensen||Eden Prairie, Minn.|
|OF||Ricky Lewis||Ringling, Okla.|
|RHP||Brett Lorah||Elgin, Okla.|
|RHP||Zack Matthews||Wellston, Okla.|
|C||Justin Mitchell||Platte City, Mo.|
|LHP||Levi Prater||Ada, Okla.|
|RHP/IF||Dan Pruitt||Oklahoma City|
|IF||Anthony Schlass||West Bend, Wis.|
|LHP||Legend Smith||Norman, Okla.|
|RHP||Collin Storms||Lewisville, Texas|
|RHP||Jake Terry||Sand Springs, Okla.|
|OF||Jacob Walker||Hallsville, Texas|
NORMAN, Okla. – University of Oklahoma head baseball coach Pete Hughes announced the signing of 19 future student-athletes to National Letters of Intent on Monday afternoon. Fitting the Sooners' model of recruiting heavily in the state of Oklahoma and expanding the OU footprint nationally, the class signed during the early signing period from November 9-16.
“I think it's one of the top 10 classes in the country,” stated Hughes, who enters his fourth season in 2017. “It's a lot of hard work from our coaching staff to really recruit to our model. We've got some kids who can run, enough arms, enough left-handed representation on the mound. I don't need a recruiting publication to tell me this, I know our 2017 class will be a top 10 class in the country.”
The Sooners, which welcomed the No. 13 recruiting class as ranked by Baseball America a year ago, recently added a 17-player incoming class this fall. Oklahoma has been able to keep much of the state's top talent close to home by retaining 23 in-state players over the last three years, including 11 in this year's class.
“We love Oklahoma kids. They love Oklahoma,” continued Hughes. “They play with more intent. When you play for the school you grow up wanting to play for, that's an advantage for us. This class has got just enough Oklahoma presence for us and a good balance of being able to take advantage of a national name.”
Five pitchers are slotted to join the Sooners next fall from the Oklahoma prep ranks. Right-handed pitcher Aaron Brooks (Blanchard, Okla.) plays for Blanchard High School in the spring and travels with Midwest Elite throughout the summer. His father, David Brooks, was a four-year letterwinner at OU from 1978-81 and totaled 11 wins in 30 games on the mound as a Sooner. The younger Brooks recently helped Blanchard to a regional title and an appearance in the Oklahoma Class 4A Semifinals.
Right-handed pitcher Zack Matthews (Wellston, Okla.) plays for his hometown Wellston High School, which he helped to an Oklahoma Class 2A Regional appearance in 2016. Anticipated as one of the highest prospects in the class, he features a power arm and possesses the ability to pitch for OU right away.
"I think it's one of the top 10 classes in the country. This class has got just enough Oklahoma presence for us and a good balance of being able to take advantage of a national name."
— Pete Hughes
Lefty Levi Prater (Ada, Okla.) pitches for Byng High School, which reached the Oklahoma Class 4A Regionals in 2016. Prater, who also plays for Midwest Elite, features quick arm-action and competitive stuff from the left side. Legend Smith (Norman, Okla.) is a fellow lefty out of Binger-Oney. Standing at 6-foot-3, he throws an 88-91 MPH fastball with a plus-breaking ball. Right-hander Jake Terry (Sand Springs, Okla.), from Charles Page High School, is coming off Tommy John surgery, but is expected to be ready to pitch when he arrives on campus next fall.
From the junior college ranks, Hughes and his staff have added RHP Brett Lorah (Elgin, Okla.) out of Seminole State College. Having previously pitched for Elgin High School, he owned a 2-0 record with one save, 48 strikeouts and a 1.69 earned run average in 42.2 innings for the Trojans last season with a live fastball and power slider.
Oklahoma signed a pair of in-state, two-way products in Cade Cavalli (Bixby, Okla.) and Dan Pruitt (Oklahoma City). Cavalli, from Bixby High School, is considered one of the top prospects in the class and in the state. He throws in the mid-90s on the mound, stands 6-foot-6 and is athletic enough to play shortstop with power potential. Cavalli, a 2016 Perfect Game Underclass Third Team All-American, and Bixby made it to the Oklahoma 6A East 8 Region Finals last season. Pruitt is a big, power-arm righty on the mound with a feel for three pitches and the ability to make an offensive impact for the Sooners as well. He helped lead Putnam City to the Oklahoma 6A West 1 Regionals last spring.
“I don't think anyone else in the country utilizes two-way players better than us,” Hughes said. “The proof is in the numbers. Look at the precedent we've set with Robert Tasin, Jacob Evans and Sheldon Neuse. You can't have the kind of success those guys had unless you're committed to it. Those guys also got better in both areas. We're a staff that knows how to do it and we're organized to keep our players healthy and maximize their potential in both areas of the game.”
Behind the plate, Oklahoma signed local product Justin Cooke (Norman, Okla.) out of Norman High School. A 2016 Perfect Game Underclass Third Team All-American, he played a large part in guiding the Tigers to the Oklahoma 6A West 2 Regionals. Cooke is a switch-hitting catcher with the ability to throw and hit with power from both sides of the plate. This past summer, he played travel ball for Midwest Elite.
The Sooners also signed a pair of fielders from the Midwest Elite program with the additions of Brock Henderson (Chickasha, Okla.) and Ricky Lewis (Ringling, Okla.), an athletic outfielder with leadoff potential from Ringling High School. Hughes considers Henderson, a three-sport athlete at Chickasha High School, which reached the Oklahoma 4A Chickasha Regional Final last season, to be the most athletic signee in the class.
“He's from Chickasha and one of the top basketball players in the state,” explained Hughes. “In the middle of the season, the high school lost their quarterback and came and asked Brock to play quarterback. He jumped right in the next day and was dominant. That's who he is. I'm really excited to see that kid play here. He can play every position and he's a winner.”
From out of state, Oklahoma has inked pitchers Michael Jensen (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and Collin Storms (Lewisville, Texas). Jensen, a right-hander from Holy Family Catholic High School, is a 6-foot-6 power pitcher with a plus-slider. Storms plays at Lewisville High School and for the Dallas Tigers in the summer. One of the last additions to the class, he is considered to have the best breaking ball in the group. Jensen was a 2016 Perfect Game Underclass Second Team All-American, while Storms has earned Perfect Game Honorable Mention twice entering his senior season.
Adding depth behind the plate is catcher Justin Mitchell (Platte City, Mo.) from Platte County High School. An athletic-catcher that can play other positions, he played quarterback in high school as well.
“He's another two-sport guy; one of the more productive quarterbacks in the state of Missouri,” recalled Hughes. “That's part of our recruiting model. We love two-sport and three-sport kids from small towns.”
On the infield, the Sooners picked up another three signees, including Dylan Criquet-Danielson (Marshall, Minn.), Tyler Hardman (Corona, Calif.) and Anthony Schlass (West Bend, Wis.). Criquet-Danielson plays at Marshall High School, where he was a 2016 Perfect Game Underclass Third Team All-American and has scored 70 goals entering his senior hockey season. Hardman was a 2016 Perfect Game Underclass Second Team All-American at Temescal Canyon and is considered the most advanced hitter in the OU recruiting class. He has excelled on the national stage through the travel ball circuit with CBA Marucci. Schlass is a three-sport athlete at West Bend West as a football player and one of the state's top wrestlers. He provides toughness and brings a power potential to the left side of the plate.
“I like those cold-weather kids because their best years are ahead of them,” Hughes said of adding recruits from Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York.
From the Empire State, the Sooners signed Leguim Castillo (Lancaster, N.Y.). Out of Lancaster High School in the Buffalo area, he projects as an outfielder at OU after running a 6.3-second 60-yard dash. Additionally, Oklahoma signed junior college outfielder Jacob Walker (Hallsville, Texas) to the class. An advanced hitter with power potential, he will spend the 2017 season at Navarro College after playing for Hallsville High School.
The 2017 Oklahoma baseball team is scheduled to open its season on February 17 against Long Beach State in California. The Sooners will play their home opener at L. Dale Mitchell Park on February 21 against Grambling State.