OMAHA, Neb. - The Creighton University baseball program has announced the signing of 12 players to National Letters of Intent during the early signing period, which concluded last week. In the biggest class of his tenure at Creighton, head coach Ed Servais will welcome an even mix of six junior college transfers and six high schoolers to the Bluejay staff in the fall of 2012. There are six pitchers, five position players and one utility player in the class, with three Nebraska natives, two each from Colorado and Oklahoma, and one from Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Italy.
"This is a very important recruiting class for us," said Servais. "We have 13 seniors on this year's team so we needed to bring in some players that can contribute right away. We feel the college game is becoming more athletic and we needed to address that area and we feel we did. Overall, this is a very athletic group that has a chance to make adjustments to the college game very soon."
Below are the profiles of each individual, listed alphabetically:
Will Bamesberger - LHP/OF, Grand Island, Neb. (Grand Island HS)
Will Bamesberger is currently finishing his high school career at Grand Island High School. The left-handed hurler was named to his Grand Island American Legion summer baseball team, picking up his team's Most Valuable Player honors after leading his GI Home Federal team to the Nebraska state runner-up and a berth in the American Legion Central Plains Regional. He recorded 77 strikeouts in only 62 innings pitched over the summer, hitting .358 with 15 doubles. Bamesberger's go-to pitch will be his fastball, which he unleashes in the mid 80's.
Coach Servais on Bamesberger: "Will has a chance to be a two way player for us. He is a very good LHP that will get a long look in the outfield and at the plate."
Federico Castagnini - INF, Verona, Italy (Barton County CC, Kan.)
A solid defensive player, Federico Castagnini will come to Creighton as a versitile infielder. In his freshman season at Barton County Community College, Castagnini led the team with 139 assists from his shortstop position. He led the team with 19 stolen bases, posting 10 doubles with a .294 average in 2011.
Coach Servais on Castagnini: "Federico should fit quickly into our system of play. He is a very solid infielder who can handle the bat well."
Jake Edwards - LHP, Hillsboro, Kan. (Cowley County Community College)
Jake Edwards is joining former Cowley County CC players Chance Ross and Chase Webb, signing with the Creighton Bluejays following standout seasons for the Tigers. Edwards earned a spot in the starting rotation as a freshman, finishing with a 7-1 record on the mound. He posted a 3.68 earned run average in his first season as a Tiger, helping lead the team to a 38-11 overall record. Edwards will again be counted on as a starter this season, looking to improve upon a fastball that is already in the high 80's.
Coach Servais on Edwards: "Jake will have an opportunity to pitch in our rotation right away. He is a left handed pitcher who can throw three pitches for strikes."
Ryan Fitzgerald - SS, Oakpark, Ill. (Fenwick HS)
Named a Perfect Game All-American, as well as a Top 1000 recruit, Ryan Fitzgerald will come to Creighton as a player who can make an immediate impact. The Chicago Sun Times Pre-Season Top-100 Prep Player finished his junior season with a .389 batting average for Fenwick, leading his team in triples, home runs, runs and stolen bases. He has been labeled as the 6th best short stop in the state of Illinois by Prep Baseball Report, and was also named to the Chicago Catholic League All-Conference Team.
Coach Servais on Fitzgerald: "When I saw Ryan play I was very impressed with his actions. He has good feet, good hands and a quick arm. He should be able to make the adjustments to the college game very quickly."
Austin Groth - RHP, South Sioux City, Neb. (South Sioux City HS)
Austin Groth highlights the pitching staff recruits, coming in as a two-time Omaha World Herald Class B first Team All-Stater and two-time Lincoln Journal Star Class B First Team All-Stater. The South Sioux City native finished his junior campaign (Legion and school baseball combined) with a 12-3 record in 81 2/3 innings pitched, guided mainly by a high 80's fastball that has been clocked over 90 mph. Groth collected 144 strikeouts against just 26 free bases handed out. He also finished the season with four saves. Groth also played a key role in South Sioux City's back-to-back basketball titles, earning All-State and All-Metro honors after averaging 19.5 points as a junior and 17.4 points as a sophomore.
Coach Servais on Groth: "Austin is a very athletic right handed pitcher with a big upside. He has the chance to develop into a power arm."
Nick Highberger - RHP, Rye, Colo. (Rye HS)
Nick Highberger led his Rye High School T-Bolts to the Class 2A state baseball title, posting a perfect 8-0 record on the mound during his junior season. He finished with 70 strikeouts in 46 innings of work for the T-Bolts, compiling a 2.10 ERA. Highberger also played summer baseball for Cherry Creek, finishing with a 9-1 record on the mound. Highberger throws a fastball that is in the upper 80's and touches 90.
Coach Servais on Highberger: "Nick throws a heavy sinker. We have been looking hard for a pitcher that can sink the ball because it will play well with how we play defense. Nick could be either a starter or work out of the bullpen for us."
Max Ising - RHP, Lee's Summit, Mo. (Neosho County Community College)
Max Ising has made his name as the closer for Neosho County Community College, finishing last season with 29 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings of work and a 3.73 earned run average. Ising made 23 appearances on the mound, picking up four saves in his freshman season. The 5'11 right-hander will again be the closer for the 2012 season, using mainly a fastball in the upper 80's and adding a fierce slider.
Coach Servais on Ising: "Matt should be a big part of our bullpen in 2013. We lose three guys out there so Max will have a big role in 2013."
Ben Lahn - OF, Westminster, Colo. (Lamar Community College)
A power-hitter for the Lamar Community College Runnin' Lopes, Ben Lahn hit .385 as a freshman with 10 doubles, 16 home runs and 52 runs driven in. He finished tied for 4th in the nation in homeruns a season ago. He finished the season with a .791 slugging percentage and an overall .385 batting average. For his performance on the field, Lahn was named to the All-Region 9 Team.
Coach Servais on Lahn: "We were looking for a middle-of-the-order type of bat and feel Ben will have a chance to fill that role. Ben plays in a wood bat spring league and put up some great numbers."
Kevin Lamb - C, Tulsa, Okla. (Eastern Oklahoma Community College)
Currently in his first season at Eastern Oklahoma, Kevin Lamb signed an NLI with Oral Roberts out of high school and redshirted in 2011 before making the switch to EOCC. A four year starting catcher at Bixby High School, he helped lead the team to a 5A state championship during his sophomore season. He was named to the Tulsa World All-Metro team in 2010 and an All-State selection his senior season. Lamb also lettered in football and made two state championship appearances.
Coach Servais on Lamb: "Kevin is a very good defensive catcher with some leadership skills. He will be expected to contribute right away."
Sam Norman - LHP, Des. Moines, Iowa (Roosevelt HS)
A kid with a number of Creighton connections, including a sister on the women's basketball team (Riley Norman) and a high school coach who played for the Bluejays (Ryan Fitzgerald), Sam Norman will pad Creighton's pitching staff upon graduation from Roosevelt High School. The southpaw didn't pitch in his junior season due to an injury, but still earned Second Team All State honors at first base after finishing the season with a .398 batting average, 16 doubles and just one strikeout. When healthy, Norman is effective on the mound by throwing a fastball in the mid to upper 80's.
Coach Servais on Norman: "Sam is a good sized left handed pitcher that has a big upside. When healthy, Sam has a chance to be a power left handed pitcher. We wanted to have some balance in our pitching staff and with Sam we have three left handed pitchers in this recruiting class."
Garrett Schaede - 3B, Owasso, Okla. (Neosho County Community College)
Garrett Schaede joins current Neosho CC teammate Max Ising by signing letters of intent with Creighton University. The infielder batted .325 as a freshman in 2011, hitting 10 homeruns and driving in 48 runs. He was named to the All-Metro Team his senior year of high school at Owasso High School.
Coach Servais on Schaede: "Garrett has a chance to be one of those power corner infielders that we would like to develop. He is a very strong and athletic player that will continue to get better because he has very good work habits."
Matt Warren - RHP, Omaha, Neb. (Skutt Catholic High School)
A dominanting right handed hurler, Matt Warren joins his hometown Bluejays as the lone Omaha recruit of the class. He led all classes in strikeouts in the spring of 2011, mowing down 88 batters and posting a 1.86 ERA. In 56 1/3 innings of work, Warren issued just 11 walks compared to his 88 K's. He was named First Team Class B All State by both the Omaha World Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star following the 2011 season. He added another 52 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings of work during the summer legion season. Warren was selected to represent Team Midwest for the 17-under USA National Team Series in Cary, N.C. His fastball sits in the mid to upper 80's.
Coach Servais on Warren: "Matt is one of the top local players. Has a very athletic and quick arm that has a feel for pitching. For a high school pitcher, Matt has a good command of three pitches and should make the jump to the college game quickly."