Abilene Christian's 2014 baseball roster continued its expansion Tuesday following head coach 's announcement that nine more players have signed on to join the Wildcats in the fall.
This fall's preseason roster should have close to 45 players at the start of camp as the Wildcats enter their first year of NCAA Division I baseball. Six recruits signed with the club last fall, while another dozen or more are expected to arrive in August as walk-ons. ACU also returns 14 letterwinners from last year's 29-24 team, including starters , and , and closer .
"I'm extremely excited about our first D-I class," said Bonneau, who recently completed his 17th season as the Wildcats' head coach. "It's been a year in the making and our coaching staff has worked very hard to put it together.
"We have a well balanced group of true student-athletes coming to ACU that will excel in the classroom as well as on the field. This class will set standards for future PSA's and we believe the character these players have will be the foundation we need to build a new winning tradition. I want to thank and for helping me put this class together."
ACU's most recent crop of signees consists of seven right-handed pitchers, southpaw Austin Lambright and infielder Brandon Grudzielanek, whose uncle, Mark, played 15 years in the major leagues and was an All-Star with the 1996 Montréal Expos. Brandon played high school ball in the Dallas suburb of Prosper.
Lambright comes to Abilene right out of Friday Harbor (Wash.) High School alongside his twin brother, Brandon. Additional Washington state prospects lured to the Wildcats include Russell Crippen of Snohomish High School and Kevin Sheets of Edmonds Community College.
Hurlers Stuart Patke and Nate Cole are both products of Cisco College, while Ladgie Zotyka pitched two seasons at San Jacinto College – North, which is outside Houston.
Scott Kinzler of nearby Brownwood High School can pitch and catch. Crippen also is a two-way player with experience as a corner outfielder.
Profiles of each ACU signee are listed below in alphabetical order.
RHP Nate Cole (Plano, Texas/Cisco College)
Cole made 13 starts last spring for a Cisco College squad that posted a 40-13 overall record and went 20-12 against the conference. As Cisco's ace, he won 10 games against zero losses and struck out 64 batters through 75.0 innings pitched. His ERA was a respectable 3.72.
A projected weekend starter for ACU – Cole's pitches (fastball, breaking ball, change up) run from the mid-80's to low-90's and all can be thrown for strikes.
Cole graduated in 2011 from Episcopal School of Dallas, where he played both baseball and football. He then attended Wofford College in South Carolina for one year, but was forced to redshirt after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Cole plans to study business management at ACU.
RHP/OF Russell Crippen (Snohomish, Wash./Snohomish HS)
'Ripping' Russell Crippen is a projected two-way player for the Wildcats. The 2013 first team all-league selection throws in the upper 80's, occasionally touches the 90's, and has command of three pitches – fastball, breaking ball and change up – making him an ideal candidate for the weekend rotation.
Crippen also can throw and run, allowing him to patrol either a corner outfield or infield position on days he's not starting.
Crippen's junior-year totals included a .354 batting average with two home runs and 16 stolen bases, which earned him a first team all-league citation. On the mound he registered a 5-3 record with 45 strikeouts and 1.42 ERA, garnering him second team all-Wesco status.
Crippen was a second team all-conference choice as a sophomore on the hill for the Panthers.
Crippen also was a member of the Snohomish football and basketball teams. As a junior for the football team, he totaled over 50 tackles and had seven interceptions from his safety spot and earned first team all-Wesco 4A honors. He later starred at wide receiver during his senior year, catching 30 passes for 543 yards.
INF Brandon Grudzielanek (Prosper, Texas/Prosper HS)
Grudzielanek was a hard-hitting shortstop during his four-years at Prosper High School. He made first team all-district following his sophomore and junior seasons after combining for eight home runs and 19 stolen bases. Grudzielanek also hit better than .375 each of those seasons and drove in 32 runs as a sophomore.
Grudzielanek's overall athleticism, speed and range has the ACU coaches thinking he may be their ideal center fielder, but they also believe he could also be their everyday shortstop or second baseman.
A senior class vice president and academic all-state honoree, Grudzielanek plans to study accounting and finance at ACU. His parents, Tim and Denise, were both student-athletes at Wisconsin's Carthage College.
RHP Scott Kinzler (Brownwood, Texas/Brownwood HS)
The 2013 District 8-3A MVP and first team selection, Kinzler won six games last spring for Brownwood and struck out 120 batters over 61.1 innings pitched. He finished the year with a 1.71 ERA and two of his victories were complete-game 7.0 inning no-hitters vs. Glen Rose (Feb. 26) and Lampasas (April 12).
Kinzler struck out a season-high 16 batters in the 2-0 win over Glen Rose and punched out 15 Lampasas hitters. Over the past two seasons, Kinzler has struck out close to 200 batters while issuing just 30 walks.
In dominating his league, Kinzler threw his fastball in the upper 80's and developed a quirky splitter/change-up hybrid that breaks toward the plate upon reaching the batter.
The 6-foot righty can also catch and play either corner infield position, and the ACU coaches will give him the opportunity to do both depending on how much he pitches. Kinzler batted .333 in his final high school season with 23 RBI and five extra-base hits, and was named the district's defensive MVP following his junior season of 2012.
A member of his school's national honor society, Kinzler plans to study education at ACU.
LHP Austin Lambright (Friday Harbor, Wash./Friday Harbor HS)
A four-year varsity letterwinner, Lambright is an MVP and first team all-league selection for Friday Harbor High School, which sits 100 miles northwest of Seattle on the east coast of San Juan Island. Lambright pitched and played outfield for his team that finished 15-4 overall this season and 6-0 against the district.
His pitching repertoire includes a high 80's fastball, breaking ball and change up.
One of Lambright's finest senior-season performances was a16-strikeout effort vs. Nooksack Valley in a postseason elimination game. Lambright and his teammates won the game with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning on a two-run double.
Earlier in the postseason, the 6-foot-4 Lambright struck out 10 Blaine High School batters in the opening-round of the Class 1A District Tournament.
Lambright also played high school basketball and made honor roll all four years. He is planning to study business and marketing while at ACU.
RHP Brandon Lambright (Friday Harbor, Wash./Friday Harbor HS)
Brandon made the 2013 first team all-Northwest League at both pitcher and third base, and is currently projected to be a midweek starter for the Wildcats. ACU will play an average of three weekend games this season plus one or two midweek contests.
A right-handed pitcher who can hit the high 80's with his fastball, Lambright went 5-0 last spring with a 2.03 ERA, while hitting .400 with a home run and 14 doubles. He has made first team all-league the last two seasons and made second team as a sophomore after batting .580.
The 6-foot-3-inch Lambright played varsity basketball as a freshman and sophomore and made his school's honor roll all four years. He is planning to study criminal justice at ACU.
RHP Stuart Patke (Austin, Texas/Cisco College)
Patke was a teammate of Nate Cole at Cisco College last spring, and went 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA and 14 strikeouts through 10 appearances and 29.1 innings pitched. Even though he was a reliever-turned-starter for Cisco, the Wildcats' coaches see him coming out of the bullpen.
Patke is a hard thrower who can reach the low 90's with his fastball. He also can deliver a curve ball and slider.
Patke's record of academic honors includes a spot on the Cisco College President's List and an academic all-district award from when he attended Austin's James Bowie High School. Patke made the AISD's all-tournament team and second team all-district as a high school senior in 2011.
He is currently playing summer ball for the Wenatchee (Wash.) AppleSox of the West Coast League.
RHP Kevin Sheets (Brier, Wash./Edmonds Community College)
Sheets comes to Abilene following two solid seasons for Edmonds Community College. He registered an 0.80 ERA though 22.1 innings of work as a freshman working out of the bullpen in 2012 and made second team all-NWAACC North.
Sheets was promoted into the starting rotation last spring and responded with 50 Ks through eight starts (63.0 innings), leading the Tritons to an overall record of 27-19. He won six games, tossed two shutouts, and his ERA of 1.14 was tops in the conference.
Sheets' efforts earned him first team all-NWAACC status. The Eagle Scout also made the NWAACC All Academic Sports Team for posting a grade point average above 3.25.
Sheets delivers the ball at a 3/4 arm angle and possesses both the command and movement to either serve as the Wildcats' closer or top-of-the-line starter.
Sheets is a 2011 graduate of King's High School. He served as team captain during a senior year in which he recorded a 0.81 ERA, made second team all-WESCO and earned team MVP honors.
RHP Ladgie Zotyka (Wallis, Texas/San Jacinto College)
Zotyka pitched the last two seasons out of the bullpen for San Jacinto College – North, which went 34-19 last spring and 22-8 vs. its conference. He made 10 relief appearances last year for one of the premier Texas junior colleges, earned one win, saved a game, and struck out nine though 14.1 innings, while posting a 3.77 ERA. He is expected to remain a reliever for the Wildcats and can hit the low 90's with his fastball.
Zotyka tossed the same amount of innings as a freshman and went 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA and seven Ks.
The 6-foot-3 inch Zotyka is one of three student-athletes within his immediate family. His father, Ladgie Zotyka III, pitched for Blinn Junior College, while his sister, Shelbie, recently finished her career as a pole-vaulter for Sam Houston.
A 2011 graduate of Brazos High School and native of Wallis, Texas, Zotyka plans to study business at ACU.
As a high school senior, Zotyka ranked among the 2A Region IV District 28 strikeout leaders with 51.
Information provided by ACU athletics department.