By John Helsley
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Cowboys baseball coach Frank Anderson likes to keep a quiet approach to who he’s recruiting, with news on signings or offers limited to what flows from the players and their local media outlets.
It’s an effort to keep from providing too much information to scouts, who may look at a player differently, or more closely, if they know he’s going to a school the caliber of OSU.
Anderson isn’t alone in his approach. Some coaches prefer the silent treatment, until the players are securely enrolled and attending school. Some coaches freely and openly talk about their recruits well in advance, even using it as a means to enhance their recruiting of other players.
Well, Anderson’s latest class has finally been revealed, with the addition of 13 newcomers: nine from the Juco ranks, three high schoolers and one Division I transfer who will be eligible immediately. Five were taken in the June MLB Draft.
This stands to be a critical class for the Cowboys, who have failed to make the Big 12 Tournament the past two seasons.
Anderson will be looking to mesh the new faces with a solid core of returning players led by Davis Duren, Mark Ginther, Luis Uribe, Andrew Heaney and Mike Strong.
“This has a chance to be a really special class,” Anderson said. “We were fortunate with how with came out of the draft, both with the new guys and our existing team. There are a bunch of pitchers in the group, and that should really help us.
“Along with the scholarship guys, we brought in a lot of walk-ons, and the competition level in practice is really high. We’ve been doing a lot of evaluation, and we’ve been really pleased with how things have been going.”
The plum of the class is right-handed pitcher Jason Hursh of Carrollton, Texas, a power arm who was taken in the sixth round of the draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Andrew Heck should offer an instant upgrade on offense, after transferring from Duquesne, which dropped its program, making him eligible right away. Heck was a first-team Atlantic 10 All-Conference Team after leading the Dukes in nine offensive categories.
Joel Atkinson, SS, San Clemente, Calif. (San Clemente HS) – As a senior at San Clemente High School, Atkinson hit .310 with two home runs and 12 stolen bases. That came on the heels of a junior campaign that saw him hit .391 with 14 doubles and 10 stolen bases to earn first-team all-league, all-county and team MVP honors.
Hunter Bailey, INF, Cedar Park, Texas (McLennan CC) – As a sophomore in the JUCO ranks last season, Bailey hit .384 with 34 RBIs, 16 doubles and 15 stolen bases and was named a North Texas Junior College Athletic Association All-Conference first-team second baseman.
Blake Barnes, RHP, Prosper, Texas (Howard College) – In 17 appearances as a freshman at Howard, Barnes was 9-1 with three saves and a 3.27 ERA and helped the team to a national championship. As a sophomore, he was 2-3 with a team-high three saves and was drafted in the 48th round by the Tampa Bay Rays in June.
Andrew Heck, RHP/OF, Pittsburgh, Pa. (Duquesne) – Heck played his first three seasons at Duquesne, but the school dropped the baseball program after the 2010 season. As a result, Heck transferred to OSU and will be eligible to play in 2011. As a junior last season, Heck earned Atlantic 10 First-Team All-Conference honors after leading the Dukes in nine offensive and four pitching categories. He hit .408 with 10 homers, 15 stolen bases and 49 RBIs and set school records with 91 hits and 25 doubles. On the mound, Heck picked up three wins and tossed three complete games in nine starts. He was named a Top 10 pro prospect in the Jayhawk League by Baseball America following the summer of 2010.
Hunter Herrera, RHP, San Diego, Calif. (San Diego City College) – As a sophomore at San Diego CC last season, Herrera was 9-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 15 appearances, including 13 starts. He tossed two complete games, recorded two saves and racked up 104 strikeouts in 92 innings, and opponents hit just .199 against him. He earned All-America and all-conference honors and was named the Pacific Coast Conference Player of the Year.
Jason Hursh, RHP, Carrollton, Texas (Trinity Christian Academy) – After a standout prep career, Hursh was drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 177th overall pick. He has a fastball that reaches the mid 90s to go along with a very good curveball. He was a three-year letterman in baseball and football at Trinity Christian. A two-year starter in baseball, Hursh was 11-2 with a 2.47 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 70 innings as a senior and earned district MVP and first-team all-state honors. He was a first-team all-district selection and honorable mention all-state performer as a junior after a season in which he recorded 48 strikeouts in 28 innings and had a 1.45 ERA. He was invited to the Perfect Game National Showcase and Area Code Baseball Games. Hursh was an all-state kicker and punter during his senior season on the gridiron.
Zach Johnson, INF, San Ramon, Calif. (Ohlone College) – Johnson was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 48th round of the 2010 MLB Draft after earning First-Team All-Coast Conference honors at Ohlone College last season. In 74 regular season games with the Renegades, Johnson hit .375 with 18 homers and 66 RBIs. He led Ohlone in hitting with a .405 batting average and 12 home runs in 2010.
Chris Marlowe, RHP, Spring, Texas (Navarro College) – Marlowe spent time as a pitcher and shortstop at Navarro and was drafted in the 21st round of this year’s MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. As a sophomore, he led all JUCO pitchers by averaging 17.3 strikeouts per nine innings through mid-May, and he finished the season with 61 strikeouts in just 32 innings of work en route to a 4-2 record and a 2.84 ERA. Marlowe pitched in the Prospect League over the summer and was named the fourth-best pro prospect in that league by Baseball America.
Josh Neilson, RHP, Lawton, Okla. (Vernon College) – An Oklahoma native, Neilson starred at Lawton High School before spending the last two seasons at Vernon College, where he earned all-conference accolades.
Gabe Weidenaar, INF/OF, Bozeman, Mont. (College of Southern Nevada) – As a sophomore last season, Weidenaar hit .371 with seven homers and 39 RBIs in a wooden bat league. He also had 13 stolen bases and was named to the All-SWAC second team after leading his team to the 2010 JUCO World Series.
Vincent Wheeland, RHP, Turlock, Calif. (Turlock HS) – Wheeland capped a stellar prep career at Turlock High School by going 13-0 with a 0.74 ERA as a senior. In 85 innings of work, he racked up 147 strikeouts and issued just 18 walks. He earned all-state honors and was named district, league and team MVP.
Jared Womack, C/OF, Tampa, Fla. (Ranger College) – Womack spent his freshman season at Oklahoma State in 2009, where he appeared in 12 games and hit .258 with a homer and six RBIs. Following that season, he transferred to Ranger for his sophomore year and hit .404 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs and turned in a .918 slugging percentage before returning to the Cowboy program.
Vance Woodruff, RHP, Forney, Texas (Grayson County College) – As a freshman at Grayson, Woodruff pitched in 12 games and was 2-2 with three saves in 23.1 innings. Following a sophomore season in which he made 16 appearances and was 3-3 with 56 strikeouts in 55.1 innings, Woodruff was drafted in the 40th round of the ’10 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins.