It is almost time to get back on the field to play ball, and the Canes American roster is loaded with talent and has an eye on winning championships. Several of the players on the 19-man roster already have a ring with the Canes name on the side, and they want more.
The season officially begins on June 11 at Lake Pointe in the PBR Classic, but there are a couple of training weekends in the days before. It’s going to be a jam-packed summer of games, which the players deserve after missing out on most or all of their high school seasons.
Head coach Tom Willoughby, in his second year leading the U17 Canes American squad, has put together a roster of some of the best players from up and down the east coast. There’s a nice combination of speed and power in the lineup and a long list of strike throwers on the mound.
There’s a winning formula in the Canes American dugout this year, and all that’s left to do is take the field and start winning games.
Corner infielder and right-handed pitcher Alex Khan is entering his first season with the Canes. A product of Calvert Hall (Md.) and a West Virginia commitment, Khan has an older brother who played in the Canes organization.
“I’m looking forward to meeting some new guys and heading back down to Georgia for WWBA. That’s always an exciting week. I’m also looking forward to learning more about myself and improving as a player,” Khan said. “I started following Canes on Instagram and Twitter which was a big part of my wanting to join the organization. Canes get guys to the next level and they have been for a while.”
Catcher Bryan Arendt is entering his second year with the Canes was a part of a championship-winning team at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers, Fla. A UNC Wilmington commitment and Holly Springs (N.C.) High School standout, Arendt credits being a part of the Canes for helping his development as a catcher.
“Canes baseball has pushed me to become a better catcher by catching the highest level of pitching possible and also hitting against some of the best pitching possible. These two things have shown me what improvements I needed to make in the offseason,” Arendt said. “I’m looking forward to play high level baseball and show my improved skills that I’ve gained from the offseason. I also looking forward to playing with a new group of guys while getting to see some older faces from last years fall team.”
Outfielder and catcher Jacob Friend is also entering his second year with the Canes after playing with the American team last fall in Jupiter, Fla. Friend, currently uncommitted and out of Yorktown (Va.) High School, played youth baseball with some of his current teammates.
“I am really excited to play with a few players, JT Carter and Elijah Lambros, that I haven’t played with since we were in little league. It will be great to finish my last few seasons before college with teammates I started playing with when we were young,” Friend said. “I have been surrounded by great coaches and mentors the entire time I have been with this organization. I have learned to see the game in a different way. This has helped me elevate my game and compete at a high level.”
Outfielder and corner infielder Garrett Dill is entering his second year in the Canes organization and was part of the team that won the Black Bear tournament in South Carolina, his home state. A Greer High School product, Dill is committed to play his college baseball at The Citadel.
“The Canes have truly helped me become a smarter player,” Dill said. “Any coach can teach a player a little something to get better throughout the summer but my Canes coaches really helped increase my baseball IQ. That will help take me so much more farther than others may know and for that I will always be grateful.”
Middle infielder and right-handed pitcher Rowan Watt, a UNC Greensboro commitment out of CB Aycock (N.C.) High School, is one of our long-time Canes as he already has five years to his credit with our organization. He was a part of the Canes Central team last year, that made its deepest push into the WWBA Championship playoffs that particular branch of the Canes has ever made it.
“I’m looking forward to seeing and meeting my new teammates, spending time on the field and off the field with them. I am also looking forward to winning a lot of games and having a great season,” Watt said. “The Canes have helped develop me as a player by having good coaching staffs and year after year that help me learn the game better and help me with fundamentals.”
Outfielder and catcher Austin Younce is our longest-tenured member of the Canes organization coming back for his seventh year. Uncommitted out of Greenbrier (Va.) Christian, Younce says his most memorable moment playing for the Canes was going to Cooperstown, N.Y. and finishing third out of 160 teams.
“I am looking forward to being one the best teams in the country and meeting a bunch of new teammates this year,” Younce said. “Canes baseball has helped me develop into a better baseball player because every coach I have ever had has been willing to do anything to help me reach my full potential.”
Left-handed pitcher and outfielder Camden Troyer is entering his second year with the Canes. A Clemson University commitment out of nearby Powdersville (S.C.) High School, Troyer’s favorite memory with the team was also winning the Black Bear.
“My favorite memory with the Canes is when we won the Black Bear tournament because we had to grind it out and it was fun to be a part of,” Troyer said. “The Canes have helped me develop as a player because they gave me exposure to top competition!”
First baseman and catcher JT Carter joined the Canes full time last fall but has played tournaments before in years past. Carter, a product of Fredericksburg Christian (Va.) High School, is committed to Gardner-Webb University.
“Going to the WWBA with the Canes gives me a confidence that we really can compete and make the playoff rounds,” Carter said. “The Canes have helped me develop by allowing more schools to see me. My college I’m committed also was able to see me play some through the Canes down in North Carolina, which helped a lot!”
Left-handed pitcher Tyler Overholt is back for his third season with the Canes and is one of five players from the Palmetto State on our roster this summer. An Abbeville (S.C.) High School product, Overholt is committed to College of Charleston.
“I have been blessed with making many memories along the way,” Overholt said. “Some of my most memorable moments with the Canes would have to be winning the 14U and 15U WWBA National Championships with the National team, along with winning the Black Bear Championship with the South 16U team. We got sick rings for winning those national championships!”
Right-handed pitcher Dalton Thomason is returning for his fourth season in the Canes organization. One of three uncommitted players on our roster entering the summer, the Forestview (N.C.) High School product was also on the roster for the walk-off win at the WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers.
“I am looking forward to seeing my old teammates and winning more championships,” Thomason said. “Playing for the Canes has humbled me as a player and given me a lot of baseball knowledge.”
The man casting the tall shadow on the mound is right-handed pitcher Daniel Brooks, a 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher entering his second season with the Canes. A College of Charleston commitment out of Bishop England (S.C.) High School, Brooks played on the Canes South team a year ago and hit a walk-off double last year to win the Black Bear Classic.
“What I’m most looking forward to is playing on the Canes American 17U team with some of my old teammates and meeting some new ones. I have developed great friendships and memories with my Canes teammates,” Brooks said. “Canes baseball has put me in a more competitive environment. My coaches were very good and helped me develop.”
Right-handed pitcher David Hagaman is in his debut season with the Canes organization and is our second of two West Virginia commitments. Hagaman, out of Cedar Creek (N.J.) High School, is looking forward to being around a group of like-minded players whose focus is on baseball.
“As I grew up I was watched the Canes and thought of them as the big league of travel ball. When I was offered the opportunity, I had to accept it right away,” Hagaman said. “The best thing that I’m looking forward to, is hanging out and playing with all the guys who have the same mindset as me. We all want to play baseball in college or even the pros. I’m also looking forward to playing other great competition and see where I am amongst other kids.”
Right-handed pitcher Sam Griesbauer is our most northern resident on this year’s team out of Falmouth (Mass.) High School. A first-year member of the Canes organization, he’ll play his college ball much further south as he is committed to N.C. State University.
“The thing that really made me want to be a part of the organization was seeing all the success the Canes have had in the past.,” Griesbauer said. “I am looking forward to playing with a lot of talent and playing against a lot of great talent as well. I think that playing against the best brings out the best in yourself. As well as having the opportunity to play in big tournaments that I have not had the chance to play in.”
Infielder JD Suarez has been with the Canes for two years and was a part of the WWBA Underclass championship last fall. A product of Charlotte (N.C.) Christian School, Suarez is staying close to home and playing his college ball for the Charlotte 49ers.
“The WWBA Underclass championship was Mike Petty’s last game before retiring as a coach and it was special because of my strong relationship with him,” Suarez said. “The Canes have helped me develop into the player I am today mostly from the coaching. Coach Mike Petty has helped me grow as a player as he would help fix my swing when it wasn’t as good as it could be. Also, Coach Werth really helped me by giving me small tips he learned throughout his career in the MLB.”
Outfielder Lonnie White is a former baseball commitment to Clemson, but in May, White, a four-star prospects, opted to go to Penn State to play wide receiver for the football team while also starring for the baseball team. This summer, though, the Malvern (Pa.) Prep standout is going to patrol our outfield for the second straight year.
Getting the best coaching and advice from some of the best coaches in the country is how the Canes have helped me develop as a player. Playing with some of the best players has really helped develop my game in all areas, ” White said. I wanted to join Canes Baseball is because I wanted to be with an organization that developed players and prepared them for the next level. I knew they produced many great players over the years and I hope some day I will be one of them.”
Three more players – outfielder Elijah Lambros a Virginia Tech commitment out Fredericksburg (Va.) Christian, right-handed pitcher Owen Puk a Florida International commitment out of Marion (Iowa) High School along with left-handed pitcher and first baseman Garrett Moffett an N.C. State commitment from Wayne Country Day (N.C.) High School – round out our Canes American roster for the summer.
The Canes American team is eager to get out on the field real soon and start our summer playing for championships!